Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jill’s Winter Reading List

One of my favorite past times is reading. Most nights, as soon as I get the kids in bed, I climb into my own bed with a book. It’s really my best way to unwind, relax and yes… escape to somewhere else for a little while. I’m fortunate to have a couple of friends that are great readers and also to be part of a book class. This is the way I get my recommendations for great reads - which I always hugely appreciate. Here are a few of my current favorites, in case you have some extra time this winter to curl up with a good book:

Family Matters - By Rohinton Mistry
This one was written in 2002 but is one of my all time favorites and a gift I’ve given to a couple of my friends. Set in Bombay, Mistry’s novel tells the story of Nariman Vakeel, a retired professor of English literature gradually deteriorating from Parkinson’s disease, and his children who take turns looking after him. It portrays the effects of religious bigotry and rigid traditionalism through generations of a family. The family relationships in this story are difficult but incredibly rich. There’s definitely opportunity to learn about yourself or your own family in this book and the language is rich and beautiful. If you have never read Mistry, this book is a great introduction to his work!

The Kitchen House - By Kathleen Grissom
This was a really interesting read that really drew me into the vivid lives of the characters. The story centers around Lavinia, a seven-year-old girl who comes to a Virginia plantation as an indentured servant in the 1790s. Lavinia is an Irish immigrant whose parents died during the ship voyage. She’s adopted by the family of slaves that work in the Big House and in the Kitchen House. It’s very descriptive of the home life of the slaves and the white family on the plantation and allows you a sense that you’re there with them. The book is at times troubling and violent, but all with a purpose. 

Clara Callan - By Richard B. Wright
This book and its Canadian author are not as well known in the States as they should be and I look forward to reading more of his writing. Clara Callan is the story of two sisters in the 1930s. Clara, the central character, lives and teaches school in a small Ontario town. Her younger sister Nora has moved to NYC, where she's a successful radio star. The story is told through letters that they exchange over the years as they try to find their place in the complex social expectations for women at that time. It’s a wonderful evocation of both place and time and besides being an all around great read, it made me grateful that I was born in this era!

The Language of Flowers – By Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, the lauguage of flowers has been more useful for communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. This book is beautifully written and will make you put a bit more thought into buying flowers for someone or for your home.

I’d love to know your current favorites so leave a comment below!


-- Jill


  1. One of my favourites is Cutting For Stone - By Abraham Verghese. This is a beautifully told life story of a Ethiopian-born medical doctor and author who grows up in the political unrest in Ethiopia, comes of age in an inspiring medical community in which many of the medical diseases and interventions are incredibly described, and finds peace with who he is and his place in the world. The messages of empathy, sibling connection and ultimately love clearly come through as you venture into this book. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone.

  2. 'Daughters of the Witching Hill'- by Mary Sharratt: a fantastic story steeped in legend of the Lancashire Witches. Actually based on one of the most documented witch trials of English history from 1612. Very well written, filled with wonderful imagery,language and magic of that time. Sad, interesting and historical-- i loved this book!!
    The strength and power of women is celebrated while also feared--so good and interesting!
    Another one is 'Bloodroot Mountain'. Bloodroot is the name of a flower that can both cure and poison someone, and that is the essence of this story, both beautiful and dreamlike, and also sad and full of the disappointments of life. I loved the writing of this book, the heart and spirit of it all--kind of a sad book, but touching and brings you to the borders of what our human spirit can endure. One of my favorite books of all time.