I read five books last month: A Tale of Two Cities plus four others. Below you will find my review of each title, arranged in the order I finished reading them.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Over a decade has passed since last I read Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities aloud to my children. In fact, a couple of the ones who gathered around me to listen to the book this time were not even born the last time we read it as a family.
Set during the French Revolution, the political unrest is more than a little foreboding of our present age, where the very definitions of the words “good” and “evil” are being mixed and muddled and stood on their heads.
But wasn’t that was the point of the book’s’ “best of times, worst of times” beginning? That no matter what era your life spans, the most vocal and opinionated commentators will simultaneously insist that things have never been so bad or so good?
The story reduced me to tears several times throughout. But the last couple of chapters had me pausing repeatedly to dry my eyes, swallow the lump in my throat, and wipe the tears from my glasses. When I finished the final paragraph, my husband sighed heavily and declared with emotion, “Dickens was a genius!” And I’m inclined to agree.
Loving My Actual Neighbor by Alexandra Kuykendall
The audiobook prompted many one-sided conversations with the author in my head as I listened while driving and doing laundry. In principle, I agree with much of what Kuykendall has to say in this book. In practice, I often fail at following her suggestions, especially when it comes to listening in silence.
That one is hard for me. The listening part is important, yes. Absolutely. How can we ever expect to connect with our neighbors if we’re unwilling to hear what they have to say?
It’s the “being quiet” that gives me trouble. And rightly so, I believe. Because if I know the TRUTH of Scripture, and Scripture speaks directly to the issue under discussion, why wouldn’t I share it? Fortunately, Kuykendall also covers “holding a posture of humility” in chapter one. And if humility infuses our response, perhaps it will be better received.
365 Days of Wonder by R.J. Palacio
I’m not sure whether 365 Days of Wonder was supposed to be a one-maxim-a-day-for-a-full-year read or not. But that isn’t the way I consumed it.
The proverbs and precepts collected in this book are a little like a bag of Doritos in that respect: It’s virtually impossible to stop with just one.
And so, I finished the book in short order, though it did pause often to reflect on the quotes recorded therein, mostly on the topics of courage, friendship, love, and kindness.
Real Life Decorating by Better Homes & Garden
I found my copy of Real Life Decorating in a thrift store in Branson, Missouri, on “Book Lover’s Day” this summer. It was one of about 30 titles I bought there that day (I got all the books I could cram in a bag for $5. What a deal — especially for this book lover!).
I love the way this beautiful volume from Better Homes & Garden is laid out. It includes tours of 10 real-life homes in a wide variety of styles, plus timeless tips for making your space your own.
My favorite advice: Pick a palate you love and embrace it. With all due respect to the neutral shades Joanna Gaines has popularized, I love deep reds and greens, blues and yellows. So lots of the rich vibrant photos in this book were right up my alley.
Count Your Blessings by Jennifer Flanders
My devotional journal, Count Your Blessings, is designed with that goal in mind. I read through it again every year about this time, completing as many pages as I can fit in during the days leading up to Thanksgiving (although, of course, gratitude is a virtue we should cultivate all year long, not just on the fourth Thursday of November).
The book is filled with Bible verses, word studies, writing prompts, and beautiful vintage artwork to color. You may use its pages to remember the Lord’s mercies and be grateful for them, to count His blessings and name them one by one, to track His faithfulness to you through the past and, by doing so, to be encouraged to trust Him with the future.