Many Weeks in Books 2009, No. 32-35

Having skipped three weeks of blogging, I find myself woefully behind in my week in books posts, thus today’s book reviews span weeks 32, 33, 34 and 35 in the 2009 series. You may have wondered why I do this week in books thing anyway. It started because my grandmother told me that my great-grandmother used to keep a log of all the books she read, with notes about her impressions or things she particularly wanted to remember about each volume. I thought that was a great idea. Keeping a weekly log also serves as a reminder to me about what I’ve been interested in over a year, and gives me a sense of satisfaction that I am at least completing SOMETHING every week! I didn’t get to read more than usual while on vacation, but I did read a nice variety of books and was generally edified, inspired and mentally exercised, which is important to me in book reading.

Ginny Enas recommended Francis Schaeffer’s book True Spirituality to me, and it is definitely going in my top ten books for this year. It took me a while to get through this book – it is packed full of dense material, but is written in a lively way so you’re not bored but you need to stop and think things over frequently as you read it. This is my favorite of Schaeffer’s books and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I learned a lot, was tremendously challenged and convicted, and at the same time was encouraged and strengthened in my faith. True Spirituality is an excellent book, and would be well worth your time.

Cranford is a funny and well written book about domesticity in 19th century England. I thought the characters were well conceived, the stories about them were interesting and not trite, and the turns of phrase and descriptions were excellent. For example, I love this description of the ripples caused by an unlikely engagement: “[They] considered the engagement in the same light as the Queen of Spain’s legs – facts which certainly existed, but the less said about the better.”

I also came across a word with which I was not heretofore familiar: videlicet. As it turns out, videlicet is Latin and means “namely” as in “Anyone who finds the phrase ‘the exception that proves the rule’ abhorrent (videlicet my husband) is likely to find himself barraged therewith.”

And yes, in case you are paying attention, Josh really does loathe the phrase “exception that proves the rule.” I cannot understand why. He is a mystery wrapped in an enigma, that man.

Children: The Challenge was recommended on a Charlotte Mason website I read a while ago, and I have been meaning to read it for quite some time. It’s not exactly a beach read, but I did read it at the beach. The book is older – from the 1960s I think – but full of interesting ways to approach training children. Although it is not written from a Christian perspective, and thus some of the reasoning and motives for behavior were lacking in my opinion, many of the methods and goals addressed were good. The book has a wealth of practical examples, which I found tremendously helpful, and focuses a lot on teaching good habits of thought and behavior. I also thought the observations about why children act as they do in certain situations were helpful and illuminating.

Most interesting to me was the way families were described in the book. As I mentioned, it was written in the 1960s, and nearly every family in the examples has 3-6 children, in stair-step ages such as 18 months apart or 14 months apart. I thought that was curious. You never see that type of example in books nowadays – now the sample families have 1 or 2 or at most 3 children, and they are 2-3 years apart. I just think it is funny how the concept of “normal” families has changed over the past 50 years.

If you’ve wondered why Americans tend to overeat and obsess about food and what you can do about it, you will be interested in The End of Overeating. Y’all know how I love interesting food memoir type books, and this one was not a disappointment. I learned a lot about our food supply, how companies manipulate food to make it artificially hit the balance of fat, sugar and salt that triggers us to crave it and eat too much of it, and some hints on how to break that cycle.

{OK, sorry but I have to digress here. The previous paragraph just reminded me of that scene in So I Married An Axe Murderer when the Scottish father (played by Mike Myers) accuses “The Colonel” (from Kentucky Fried Chicken) of being in a secret triumvirate of power mongers because “he puts chemicals in his chicken that makes you crrrrrrave it fortnightly!”}

Most interestingly, the author of the book talked to a lot of people in the food industry who divulged all sorts of information about the chemical replacements in packaged foods. It made me a little afraid of packaged foods. The whole industry seems a little sinister, really. Perhaps Mike Myers was on to something.

Handmade Home is Amanda Soule’s book of thoughts on creative and unique ways ot repurpose materials and add homemade touches to your home. I don’t have exactly the same taste she does so I didn’t find any projects that I will do in exactly the same way she did, but I was inspired by her creativity. One comment that hit home for me was her observation that many young mothers she knows begin sewing or creative hobbies because it gives them a creative outlet and projects that can be brought to completion in the midst of the oftentimes repetitive tasks of motherhood. If you like doing crafty things that don’t take a whole lot of time or an exceptional level of skill, you might like this book or at least have fun flipping through it.

Heather L. reviewed Reasons Not to Move to the Country: One Woman’s Calamitous Attempt to Live the Rural Dream and I agree with her assessment of the book, which you can read on her lovely blog Blackberry Rambles. I think it’s interesting to read a book that was clearly originally composed as a series of articles – one gets the impression that one would have enjoyed it more if one could have read one chapter a month, rather than all of them in a span of days. There were lots of funny parts, which would probably be much funnier if you’re actually from England. Or perhaps they would be less funny if you are English, as you might have heard the jokes before. In any case, I would say that Reasons Not to Move to the Country is a light book, best taken in small doses.

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