Favorite Books of 2022

This year I’m continuing my annual tradition of taking stock of the books I’ve read over the past year and sharing my favorites.

2022 was an interesting year for me — in many ways, but certainly in terms of reading. This past year I read far fewer books than I had in recent years. Part of this can be attributed to life opening up again after the pandemic lockdowns of 2020-21; I was out and about more, as opposed to sitting at home with my books. This was also a year when my daily schedule shifted at the expense of my reading time: I used to read for about an hour after all the kids were in bed, but now with teenagers who stay up late doing homework and who don’t seem to want to spill their innermost feelings unless it’s after 10 PM, I no longer have as much quiet, kid-free time to read. Finally, this fall I began reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke’s sweeping novel about two magicians in 19th century England. It’s an amazing work of detailed world-creation, but it’s also 1000 pages long. I have yet to finish it (or it might be on this list), and it’s monopolized one-quarter of my reading year!

So, that’s why I have fewer books to recommend this year, but every book on this list is a gem.

Favorite Fiction

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This was the very first book I read in 2022. The last time I read it was in middle school; now that my two middle schoolers were reading it, I decided to re-read it. It was even better than I remembered. If, like me, you haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird since your own school days, it certainly deserves a re-read. When I was thirteen, I most closely identified with the narrator, Scout; this time around, I found that I related more to her father, the amazing Atticus Finch, who has become one of my parenting heroes.

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

If you have seen me at all this year, I have probably recommended this book to you — effusively. I even wrote a column about some of its themes. I have since read every other book Emily St. John Mandel has written, and while I like them all, this one remains my definite favorite. It’s a beautifully crafted story that weaves through time and space (literally), but is at its heart a story about love, the beauty of daily life, and our interconnectedness. Please do yourself a favor and read it.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Like To Kill a Mockingbird, this book is told from the viewpoint of a child and features an incredible father. Set primarily in the bleak winter landscape of the northern Midwest, it follows the Land family as they search for their outlaw older brother. The glue that holds the family — and the narrative — together is a father’s fierce love, and it may just convince you that miracles are possible.

Favorite Non-Fiction

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett

I have never disliked anything Ann Patchett has written, but this collection of essays is my new favorite. I read the title essay during the dog days of COVID, when it first appeared in Harper’s, and it’s a breathtaking — and heartbreaking — story of how circumstances bring us into each other’s lives. But all the essays in this book are excellent, circling themes of family, friendship, love, loss, and literature.

The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride

This was another re-read for me; I first read McBride’s memoir of his remarkable mother a couple decades ago, but decided to revisit it after reading his novel, Deacon King Kong, last year. The Color of Water tells the story of Ruth McBride Jordan, social worker, church founder, daughter of an abusive Orthodox rabbi, twice-widowed mother of twelve black children — a resilient warrior of a woman. Looking back over many of my favorite books from this year, it’s clear that I was seeking examples of excellent parents; Ruth certainly belongs in the line-up.

Favorite Book on Christian/Spiritual Topics

Aggressively Happy: A Realist’s Guide to Believing in the Goodness of Life by Joy Marie Clarkson

I feel like I need to apologize for this book’s title whenever I recommend it. “It’s really NOT annoyingly positive,” I say. “It’s about how to find joy without denying how difficult things are.” Clarkson is still a young woman — an excellent writer with a clear-eyed gaze at life. I read the entire introduction to my family over dinner one night, then passed the book on to my eldest daughter because I wish I’d read it much earlier in life.

Favorite Children’s Books

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

I consider Kate DiCamillo a literary giant, and believe that her books should be read by everyone of all ages — but The Tale of Despereaux sat unread on our shelf for years because my children assumed they’d outgrown books with rodent protagonists. We were all pleasantly surprised when we finally read it this December. As with all DiCamillo books, it is beautiful, funny, true, and moving, with a particularly poignant focus on forgiveness.

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

The best explanation I’ve read of this book is that it’s Les Miserables set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world. It prompted some excellent discussions in our family around issues of justice and right vs. wrong.

Favorite Poetry Books

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

Poetry has come to have an increasingly large part in our family’s life, and we are always able to find something breathtaking in this extensive collection of Mary Oliver’s poetry.

Everything Comes Next: Collected and New Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye

My 11-year-old poet picked up this book of Naomi Shihab Nye’s poems for young readers on a Barnes & Noble trip, and she hasn’t put it down since. (Her favorite is “Window.”)

BONUS: Favorite Show Based on a Book!

Is anybody else out there watching The Mysterious Benedict Society on Disney+? We read the book series by Trenton Lee Stewart, but the series — now in its second season — may actually be better than the books, thanks to clever writing, an outstanding ensemble of young actors, and the brilliant Tony Hale as Nicholas Benedict. One of the very few shows that every single member of our family looks forward to watching.

Wishing you a wonderful year of reading in 2023. I’ll be joining you — as soon as I finish Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell!

Throwback Thursday: A Still Small Christmas

baby-jesus-sleeping

As we head into Christmas, I am always thrown back to Christmas 2019-2020, which was one of the most difficult Christmas seasons our family ever experienced. It was also one of the most real and meaningful. 

I know that many of you are walking through difficult seasons now. In fact, this year there have been two deaths in my own immediate family over the past two weeks: my grandmother and my aunt. So often in life, our mourning and our rejoicing are commingled. 

So I’m reposting this piece, which I wrote next to my infant son’s hospital bed, to remind us all that hard things are not inconsistent with Christmas; that our holidays don’t have to big big and shiny and perfect, but can sometimes look like still, small moments of awareness.

***

I hesitate to assume that there’s such a thing as a “typical” Christmas, but if it exists then I feel quite confident in stating that this has been a very atypical Christmas for our family.

As some of you may know, I have spent the past five days in the pediatric inpatient ward of the University of Vermont Medical Center with our 7-week-old son. This was completely unexpected and sudden. Our entire family – including all four daughters – had driven happily up to Burlington for some scheduled testing for the baby. We’d planned to have lunch and look at holiday decorations after what we assumed would be an hour-long appointment. But, to quote Joan Didion, “Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.” And in that instant, we were being told that the doctor was concerned about our baby’s growth trajectory and wanted to admit him to the hospital for “failure to thrive.”

So, without any preparation or planning, without a toothbrush for me or extra clothes for the baby, and with a long list of pre-Christmas plans and to-dos that was going to require sudden and extreme revision, I found myself ushered into a pediatric hospital room. I found myself discussing who-takes-the-girls-where-and-when logistics with my husband (whose birthday was the following day.) I found myself groping through my own dashed expectations as I tried to explain to four teary girls what I knew of the immediate plan, and how little idea I had of anything beyond the next couple of hours.

This is not a medical drama, so I will very quickly set your mind at rest about our son: He is fine. He was tiny at birth and has always been a robust spitter-upper. His pediatrician has been monitoring his weight since birth, and everyone was pleased with his steady gains until his spitting up increased dramatically after a routine outpatient hernia repair surgery. His weight gain never stopped or reversed, but it slowed. After a couple of days of testing at the hospital to rule out Big Scary Things, he was diagnosed with severe reflux, which we will manage at home until he outgrows it eventually.

But I didn’t know the end of the story as I sat in our hospital room that first night, trying in vain to sleep in a pull-out chair while my freaked-out baby fussed beside me and nurses came and went all night long. The next days would be the darkest of the year; this made a certain narrative sense to me. What I couldn’t quite manage was to find the sense in our situation – I couldn’t figure out where God was in the whole thing.

Even though you know better, it’s so easy to fall into thinking that life should reward the good and punish the bad. We are adopting our son, not to earn brownie points with any person or deity, but because we love children (this one in particular; he’s our son) and we wanted to provide a good home for a child who needed one. Since his birth, our sweet boy has not had an easy road: Each of his seven weeks of life has brought some new health wrinkle – none deeply serious, all treatable, but most of them involving a degree of disruption and discomfort for him and for the rest of our family. All of this is outweighed by the extravagant amount of love the little guy has brought into our lives. Still, the temptation every time we hit the next hurdle is to say, “Really, God? This kiddo has been through so much; can’t he just get a break? We’ve all been through so much; would it have killed you to make this just a little less hard?”

On that first night in the hospital, I looked out the window at a narrow strip of dark winter sky barely visible between the buildings opposite our room, and my heart screamed, “Where ARE you, God?”

A passage of the Bible that I’ve always loved for the beauty of its language is 1 Kings 19:11-12. The backstory is that the prophet Elijah has been doing everything right, risking his life by warning the Israelites and the corrupt King Ahab and Queen Jezebel to turn back to God. In response, Ahab and Jezebel kill all the other prophets and threaten to do the same to Elijah. Elijah escapes into the wilderness, where he is on the run for forty days and nights until he reaches a cave on Mt. Horeb.

11 Then He [God] said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. [New King James Version]

When Elijah hears that still small voice, he knows it’s God, and God gives Elijah instructions about what to do next.

It took me three days in the hospital to realize that the answer to my cry, “Where ARE you, God?” was: Right here. It took that long because God’s voice didn’t boom down from heaven, there were no chariots of fire, comets, flashy miracles, or apparitions. But there was a still small voice – a series of them, in fact.

God was not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire:

God was in the nurse who, while tenderly giving my son a bath, told me how she’d switched from geriatrics to pediatrics seven years earlier, when she learned she couldn’t have children.

God was in the young man from Patient Transport who, while wheeling my son down to a swallow study, told me how he drives his mother an hour to her haircut appointments in our town. (“She used to go with my grandma, but after my grandma died, I started taking her.”)

God was in the doctor from radiology who, observing me walk the halls for an hour as the barium solution moved through my son’s digestive tract, ushered me into the staff break room. “There’s a nice, big window,” he explained.

God was in the gentle hands and kind words of the countless doctors, nurses, and staff throughout our stay who counseled us and brought bottles, warm blankets, white noise machines, and mobiles to make my son more comfortable.

God was in the faces of the hospital patients – the really ill ones who passed us on gurneys in radiation, the other children on the pediatric floor – and their caregivers.

God was in my parents, who took our daughters at no notice and provided them with love, security, and fun.

God was in my husband, who couldn’t have cared less that his birthday had been overshadowed, and who drove an hour up to and back from the hospital numerous times to bring me clothes, toiletries, and Chipotle dinners.

God was in my daughters, whose primary concern was never their own plans, but the fact that they were separated from their baby brother.

God was in the stunning sunrise in the strip of sky between buildings on the morning of the darkest day of the year – a reminder that there is always light in the darkness.

And God was in our baby, because this experience taught us that he needs us, and we need him.

Since this all happened days before Christmas, I was thinking of another baby, too: A New Testament baby who was the embodiment of the “still small voice” in 1 Kings. Isn’t that just like God? He doesn’t show up like you’d expect, in the earthquake, wind, or fire, or with the rich, powerful, or lovely; He shows up in the hospital corridors, amid those who suffer and those who serve. He shows up as a helpless newborn baby, born in a barn on the back edge of an empire. There may have been choirs of angels in the sky, but God lay in the straw crying for milk.

On this most atypical of Christmases, I learned to stop scanning the skies for those angel choirs, and to listen instead for the still, small voice in the dark.

Holiday Film Review: Disenchanted

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, our entire family sat down to watch the new Disney film, Disenchanted. In a rare occurrence, all our children were excited to view the long-awaited sequel to 2007’s Enchanted. The original film, which we’ve seen multiple times, follows Giselle – a stereotypical Disney princess in search of “true love’s kiss” – as she’s transported in modern-day New York City. The film is a smart satire of the more absurd elements of traditional Disney films (including singing rats and pigeons), but of course Giselle’s dewy-eyed goodness wins over the cynical Manhattanites in the end. 

The two films bookend my parenting years: I first watched Enchanted with a visiting college friend while my newborn firstborn slept upstairs; the release of Disenchanted corresponded with that first child’s 15th birthday. 

Disenchanted reunites the stars from the original movie, including Amy Adams as Giselle, Patrick Dempsey as her husband, Robert, and Idina Menzel and James Marsden as the King and Queen of Andalasia (Giselle’s native fairytale kingdom.) Fifteen years later, these actors are all decidedly middle aged. The sequel addresses the question: What comes after “happily ever after?” When it begins, Giselle and Robert are still living in an increasingly cramped Manhattan apartment with their daughter Morgan (a young girl in the original film, she’s now a sarcastic teenager) and their baby daughter, Sofia. In a rather predictable middle-aged move, they decide to relocate to the suburbs, where Giselle is sure that they can make a fresh start. Disney-fied chaos ensues, including talking animals, large musical numbers, and the eventual triumph of goodness and love over evil. 

The movie has received a tepid response from critics. It wasn’t even released in theaters, but was streamed directly to Disney+, which says something. My own children were lukewarm-to-negative in their reviews. A friend who watched Disenchanted with her family said her response was, “What am I watching?” 

That’s all valid if you’re watching Disenchanted purely as a film. But I thought it was brilliant, because about partway through I realized that it wasn’t just a film. That’s when I leaned over and whispered to my husband, “This is the perfect metaphor for perimenopause!”

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.

The November of Middle Age

“I think that November might be the most beautiful month,” said my daughter as we drove through the barren brown landscape. A few scraggly leaves clung resolutely to the skeletal tree branches. November, memorialized by Thomas Hood’s bleak poem (a long list of “no’s,” concluding with, “No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! – November!”) is usually far down the list of months ranked by beauty. This daughter turns 15 in two weeks, so she has a vested interest in finding goodness in her birth month. 

And yet, I could see what she meant. The sky gets bigger in November without leaves in the way. The light is spectacular: The sunrises and sunsets become kaleidoscopic shows of orange and purple and are more conveniently witnessed as the daylight contracts towards the middle of the day. And, sorry Thomas Hood, but there are birds – the hardy ones who hunker down for the winter – and they’re easier to appreciate in the absence of competition: the brilliant blue jays, sinister crows, stern red-tailed hawks, and swooping murmurations of starlings.

Here is what I have been thinking about lately: Middle age is a lot like November.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” in The Addison Independent.

Story of My Life

Perhaps because I’m a writer and a lover of literature, it’s been helpful for me to view life in terms of story. I’m a firm believer that, whether we’re aware of it, we all tell ourselves stories about the world and our place in it, and that our view of the world is formed by the particular stories we think we’re in. Are you a hero in an epic adventure, a supporting character in a buddy comedy, or a victim in a tragedy? Your outlook and attitude will be shaped accordingly.

In other words: We have some control – if not over circumstances themselves, then at least over how we frame those circumstances. I will often remind my children of this: “You could tell yourself that everything’s terrible and nobody loves you, or you could tell yourself a different story.” Either way, life will tend to affirm your narrative.

Live with other people long enough, and you may also notice the ways in which our stories bump into each other. Sometimes this works out neatly and we have coauthors and collaborators along for the ride. But sometimes other people may try to cast us in their own stories in roles that we don’t want to – or shouldn’t – play. “Resist being a part of that narrative!” I cautioned my daughter just the other day. 

Again, this framework implies some sense of control: I believe that the stories we tell ourselves shape our life experience, and I believe that we can choose with whom we will collaborate in writing our life stories. Sometimes, I take it even further: When the sun is shining and life is going well, I can often delude myself into believing that, to quote the oft-quoted poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

But every so often – and increasingly, the older I get – events occur that make me question whether I’m the primary author of my own life. I suspect very strongly that I am not.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.

We All Fall Down

“Mommy, what do two lines mean?” my nine-year-old daughter called across the kitchen. 

And just like that, the Bad Thing entered our house: the coronavirus, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, the Omicron variant. Call it what you will; it was here, among us, infiltrating our family’s immune systems. 

Against all odds, we’d managed to fight it off successfully for two-and-a-half years – no small feat with seven people in our household going off to work, to school, to activities. We were cautious in the beginning, abiding by the CDC guidelines for masking and distancing. As those guidelines relaxed and vaccines became available, we started to relax, too. We gradually resumed our social lives, we started to travel again, we dropped our masks. 

Even as we puzzled over why we didn’t get sick, we suspected that we couldn’t avoid it forever. All around us, people continued to test positive for COVID; the cautious along with the reckless, the unvaccinated and vaccinated alike. The noose was tightening, the virus circling ever closer. But the more people we knew who got sick, the less frightening it felt: Nobody seemed to be getting hospitalized for COVID anymore, and everyone we knew recovered after experiencing symptoms that spanned “a throat tickle” to “a bad cold.” When our youngest child – our two-year-old son who is at increased risk for respiratory issues – was vaccinated in July 2022, my husband and I stopped worrying and started placing bets on when the pandemic would arrive at our door, even joking about the optimal time for our family to get sick.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” in The Addison Independent.

Surf City…With Kids

[An earlier version of this post appeared without a link to the full article. My apologies!]

I am typing this from a desk in our Airbnb rental house in Huntington Beach, California: a beige stucco bungalow in a residential neighborhood of tightly packed stucco bungalows surrounded by high walls. There are three palm trees in the front yard. The back yard consists of a cement patio and a small patch of astroturf (an increasingly popular option in a region that suffers from continuous drought conditions and water restrictions.) 

That’s a backyard?!?” my 11-year-old daughter exclaimed. “I’ve seen bigger swimming pools!” 

Her insistence that a yard should be at least as big as a swimming pool was evidence of how living in Vermont has skewed our perspective. 

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.

On Change and Summer

The “classroom” where I homeschool my two youngest daughters is an open space with sloping ceilings built on top of our garage. There are windows on all four sides of the room. Throughout May and June, as our school year wound down, I had a view of two things just beyond our yard that seemed to represent the changes happening in the larger world. 

It was early spring when I first noticed the surgical mask caught on a bush at the edge of the woods. My daughter’s desk is directly underneath a west-facing window, and as I glanced outside one day while helping her with a math assignment, a flash of blue caught my eye. We’ve all become far too familiar with this particular blue during these years of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m still not sure how a surgical mask came to be tangled up in the branches of a bush several meters from our house; my best guess is that it blew out of someone’s car.

I didn’t remove the mask. For starters, it was just far enough through thick brush to make it an unpleasant chore. But I was also curious to see what would happen to it if left to its own devices. Would the wind, which often blows quite strongly through our yard, dislodge it? Would future archaeologists find it, preserved in our heavy Vermont clay, and date it back to the time of the pandemic? 

Against all odds and weather, the mask clung to that bush. Every school day I’d look out the western window and see that tenacious flash of blue. At first it stood out in stark relief against the bare grey branches. As the leaves began to emerge, it became more difficult to discern. And then, one day, I looked outside to discover that it had been swallowed entirely by the lush green of new summer leaves. 

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.

The Birds…And The Bees

It wasn’t the first time a bird had become stuck in our woodstove; this had happened twice before. 

The three events all began with a scrabbling, scuffling, fluttering noise in the corner of our living room. This type of noise can be shrugged off once or twice, but after subsequent repetitions the message is clear: There is another living thing somewhere in this room. 

The first time, it was a House Sparrow. The second time, it was an Eastern Bluebird. Now it was a European Starling. 

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.

Favorite Books of 2021

New Year: Time to Organize Our Bookshelves!

Last year I enjoyed sharing my favorite books of 2020, so I decided to do it again this year. It turns out that I love keeping a list of the books I read: It’s easy to do even when traditional journaling feels like too much effort, and it’s fun to look back and recall the books that shaped my year. Without further ado, therefore, I present my picks from 2021:

Favorite Fiction (Sorry, I couldn’t pick just one!)

The Elegence of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

This was my sleeper hit of the year: I would never have read this book had someone in my book group not picked it for a month’s read, and I almost abandoned it because I found the characters, all of whom live in an apartment building in Paris, so irritating at first. But as I continued, I was shocked as the tale morphed slowly into a beautiful fable full of beauty and love. The ending took my breath away. Please read it, and stick with it!

Island of the World by Michael D. O’Brien.

At 839 pages, this book is a commitment — perfect for the winter months. It follows the ordinary, extraordinary Josip Lasta from his childhood in Bosnia, through the horrific events of post-World War II Yugoslavia, to a new life in New York City. A sweeping story of loss and redemption, it’s one of those books about which I can only say, “It’s about life.”

Deacon King Kong by James McBride.

Set in a Brooklyn housing project in 1969, Deacon King Kong tells the story of Sportcoat, an alcoholic church deacon who inexplicably shoots the neighborhood drug dealer. McBride, who grew up in the Red Hook Projects, pulls us into a shifting landscape in which Italian mobsters are losing ground to the up-and-coming drug trade, and a community is trying to hold its center when all forces seem to be against it. This is a tale of surprising grace.

Favorite Classic

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

This year I read (or re-read) all of Jane Austen’s books. Any one of them would be worth a mention here, but Sense and Sensibility remains my all-time favorite. The story of sisters Marianne and Elinor Dashwood and their vastly different responses to the trials of young love (sense vs. sensibility) is surprisingly modern, bitingly funny, and ultimately inspiring: It will make you want to be a better person. (I’ll also put in a shout-out for the movie version starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet).

Favorite Non-Fiction

More Than a Woman by Caitlin Moran

This is another book I would never have read had it not been a book group pick. (Bless you, book group!) It’s not my typical fare: British journalist Moran can be very, very crass — British-sailor-on-a-bender-in-the-pub crass. But she’s written a hilarious and honest memoir of middle aged womanhood. Her insights into marriage, work, friendship, and (gasp!) parenting teenagers often startled me with their wisdom.

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

My teenager introduced me to John Green when she invited me to read his young adult novel, The Fault in Our Stars (also worth a read), but The Anthropocene Reviewed is a book of essays written for adults. Its conceit is a series of “reviews” of various features of our current geologic age — both the manmade and the natural. Some of Green’s observations are so beautiful and profound that they move me to tears (see, in particular, “Sunsets” and “Googling Strangers”). Pro Tip: John Green and his brother Hank also host a podcast called “Dear Hank and John” that we’ve really enjoyed listening to with our older children.

Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs by Heather Lende

Heather Lende lives in a small town in Alaska, and if nothing else this book would be a fascinating look into her world. But it’s so much more: A series of essays loosely organized around her near-death and recovery from a horrific bicycle accident. If that sounds like a downer, it’s anything but: This is one of the most life-affirming books I’ve read all year. I feel some kinship with Lende, who also has five children and writes a column for her local paper. Her description of how she writes her column (“I try not to think about it for four or five days…[and] by then I’ve started to panic….”) is spot-on.

Favorite Books on Christian/Spiritual Topics

Everybody Always by Bob Goff

Bob Goff (who also wrote the excellent Love Does)is perhaps the only author who can convince me to even consider skydiving. I’m always inspired by his completely open, loving approach to all humankind (including, in this book, a child-abducting Ugandan witch doctor).

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson

Not a light read (the subtitle is A Conversation in Spiritual Theology) but a beautifully written and profound one. Like Bob Goff, Peterson inspires me to examine my faith and question where I’m getting too comfortable. This is the first book I’ve read by the late Eugene Peterson; next up is A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. (If I had a category for “Best Book Titles,” he’d win that, too!)

This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson

Clarkson introduced me to the concept of “theodicy” — the study of how a good God can coexist with an evil world. In this book, she uses her gorgeous prose to detail her own struggles with mental illness, and to advocate for the breaking-in of beauty as evidence of God’s goodness.

Favorite Children’s Book

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

I read this book twice this year: once by myself, and once aloud to my children. It has become one of my all-time favorites. Milford masterfully creates a world within the confines of Greenglass House, a cozy old smugglers’ inn where sundry travelers are stranded by a Christmas snowstorm. As it turns out, none of the travelers are there by accident; they’re united by the mysteries and surprises contained within Greenglass House. This is an especially excellent read for families with adopted children.

Favorite Book About Education/Parenting

Hearts of the Mountain by Tal Birdsey

Twenty years ago, Tal Birdsey and a small group of parents founded a tiny, unconventional middle school in Vermont’s Green Mountains. In this book, Birdsey compresses his decades of teaching into a single, representative “year” at the North Branch School. Full disclosure: This was particularly interesting to me because two of my children currently attend NBS. However, I’d recommend this book for anybody who teaches or parents middle schoolers: It’s a remarkable depiction of the magic that can occur when you love each student for who they are, and give them the space to express their deepest selves.

That’s it! As always, I’ve provided the Amazon links but would encourage you to support your local bookstore(s). Wishing you a 2022 full of the joys of good books!