Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2017 Reading Challenge


If you follow along on Instagram, you’ll have seen this post recently… 



“Reading has always been a passion of mine! There is just nothing like immersing yourself in a book, and getting lost in a plot! Beauty & The Beast is to date, still my favourite film, and from the first time I watched it at three years old, I wanted the library Belle was gifted, almost as much as her gorgeous yellow gown! I majored in English in University, but since graduating and starting a family, taking the time to sit down and really devour a book has escaped me! In 2017 I decided to try again! It may not be the classics and deep literature I studied for years, but really, the small break from screens and setting an example for my boys that picking up a book is as good a hobby as any, was well worth it! …”

Last year I tried my best to reintroduce enjoyable and relaxing activities into my schedule. With two- and three-year-old boys and what seems like constant appointments, therapies, and schedules to attend to, it felt frivolous. The infamous mom guilt reared its ugly head and was strong. For years, a shower and sneaking a chocolate from the freezer were my opportunities for a deep breath (I’m not saying that to play the martyr card or ask for pity, it was my reality and I was exhausted). When 2017 came around, I decided to, very slowly, reintroduce ways to recharge. Two big ones included date nights (more on that in an upcoming post!) and reading again!

I know it sounds a little odd, but reading has truly always been a passion of mine. From preschool days, sitting on my bed sounding out words using Hooked On Phonics, to never leaving the house without a book well into my teenage years, it all eventually led to an Honours degree in English Lit! Reading has been a comfort, an escape and the opportunity to learn so much about the world and myself in the process.

Having two babies a little over fifteen months apart didn’t leave a whole lot of time for picking up a book. And truthfully, it wasn’t something I even considered. It took my husband and I longer than we  expected to get to our wedding day and then under a year later we were blessed with our son and I completely immersed myself in being a Mommy. There was colic and laughter, sleepless nights and beaming smiles, and hobbies were replaced with everything baby and then everything baby again! Now that the boys are a little bit older and playing more independently, and with each other too (my favourite thing ever!!!) it’s still surreal that I can sit in the family room with them and pick up a book that isn’t of the board variety!

My husband introduced me to GoodReads and the idea of the Reading Challenge was enticing (by the way, other than using it as a resource, I am in no way affiliated with the site!). I chose 25 books since that would work out to one book every two weeks or so, and I felt that was the most realistic goal I could set. I still can’t believe I managed 34 (although having had surgery in February and being stuck in bed for a bit helped boost my total). I started reading on the bus on my way into work, in the evenings right before bed, and on Shabbos afternoons while the boys played or napped!

At first I was a little embarrassed to share my list above, given how for years Chaucer, Emerson, Beckett and the like were what I was reading, but this is what I enjoyed and these are the story-lines I escaped to here and there throughout the year! There are a lot written by the same author, since I didn’t put much research into which books to pick up and would just search for more of the same author if I enjoyed a certain book! Otherwise, books were chosen by what was easiest to grab in the library before my toddler decided it was time to leave!

Here are a few of my favourite books of 2017!

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella - I love the Shopaholic series, but like the Undomestic Goddess, this break from the series was also fantastic! It was relevant with just that little bit of added adventure and suspension of belief to make it a great read to get lost in! It really shows how easy it is to curate your feed and create a whole other world outside of your reality,  with a few creative photos on your Insta feed!

The Choices We Make by Karma Brown - This was the first book I read by Karma Brown and immediately requested her others from the library right away. Her writing is phenomenal and the characters truly come to life as you move from one chapter to the next. The story line is heavy and the tears flowed easily, given that the emotion packed into each chapter and the power of her writing were so incredible. Having read two others after this, it’s my favourite of her books! Here the story of two friends and families become intertwined as one friend helps the other realise a dream. The shocking twists and turns make it impossible to put this down.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - This was the first book I read in almost one sitting in 2017. I couldn’t put it down! The prose, the voice of the main character, how she draws you in with her quirky and innocent observations, had me hooked right away!

Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner - There are lines that Erin wrote that hit so close to home, I could have written them myself. Her words brought comfort, understanding, a sensitivity and a fresh perspective on really thinking about your priorities and shifting your perspective to what matters most. It’s a combination of autobiography and self-help, and given that this is a kosher food blog, I do want to mention that there is a religious (Christian) element to it as well, as well as the next book I'll mention! A really great read and many quotes I still go back to! And on that note, I also absolutely loved Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley! I’ll preempt this by saying that I am a huge fan of Emily Ley! After years of wanting one, I finally got myself a Simplified Planner for my birthday last year and I love, love, love it! I read this book on the bus the first couple of weeks after having returned to work. Having been a stay-at-home Mom since the day my oldest was born, it was a hard adjustment for me, filled with so many different emotions. Reading this book at the beginning of my day, after having left the house to babies who were still sleeping and not being the one there for breakfast for the first time, was like having a comforting friend with me! So much truth in this book and, again, so many quotes that I bookmarked and look back on frequently. I'm currently reading her recent book A Simplified Life and it's fantastic!

Other notable favourites include: Between Sisters by Cathy Kelly, Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, Astor Place Village by Stephanie Lehmann, The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown

Let me know if you’ve read any and what you thought of them! Any suggestions for my 2018 list?

Happy Reading!

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