Library of Progress

What I Read in February

March 2, 2016
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The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain — Like Jan Karon, I will read anything Bill Bryson writes. I’ve been a big fan since my early twenties, when a friend gave me a copy of Notes From a Small Island right before I departed for England to study abroad, and then returned later to work. This is basically the same book, revisited 20 years later. He even cracked many of the exact same jokes, which earned him the side-eye from me at times. Still, I enjoyed it thoroughly in the end. I’ve been to a number of the places he returned to, and was fascinated to hear how they’ve changed in my absence. The update on Stonehenge in particular, which included new research on the stone circle as recent as 2009, absolutely captivated me, and now I am dearly hoping I can fit in a second visit when I’m in London for work this summer.

Design Mom: A Room-by-Room Guide to Living Well with Kids — Once I got past the the incredibly irritating images of massively over-styled living rooms where no child had clearly ever set foot, let alone lived well or otherwise, I found a lot to like in this book. Some stuff that spoke to me: implementing vertical storage, avoiding stuff with licensed characters, dealing with the high volume of kid art (something Clutterfree with Kids totally failed to address), making even unfinished spaces like basements and laundry rooms look and feel nicer, and more. Granted, I haven’t read the author’s blog, but the book gave me the impression that her own house contains a real-life mix of familial pieces both antique and hand-me-down, nice anchor pieces like a leather sofa, stuff salvaged secondhand from friends/Craigslist/etc., and even furnishings from the likes of IKEA and TJ Maxx. It all felt actually attainable, I guess is what I’m saying, which is not something I usually get from “design” bloggers. I also liked her discussion of how there’s no “timeline” on this – that designing your home is a lifetime project and your needs are going to change constantly as you and your kids get older, so your space and your design is going to change a lot accordingly, and you just need to roll with it. As someone who really craves the feeling of being “done” and checking off a project, and who struggles with the perpetually ongoing nature of just about everything home-related, that was soothing to me.

Life Among the Savages — I’ve had the sample on my Kindle forever, and there was no wait at the library for the ebook, so I gave it a shot. I made it to page 100 – it’s a fast read – but had to quit for my own sanity. Even after controlling for the social and cultural mores of the 40s and 50s, when the events of the book took place, I was unable to look past her husband’s absolutely staggering degree of douchebaggery. I saw a Goodreads review that described the book as “not for feminists with high blood pressure” and that about sums it up.

Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too — We’re very undecided on potential kid #2. Contrary to most couples, it seems like, a big blocker (for me, at least, I won’t speak for my husband) is the sibling rivalry issue. I grew up with what I feel like was a higher than average degree of sibling rivalry (that may or may not be true, but that’s how I perceive it) and my brother and I are still not particularly close. It wasn’t a super pleasant way to grow up, and not wanting to experience that again in any form or to any degree, even from the parent side, is a huge deterrent to considering #2. Soooo, I picked up this particular book to see if it might reassure me that it might not be as big an issue as I have built it up to be in my mind. In that regard, it utterly failed. It was filled to the brim with horror stories. I realized afterwards that that was probably natural, as the author framed the book by recounting the questions and discussions from a series of classes she gave on sibling rivalry, and of course parents who have kids with that issue are going to be the ones seeking her class out. You won’t hear from the (numerous, I’m sure) parents of kids who DON’T fight in this book. All that being said, it had a number of interesting techniques that this person has already helpfully recapped here.

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up — It’s essentially a rehash of much of her first book, so I skimmed heavily at times, but the tone is very different. Much more methodology (especially about dealing with komono, which was pretty glossed over in her first book – this time, she actually goes room by room, so kitchen, office, bathroom, etc.), less animism (although there is some), and a whole lot less of her own personal background. She also addressed a few practical issues that the first book lacked, like how to handle stuff that lives in storage most of the time, and how to deal with stuff like your screwdriver or colander or spare light bulbs or whatever – stuff that don’t necessarily spark “joy” in the traditional sense but that you can’t get rid of either. On the whole, it’s a more balanced presentation than her first book – a lot more human, a lot less “my way or the highway.” It says “illustrated” in the title, but it’s not, really. There’s cute drawings of various spaces, and an illustration of folding.

The War that Saved My Life — This is technically a YA book but doesn’t really read like one, aside from being told from the POV of the nine-year-old main character. It was a really, really lovely story. The main character’s growth and development was wonderful to watch, and the ending was a tearjerker, but happy tears. And I haven’t been made to cry by a book since HP #5!

total: 6
abandoned: 1
loved: 3
enjoyed: 2
meh: 1
print: 6
audiobook: 0


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