Bookish Chatter | A Lot In the Works

Welcome to a warm week in February! We’ve had lots of sunshine and relatively warm weather this week, which has been such a treat. I hope you’ve been able to enjoy some sunshine too? I have been reading a lot and have so much to talk about and not a ton of time this morning, so I’m going to dive straight in!

Books Finished This Week:

Claire Keegan has a gift and can pack so much into the tiniest spaces! Foster was no exception – what a gorgeous little book that has left me thinking about so much. Set in Ireland, a teen/pre-teen girl is sent away to be fostered while her mother is pregnant with yet another baby. She doesn’t know how long she’ll be gone or if her family will even ask for her to be returned. The Kinsellas dote on her and she is cared for in ways that are totally unfamiliar to her.

This book made me think a lot about how I treat my own children from moment to moment. How I rush from one task to another, trying to meet all of their needs at the same time. It’s not possible for me to meet all of everyone’s needs — so what is essential? What is most important?

And on the flip side – I was inspired by Mrs. Kinsella’s focus on her home. How fastidiously she kept her home and cared for the ones that she loved. I’m adding her to my list of beloved mother figures!

I can’t imagine a situation in which I would ever recommend Norwegian Wood. I typically have no problem abandoning books that I’m not enjoying, but I kept hoping that there would be some twist and the story would be redeemed. There was no twist and no redemption, in my humble opinion. This book seemed to be about depression but it could have done a better job with that, given that there were at least three suicides in this novel. And overall, the relationships felt like the fantasies of a teenage boy: completely focused on sex with no depth whatsoever.

I am debating whether I want to try The Wind Up Bird Chronicles by Murakami like I’d originally planned this year. Right now I’m leaning towards crossing it off my list and focusing on other authors who I adore. I will let you know what I decide!

Happy Birthday, Addy might be my favorite book in the entire American Girl series so far. It’s springtime in Philadelphia and Addy’s 10th birthday is approaching. Many people who were born slaves don’t know the exact date of their birth, just the general time of year, and Addy is no exception. She learned that people in her situation often pick a day to celebrate and Addy’s on the lookout for the perfect day. And that day comes on April 9, 1965 – the end of the Civil War.

This book described a lot of difficult moments for Addy and shows the reader how much was still not available to people of color, even in a supposedly free state. But there were some beautiful moments that had me tearing up. There were also touching allusions to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which I now want to reread. I don’t want the Addy books to end but there are only two more left. !!

Bryce and I finished the sixth Captain Underpants this week: The Big Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets. I know I’ve written about this book on here before so I’ll spare you another summary. But I will repeat myself and say it’s an honor to read to my children. It’s my mantra during the moments when I get tired of rereading these Captain Underpants books!!

We finished the first volume of Curiosity Chronicles: Snapshots of Early Modern History this week! This is one of our history spine books and I LOVE the Curiosity Chronicles series. It gives us such a diverse view of history and includes so much that I didn’t learn about in school. I learned about this series of history books from Torchlight Curriculum (we are on Level 3), which is the general program that I follow when I’m planning our schooling. Torchlight is a fantastic guide for families looking for a secular and literature based education. I highly recommend it!

I’m adding a snapshot of the table of contents so you can see what we’ve studied so far this year. We’ll be starting the second volume next week and I cannot wait. Things are really heating up around the world (we just studied religious fervor in the colonies and about the French & Indian War) and we are starting to see the modern world develop. It is exciting and history is easily my favorite subject as I repeat the third grade with Bryce! (Did we even study history in the third grade? I don’t remember it, but maybe we did?)

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Slow & Steady Read-Alongs

I have been keeping pace with War and Peace! 20 pages a day feels like the perfect number of pages right now. It’s enough to feel challenging, but not overwhelming. And dare I say it? I’m actually starting to enjoy this novel. I feel drawn to a few of the characters and have been on edge a few times, nervous about their decisions. Right now I feel most drawn to little Princess Marya Bolkonskaya, living with her controlling and very eccentric father, along with her pregnant sister-in-law while her brother Andrei is off at war (this family tree helps me keep the characters straight). I was on pins and needles, waiting for her answer on whether she’d accept Anatole as a husband. Of course, I knew the answer thanks to my family tree, but it was still a very intense moment!

At this point, I’m just over 300 pages in and have started the second volume. I’m excited to keep going.

I am reading one or two essays each day from What Are We Doing Here with Mary. I’ve had this book on my shelf for a few years and have been incredibly intimidated by it, but it’s helped to go slowly and to discuss as I go along. There’s so much to think about here and I’m already on the fourth page of notes in my reading journal. Not all of Robinson’s arguments work for me because of my own personal bull-headedness about things, but there’s still plenty that I love about Robinson’s point of view.

So far, Robinson has impressed me with her historical knowledge and how she can tie it all back into today. How does one even learn about, say, the neo-Benthamites? And then connect the dots to modern American dysfunction? I find this amazing. And that’s just one example of her areas of interest. I love being reminded about how much there is to learn in this world.

I’m slowly reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less with a friend. We’re planning to read just one section a month and I finished the first section this week. This book aims to help the reader finds what’s essential in their own life and make decisions based on those priorities, rather than allow others to decide for them.

I am not wild about it so far. I’m finding it repetitive and focused on a corporate world in which individuals have wide latitude over how they spend their time and do their jobs. I don’t this is realistic for the vast majority of American workers and I’m finding it hard to relate to. But then again — it’s only the first section and I’m hoping that the author generalizes his advice in the rest of the book. I hope to report back in March with a totally different view of this book!

And in addition to those three slow and steady readalongs, I’m deep into The Night Watchman, Wolf Hall, and The Mapping of Love and Death. I don’t usually read so much at once, but they are all so good and I can’t decide where to spend my time! It’s a good problem to have.

I hope the rest of the week is gentle and kind to you, friends. I’m planning to be back on Friday with some sort of update. Take good care!


18 thoughts on “Bookish Chatter | A Lot In the Works

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  1. I completely agree with you on Foster. It was such a moving little novella and yes, I cried… lots. It is packed with so much to think about… it a very good way! (I think this would be a delightful book to discuss in a book group!)


  2. Wowsah, you are juggling a lot of books at one time. Makes this senior citizen’s head spin. However, lots of enticing books to add to the TBR list, and believe it or not, the Addy books are especially calling to me.


    1. I think you’ll LOVE the Addy books and will fly through them. They take us a while to get through, but it’s fun reading them slowly too. And I’m a little overwhelmed by all of the books, but in the best possible way. They are all SO good!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was so worried about being behind on War and Peace that I’ve actually gotten ahead of you! I have no idea where I am in page count, but I do know I’ve gotten past the events you’re describing. I am enjoying most of the parts that are about the people and less so the parts about war. I read through those sections pretty quickly, though.

    Someone recommended Murakami to me years ago, but I’m not sure I even want to try based on your assessment. It doesn’t sound like my kind of writing.


  4. Wow! You have a bunch of interesting titles that you have read or are reading. I tend to have multiple books going as well. I just finished reading The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’m about to dive into all my picture books about folktales, fairy tales, and fables. Happy Reading!


  5. I laughed out loud to see Captain Underpants on top of Norwegian Wood – I’m pretty sure that was the first meeting for those two books … and one they’re obviously unlikely to repeat 😉 I’ve started Wind-up Bird twice (it’s one of my niece’s favorite books so I gave it a solid try) and I just … can’t. I’m so glad we’re reading MR’s essays together … I’m still intimidated (whoa, slow reading!) by her intellect and completely delighted by yours.


    1. I didn’t even think about that juxtaposition, ha! Wind Up Bird is the one I have on the list for April, but I think I’ve decided to bail on Murakami. I was so surprised that I disliked Norwegian Wood so much!!

      I’m also very happy to be reading Robinson with you! And relieved to read that you also feel intimidated, because my goodness… she has studied and learned so much. I am in awe of the depth and breadth of history that she has.


  6. I read the other Claire Keegan book and loved it, Small Things Like These and have Foster on my list. There was an interesting article in the NYT’s about Keegan about a month or so ago. I loved that she commented she tries “to respect the privacy of her characters.” I respect M. Robinson’s intellect and writing but like you, I don’t always agree with her. I read the Gilead series awhile back.


  7. This is my first time to comment on your blog. I would love it if you would share your list of beloved mothers sometime. That is right up my alley. Thanks!


    1. Oh, that’s such a great idea! I will make sure to add that to an upcoming post 🙂 But just a few off the top of my head: Mrs. Weasley from Harry Potter, Rein-Marie Gamache from the Armand Gamache series, Anne Blythe from Anne of Green Gables, and now Mrs. Kinsella from Foster!


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