June 30, 2016

library love: what I'm reading these days

Friends of the internet,

There is no better way to get a peek into my mind than to see what I am reading. Ever since I was pregnant with my first kiddo I have dove deep into the pool of non-fiction. I love to research the crap out of everything that comes to mind or presents itself in my life. Or to put it more poetically, I am a curious soul.

Now, please don't get me wrong, fiction is my first love. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of choosing stacks of chapter books on library day, finding a comfortable spot at home and then reading for hours on end. Even in my current much more complicated life (husband! kids! laundry! food!) I can still inhale a particularly delicious read in a matter of a few days. Hint: say you're going to the bathroom. Do that but then just forget to come back downstairs while you sneak a few a pages.

Without further ado, here are my most recent reads:

A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812
By Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (this one is not pictured above; I had to return it to the library!)

Why I chose it: I personally have used midwives for each of my three birth experiences and have absolutely loved their philosophy and style of care. In Europe, using midwives is the norm, but not so much in the United States, which is a shame. I also have a great curiosity about journals and diaries and was interested in one written my a woman. At any rate, it caught my eye when I was in a gift shop in D.C. so I snapped a photo to see if my local library owned it, which they did.

What I loved: While Martha's journal entries themselves are pretty sparse the author has gone to great efforts to do a lot of additional research about the rest of the people mentioned in the diary, the politics of the places she lived, news from the time, and even a side-by-side comparison to a neighbor's journal. Each chapter has a theme, presents a passage of Martha's diary, and then explains in more detail what was happening and what it meant to the timeframe. I learned a lot about daily life, the separate economic activities of men and women, the way women did life together, politics and power and land ownership, and even the shifts happening in terms of doctors and formal medical training (mostly men) creeping into areas that would have been typically handled by women. Overall, it was a fascinating read.

What I didn't: I am going to be honest, this book is dense. This is both a high compliment to the author's efforts and her expertise but it also made it a beast to get through. I could only read a bit at a time but I promise you I was intrigued enough with the story to keep going back to it.

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League
By Jeff Hobbs

Why I chose it: I have a deep interest in race relations and feel strongly that the Christian church has an obligation to lead the way in healing the brokenness that exists. My husband and I have been intentional about choosing to belong to places that are racially and socioeconomically diverse. This calling in our lives has been top of mind when choosing where to live, worship, and send out kids to school. Anything that can help me to have a better understanding of people who have different life experiences is a plus.

What I loved: Oh, dear ones, nothing is a simple as the newspaper headline would have you believe. This biography was thoroughly researched and beautifully written. The story of Robert Peace's life is amazing, hopeful, and heartbreaking. I am left haunted after reading it.

The story told is more complex than race relations alone and instead includes broader themes of environmental influences and poverty and generational cycles that are hard to break. We all have choices but what those are can be limited in ways over which we have no control. Or whether or not we can even see the choices in front of us might be colored by the people and places around us. How much of ourselves and our lives are self-made and how much is made by our environment? The book doesn't answer these difficult questions, of course, but it does present them in its telling of Robert's life story.

Etsy Excellence: The Simple Guide to Creating a Thriving Etsy Business
By Tycho Press

Why I chose it: I was browsing the shelves at the Main Library and there it was! Oh, and I am curious. Really, that's all there is at this point. Since I have nothing to sell there is no way to be anything but curious at this point! Hee!

What I loved: It was cheery and chatty and very informative. A light and breezy read that gave me a good feel for the world of Etsy such as it is.

The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do
By Jeff Goins

Why I chose it: I discovered lots of interesting people when I participated in the free online Work by Design Summit put together by Claire Diaz-Ortiz. There were lots of excellent interviews (and a few I found to be duds) around the ideas of Purpose, Productivity, and Profit. I didn't have time to watch them all but I did cram in quite a few. Anyway, it is done and no longer free but Claire's got a class out and I think you can purchase access to the interviews. All that to say, Jeff Goins was one of the speakers I really appreciated so I followed up with putting his book on hold (thank you again, library).

What I loved: I get kind of nerdy about purpose and calling type conversations and books. I can never get enough of them. It is just a fascinating topic to me. I can't necessarily say that I am stressing about my life purpose right now but more that I am starting to look ahead, doing some listening to the Lord, tossing around some ideas (both internally and externally) and was curious about this book.

Mr. Goins has some lovely ideas that I appreciate. He kind of nails a lot of our cultural fantasies about people and their callings and their life purpose and all that. Like "you just know" (nope, you figure it out as you go and it likely changes over time) or "you take a leap of faith" (no again, he instead refers to the analogy of "building a bridge"). The book features lots of real-life stories of people and their own journeys. I loved reading those. Everyone's life has a story worth telling.

Vintage Camper Trailers
By Paul and Caroline Lacitinola

Why I chose it: We have a camper and we like camping. Our camper is vintage too – from the 90s! Not at all cool like the campers in this book.

What I loved: I dearly love the style of the 1950s and reading through this book was a visual treat. The people who own and restore these campers most often decorate the interiors with appropriate vintage style. The authors went to a lot of effort to tell the stories of everyone featured in the book – what drew them to the hobby of restoring vintage campers, how they found their camper and so on. The people stories were equally interesting to the photographs. It was really a lot of fun to read through this. Someday I'd like to add some more vintage elements to my kitchen and I was inspired by some of the decor featured in this book.

FYI – The book links are Amazon affiliate links. If you click through and buy I earn a very small profit. So far I haven't actually made enough money to warrant Amazon sending me an actual check but I figure I might as well give it a whirl when I write about books! ;-)

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