What we are reading around here, and what we are planning to read . . . !

Poetry is always a popular option at our place. 🙂

I’ve got to be honest with you, Gentle Reader, on a few counts. Honesty Time! To. Wit.

  1. I haven’t finished many books this year. Reading them, that is. I finished writing one, for what that is worth, but I haven’t actually gotten to the end of as many books as I would have liked. I’ve been busy, busy, busy, with family, garden, home, business. That said . . .
  2. I can’t remember a time when I’ve looked forward to curling up with a book at the end of the day more ardently. Bedtime is nearly the only time that I sink down and pick up a book. Alas! It seems to be the (crazy) sandwich season I’m in.
  3. To encourage myself to read more books, I’ve tried to take a 15-minute reading break in the morning and one in the afternoon, and that works great! Well, it did the one day I remembered to do it. . . I think these breaks could be factored in to my life as part of my “self-care regimen,” that is, if I had one. I pretty much stink at “self-care.” I’ve heard that phrase more times the last month than I have in years, I think . . . it must be a trendy thing! . .  but I’m no good at it (honestly time).
  4. Anybody have good tips for how to read more books in a full, busy life? I’m listening!

Okay, enough of that. Let’s talk about what we are reading around here, and what we are fixin’ to read.

First of all . . . speaking of weight loss (even maintenance!) in your middle-aged years . . . what’s the secret, ladies? I mean, really.

When I was a young woman, if I felt the pinch of too-tight jeans around the middle, I’d just think about losing 5 pounds and it would be gone! Or I’d skip a meal (just one!) or eat an apple instead of french fries with my hamburger, and boom, baby. The jeans would fit correctly again and the scale was not to be shunned.

But these days . . . if I even look at a french fry: boom, baby. I gain five pounds around the middle, automatically. Instantly. Before my mouth starts to water, even. In order to then turn around and lose that five pounds, do you know what I have to do? This: Not Eat Anything For A Week. Honesty Time! And: it’s not fair. And. Please. Refrain from sweetly suggesting that I incorporate exercise into my routine. I do workouts with weights nearly every day. I walk several miles a day, just doing my farm (and mom) work. I regularly go on evening walks with Mack, and indulge in occasional bike rides that are not to be laughed at. I break a sweat! I dig, I hoe, I shovel, I lift.

I am an active person!

And yet . . . !

What the heck? And that, my friends, is my long-winded explanation for why I picked up . . .

The Coffee Lover’s Diet: Change your Coffee, Change your Life,

by Dr. Bob Arnot


Okay, please–first of all–don’t laugh.

Well, okay, I guess you can, because I actually did laugh (aloud!) when I spotted this in the library last week (it might have been more of an amused snort). “Change Your Coffee, Change Your LIFE,” I mean, really? My LIFE?

But then I took a second look. I love coffee, it’s true. I ALWAYS am trying to lose five pounds. Also true. (Honesty Time.) It’s common knowledge, hopefully, by now, that coffee is not the indulgent, yet harmful beverage that it was thought to be. For years, we’ve been told that coffee was bad for our health. But! Research now shows that, consumed properly, coffee actually can enhance your health. It can sharpen your focus, jump-start your workout, help you lose weight, and even help fend off disease, from diabetes and liver disease to heart disease and Parkinson’s. This is such great news for us coffee devotees, of course. SUCH great news.

So. Ergo, and whatnot. I checked out this book.

My eyes have been opened to new types of coffee, and why it’s so important to seek out coffee beans with high polyphenol count. Secondly, I’ve been drinking a lot more coffee since I started reading this, and BOY DO I HAVE A LOT MORE ENERGY!!!


The diet recommendations are pretty simple and flexible: to start out with, for a few days (depending on how much weight you want to lose) you basically drink high-quality smoothies and coffee, whenever you’re hungry. Then you transition to one meal a day and smoothies and coffee and then two meals a day with coffee and smoothies. There are some recipes and menu suggestions, too. LOTS OF COFFEE and smoothies is the key. (I know: sweeeet, huh?)

All in all, if you love coffee (or want to love it) and need to lose a few pounds, not a bad read.

(I feel compelled to point out that the author, the good doctor Arnot, has his own line of (fairly expensive) coffee beans for sale. So. For what it’s worth.)

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

After the terrible shooting in the Las Vegas concert many weeks ago, Mack and I were talking about terrorism and our current culture and why on earth a man deranged lunatic would do something like fire a powerful weapon into a crowd of innocent people.

Mack thought for a moment, and then said softly:

“Keep in mind that many people have died for their beliefs; it’s actually quite common. The real courage is in living and suffering for what you believe.”

When Mack is reading a new book and is engrossed by it, he is very quiet. He stares off into the distance, thinking. It is very strange, because he was born talking, I promise you. I can tell that there is a lot going on inside his head at these times, but he doesn’t really want to talk about it. But then he will rattle off a quote like the one above, to apply to some matter that we are discussing.

Books are important, folks. I think that is the theme of this post.

“Who said that?” I asked, impressed and a little stunned. It sounded so relevant. So grown-up.

“Christopher Paolini,” he said, striking me (momentarily) dumb. Earlier this fall, Mack had been sick for a few days, and I had brought home the first Paolini book from the library. I had a feeling he would like it, as I knew he was fond of dragons and the fantasy genre in general (like his older brothers). He has had his nose in a Paolini book ever since. So–though I can’t really get him to talk to me about this series in detail (whatever) they certainly have kept his attention. Which is definitely saying something.

He recommends them to anybody who enjoys a good tale, and escaping their mother’s ceaseless demands er, taking a trip to another world for a few hours. Without leaving the house.

A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson


The savvy gentle reader of this ignominious space will remember that I listed this book in my last “What we are reading” post. I have savored this book, to the point of putting it down to think about it for awhile, and then picking it up again. Reading it has made me really, really want to walk a section of the Appalachian Trail (Malachi??), and also feel sad for what we’ve lost in our country in the last few hundred years, in wildlife, bird species, and plant life. (You don’t want to know. But read this book, if you do.)

I picked this book up because Timothy stood in the kitchen one evening and read passages of it to us, making us laugh. I expected the entire book to keep me giggling. It didn’t. It was a bit of a slog at times, truth is. But if you want to learn about the Appalachian Trail, or just like to read about new nature experiences, you will enjoy this book.

Just know that you will be enlightened and saddened by it, as well.

But when you are made sad, it’s especially important that you pick up . . .

Dominic, by William Steig

It was one of those busy days. I was finishing up a big harvest weekend, and was picking through flowers and packing them into cases on my kitchen island. Mack had just re-read Dominic by William Steig. “Mom. You’ve got to read this!” he said. “I know you’d love it.”

“Yeah, I do love William Steig,” said I, with my face in the flower pile. “Could you put it next to my bed–on that stack of books–? and I’ll get to it.” He looked crestfallen just for a moment. He knew how tall that stack was (very) and how long it would take me to get to another book (forever).

Then, being a Boy of Action, he trouble-shot. “I know. I’ll read while you finish up,” he said. “It’s not long. You’ll love it.” Of course I loved this plan. So we spent a happy hour together, laughing and snorting over Dominic, the cheerful little dog, the kindly old pig that he befriends, and other endearing characters.

Dominic is a noble joyous dog, kind and brave, who is on a journey and has adventures involving being kind to strangers while routing a group of baddies (the Doomsday gang). One thing I really like about this book, and why I’ll read it again, is that–although it is a kids’ book, it doesn’t treat kids like they are stupid. It presents real-life themes–life and death, danger and adventure!– and it uses words and sentence structures that are challenging, including some (apparently) made-up words. Which, of course, I applaud.

Anytime that Mack and I read together (including every morning at our school table) I am reminded of how valuable reading time is, especially reading time together. I feel upset and angry sometimes at the way the screen (in all its many forms–computers, televisions, smart phones, tablets) has permeated so many aspects of our lives (grocery stores, hospitals, churches!). I feel we’ve lost quite a great deal, in giving up our living rooms, our cars, our dinner tables, our very one-on-one relationships to constantly having to check and consult a screen for this or that. A message: somebody needs me. I need to check the temperature outside. I wonder what is happening with my social media accounts–? Gaaah.

I have accepted the fact that smart ‘phones and laptops are handy as heck, and valuable tools, at that, but the fact that they are wildly addictive and have taken up a much bigger spot in my heart and my mind that I’m comfortable with–I rail against this, daily. I was talking with my son Andrew the other day, who is doing his best to be a graphic artist and a stay-at-home Papa, and he has so much wisdom in this area. He works very hard in the evening, after his wife (who works early morning hours) and little girls go to bed. For the most part, the rest of the day? His computer stays off. I’m sure there are exceptions.

Just think about that for a minute.

Let it sink in.

What would your day be like (I’m asking myself, too), what would your personal relationships be like, what would your productivity be like, if you had a period of time during the day (or evening, or whenever) when you did all your online work, and then you slapped the computer shut, left the smart phone in another room (padlocked) and went on with your day?

As Andrew explained all this, and his social media philosophy, his eyes glowing, I felt myself sputtering “but . . . what if somebody needs me. . . to . . hmm . . . !”

I’ll bet . . . I’ll bet if I did this myself, I’d read a LOT more books. And books are important, folks.

The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify, by Francine Jay

I tend to be cheeky about minimalism. Sure, I say (cheekily) to the minimalist that I happily am not, as I bring home yet one more bag of goodies from my favorite thrift store: go ahead and throw away all your possessions . . . if you can afford it! I can’t! Or another gem that I’ve heard come out of my (big) mouth: Minimalism is a great luxury, that only the very well-to-do can afford. Harhar. I just love me and my know-it-all-ness, don’t you (not)?

I felt a humbling pause in the cheekiness of me, however, the night that I heard a mouse–actually, it sounded like a whole herd of little beasties–setting up housekeeping in one of the boxes of kitchen stuff in my bedroom–and I started to wonder if I had a problem. My bedroom, for over a year, has been the opposite of minimalistic. If a clean and tidy (and spare) bedroom is the essence of minimalism, then I am a maximalist, at least in my bedroom, I am. I will spare you, gentle reader, the gory details. But I finally spent some time cleaning up the mess, so now I can talk about it.

This propensity to gather, to collect, to save . . . it’s handy at times, but I almost feel like it is a habit of mine that is no longer necessary. Bryan and I, raising such a big family, and being self-employed for many decades, might have needed to be extra cautious about our possessions because of our “feast-or-famine” existence, employment-wise. But nowadays our income is more or less steady. There hasn’t been a lean year in quite awhile.

So why do I still behave as if one might be just around the corner? I didn’t grow up in the depression, like my folks, or else I could blame that.

A brilliant gentle reader (thank you, dear) made a comment on a recent blog post, referring to clutter.

Keeping up with our home can be a challenge, but the kids will be the first to tell you, that everything that we haven’t used in the last 5 minutes is in the burn pile…quite possibly already ashes. My poor hubby…if it’s not nailed down or put away it’s a goner.

I so needed to read that. Instead of my prevailing attitude being “I might need it someday . . . ” I’m trying to switch to “When was the last time I used this–?” If it hasn’t been recently–out it goes!

Except for books, of course. 🙂


I have just started reading this book. I like it so far. It is great encouragement to me, in an area that I definitely need encouragement. I think it will make me a better person. I think it could change my life for the better. Books are important, folks.

This book is divided into four parts: Part One is an upbeat pep talk on the joys and rewards of paring down. Part Two presents the STREAMLINE method: ten easy steps to rid your house of clutter. Sounds like fun, eh? Part Three goes room by room, outlining specific ways to tackle each one. Part Four helps you trim your to-do list and free up your time, and explains how saving space in your closets can save the planet. About time somebody figured that one out, eh?

I’ve written now about five books that we are reading here at our place right now. I could easily write about five more, but I’ll stop for now. Our dinner is nearly ready. And I’m going to snap my laptop closed and go spend some time with my dearies.

I would LOVE to hear about what you are reading at your house right now! Leave me a comment!

And thank you–!




17 thoughts on “What we are reading around here, and what we are planning to read . . . !

  1. Jenny

    We’re reading lots of books for school, but our current favorites are Oliver Twist and Rascal. In my personal reading time, which I struggle to be consistent with, I’m reading At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon. Have you ever read that series? My grandmother recommended it to me. She loves it, and so far I am enjoying it too. I loved your idea of taking a 15 minute reading break in the morning and afternoons. I think I will try to do that (and read books, not social media.)

  2. Barbara Lugibihl

    As my husband and I are empty nesters, I don’t read many children’s books, except when the grands are around. In this phase of our lives we read everything we can on chickens, homesteading, turkeys and certainty, our Bibles.

  3. Janet Dugan

    I’m currently re-reading “My Family and Other Animals” by Gerald Durrell. It tells of the author as a boy in the ’30s living in Corfu. He is obsessed with learning everything about birds,beasts and bugs! The tales are filled with the joy of living,and loving his eccentric family and fledgling “zoo”. Mr Durrell went on to become a leader in designing humane zoos and programs for breeding endangered animals. I highly recommend this!!

  4. Pete

    Hi Amy,
    I used to read books when I was in school, quite a few as a matter of fact, most of the time it was science fiction. I did read the Lord of the Rings 4 times, during the 2nd read through I actually found a page that I missed. Funny thing is reading it from the page before to the page after actually made sense lol.
    Anyhow you mentioned not having alot of time to read now, have you ever considered audiobooks? I have never listened to any but it might be a way to read and do what you need to get other things done. When we went to Florida, my mother in law put a tape with a book on it in the player and listened to it that way. I know that the act of sitting down and reading is part of the whole pleasure for some people. Just like going to a baseball game and experience everything that goes on in the entire stadium, as opposed to just watching it on TV. But I guess that trying to concentrate on what you are doing at the same time as the audiobook is on might not work for some people. It’s a sad thing that our society today is go, go, go and convenience based, it leaves little time to sit down and actually read.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Pete, actually, I LOVE to listen to audiobooks. I do a lot of tasks that keep my hands busy, but my mind free, and so I nearly always have my MP3 player with me. I listen to classical music a lot, but when I want to hear something different, I start up on an audiobook. You’re right, they are a great boon to busy types who don’t sit down to read as often as they’d like! (me) Thanks for the reminder. I do need to download a couple of new titles!

      1. Pete

        I myself enjoy listening to most kinds of music as well whether I am doing something or not. I haven’t read a book since high school, but I don’t think I could listen to an audio book and concentrate on what I was trying to do at the same time lol.

  5. gene

    Amy – does it make a difference what the medium is as long as one is reading? For most of my adult life – until 10-12 years ago – I had a goal of reading 100 books per year, and most years I made it or came close. Fiction, poetry, non-fiction, gardening/farming books, etc. I now read very few books but I am 100% certain that I read as many words per year, and get at least as much information and enjoyment. I spend an hour online every morning reading stuff from the NYT, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, a couple of science websites/publications. Lots of edifying essays, poetry every day and a reasonable amount of short fiction. I also read lots of food articles – how it is grown and how to prepare it. Because of my unusual past, I also spend at least a half hour every day reading Swedish – mainly newspapers. (Doc says reading another language will help me stave off dementia.)

    I spend very little time on social media – as you know – and think that 95% of it is a waste of time, if not downright dangerous. You and one other ag-type mom are the ONLY people I follow on Fb, for example. I don’t even follow my kids or grandkids for the most part. Unless they email or text me and tell me that there is something important on their Fb pages. I do enjoy Instagram, but I suppose that doesn’t count because I’m not really reading. (Nothing like photos of your goofy puppy to cheer me up!)

    I just checked my bedside table, and three of the last four books I have read are work-related. Organic farming stuff. The book I am reading now is: Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker. (Hoping that it will help me figure out why I can’t sleep for more than 5 hours at a time in my old age.)

    Clearly, I do not think that electronic media signal the end of reading. But it does make a difference what one chooses to read – either on paper or on a screen.

    But you know that as well as anyone could know!

    PS: I have never played a game or watched a movie on my computer or phone! I do listen to music on both my iphone (when I am working in the greenhouse or field) and on the computer (when I am doing office work.)

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I do a share of my reading on the computer screen, too, Gene. I guess I didn’t mean to diss all the forms of reading that can be done online now. In disparaging “the screen”, I meant the habit of checking social media every 5 minutes that I see so many people falling prey to. I think that sort of use of the screen takes up more time than anybody might guess, if they were to tally up all those 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there–and I’m as guilty of it as anybody is!

      (Whoa-100 books a year! Now that is impressive!!) (I probably do that now, but a good share of them are children’s picture books! ha!)

  6. William

    Well I will believe it when I see it. You want to gear down. Remember you still need to turn your house up-side-down to get ready for the new floors. After they have been installed you need to tackle bringing everything back into it’s proper room. I think that the closest you will be to becoming a minimalist was back when you shared your adventure of emptying out the drawer of a desk and all the items that got tossed or relocated. Face it Amy, we live for books and resale shops. We are what we are. There is a joy when my wife or I find something at Goodwill that fits us and still has the tags on it, but there are also many treasures without tags that just must come home with us.

  7. Heather

    How to deal with screens? My phone is just a phone. Any “ding” means a close family member needs me. That’s it. My phone is not linked to email or fb so there’s no temptation to constantly check it. Also, the laptop is off if I’m not on it so no distracting notifications there either.
    Reading lately? I like to read, but I’m very picky about what I spend my time reading. If I don’t like a book, I stop reading it with no guilt. I’ve got other things to do. Latest read? Carol Deppe’s The Resilient Gardener. I enjoyed the read very much, and it’s a great reference tool.
    Losing weight? Maybe you’re supposed to have a few extra pounds at this age?
    Too much stuff? I appreciate the craftsmanship, artistry and beauty of many things, so I bring stuff home from the thrift store. In my defense, I rarely shop at other places. Anyway, I’m working on cleaning out things too, little by little. I just don’t want my kids to have to clean out a house of junk when I die. I figure it’s my junk, and it’s my job to clean it out.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Heather, that is my thought exactly: I don’t want my kiddos to have to deal with all my junk, when that time comes. Figuring on all the junk that I have–if I live until I process through it all (and pitch a great deal of it) I oughta live to be 100.

  8. Kay

    My (annual) goal this Jan. is to go through each cupboard and drawer and closet and declutter!! Even the books. (you are welcome to go buy them from “our” thrift store.) I have several piles of goodies started.
    Screens are my trial and fondness. I will cut back come January.
    Reading: mostly the Bible and free books on my Kindle. I have a Kitchen/Cooking book by Tamar Adlar (I think) about being mindful in the kitchen and I’m loving it.
    Losing weight: Stress gets me everytime. It’s been a stressful Autumn. The kids & I are doing a Mile-A-Day on the treadmills and I’ll be starting that Whole 30 Round 3. I’ll feel better without Sugar, Grains, Legumes & Dairy.
    Great post!

  9. Marshall Reagan

    I try to start my day reading at least one chapter in my Bible the first thing each morning while drinking my first cup of coffee. I stay off of the computer as much as possible. most of my computer time is at night when I wake up because of cramps or stopped up nose. approximately 3-4 hours out of 24. I love to read at night after I go to bed until I get so sleepy I can,t hold my eyes open.

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