December and January. proper nouns. The darkest months of Minnesota winter, which inspire a desire for good books and warm drinks and cozy blankets.
I skipped the regular monthly update during the holidays, so this post gives you two months of bang for one buck – if you can make it past all of the book recommendations (it’s cold and dark out. What else am I going to do?) Head to Leigh Kramer’s site if you want more great recommendations.
Rebecca – Daphne Du Marier. I had never heard of this classic before my mom told me that I had to read it a few months ago. Now I believe it is my civic duty to tell everyone: you have to read this book. A young woman marries a widower she’s known for 3 weeks and becomes the mistress of Manderly, stepping into the shoes of the mysterious Rebecca. There’s suspense and old English mansions and romance and a creepy housekeeper and a forbidden west wing and it’s so fantastic. While reading it one Friday night, I had to stop because I was too scared, so naturally I picked it up the next morning and accidentally read for two hours. If you like Kate Morton…this is like her, but better.
Ordinary Grace – William Kent Krueger. This book tells the beautiful, ordinary story of a preacher, his family, and their small town and the tragedies that befall them one summer from the perspective of a twelve-year-old boy. It sings with virtue and goodness without being preachy. Bonus: it’s also by a Minnesota author, and if you like other Minnesota authors like Leif Enger and Jon Hassler, you should like this too.
Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? – Rhoda Janzen. I adored Janzen’s Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, and when a friend filled me in that there was a sequel, I grabbed it on my next library run. This one is not quite as hysterically funny as the first, but Janzen’s personal revelations as she copes with cancer and rediscovers faith seemed even more poignant.
The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton. This book is one of the ones on my list to read this year, and I found it thought-provoking in unexpected ways. Newland Archer is newly engaged to the delightful May, a match made in 1870s high-society heaven, but he finds himself enchanted by a disgraced countess. I’m still pondering the questions of duty and love and expectation posed here.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloane. I don’t even know how to explain this book. It winds mysterious bookstores and Google and nerdy cults and data visualization into one cohesive, entertaining narrative. I’m not even sure how that’s possible.
Inside Out and Back Again – Thanhha Lai. These simple, beautiful poems weave the narrative of a young girl fleeing Vietnam and relocating to the U.S. If I ever teach ESL, I will absolutely read this book aloud for its descriptions of the everyday ache of leaving your beloved home behind.
Coaltown Jesus – Ron Koertge. If you have a spare 45 minutes, pick up this touching book of narrative poems. A boy’s brother dies, and he prays that Jesus would help his mom. The next day, a sassy and kind Jesus shows up in the flesh. Meaningful without cheesiness.
The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place – E.L. Konigsburg. A YA book with heart and smarts, about a kid who tries to save her uncles and their art. Everything E.L. Konigsburg writes is so classic.
The Geography of You and Me – Jennifer E. Smith. This is the story of two teenagers who meet during a blackout in New York, and who remain connected despite the different directions life pulls them. I would have devoured this book at 15. At 22, and as someone who is in a long-distance relationship myself, it felt sweet but awfully unrealistic.
Lost & Found – Brooke Davis. A sweet story of a young girl on a quest to find her mother and the unlikely companions who join her. Quirky and tender.
Democracy in America (the very abridged version) – Alexis de Tocqueville. Not my normal type of reading, but when your boyfriend tells you that this is the one book that will help you understand his world, I guess it’s as good a reason as any to branch out. It did have some interesting, prophetic ideas about race and equality in America, especially for being written in around 1830. This type of reading brings me back to my Western Civ class, but admittedly it was a good mental exercise.
Currently reading: Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis. All Fall Down – Ally Carter.
So much Star Wars, you guys. I had never watched any of the movies until December 18, and then I watched Episodes 4, 5, half of 6, and 7 within 2 weeks. I have learned that I am the human version of Cp3O, and that I appreciate the old ones because they are not graphic or particularly intense. Not so for Episode 7. The Force is not strong with me, because I watched most of the movie from behind the safety of my blanket scarf.
The BBC Pride and Prejudice, for the first time. I AM SO OBSESSED. I like the newer version with Kiera Knightley and Matthew McFaden, but I adore this one. The set and costumes and mannerisms of the characters felt more authentic, but more importantly COLIN FIRTH IS MR. DARCY AND ALL IS RIGHT IN THE WORLD. His smoldering, longing looks at Elizabeth across the room and his awkward sweetness when he stumbles across her at Pemberley slay me. I’m in love.
This song brings me such peace.
This compilation of the hits of 2015. They’re my favorite.
Here – Alessia Cara. I was not a partier in high school (let’s all laugh at that idea), but if I had been, this would have been my jam. A moody song that mentions being antisocial and waiting in the car? Yep.
This tote bag. Kathleen Kelly is my role model.
The Examine app. Based on the traditional Examen practice of daily reflection, this app has helped me process my ordinary days with more depth and gratitude.
I have a feeling that Kendra, the blogger behind this post, would have approved of my searching favorite celebrities on Google Images with my roommates late on Friday nights in college. Except her commentary is way more hilarious.
Black ankle boots. When I started full-time student teaching (in other words, standing up for 7 hours a day), I discovered that my cute flats were not cutting it. Comfy, slightly edgy boots for the win.
These fun illustrations of the Netflix habits of Harry Potter characters.
This video of middle schoolers’ perspective on dating. Welcome to my day job.
This article about C.S. Lewis and Donald Trump. I’m not especially vocal in my opinions about politics, but this is one of the most articulate arguments against The Donald that I’ve read.
I got to meet Jackie Sommers, the author of Truest (a book I recommended back in November) and chat about writing and life. What a gracious woman!
Graduating from college. My family spend the day with me, my college roommate snuck away from her brother’s hockey game to visit, my boyfriend flew in from DC to surprise me (I’m still not over that), and we all went to Public Kitchen and Bar in St. Paul to celebrate. If you’re looking for a warm, industrial atmosphere and a funky lounge in the basement and delicious food, go there. Further thoughts here.
Holiday stuff. I spent some sweet days at home for Christmas. Favorite memories: my grandparents believing that we had bought them a yoga mat for Christmas (not so), baking cookies, and playing late-night games with the boyfriend and the family. Then we rang in 2016 at my cousin’s wedding. All of the relatives celebrated by going snow tubing and having wintery adventures at the camp where the wedding was held. Yes, the photos are true: the camp had a camel.
Student teaching. Even though I graduated in December, I still had to finish up four weeks of student teaching in January. I just tackled 3 weeks of full-time student teaching and now I’m done. This means that my college career is officially over. What. Deeper reflection/collections of 7th grade quotes to come.
Trying to have a life. Post-college life is weird and sometimes boring and occasionally isolating, so I’ve been trying to fill my time and cultivate meaning by meeting with my small group and other sweet friends, doing yoga, and reading. This is still an experiment in progress.
What were you into this month?