Books we’re reading at our house this month

boy reading book in living room

This is all I saw of Mack the day that he discovered H.G. Wells’ book The Time Machine. (Notice the tidy pile of school books at his feet!) As soon as he finished a couple of H.G. Wells’ books, he went straight into C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy.

Gosh, I can’t believe that Spring is finally flirting with us, and I haven’t gotten even a fraction of my wintertime projects completed! Included in my list of projects is a large pile of books that I planned to read. During the slower, colder, shorter days of the year, there SHOULD be more time for reading, right? More time with ones tired feet up by the crackling wood stove, cup of creamy (nutmeg-laced) warm custard at the ready, a steaming hot mug of tea in hand? *siiiigh* Well . . . today we can still discuss what books we’re reading, even if we’re not reading as much as we’d like, right?

Question, gentle reader: how do you get more reading time in? Because you (judging by your intelligent and thoughtful comments) are more together, obviously, than I. I am in earnest here. My life just gets busier and more interesting, but reading books is still so important and vital to my happiness–even though there seems to be less time to sit and read.

I would love to hear tips from you (in the comments) on how you get reading in, or even if you struggle to get it in, like I do.

And how you overcome the struggle!

Thank you in advance, and now to the books that I have managed to read in the past few weeks:

The Monk of Mokha

by Dave Eggers

I picked up this new book at the library because a. It’s got a sumptuously gorgeous cover (is that real gold leaf??) and nice thick pages (might as well be honest) and b. It’s a true story about *gulp* coffee.

Coffee and me have an uncertain love/hate relationship. For my part: I love, love, love coffee and would have a cup in my hand (and a cup in my belly) all the day long if I could choose. But on the other hand: if I drink too much of it, or drink it at the wrong time of day, it comes back to bite me on my (ample) backside. As long as I obey the rules of coffee drinking–as set down by my impossibly bossy body–I’m fine. If I break the rules and drink too much coffee on an empty stomach, I’ll get an ulcer (truth!). If I drink coffee after about, say, 3:00 in the afternoon . . no matter how much I ardently WANT that cup of coffee and undoubtedly need it . . . I’ll wake up at 1:30 in the morning and lie awake while the gerbil-thoughts in my brain race on the wheel, and race and race and race, until approximately 4:00. Yup.

It’s a conundrum. How to reach that balance of coffee-drinking satisfaction without hurting myself. Hmmm. (I’m thinking!)

Do you know how many people drink coffee in the afternoons and evenings and say it makes them sleep better? A LOT of people. Tons of people. I loathe them. (Kidding, honey!) But some evenings I do wish I could curl up with a steaming, frothy latte in the evening as much as the next coffee lover. And decaf? No thanks. *pshaw* As if.

And soo I am careful about where my adoration of coffee will take me. Which is why it was so ironic . . that this was the book that I picked up recently, during a spate of insomnia. Like many insomnia sufferers, I vary my middle-of-the-night-insomnia routine–ya know, so I don’t get bored. One night I lie still, acting as if I’m still asleep (like an opossum!) hoping that my body will soon follow suit, returning to blissful slumber. (This doesn’t usually work, by the by.) (This is called the “Fake it until you make it” principle, I believe.) The next night, frustrated by all the time I’m wasting pretending to be an opossum (and I don’t even LIKE the critters), I’ll turn on the light, grope around for my old-lady spectacles, and at least pick up a book and do some reading until I’m sleepy enough again to contemplate sleep.

Thus if I’m going to be haggard, grouchy, sleep-deprived and look like I’m a hundred years old the next day (no offense to the centenarians in the audience!), at least I can enjoy the silent satisfaction of knowing that I got some reading in, right? (Hey. It’s something.)

This book, by David Eggers, is worth lying awake in the middle of the night to read. It’s the tale of the charming (for some reason the fact that he is, indeed, charming means a great deal to me) and aspiring coffee entrepreneur, Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a Yemeni American living in San Francisco. Mokhtar is the young man who introduced the now-highly-praised coffee from Yemen to the American market. And he did so after surviving a dangerous, exciting odyssey through war-torn territories in the Middle East.

This book tells the story of a delightful adventure that will make you want to stand up and cheer for all the creative, doggedly hard-working entrepreneurs who have to battle long odds to achieve their dreams for a better life, whether they are charming or not. As a farmer and an entrepreneur myself, what sucked me into even reading this book in the first place (besides the gorgeous cover) was this inspiring bit in the prologue:

” . . . direct trade can change the lives of farmers, giving them agency and standing. . . Americans like Mokhtar Alkhanshali–U.S. citizens who maintain strong ties to the countries of their ancestors and who, through entrepreneurial zeal and dogged labor, create indispensable bridges between the developed and developing worlds, between nations that produce and those that consume. And how these bridgemakers exquisitely and bravely embody this nation’s reason for being, a place of radical opportunity and ceaseless welcome. And how when we forget that this is central to all that is best about this country, we forget ourselves–a blended people united not by stasis and cowardice and fear, but by irrational exuberance, by global enterprise on a human scale, by the inherent rightness of pressing forward, always forward, driven by courage unfettered and unyielding.” (bold lettering mine)

*phew* Every time I read that paragraph, my heart is in my throat, and I am filled with hope. Hope that America still is the land of freedom and opportunity, and will remain so as long as hard-working entrepreneurs like Mokhtar Alkhanshali continue to forge ahead with their dreams, and as long as talented authors like Dave Eggers are writing down their stories.

And as long as folks like you and me are reading them.

“I will resurrect the art of Yemeni coffee and restore it to prominence throughout the world,” Mokhtar confided to a friend. And that is exactly what he achieved, astonishingly. Fleeing Yemen with a colleague, he personally carried “the first coffee to leave the port of Mokha in eighty years.” By July 2017, Port of Mokha coffee was available all over North America, Japan, Paris and Brazil, and the Coffee Review awarded one variety of Yemeni coffee the highest score issued in the publication’s twenty-year history.

What a triumph, eh? And all through the efforts of one young man with a dream, a passion for a better life, and a willingness to work very hard.

Today there are lots of sources of Yemeni coffee beans, including green ones like these, on and elsewhere. (So . . . tempted . . .!!)

One of the greatest lessons of ‘The Monk of Mokha’ is not to be afraid to dream big, and not to give up on your dreams when things don’t automatically go your way.

Simply Clean

by Becky Rapinchuk

The Proven Method for Keeping Your Home organized, Clean, and Beautiful in just 10 min a day

My sweet mama taught me how to pickle beets. How to plant (and tend) a garden. How to have watermelon-seed-spitting contests until you laugh so hard you cry. How to be unerringly honest. How to bake bread. How to have a really good water fight. How to love music. How to value reading books. How to make pie. How to practice an instrument until you’re really good at it. How to sew a garment, a quilt, a baby blanket.

All these things, my mom taught me–and many, many more fun and valuable things. That must be why she didn’t spend much time teaching me how to keep my house clean. We were too busy learning more interesting things! The only thing I really remember about housecleaning when I was a kid, was that we mainly did it when company was coming. And most of the people who came to our house were friends, not company anyway. So we didn’t clean for them. OBs.

Cleaning house was dull, onerous, irritating, and to be avoided. It was Christmastime that Mom’s family from Minnesota came, so we did a big push on the cleaning then. Like, for a day or two. And then it seemed like, for awhile, we had Dad’s family all come on New Year’s Day and so another Herculean effort to clean the house was underway at that time. For another half day or so. *phew*

The rest of the months of the year?

We were easy-going and relaxed in our cleaning routine. Id est, I don’t recall much of it happening. I also do remember Mom hiring a cleaning lady to come help out once in a while, but we cleaned the day before she came. So I guess it did work to hire her. The house got clean, just not by her. She would then teach Mom how to make homemade noodles. Or chicken pot pie. You see the pattern? Better stuff!

But the truth is, I could have benefited from learning some tips about keeping a house clean. It’s not easy, of course, especially since we live in a land of plenty (*cough* = clutter) and there are so many interesting things to do, to make, and to collect.

This is exactly why I’m really happy that Becky Rapinchuck wrote this book, Simply Clean. It is a revelation to me how simple it really can be to keep a house clean. I’ve read the book. I still have a long ways to go, but I can see how easily it will be to keep my house clean if I follow Becky’s excellent suggestions and routines. “In Just 10 Minutes a Day?” Hmmm. I am not sure about that. I do live in an overlarge house with an overbig menagerie to watch over. So it might take just over 10 minutes a day. But following the simple routines in this book has given me hope that my cluttered dirty house won’t always be . . . cluttered and dirty.

Streams in the Desert

by L.B. Cowman

FINISH: Give Yourself the Gift of Done

by Jon Acuff

I don’t read many “self-help” books myself, but I read a LOT of books about productivity. About how to get more done in less time. How to be super-efficient, and so on. This one is definitely worth the read. Especially (nervous loosening of the collar) if you have a tendency to start projects and then refuse to finish them.

The secret to finishing, according to author Jon Acuff, is not to get up earlier or work even harder or to drink more coffee (shucks). The secret is to lower your standards. The real problem seems to be perfectionism. If you take the pressure off and let yourself off the hook to do everything perfectly, it becomes much easier to finish the book. Lose the weight. Finish the course. Et al.

The strategies in this book might seem counterintuitive, but they’re based on studies conducted by a university researcher with hundreds of participants. You might not guess that having more fun, eliminating your secret rules, and choosing something to bomb intentionally works. But the data says otherwise. According to research, folks who have fun are 43 percent more successful! Imagine if your diet, guitar playing, or small business was 43 percent more suc­cessful just by following a few simple principles.

Great book! And along similar lines . . .

The War of Art:

Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

by Steven Pressfield

Get it. Read it. You’ll thank me. 🙂

My son Andrew and I get together quite often to discuss creativity. He’s one of the most creative people I know–and always has been. We were talking one day about my modus operandi where creative projects are concerned. I love beginning a new project. As soon as the bright shininess of a new project stars to dim, however, I start to think that it was kind of a losing proposition to begin with. (Whoever would read a book about a chinchilla that gets lost in the house and then goes on a grand adventure, anyway?)–and I start to dream about . . . a new project!

We were gabbing about this silliness one day, when Andrew jumped up and grabbed this book. “It’s Resistance, Mom,” he said. “Read this book. It’s a quick read.”

He could have added “It will change your life,” because it could, and it has. Changed mine, that is.

If you are a creative person, especially a creative person who struggles to make time to do your art, for whatever reason, you really need to read this book. Check it out. Buy it.

Read it. It’s a quick read. It’ll change your life.

Okay, gentle reader, I’ve finally finished this post and I’m ready now to hear your book recommendations! Puhleeeeze share with me what you are reading in the comments below, and how you get more reading time into your days!

I always love to hear from you.



9 thoughts on “Books we’re reading at our house this month

  1. Kay

    Reading… my second best thing to do! I don’t have as much time to do it as I used to either. (Baby days, I read while I nursed them. Lots of reading time.) I installed the Kindle app on my smart phone and read each day during lunch.
    I’m reading “Folly Beach” by Dorothea Benton Frank. (romance, beach read about books & a book store) on that app.
    Paper/Real books I’m reading (I try to get in some time each week in my chair with a cuppa coffee and a book.) “Kitchen Diaries” by Nigel Slater (he keeps a diary about what he cooks, eats, shops for or grows for a year. ) Also “Temple” by Robert Cornuke (about possible alternate site of Solomon & Herod’s temple, not on the historic temple mount. Poorly organized but interesting topic.) And finally, “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, Cultural Studies in the Gospel” by Kenneth E Bailey (the Jewishness of Jesus)
    I tend to keep the lighter reading for the Kindle and books I want to savor or contemplate; in paper version.

  2. Andrea Johnson

    My dissertation advisor suggested The War of Art as I was getting started on my research. I loved it! …and pass it on to my daughter and any others around me in need of a good, insightful shot-in-the-arm

  3. Stephan

    Great pic of your boy reading. I am fortunate to have at least one child out of three (Daughter2) who retreated to her room to read everything ( do you remember “The Goosebumps” books…she could read two a day!) She married a guy who was just as bad/good.
    As a former teacher with Child Lit Post-Grad research creds I knew that ( 99% of the the time) reading anything is better than nothing…and usually as good as everything else.
    My first daughter discovered the Kindle…became a devotee of that style.
    My third…now is translating Spanish…and has a Post-Grad boyfriend who pushes her …sounds hard to me…but she loves him

    Meanwhile as you go into Spring we are in Autumn (as it is properly called in Australia)…I am ordering my winter books from Book Depository.

    Thanks for your lovely site


  4. Becky

    How did you do that? I don’t have time, or (most importantly) shelf space for more books! I wasn’t going to want these books anyway, so, safe to read the post, right? Rats, no. I too want to get more done faster, have fun finishing things, drink more coffee, clean my house in 10… OK, 15 minutes, and… yeah.
    I recall with deep envy the days of old, when I could read a book in a day AND do most (ha!) of my work. Now I at least cram in a little reading before bed, but any day I can get in more is a great day! : ) I’m afraid I am a little short on reading survival tips.

  5. Janet Dugan

    I had to abandon “insomnia reading” because going back to sleep never happened! To be honest I have no self control where good books are concerned. All else waits for just one more chapter.
    As far as house cleaning, I think this year I will just plant crops on the kitchen floor….

  6. Bev

    Random blog hopper here but found your posts are just a breeze to read: artisan bread, surprise April Fools, books and keeping house, etc.
    Spring cleaning rereads for me would be Fly Lady’s Sink Reflections and Marie Kondo’s The Japanese Art of Decluttering. The latter can be extreme yet inspiring even with just a few doses every season.
    As for the purely for-fun-book choices, I’m joining my son in reading the Young Sherlock books by Andrew Lane this month and try to squeeze in some Mitch Albom’s or some other inspiring book I happen to find in our local library.
    Those on top of the Korean books that I have to study. (expat in Korea)
    It’s always a shame to think that I have access to more books now than I have time reading them. Totally the opposite when I was younger! (Where have u gone, teenage years!)
    Do you think that we can have more time to read again when we are older, like in the senior years? That is what I am dreaming of now…just have to take good care of my eyes. 😀
    Thanks for sharing your musings!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Bev, it’s so nice to hear from you! Regarding books on decluttering and home-keeping: I’ve read them all! You’re right, both the Flylady’s book and Marie Kondo’s are helpful. I get inspiration from each one. We are definitely making progress here on Spring cleaning! About the time to read when we are older: bless you. I hope so. But I also hope that I can stay awake then to read!Good point to take good care of your eyes. Do you do anything special in that direction? Great comment. Thank you!

  7. Linnae

    I’ve been on kind of an FBI kick lately, with my reading. Just finished “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended On It” by Chris Voss. He was the lead hostage negotiator for the FBI while he was there–now he owns a business that teaches other business people how to negotiate. So this is part business book and part FBI case studies. Fascinating. I’m trying it out on my kids! (The negotiating part, not the hostage part!) 🙂
    Also read “Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures,” by Robert K. Wittman–who created the FBI’s Art Crime Team and led it for many years. This was good, too. A bit mind boggling how much some of these pieces of art sell for legally and on the black market.
    For fiction, I’ve been trying to catch up on Newberry Award Winners and Honor books. Do you read any middle grade or young adult? “Wolf Hollow” gave me a lot to think about and was a more intense read. I also really liked “Splendors and Glooms.”
    Many people I know listen to books on audio as they go about their daily tasks, or on a long commute. I have a hard time listening to a book while doing other things. One or the other tends to stop eventually. Right now I’m still in the stage where my kiddos are in bed by 8:30pm-ish, so I get most of my reading time in at night. Good luck!
    If you need more book suggestions, I would love to have you come on over to my blog! I review books of all sorts there, (and also talk about gardening.) Or you can tell me more about what genres you like best, and I could come up with a list for you. 🙂

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Linnae, you can’t imagine how much I appreciate these book recommendations, and also the tips to get more reading into my day! I do read middle grade/YA books, mainly as read-alouds with Mack. HEck. I’d sit and read with that boy all day long if I didn’t have so many chores to do, ya know. 🙂 I will visit your blog. Thank you for the invite! and for the excellent comment!

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