2nd Quarter in Books, 2014

Lots of reading this quarter, buoyed, no doubt, by the fact that we were traveling for several weeks.  In April – June of this year I read 44 books, plus 18 read-alouds to the kids.  Here are snippet reviews by category, with links to my longer reviews:


  • A Place of Greater Safety – Amazing author Hilary Mantel’s historical novel of the French Revolution–hard to untangle at first (much like the real thing!) but worth it.
  • The Wandering Falcon – Set in Pakistan and Afghanistan, this novel is built on lovely storytelling but lacks somewhat in redemption or conclusion, which is probably on purpose and a metaphorical statement about the region.
  • The Paris Wife – Based on the life of the utterly abhorrent and despicable Ernest Hemingway, the novel brings an epoch and location to life.
  • The Swan Thieves – An engrossing novel of art, madness, painting, and love.
  • Brideshead Revisited – I feel guilty when I dislike classics, but there it is.  I didn’t like this book, didn’t care for the characters, and thought the underlying theology was lacking.
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – This quick beach read is cleverly structured with bookstore type book reviews between the chapters, but the second half felt contrived.
  • The Fault in Our Stars – If you like YA you might like this cancer-crossed-teen-lovers story.  I don’t like YA much so I didn’t love it.  It is what it is.
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – This interesting science fiction story tackles big questions like the definition of life and which lives need or deserve protection.
  • Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker – In spite of a killer premise and wonderful subject matter, this book fell flat and succumbed to anachronism too often for my taste.
  • On Such a Full Sea – This crazy-amazing novel combines an engrossing story, fascinating characters, and commentary on society and community.  A must read.


  • Holy is the Day – Carolyn Weber’s follow-up to Surprised by Oxford deals more with motherhood and the need to see conversion as a lifelong process not a one-time event.  I didn’t like it as much as the first book, but it was still good.
  • My Beloved World – A fascinating memoir by Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, including her challenges growing up and how her good attitude and work ethic pulled her through difficult situations.
  • Something Other Than God – A funny conversion memoir of how an atheist Texan became a dedicated Catholic.  It was interesting to read how the author’s initial stumbling blocks led her to different theological conclusions.


  • When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All the Answers – Geared toward teachers managing a classroom full of students, this book does have good tips for managing goals and combatting perfectionism in gifted kids.
  • A Love For Learning – Helpful tips for keeping gifted kids motivated, with applications for classroom teachers, homeschoolers, and parents.
  • Parenting Gifted Kids – Mostly geared toward parents, this book has particularly helpful explanations of the “overexitability” types, which I wish were labeled as “intensity” since the word “overexitable” sounds pejorative to me, but anyway.
  • Guiding Gifted Readers – An exceptionally helpful resource for parents and teachers of gifted kids, this book has lots of book recommendations and helps for discussing books, but also great insight into how gifted kids think.
  • Guiding the Gifted Child – This book has a great balance between big picture ideas and practical applications when it comes to how gifted kids are wired and particular issues they face.
  • Raising Gifted Kids – If you only have time to read a few books on giftedness, this should not be one of them.  Not a total dud, but not that great.

Life Hacks

  • The Paradox of Choice – A bit long for what it is, this book illuminates…wait for it…choices!  Including a helpful framework for understanding whether you’re a satisficer or maximizer and what to do about it.
  • Take the Risk – This book presents a helpful framework for making decisions using risk assessment, with examples from the author’s life and also helpful hints for teaching kids to assess risk.
  • The Family-First Creative – I pre-bought a book just to get this e-book free, and I don’t regret it.  If you balance multiple roles this book would be helpful and inspiring.
  • The Early To Rise Experience for Moms – This motivational e-book contains the author’s main get-up-early arguments (he has another book about it, not geared just to moms) and then lots of essays from mothers in various stages and circumstances offering tips and encouragement for how to manage your mornings.
  • A Whole New Mind – Based on research and trend analysis, this book looks at how our current economy and future jobs will depend on integrating right brain and left brain abilities.  Interesting, and also includes ideas for building your brain.
  • Gifted Grown-Ups – Issues related to how you think and deal with life don’t just go away when you graduate.  This book offers great insight and ideas for how gifted challenges apply in adulthood.  Highly recommended.


  • Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages – An interesting and compelling evidence-based set of tips for how to be happy in your marriage.
  • Love and Respect in the Family – A helpful framework for communication in families.
  • The Whole-Brain Child – Excellent ideas for helping kids (and parents) learn to control emotions and attitudes.
  • Hints on Child Training – Written in the 1800s but surprisingly fresh with ideas on cultivating a calm and supportive household.
  • Wild Things – Helpful developmentally organized hints on how to raise boys.
  • Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids – The first half of this book is helpful, but I disagreed with the conclusions in the second half.
  • The Key To Your Child’s Heart – This book is not that great in the sea of parenting books, but there was a good tip about figuring out how to help your kids with their goals and interests.
  • Hands Free Mama – A blog-post-style manifesto about putting down the phone and enjoying your blessings.  I thought I would love this book, but didn’t wind up really connecting with it.

History and Sociology

  • The Worst Hard Time – A truly shocking account of the Dust Bowl that goes so far beyond what you probably learned in high school history.  I was floored by this book, and can’t imagine how people lived through this dreadful, decade-long event.
  • City of Tranquil Light – I’m not sure if I should put this in history or fiction, since it’s a sort of historical fiction account of the author’s grandparents who were missionaries in China.  In any case, it was touching and interesting, although somewhat lacking in depth of insight at places.
  • The Next America – This fascinating, evidence-based look at generational differences and how our society will have to restructure as Baby Boomers age and birthrate falls is well-written and non-partisan.  Good food for thought.
  • Elizabeth of York – A readable, well-researched account of Henry VIII’s mother.  Alison Weir always delivers.
  • The Small Woman – A wonderful biography of Gladys Aylward, a missionary to China in the early- to mid- 1900s, which also gives great insight into the cultural and political changes ocurring at that time.  It’s amazing what one person can do, even if she’s not well prepared, as long as she’s willing to risk in order to be obedient to her calling.
  • Beyond the Stone Arches – Taking place in the late 1800s to early 1900s, this book likewise tells the story of missionaries to China and gives insight into cultural and political change.  Although the focus is a little different, it’s still fascinating.


  • The Hole in Our Holiness – An excellent and readable account of holiness and how to get there (starting with the problem that often we don’t really want to be holy in the first place).  This book points out our many cultural blindspots and manages to be convicting and encouraging at the same time.
  • In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day – This is kind of a faith/life hacks hybrid book, as the author draws on Scripture and spiritual things to present ideas about how Christians can see and seize opportunities, have more robust and vibrant prayer lives, and live free of fears.  Very helpful and highly recommended.
  • Made for More – A thoughtful and nuanced look at what our faith means for our identities.  Perhaps the best discussion of “balance” and “having it all” that I have ever read.  Highly recommended.
  • A Neglected Grace – Highly readable and short, but full of information and challenge, this book offers great help and doable suggestions for incorporating family worship into your home.

Health and Fitness

  • Lose Your Mummy Tummy – Thoughts and tips on how to heal the diastasis in your stomach muscles that you probably got while pregnant.  This book would almost certainly be more helpful if I regularly took its advice.


Kid chapter books read aloud or listened to in audio book form, or that I read so I could discuss them with kids who read them independently (I can’t read everything they read, but I do aim for a sampling!):

What’s the best book you read this quarter?

3 thoughts on “2nd Quarter in Books, 2014

    1. Hannah (8 1/2) read The Small Woman and enjoyed it. It isn’t graphic at all, and mostly presents extreme hardship but in a way that emphasizes the humanity and faith of those involved rather than emphasizing the atrocities, if that makes sense. I had no qualms about letting her read it and I’m usually really picky. Jack (7) could have handled it in terms of reading level, but he was more interested in other books so I didn’t push it on him. So I would say a child with a pretty good reading ability for chapter books could easily handle it, and if you’re using it for a read-aloud I think even smaller kids would be fine with the content. I hope that helps!

      1. I was going through my curric list I made back in February, getting ready to order, and saw I want a couple of biographies for my (soon to be) 10 year old. So I think this will fit the bill and I get to read it first! lol.

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