Journal, Monthly Book List

Books Closed in September

Can we ever say a book has reached the end? Do we ever really close the covers and surrender the time spent in the pages of a book to permanent forgetfulness? Perhaps, but even if one idea survives, something in any book we have spent time with, thought on, or enjoyed is woven into our heart, mind, and actions. I may or may not return to the books I closed in September, but know that though I left them on the shelf, something in each still goes with me.

The Healing Brain: Breakthrough Discoveries About How the Brain Keeps us Healthy by Robert Ornstein and David Sobel. One book leads to another. I found this one in searching on other books written by David Sobel. Though this book is 30 years old, I found the research and anecdotes about how vital the brain is to maintaining our health, contributes to its deterioration, or leads us back to health after stress, trauma, injury, or illness to be fascinating. Everyone has heard of psychosomatic illnesses, but I don’t think we can possibly comprehend the direct relationship of the body-mind connection. Scientists are trying to, however, and continue to discover undeniable truths about our mental and physical connection, trying to quantify the elusive personality and practices that reveal that nutrition, exercise and medicine are not all there is to this story. Part of solving the mystery of persons is learning more about our amazing brains.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 by Christopher Curtis. My reading lists this year reveal a couple of other titles by this children’s author, who is new to me and a wonderful discovery. This one is another tale of family love and loyalty and a good choice for elementary students wanting an authentic historical fiction taste of uncivil rights in the early ‘60’s. It is told with humor and pathos and is a gently eye-opening view for children who have not grown up with awareness of the treatment of blacks in our history books.

A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter by Miriam Huffman Rockness. I began this book almost two years ago and finally, after many interruptions, got to the end. Lilias Trotter, privileged daughter of Britain’s upper classes, is discovered by John Ruskin who recognizes her extraordinary artistic talents and aids her in their development. Though potentially destined to be an accomplished and famous painter, she leaves all easy living and possible fame to go as a missionary to northern Africa to minister among the Muslims. Her courage, tenacity, and unshakable faith in the face of withering circumstances is an inspiring story, especially when considering the limitations of travel, communication and attitude to women in the late nineteenth century. The author accurately and faithfully covers her life, but this biography, like most written in the modern times, leaves a bit more of a limp and lifeless recounting than I’m sure the spunky and faith-filled Lilias must have led. Despite my disappointment in the style, her true story is worth reading.

A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the Nineteenth Century by Witold Rybczynski. I initially picked up this book because of an upcoming first trip to New York City, but couldn’t put it down because the biographer was skillful and Olmsted one of the most intriguing characters I’ve read of in recent years. I knew nothing of him before and simply read the book because he was credited with the idea for and existence of Central Park. He did a whole lot more than that, and more than develop a new ocupation called “landscape architecture.” This is a biography worth reading for high schoolers studying this century as his role in not just its beautification of cities, but in writing of the South before, during, and after the Civil War, his travels, experiences, lifestyle, and multitude of occupations bring such a sense of life in those years., He is living proof that academic and career success alone doesn’t make the man.

A House with Four Rooms by Rumer Godden. This is the sequel to her first autobiography of her life up through the second world war. Rumer begins to put her life together back in England and pursue her writing career in earnest. The sheer number of well-known figures—authors, actors, movie makers, and political figures—is incredible. She actually owned homes formerly inhabited by such well-known historic figures as Sir Francis Bacon, Oliver Cromwell, George I, and Jane Austen. As usual, her homes are among the characters in her life and her novels and the telling of the highlights and low points of her life are described in the simple, poignant, simplicity that she tells all her stories for children and adults.

Parenting: Fourteen Gospel Principles that Will Radically Change Your Family by Paul Tripp. I have been a parent for 36 years and still need help. This respected counselor is easy to read and understand. There are no complex theories or overly simplistic formulas in this book. It is simply the unfolding of all Christ told us to know and do. Basically, love God and your neighbor (child). To sum up his parenting technique is to say, “Parent, get the speck out of your own eye.”

For the joy of reading,