Book Shelf: April 2017

One shelf containing children's books in English. The Takayama library had a surprising number of our favorites including Bear Has a Story to Tell, Curious George, Toot & Puddle, and Goodnight Moon.

One shelf containing children's books in English. The Takayama library had a surprising number of our favorites including Bear Has a Story to Tell, Curious George, Toot & Puddle, and Goodnight Moon.

Some of the books we found were surprising. For example, I think Bear has a Story to Tell is an obscure book from the US (unlike Goodnight Moon).  I'm curious how they choose what to stock!

Some of the books we found were surprising. For example, I think Bear has a Story to Tell is an obscure book from the US (unlike Goodnight Moon).  I'm curious how they choose what to stock!

April was a surprisingly good month for reading.  A few books that I read were so engrossing that I stayed up much too late reading, which I've paid for more than usual because Blythe has recently been coming into our room at very early hours in the morning and getting into bed with me, which marks the end of my night's rest.  I only managed one book set in Japan and treated myself to a few "fluffy" reads.  I'm over halfway through my goal of reading 60 books this year and have a few I can't wait to read this month, namely Option B and The Rules Do Not Apply.  Plus, before we leave Japan I must finish the two physical books I'm still toting around.  Honestly.

Engrossed in Goodnight Moon

Engrossed in Goodnight Moon

I don't have any photos of me reading in beautiful places this month, but perhaps in May (we head to Okinawa mid-month to the beach).  We did find a fantastic library in Takayama that was mere feet from our airbnb.  They had several shelves of children's books in English and Blythe was thrilled.  Reading something other than one of the 25 books we are traveling with was a treat and it was fun to recognize US books in Japanese.  I truly enjoy visiting libraries in other countries - it's so interesting.

The Runaway Bunny in Japanese

The Runaway Bunny in Japanese

Between the World and Me - This is one of those important books that you read not because it's going to make you feel good, but because it helps you understand how someone else's life is so profoundly different and affected by race.  Ta-Nehisi Coates write about what it means to be black in America today in the form of several letters to his teenage son.  He writes about the constant fear present in his life and the need to always be on guard.  The New Yorker obviously describes the book much better than I do, but the writing is poetic and I highly recommend that you read Between the World and Me.  

Memoirs of a Geisha - I loved this book about the life of a geisha, beginning with when her family sold her into the profession and how she rose to great success.  We are in Kyoto now, and I can imagine the scenes that occur in this book taking place and it was fascinating to read in depth about a profession I knew nothing about.  It's fascinating to read about a way of life that is so utterly foreign -- and to know it still exists today.

The Sound and the Fury - I had a recent discussion about classic novels with two friends, and J recommended The Sound and the Fury.  Truthfully, I hadn't picked it up because I just assumed it was about war given the title and I dislike reading books entirely about war.  This isn't about war, but it's filled with troubling characters and events and I didn't like it at all.  I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I had to actually use the internet to figure out the plot in the first chapter because I was so confused. If you've read it, this should make sense (if you haven't, you probably think I'm a complete idiot).  I refused to stop reading because this is a classic, but I didn't enjoy it and won't be picking up Faulkner again any time soon.  Or maybe ever again.

Flower - I followed The Sound and the Fury with some Young Adult writing.  Flower is co-authored by Liz Craft of the Happier Podcast, about which I have raved before.  K texted me really late at night saying she'd just finished Flower in a few hours, which convinced me it would be the perfect reward for surviving Faulkner.  It's a completely engrossing read about an unlikely teen romance.  It's Twilight, but without grammatical errors, vampires, and with fewer uses of the word "beautiful".  

The Danish Way of Parenting - Despite what my recent book shelf updates suggest, I try to not read too many parenting books.  Before Blythe was born, I read Bringing up Bebe, liked the advice, and didn't read another book.  I sou.ght out advice again when I was desperate for sleep in the early days (none of it helped... Blythe just eventually started sleeping through the night), and I feel like I'm at another crossroads in parenting so I find myself reading more books.  Blythe is definitely at the age now where I need to discipline her, and I'm struggling to figure out the right way to set boundaries, establish rules, and follow through in a way that she understands.  This book certainly doesn't have all the answers and it isn't specifically geared for toddlers, but I like the premise and framework. The authors summarize Danish parenting in a handy acronym, PARENT: Play, Authenticity, Reframing, Empathy, No ultimatums, and Togetherness.  The idea of being authentic with your children and not always offering praise resonated with me -- instead of telling Blythe that every drawing she does is beautiful, I should ask her questions about it (What did you draw? Why did you choose those colors?) and save praise for when when it is truly warranted rather than doling it out left an right.  The book also encourages the reading of broad range of books with both happy and sad endings, as well as those that tackle difficult topics or deal with unfamiliar subject matter.  They note that the fairy tales we read and enjoy today, many of which were written by Hans Cristian Andersen who was Danish, have very different endings in their original versions, but they've been "Americanized" to have happy endings.  If you are looking for one that deals with death, I recommend Ida, Always.  The idea of reframing really struck me as important, too.  This will work better with older children, but when something negative has happened, try to reframe it so that the magnitude of what is happening isn't so great -- this isn't for reframing, say, a death, but more like playing badly in a sports game or having a baby day. Try instead to focus on what was good, why they usually enjoy the activity or friend, etc.  I'm rambling a bit and getting into the weeds, but I was glad I took the time to read this (and I did skim some of the long-winded examples).   

Results May Vary - Caroline, the main character, discovers that her husband has been having an affair with a man.  I wouldn't classify this as chic lit, but it's definitely an easy read about a heavier topic (the dissolution of a marriage) told with a sense of humor.  I enjoyed this more than I thought I would and I do recommend it, but maybe it is one to get from the library rather than purchase. 

A Portrait of Emily Price - Katherine Reay writes chic lit with a literary thread, often one loosely based on Jane Austen.  I discovered her after reading Eligible (which I highly recommend) via GoodReads.  I've now read all of her books and while I don't love them, I find them entertaining enough that I keep coming back for more.  Her characters usually end up happy and the story is tied up neatly and I'm not embarrassed to admit that sometimes I need that from my reading.  Technically, I think she writes Christian chic lit because despite the main characters in each of her books falling head over heels in love with someone, they never have sex before marriage.  In this book, the characters conveniently elope after a mere week!  I'm guessing now that my review isn't going to get any of you to read this, but I have enjoyed her books and Dear Mr. Knightley was my favorite.

Blythe focused on Winnie the Pooh in Japanese

Blythe focused on Winnie the Pooh in Japanese