Holiday Reading

It’s a different kind of holiday for many this year as Covid prevents us from traveling or celebrating with other households. For us, it means our first Christmas as a twosome in over thirty years! Rather than being upset, I’m seeing it as an opportunity to focus on the things that bring us joy, rather than focusing on the needs of family and friends. For instance, I’ll have a lot more time to read, and that always makes me happy. But because this year has been a challenging one, I’m looking for books that offer an escape, or ones that are ultimately uplifting, and if there’s food or travel involved, so much the better. Here are some non-fiction titles to consider. Stop back next week for some fiction recommendations. 

Rebel Chef: In Search of What Matters by Dominique Crenn and Emma Brockes.  By the time twenty-one-year-old Dominique Crenn decided to become a chef, she knew it would be tough in France where almost all restaurant kitchens were run by men. So, she moved to San Francisco to train under Jeremiah Tower. Almost thirty years later, Crenn was awarded three Michelin Stars in 2018 for her restaurant Atelier Crenn, and became the first female chef in the United States to receive this honor. Part biography starting with her childhood in Versailles and part food memoir as she details out her cooking journey, this is a lovely read about a chef’s personal discoveries.

Hidden Places: An Inspired Traveller’s Guide by Sarah Baxter. Here’s some armchair travel for those who feel housebound. Travel journalist Sarah Baxter reveals twenty-five of the world’s most obscure places.  She takes us to little-known spots in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada and the U.S. Some locations are remote, others are near more widely known attractions, but each destination has a story to tell. Evocative text and beautiful hand-drawn illustrations by Amy Grimes. A short, quick read and a lovely escape.

The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell. Even though it’s not a new release (this book has been out for five years) it was new to me and I enjoyed it enough that I’ll be seeking out more by Helen Russell.  Denmark is officially the happiest nation on earth, so when Russell’s husband is offered his dream job at LEGO in Denmark, Helen goes along and begins her quest to find out what makes Danes so happy. Each month, she shares a primary takeaway contributing to the country’s general happiness level and the related lessons she learned. Though she also touches on the not-so-great parts of living in Denmark, Russell’s narrative is upbeat and even funny at times.

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman.  An honest and sometimes funny book that celebrates friendship and what it takes to stay close for the long haul. Sow and Friedman tell the story of their first decade of friendship, both its joys and its pitfalls. More memoir than intellectual study, and very occasionally veering into the preachy, Big Friendship is nevertheless entertaining and affirming.

Together: Why Social Connection Holds the Key to Better Health, Higher Performance, and Greater Happiness by Vivek H. Murthy. Former Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy delves into scientific research to explain how our brains function from social interaction or the lack of it. A great book to read and help us understand why we may be feeling strange or uneasy during these times of isolation. The good news is that social connection is innate and a cure for loneliness. Filled with interesting anecdotes, this is an inspirational read that reminds us to practice compassion as often as possible.

We are Santa: Portraits and Profiles by Ron Cooper. Not only feel-good but seasonally appropriate! Award-winning photographer Ron Cooper has curated a collection of fifty professional Santas from across the USA. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the lives of those who slip into the red suit to spread Christmas cheer. Before and after portraits as Santa transforms from his (or her) everyday world to becoming Santa, and behind-the-scenes stories and anecdotes to bring home the wonder and joy of the seasonal Santa. Highly recommended.

My November Reads

I think of late fall as my pause point before I start baking and preparing for the holidays. Even though the days are shorter and the nights are longer, I seem to have more time to devote to quieter pursuits, like reading. And these days, with the Covid numbers climbing and creating a sense of unease everywhere, books are my favorite way to escape. Here’s what I’m reading this month.

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

Dance Away with Me by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Silver Bay by JoJo Moyes

Books read to date in 2020: 58

My October Reads

I’m in the mood to escape reality for a little while, but given the current circumstances we find ourselves living in, I’m not going very far. Instead of hopping on a plane (not wise with the rising Covid numbers) or planning a future vacation (delayed gratification only satisfies me for so long), I’m escaping via books. I’m looking for fiction with appealing settings or nonfiction books by people who have moved to new countries. And if their book provides details about local culture, flora and fauna, and food, so much the better. Here’s what I’m reading right now.

The Peach Keeper by Sara Addison Allen

Plum, Courgette and Green Bean Tart by Lisa Rose Wright

The Beekeeper’s Promise by Fiona Valpy

Books read to date in 2020: 52

My September Reads

Yesterday marked the autumn equinox, the first day of fall, and today the rains are forecast, reinforcing the fact that the colder season is just around the corner. Thanks to a neighbor who dropped off a generous box of purple grapes, I’m about to make a batch of jelly. When that’s done, I’ll tackle the Asian pears and turn them into chutney. Hopefully, the rain will ease long enough for me to pull the last of the tomatoes from the garden and clean up the basil bed too. In the meantime, I’m curling up with a good book. Here’s what I’m reading this month.

With Malice by Eileen Cook

One More Croissant for the Road by Felicity Cloake

The Sundown Motel by Simone St. James

Books read to date in 2020: 46

What I’m Reading

Summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest, bringing sunshine, warmer temperatures and garden happiness. Our veggies have stopped pouting and are galloping to catch up to where they normally would be at this time of year. It’s been an odd gardening year though. Summer started out cool and wet; we’ve been dealing with Covid restrictions and stock limitations at many garden centres; and we’ve been in observation mode in our new garden – watching what flowers when, checking out the light levels and exposure patterns, and planning for next year. It’s left me more time to read . . . and I have a lovely patio where I can enjoy a good book. Here’s what I’m reading this month.   

The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn

The Moonglow Sisters by Lori Wilde

In an Instant by Suzanne Redfearn

Books read to date in 2020: 36

My June Reads

As I write this, summer is only four days away. It’s been a different spring. We’ve had wetter, cooler weather than normal for this time of year; we’re still spending more time at home because of Covid precautions; and we’re dealing with more wildlife than we’re used to in our new garden too. Specifically, rabbits. Mom and Dad are regular visitors to the front lawn, and we’re (mildly) content to let them nibble on the grass. It’s less for us to cut. However, Mom and Dad are clearly using our back garden, where we grow vegetables, as a day care. And an all-you-can-eat buffet. We’ve chased four babies out so far and Mr. Petrol Head continues to string chicken wire to prevent access. But those little guys are smaller than a pound of butter and can squeeze through the tiniest of holes. We’ve seeded beans three times, zucchini twice and lettuce more times than I can count. Between the rabbits and their partners in crime, the slugs, we aren’t faring all that well in the food growing department.

The neighbors are properly sympathetic. They loaned us their live catch rabbit trap, so we baited and waited. But before we could catch a single rabbit, they needed their trap back. They had a hungry critter in their back yard too. We called the hardware store. There’d been a run on live traps; they were out. We bought more chicken wire and continued with our patch job until chicken wire became scarce. Another neighbor has suggested we borrow his leaf blower to tackle the problem. “Herd them out with fear,” he suggested.

We aren’t that desperate. At least not yet. But it might come to that. We’re seeding more beans and zucchini tonight. We’ll see how it goes. Meantime, to lower my blood pressure and keep me sane, I’m doing a lot of reading. Here’s what I’m reading this month.

When we Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal

Boy Giant: Son of Gulliver by Michael Morpurgo

Renewal: How Nature Awakens Our Creativity, Compassion and Joy by Andres R. Edward

Books read to date in 2020: 30

My April Reads

I’m dealing with a debilitating and hopefully temporary back problem, so I’ve been spending more time resting and less time doing. That means relaxing and staring at the clouds . . .  watching the swallows swoop and dart through the air . . . and reading. Lots and lots of reading. As the month opened, I reached for the comfort and reassurance of a classic I’ve read before. And now, as we creep closer to the end of the month, I need a break from reality, some laughs, and the promise of a happily ever after. I know I can count on Kristan Higgins for that.   Here’s what I’m reading this month.

Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins

Books read to date in 2020: 26

Promises

Life has been upside down for weeks now as all of us learn to live with the restrictions brought about by Covid-19. Schedules have been upended; cancellations abound. The news is grim, the future is uncertain and it’s easy to get caught up in worry, sadness and fear.

However, just as the spring flowers are popping up to promise us better days ahead, there have been promises of the future in other ways too.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from the daughter of a friend of a friend of a friend. She’d written a book of children’s stories and wanted to know how to get them published. She was excited and enthusiastic, full of questions and optimism. It was a reminder that life continues, and there will be things in our future to look forward to, including new books to read.

In fact, there are new books to read right now! Two children’s authors have new releases worth checking out.

The Rise and Fall of Derek Cowell by Valerie Sherrard is already getting great reviews. This humorous novel (published by DCB and suitable for ages 9-12) tells the story of a middle-grade boy who becomes popular after unintentionally photobombing a group selfie of his sister and her friends. As a kid who is used to living under the radar, Derek struggles with his sudden fame and the inevitable crash that follows. Check out Valerie Sherrard’s website here:  https://valeriesherrard.blogspot.com/  And the DCB website here: https://www.dcbyoungreaders.com/the-rise-and-fall-of-derek-cowell

Sophie Trophy Too by Eileen Holland is another humorous read but for younger readers, ages 7 – 9. Published by Crwth Press, this story follows Grade Three student Sophie as she befriends Hailey, the new girl in her class. Unfortunately, her efforts go hilariously wrong, but even as Sophie ends up feeling left out she is determined to find a way to make Hailey feel welcome. You can listen to Eileen read the first chapter here: https://youtu.be/hPqKLGLhPOM   For purchase information, check out the Crwth website: https://www.crwth.ca/sophie-trophy-too/    And to visit Eileen’s website, go here: http://eileenhollandchildrensauthor.com/

Finally, you may remember me blogging about a mosaic class I took last year from Debra Hagan. (Here’s a link for those who missed it:   https://lauralangston.com/filling-the-well-mosaic-style/). Debra regularly holds classes and workshops at her Nanoose Bay studio, and I booked one for March, only to see it cancelled because of the pandemic. Cancelling was the right thing to do and I know there will be other chances down the road. For now, though, we can get our mosaic fix through her new website: www.goldbugmosaics.com.  The next time you want to take an uplifting break, check it out. And some of her mosaics are for sale!

My March Reads 2020

The crocuses are open and the daffodil tips are swollen with promise and ready to burst into bloom. The color is a welcome spot of cheer at a time when the world feels grim and fearful. Things are changing at such a rapid pace that whatever I say about today’s news will be out of date tomorrow. But one thing that won’t change is the need for good books, the need to escape.  Here’s what I’m reading this week:

The Midnight Line by Lee Child

Animal Speak by Ted Andrews

Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton

Books read to date in 2020:  20

Reading Canadian

Tomorrow is the inaugural I Read Canadian Day, an event designed to bring attention to and celebrate Canadian books for young people. Let’s broaden out and support ALL Canadian books and authors, even those written for adults.

For information on the I Read Canadian program for children and teens, go here:

If you’re looking for a good read by a Canadian author, check out this list from Booknet Canada. You’ll find fiction and non-fiction, and some juvenile titles too. 

https://www.booknetcanada.ca/blog/2017/6/13/150-bestselling-books-by-canadian-authors

Happy Reading!