First Quarter in Books, 2014

Time flies when you’re reading good books.  Below are short reviews of the 32 books I read in the first quarter of 2014, as well as links to the 22 chapter books I read out loud to the kids, or because the kids were reading them.  The title links are to my longer reviews, and my favorites are starred.


  • The Lowland – This book was well-written overall, but had some weaknesses that left me wondering why it was short-listed for the Booker Prize last year.
  • *State of Wonder – An astonishing novel: well written, inventive, and thought-provoking.
  • The Three Musketeers – A novel that suffers from ponderous pacing at times, but is enjoyable enough to understand why it’s a classic.
  • Sarum – An INSANELY long novel about the history of England that is really more like a series of loosely linked novellas and which would have been far, far better as a series than one gargantuan tome.
  • I Capture the Castle – A sweet and lively love story that manages to avoid pitfalls common to YA and romance.  So it’s not really YA or romance, just an enjoyable novel set in 1930s England.  And you know how I feel about books set in England.
  • A Long Way Down – Also set in England, but very, very different from I Capture the Castle, this book is a hilariously funny story about a group of people who intend to commit suicide.  It works though.  (Note language caveat in longer post)


  • Writing With Ease – this book gives an excellent apologetic for teaching writing with a classical/Charlotte Mason approach, and then walks through how to teach writing through fourth grade, day by day, week by week.
  • Distracted – Not really about education, but with educational applications, Distracted looks at how our ability (or lack thereof) to pay attention impacts our lives, learning, and culture.
  • I Thought it Was Just Me – This is really not a book about parenting, but so many of my takeaways were parenting-related that I thought I’d categorize it this way.  Primarily the book is about communication and the way we dispense and receive shame messages.  I found the ideas so applicable to things I’m trying to teach my kids as they get older, but really they are helpful in other family relationships, friendships, and work interactions as well.


  • *Say Goodbye to Survival Mode – Excellent, thoughtful, practical advice easily tailored to your personal situation, this is one of my new favorite life management books.
  • The In-Between – Excellent concept, unfortunately delivered in a mediocre fashion.  You can skip this one.
  • David and Goliath – Another good concept not well executed.  You can skip this one too.
  • The Myth of Multitasking – If you still think multitasking is a good idea, or if you know it isn’t but can’t seem to stop, this book is for you.
  • The Fred Factor – A very fast read about how to bring excellence to your work.
  • Fred 2.0 – I can’t for the life of me think of a reason why you should read this book, unless you are stuck somewhere with basically no alternative.  A sad follow-up.
  • A Million Little Ways – Such a helpful book on balancing dreams with life and finding ways to glorify God with your gifts in every season of life.
  • What’s Happening to Home? – A sort of outdated examination of the blurring lines between work and life that fails to offer many prescriptions for the problem.
  • Balanced – This book is very helpful and packed with ideas for how to balance work and life if you’re a parent.  Although it would be even more useful to you if you are a writer who also homeschools, there are plenty of take-aways for other jobs and situations.
  • Notes From a Blue Bike – A thoughtful and nuanced approach to bringing your real life in line with your dreams/goals/life vision.  The book is very well-written and helpful.
  • Do the Work – A super fast read that delivers a kick in the pants for people who need motivation to, you know, do the work.
  • Time Warrior – Also short and hyperbolic, Time Warrior does have some helpful hint for time management and making life work.


  • The Telling Room – A fun and funny book about Spain, storytelling, and cheese.  Not for reading on an empty stomach, but highly recommended for all other times.
  • Queen Isabella – Alison Weir always delivers a fascinating and highly readable history, and this is no exception.  Recommended for British history fans.
  • The Pagan Lord – Bernard Cornwell is another of my favorite historical fiction authors, and his latest Saxon Chronicles story is excellent as you would expect.


  • The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Great insight on 1 Corinthians 3-4 from Tim Keller, highly recommended especially for people who have a tendency toward people pleasing.
  • Grace for the Good Girl – A female-focused take on combatting the good girl identity, also described as “the try hard life.”



  • The Necklace – Not very well written, but a highly engaging story of a group of women who pooled their funds to share a diamond necklace and gained friendships and motivation for life changes in the bargain.
  • Surprised by Oxford – What I liked best about this conversion memoir was the excellent setting and seeing how God meets people exactly where they are with exactly the message and medium they need to hear the Gospel.
  • In the Midst of Life – Part memoir and part philosophical treatise on palliative care and end of life issues, this book is thought-provoking and illuminating.

With/For Kids

This year I started doing something different and logging chapter books–with criteria that they generally be over 100 pages and a true chapter book rather than picture books–that I either read out loud to the kids or read so as to discuss them with kids who read them too.

What is the best book you read in the first quarter of this year?

2 thoughts on “First Quarter in Books, 2014

  1. I really like your chapter books posts. 🙂 I’m starting to read more and more chapter books with my 5 year old and your recommendations are great!

    I read The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness based on your review. I am a people-pleaser and you are totally right, this book was SO GOOD FOR ME. I really like Timothy Keller. I also read the Prodigal God and loved it.

    I have A Long Way Down sitting on my nightstand waiting for me to start it. 🙂
    Catie recently posted..Baby in the Bath

  2. Things We Couldn’t Say by Diet Eman….it’s a World War II biography about a Christian resistance worker in Holland who was in one of the prison camps that Corrie Ten Boom was in. The book is fantastic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

CommentLuv badge

A Spirited Mind HomeAboutReadingWritingParenting

Thank you for joining the conversation at A Spirited Mind! Please keep your comments kind and friendly, even if you're disagreeing with me or another commenter. Comments that use inappropriate language, or that are cruel, threatening, or violent will be deleted. I'm sure you understand!