Category Archives: book lists

Goodbye January

readingJanuary was an enjoyable reading month for me — I read seven books and also celebrated my own birthday as well as the 9th anniversary of the birth of this blog. As usual, my reading was all over the place, from Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road, to Anthony Trollope’s The Warden, and each of the 7 books was a good choice for me.

As far as reading challenges go, I usually sign up for a few starting in January, but this year I’ve decided to keep those commitments to a minimum and just focus on my own reading. So I am focusing on my own Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge, planning on reading at least 75 books, and I joined Emma Watson’s Goodreads feminist book club, “Our Shared Shelf,” and will read the 12 books she chooses for this year. Also, my Mom and I continue our daily phone chats, mostly talking about books, so my reading is strong and healthy and off to a good start for the year. It continues to bring me great joy.

So it is goodbye to January and hello to February which includes an extra day this year for extra reading!

Here are my January reads:


A Gift of Reading

My sweet life-long reading buddy, always-reading Mom, age 96, didn’t want any gifts for Christmas. Really, what she didn’t want was to receive things that would take up any space in her small apartment. But since she loves to read, and loves her Kindle, I didn’t have any problem coming up with a very appropriate-for-her gift! I gave her a small library of Kindle books to keep her busy for the confining winter months when she can’t walk to her library (next door) or even her post office (also next door). So I sent her a Kindle book each day from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. I tried to pick exactly the right book each time, and I think I got pretty close. Here are the books I sent her for winter reading.

Fall Reading


My sunflower garden…

August, September and October have been busy months! My days have been filled with projects and activities, mostly outdoors and mostly in our garden. But we have also done some enjoyable traveling, including a lovely trip in late September to Salt Lake City to spend some time with my 96-year-old mother.

Reading has continued and been very enjoyable, but I just haven’t wanted to spend time writing reviews. Blogging has continued, but almost entirely on my garden blog, which is my online journal of our gardening life. My garden is where my heart is right now, so please do stop in and visit me at My Garden in the Grove.

Although many of the books I’ve been reading in the last few months are about gardens or gardening, I have read other things, too. Here’s a list:

Book Match

A few weeks ago I received an email from my beloved KCLS (King County Library System). They have started up a new program called “Book Match.” You fill out a short questionnaire about your reading interests, listing favorite books and authors. Then, a librarian reviews that information and hand picks some books you might  enjoy, and sends you your own personalized reading recommendations!

Yesterday, I received the nicest email from librarian, Michelle, who told me she enjoyed putting my list together, named the list “Excellent Stories, Excellent Writers”, and hoped I would like the recommendations. I was thrilled with the list and with what felt like having my very own librarian!  Here’s a screen shot of her recommendations. I’m going to enjoy reading these selections!

Book Match for me

June Highlights: Family Reads


Half of my June was delightfully spent traveling. We enjoyed a lovely family get-together, a time to celebrate my inspirational reading Mom, who will be turning 96 in August. The family spent a week reminiscing, laughing, walking, visiting a museum and a special library, eating at as many different restaurants as we could, watching sports and fun mini-series on TV, and talking about books. I’m always interested in what others are reading, and I particularly love to hear what my family recommends. Here are a few of the books that were being read or that we discussed:

Oxfordshire in the Blood


The Hubby and I just finished watching the old Inspector Morse series (all 33 episodes) which we first watched on Masterpiece Mystery many years ago. The books were written by Colin Dexter; the setting was Oxford, England; and the main characters were the brilliant Chief Inspector Morse and his hardworking colleague, Detective Sergeant Lewis. I’ve never read any of Colin Dexter’s books, although I always thought I would like to because we enjoyed the TV version of Morse so much. On my TBR list! The TV series was intelligent and well-written, very good mysteries, and enjoyable to watch again this many years later.

Thomas Gomm

My great, great, great grandfather, Thomas Gomm.

Another reason we returned to the series was because I have been reading some family history. My paternal great, great, great grandparents all came from Oxfordshire. When I remembered that the Inspector Morse series was filmed in Oxford, I thought it would be fun to see the area and watch a good mystery program at the same time. I was not disappointed. The mysteries were great and the filming of that area was wonderful. Many beautiful shots of the city and outlying areas.

Of course, the more I learn of my family history, the more I would love to travel to Oxfordshire and visit the locations where those distant grandparents lived. But that probably won’t be happening very soon, so my reading and TV viewing will have to do for now. Just for fun, I spent some time online and compiled a reading list of books set in Oxfordshire. There are probably many others I missed, but it turned out to be a fun list that would provide me with many hours of reading pleasure. Here’s some of the list I’ve compiled:

  • Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy
  • A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
  • His Dark Materials (trilogy) and Lyra’s Oxford, by Philip Pullman
  • Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
  • Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers
  • Last Bus to Woodstock (Inspector Morse), by Colin Dexter
  • An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears
  • Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis
  • Some Tame Gazelle, by Barbara Pym
  • Tom Brown’s Schooldays, by Thomas Hughes
  • Oxford Blood, by Antonia Fraser
  • The Oxford Murders, by Guillermo Martinez
  • Byron’s Child, Carola Dunn

Side-by-side photos of my great, great, great grandparents in Oxfordshire…



Mishmash! Sounds like a casserole or something…but actually it just describes my reading since the first of the year. It’s been all over the place, not following any plan, just going where whim takes me. My reading has often been project-driven over the years, so letting go of plans and just wandering through my bookshelves is very relaxing and enjoyable! Here’s a thumbnail collage of my mishmash of reading since January 1st. Oh, and the photo above is of my vegetarian Paella.


Fall Shared Reading

Our Reading Rug…where we sit to share all these wonderful books.

When I say that I haven’t been reading very much recently, it’s not exactly true. My own reading has slowed down for many reasons, but I am still reading every day and going through books like crazy! Here’s why…

This is my 27th year of teaching, and this year I have the world’s sweetest class of Second Graders. They love to read and love listening to stories, so we are compiling quite a list of books shared (our Read Aloud books). We have a Read Aloud time every morning after recess, and it’s amazing how many books you can read in just 20-30 minutes a day! Here’s our list of the books we have shared during our Read Aloud time on our Reading Rug so far this year:

  1. Strega Nona, by Tomie dePaola
  2. Strega Nona: Her Story, by Tomie dePaola
  3. Big Anthony: His Story, by Tomie dePaola
  4. Strega Nona’s Magic Lessons, by Tomie dePaola
  5. Big Anthony and the Magic Ring, by Tomie dePaola
  6. Strega Nona Meets Her Match, by Tomie dePaola
  7. Strega Nona Takes a Vacation, by Tomie dePaola
  8. Strega Nona’s Harvest, by Tomie dePaola
  9. The Sunflower House, by Eve Bunting
  10. Tomie dePaola, by Eric Braun
  11. Mercy Watson to the Rescue, by Kate DiCamillo
  12. Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride, by Kate DiCamillo
  13. Akimbo and the Elephants, by Alexander McCall Smith
  14. Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen
  15. Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
  16. Blueberries For Sal, by Robert McCloskey
  17. Squanto and the Pilgrims, by A.M. Anderson
  18. Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson (Thanks, Mrs. Lux, for reading this to us at our Halloween party!)
  19. Gooney Bird Greene, by Lois Lowry
  20. Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin
  21. Catwings Return, by Ursula K. Le Guin
  22. Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin
  23. Jane on her Own: A Catwings Tale, by Ursula K. Le Guin
  24. Currently reading: Helen Keller, by Margaret Davidson

Thinking in Themes

Oh dear…there are times when I realize how deeply ingrained “Teacher Thinking” is in my brain. When my own children were little, every once in awhile they would say to me, “Mom, you’re acting like a teacher again.”  This morning I ran into a blatant example of my teacher thinking…

I went to my bookshelves to search for a good read for Dolce Bellezza‘s Japanese Literature Challenge #6.  I enjoy Meredith’s challenges, and thought this would be a good way to gentle myself back into challenges mode after my long hiatus from blogging. I was surprised to find, on different bookshelves, the following books. I realized that I think (without intending to do so) in themed connections!

Theme #1: Professors!

Theme#2: Summer!

Parker Palmer, in his book The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Mind, describes the art of teaching this way:

Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.

As surprising as it was to find all these books on my shelves, I realize that I have always thought this way… If I look back at my childhood reading, I find similar patterns. Since I am a 4th generation school teacher, I can only conclude that there must be a gene in the family for that “capacity for connectedness”. One of my college professors, who knew my family well, joked that it was a “mutant gene.”  I’ll bet that many of my book blogging friends, teacher friends, and librarian friends all have this same way of thinking!

BBC Book Challenge Meme


A friend tagged me for this books-read meme that is circulating on Facebook. I liked the list and thought it was a fun meme. If you like it, consider yourself “tagged.”

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up? (What? No Mark Twain? Cormac McCarthy? Philip Roth? William Faulkner? Ernest Hemingway?)

Instructions: Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read. Tag other book nerds.

My count is 64. Which ones have you read?

Section 1 = 16

1 Pride and Prejudice -X

2 The Lord of the Rings-X

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte -X

4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling -X

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee –X

6 The Bible–only partly

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte-X

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell-X

9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens-X

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott -X

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy-X

13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller-X

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare-much of it-X

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier-X

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien -X

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger-X

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger-X

Section 2 = 8

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot-X

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell-X

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald-X

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy-X

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams-X

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky-X

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck -X

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll-X

Section 3 = 7

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame-X

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy-X

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens-X

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis-X

34 Emma – Jane Austen-X

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis-X

37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden-X

Section 4 = 7

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne-X

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell -X

42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown-X

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins-X

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery-X

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy-X

48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding-X

Section 5 = 4

50 Atonement – Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52 Dune – Frank Herbert-X

53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen-X

55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens-X

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley-X

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – Mark Haddon-X

Section 6 = 6

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez-X

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck -X

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold-X

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac-X

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy-X

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding-X

69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

Section 7 = 4

71 Oliver Twist- Charles Dickens-X

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker-X

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett-X

74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession – AS Byatt-X

Section 8 = 6

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens-X

82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker-X

84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert-X

86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White -X

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom-X

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle-X

90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

Section 9 = 6

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad x

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery-X

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams-X

95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute-X

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare-X

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- Roald Dahl-X

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo