Twenty nineteen is done and dusted. As dusted as so many previously neglected areas of my home, after a couple of my December reads that I honestly think have completely changed the way that I think, and have been a catalyst to some changes and decisions I’ve made as I’ve moved into this new year.
December was busy—in that regular December kind of way, that sneaks up on you even when you think you’ve been organised and prepared. But also in a different kind of way. Because life is different now that I have a big grown-up job, and this alone affected the way we prepared for Christmas and the expectations I laid down around having and doing it all. It was different, but lovely.
I worked on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve and served library patrons, and wished them happy Christmases, and tracked down book titles they’d heard about, and extended due dates for the ones who’d be holidaying in January and wouldn’t be able to return their books on time. One of the things I love about the library is that it whirrs on; there is always someone available to help you photocopy, or chat with you about your latest read. In the crazy Christmas hustle, the library was like a refuge. I watched people walk through our doors and breath a deep sigh of relief; this was no busy shopping centre, and here there was no to-do list.
So, in all the working hours and Christmas preparations, I made sure to read a Christmas novel, and a few others in between. Here’s my December wrap-up:
The Christmas Party by Karen Swan
Irish countryside, long-held family feuds and multiple plot lines, all centred around Christmas? Yes please. I am a sucker for a good romance, even if it’s as predictable as my morning coffee. My morning coffee is no less enjoyable in its predictability, and neither is a romantic novel. And a Christmas one at that.
This was our bookclub choice for the month (and when I say our pick, I do really mean two of us who needed something lighthearted and Christmassy, after some heavy choices in the previous months!). I loved having this to look forward to curling up with after a long day at work!
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
I think my favourite part of the book was the prologue, in which the author talks about meeting and spending time with the man whose story she wrote. Her friendship with the elderly gentleman grew over three years, in which he shared with her his story, in bits and pieces of memory. The end result is a beautiful, moving piece of historical fiction, about a Slovakian Jew in the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau who meets the love of his life. I listened to this one on audio, and it was beautifully read. I will always be shocked and heartbroken over the treatment of human beings at that period of history—anything that reminds us of the evil we are capable of, and serves to then help to prevent further horrors, is a good thing.
Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner
This was another audiobook. Before the kids finished school, and as I was preparing the house and presents and ticking things off my to-do list, I’d put on my headphones and listen to Erin read me her book. I loved hearing her journey through excess, share her faith and her values, and question all the things I’ve questioned: what am I chasing? When will I arrive? Will this stuff ever make me happy?
”There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” (G. K. Chesterton)
This is more of a memoir than anything (with a few recipes along the way – I did actually go and make her better pasta recipe, with a creamy cashew sauce and zucchini noodles and it was delicious!) but I love the way she writes, her honesty with herself and her readers, and I was inspired to evaluate the things I cling onto too. Ultimately, this journey of slow is exactly that: a journey.
The Minimalist Home: A Room-By-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life by Joshua Becker
This. There was this one week, prior to Christmas where I had a couple of days off and I was determined to use them well, and to sink my teeth into something I may otherwise not have time for before Christmas. The back room had been getting on my nerves prior to then, with the dusty blinds and windows, and it was a big job. I wanted another audiobook after I’d finished Chasing Slow, and I needed one that was available now, not in a few weeks. So this one came up as a recommended read. I wasn’t that excited about it to be honest, but because I was standing over a bucket of hot soapy water, and was about to spend the following four or five hours scrubbing blinds and windows until they shone, I tapped ‘borrow’ and set to it.
I was ridiculously inspired. This book is both incredibly practical (room by room, drawer by drawer, why do I need two vegetable peelers? ) and also inspires us to look at the underlying issues of why we keep so much, why we need to store, collect, display and hoard. This quote I scribbled in my journal in the days I was listening:
”Minimising forces us to confront our stuff, and our stuff forces us to confront ourselves”
The advantages to a minimalist lifestyle are actually profound. There is so much joy to be found in owning less. I 100% recommend this book (and, in fact, any of Becker’s resources) if you are looking to simplify your life in 2020.
This is only the beginning of a journey for me, but one that I’ve begun with decluttered kitchen drawers and sparkling windows.
Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas
This is probably my favourite Advent devotional ever. It has 45 readings, or chapters, each by a different author. There are readings by CS Lewis, Sylvia Plath, Henri Nouwen, Philip Yancey, TS Eliot, John Donne – I could go on. It’s literary and spiritual genius, that focuses on the significance of Christmas. This is a book that will be well-loved and dog-eared for many years to come.
So. Folks. I did it.
I read 45 books this year—5 more than my goal.
I shared each of them here on my blog with a mini review, which seems like a massive feat in itself for this not-great-at-finishing-things-I-start kinda girl.
We started a bookclub, and I fell in love with reading again, and now I work in a library.
What to read in 2020?
Follow me over on Goodreads and send inspiration, and let me know what your 2020 reading goals are?