What We’re Reading This Spring

April 29, 2019

We thought we’d write a shorter post today just letting you all know what we’ve been reading lately, and also asking our readers about what books you’ve been reading this spring.

“The Enchanted Hour” by Meghan Cox Gurdon

From HarperCollins: “A Wall Street Journal writer’s conversation-changing look at how reading aloud makes adults and children smarter, happier, healthier, more successful and more closely attached, even as technology pulls in the other direction.
A miraculous alchemy occurs when one person reads to another, transforming the simple stuff of a book, a voice, and a bit of time into complex and powerful fuel for the heart, brain, and imagination. Grounded in the latest neuroscience and behavioral research, and drawing widely from literature, The Enchanted Hour explains the dazzling cognitive and social-emotional benefits that await children, whatever their class, nationality or family background. But it’s not just about bedtime stories for little kids: Reading aloud consoles, uplifts and invigorates at every age, deepening the intellectual lives and emotional well-being of teenagers and adults, too.”

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My interest in reading aloud was sparked decades ago by the first edition of The Read Aloud Handbook. Ever since, I have been a sucker for any book that had "read aloud" in the title. The Enchanted Hour promised not only to discuss reading aloud, but to put it in the context of the latest neurological research. And how it did deliver! Written in an engaging narrative style, it can't help but resonate with parents, the primary audience for the book, as it did with me. I have just gotten a second copy so I can annotate it, as Rebecca suggested in her Shakespeare post last week. Now I am going to read the book a second time, looking up the notes in the back and marking in the text the lines of inquiry I would like to pursue. Perhaps some may surface in upcoming blog posts! — Lisa

The “Kristin Lavransdatter” trilogy by Sigrid Undset

From Penguin Classics: “In her great historical epic Kristin Lavransdatter, set in fourteenth-century Norway, Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset tells the life story of one passionate and headstrong woman. Painting a richly detailed backdrop, Undset immerses readers in the day-to-day life, social conventions, and political and religious undercurrents of the period. Now in one volume, Tiina Nunnally’s award-winning definitive translation brings this remarkable work to life with clarity and lyrical beauty.
As a young girl, Kristin is deeply devoted to her father, a kind and courageous man. But when as a student in a convent school she meets the charming and impetuous Erlend Nikulaussøn, she defies her parents in pursuit of her own desires. Her saga continues through her marriage to Erlend, their tumultuous life together raising seven sons as Erlend seeks to strengthen his political influence, and finally their estrangement as the world around them tumbles into uncertainty.
With its captivating heroine and emotional potency, Kristin Lavransdatter is the masterwork of Norway’s most beloved author—one of the twentieth century’s most prodigious and engaged literary minds—and, in Nunnally’s exquisite translation, a story that continues to enthrall.”

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My mom gave me a beautiful old set of these books for Christmas this past year, and I've just begun to read the first book of the series, The Wreath. My interest in Scandinavian literature has developed significantly over the past year, so I was especially excited to receive these as a gift. I haven’t gotten very far into the first book yet, but the setting and Undset’s writing are both beautiful, and I’m looking forward to reading more! — Rebecca

“Trees of Power” by Akiva Silver

From the Twisted Tree Farm website: Trees of Power is written by Akiva Silver, owner and operator of Twisted Tree Farm. This in depth book covers the propagation, cultivation, uses, and ecology of trees. It is a catalyst and a guide for those of us who already work with trees or those who want to start.

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A year ago this weekend I was involved with launching a farming enterprise with two of my neighbors on 24 acres of land. Mark Shepard, author of Restoration Agriculture, led the workshop here to build earthworks and plant 1000 chestnuts and 1500 hazelnuts over the course of three days. But Akiva Silver, author of Trees of Power, was the inspiration for it all. Every spring and fall for a half dozen years, he visited our neighborhood, bringing trees to plant and stories about them to share. Because of his enthusiasm for trees we became passionate as well. We were delighted when Trees of Power came out this spring. It included some of the stories we had heard, but so much more too, especially about the importance of each tree in its ecological niche and how best to propagate and care for them, empowering us as planters of trees. — Lisa

The Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science of Food and Cooking

From Columbia University Press: “From the seemingly mundane to the food fantastic—from grilled cheese sandwiches, pizzas, and soft-boiled eggs to Turkish ice cream, sugar glasses, and jellified beads—the essays in The Kitchen as Laboratory cover a range of creations and their history and culture. They consider the significance of an eater's background and dining atmosphere and the importance of a chef's methods, as well as the strategies used to create a great diversity of foods and dishes. This collection will delight experts and amateurs alike, especially as restaurants rely more on science-based cooking and recreational cooks increasingly explore the physics and chemistry behind their art. Contributors end each essay with their personal thoughts on food, cooking, and science, offering rare insight into a professional's passion for playing with food.”

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The Kitchen as Laboratory is a collection of 33 essays written by different gastronomists, chefs, and scientists about the chemistry of cooking. And it’s just as quirky and technical as I wanted it to be. The essays themselves are fairly scientific, with hypotheses, experiments, data and interpretation, etc. However, the question that each essay addresses is relevant to both cooks and eaters, and the writing is clear and compelling. If you love cooking and also chemistry, this makes for a really fun read! — Rebecca

Share your experience

What about you all? What have you been reading lately? What book is up next on your “to read” stack? Please share any recent recommendations you may have in a comment below!

  • I do very much appreciate your blog, but don’t often have time to comment. Today I will! I am reading: Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms by Holly Ordway; Lark Rise to Candleford: A Trilogy by Flora Thompson (also love the BBC series!); and The Blossom on the Bough: A Book of Trees by Anne Ophelia Dowden. I am in the midst of moving and selling a home so am needing to keep my reading a bit light. Blessings to you!

    • Kelly, Thank you for reminding me about The Blossom on the Bough: A Book of Trees by Anne Ophelia Dowden! Now that I am a tree farmer, I am trying to prioritize reading of books about trees, in hopes that I will become better at identification and observation of trees through the seasons.

  • I am currently binge-reading the Anne of Green Gables books in French, and beta-reading books for my writing friends. I’m the kind of girl who has five or six books going on at once. 😉 I’m also reading “How Buildings Stand Up” (Mario Salvadori) in French. 😉

    • We love Anne of the Green Gables in our family, but then again, who doesn’t? And good for you for reading a book in French — that sounds like quite the challenge! 🙂

      – Rebecca

      • Well, I’m part French, so it’s not actually 🙂 but it was very intertesing to read those books that I know almost by heart in a different language and from the point of view of a different culture.

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