Episode 38: Laura's December 2020 Reading

On this week's dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm, we look back at Laura's reading from December 2020 and reflect on the reading year as a whole. Laura read 20 books this month and rounded out the year with 197 books total. (She's not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed about this number!) 

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My to-be-read pile at the beginning of December. I read over half these books and I've very proud of that, given that I usually don't make a TBR pile and if I do, I don't follow through and read it! I also knit the "L" and "R" stockings you see in the background and I love them so much! 

December Reading

Meditations for Advent Through Christmas Carols by Rhonda Carter - My husband Ryan and I enjoyed these short daily readings and the accompanying Christmas carols through the month of December. We often would play or sing the song before we read the meditation. (And then build our Lego Advent Calendar toy for the day!) It was extra special to read all the entries as I talked to Rhonda on the podcast recently. I would definitely recommend this book as a family Advent tradition. 

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty - Recommended by Laura Stegman on the podcast. I'll be honest, Liane Moriarty books kind of stress me out. There was a lot going on in this book! I did like the theme of sisterly relationships and things ended up pretty well in the end. The problems just felt, well, so adult! As an escapist reader, sometimes that just feels a little too real-life for me. Well written and compelling though! 

The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater, pictured with the yoke of my first knitted sweater project.

The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater: Essays on Crafting by Alanna Okun - I enjoyed this author's tone as she explored different aspects of her life that were impacted by knitting. This is another book I found on the shelf at the library in the non-fiction knitting section. I loved everything I picked up on that visit, and I'll have to go back to that section soon. Bonus points for knitting a hat for my brother-in-law's girlfriend WHILE reading this book...it definitely added to the experience. I also just started knitting my first sweater this month, and I'm making really great progress on it. I have the sleeves done and the body portion is down to about my rib cage. 

Which Way is North? by Chris Morris - I connected with Chris recently and he asked me to read and review his collection of short stories. I genuinely enjoyed many of the stories in this book, and there were several where I got to the end and I thought, "Wait, I want more!" He has a podcast where he reads aloud versions of several of the stories. He's Scottish, which makes him a delight to listen to as well as read.  

Well Played by Jen DeLuca - Compared to my serious malaise about contemporary romance books last month, Well Played was a welcome change of pace. I enjoyed the setting of the Renaissance Faire (the same reason I enjoyed the first book in the series, Well Met!) and overall enjoyed the book. I loved the theme of getting to know someone better through email and long-distance communication, because that's how my husband and I had to be for 4 years of dating! So that was nostalgic for me. But on the downside, some readers I've chatted with on Instagram about this book have pointed out that the main character gives the love interest too many chances or kept chasing after him when she shouldn't have. There is a definitely lot of times where he could of told the truth and didn't, and that is a serious red flag. I am very much looking forward to book 3 in this series, and hoping the plot points that made me like this one less are just a one-off. 

Andrew Peterson reading his books aloud on Facebook live, and my sweater knitting progress

The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson (Wingfeather Saga book 3) - I've been meaning to read this book forever, and then my younger sister Rachel let me know that Andrew Peterson was doing a read aloud on Facebook live. I watched all the videos for book 3 and I'm currently in the middle of keeping up with book 4, "The Warden and the Wolf King." The audiobooks are coming out on January 5th and they're read by the author, so if you missed the Facebook live readings you can get a similar experience soon! This series is soooooo good. It's a children's fantasy adventure tale with many enduring truths.  I enjoyed the first two books pretty well, but the third and fourth books are even better. 

March: Book One by John Lewis - All summer I've been seeing this book everywhere and have been intending to read it. I even went as far as having it downloaded on my e-reader in September, but the graphic novel format wasn't working right for me, and I gave up and requested a physical copy from my local library. So...I finally read it! This is the first part of the late John Lewis's story of growing up as a black man, participating in a sit-in protest, and becoming one who spoke at the same rally as MLK Jr. and became a Congressman (among many other accomplishments). This book is quite well done and informative. Readers should know  that it does use language as it would have been used historically, which includes the "n" word. 

A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette - My dad recommended A Light on the Hill to me when he was on the podcast, and I finally read it! I am very glad I did. This was a very well done historical fiction novel set in the biblical period right after the Israelites entered the promised land, but before all the Canaanites had been driven out. Due to a tragic accident, Moriyah now has to flee to one of the cities of refuge lest she be killed by the avenger of blood. This was a total page turner and very well done. I would highly recommend and I am really glad my dad told me about it, because I wouldn't have been likely to pick it up on my own. 

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo - I listened to this book on audio, and I would listen to the author read aloud her grocery list. There were a few things I struggled with thematically in this book, but Acevedo's poetry is so lovely. Having listened to Clap When You Land, With The Fire On High, and The Poet X this year, I now have learned so much more about Dominican American culture and have a deep appreciation for this author's work. 

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde - A fantasy satire where rabbits (and a few other animals) were spontaneously anthropomorphized and the aftermath of this event in the culture. It's so weird. It is also an oddly insightful and thought-provoking commentary on racial prejudice, government, law enforcement, and human nature. I didn't love this book, but there is definitely nothing like it. 

Sinners Welcome
by Mary Karr - The December prompt for The Unread Shelf Project 2020 was to read the shortest book on your shelf. Sinners Welcome is a collection of poems with an essay that clocks in at 93 pages. So aside from the picture book about birds that’s on my shelf (🤷🏼‍♀️), this is the shortest unread book I had. I am actually really glad the prompt led me to this book, because I bought it almost a year ago at the recommendation of Jewel Gilbert, and then it got put on the back burner. My favorite poems were the Descending Theology series and then this one called Who the Meek are Not. The essay on poetry and faith at the end is also really great. Willingly reading poetry is still a fairly new practice for me, but I am learning not to assume that all poetry is the same. I can like some and dislike others and that’s okay. Thanks Jewel for the recommendation and @theunreadshelf for the push to read it.

Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel adapted by Mariah Mardsen and illustrated by Brenna Thummler - this was a gift from Andrews McMeel Publishing and I was so excited to read it, especially since Kris @noextrawords recommended it on her episode of the podcast. I read it in one sitting beside the Christmas tree on a Saturday afternoon, and it was lovely. The art was engaging and the storyline did a good job of taking notable lines from the original Anne of Green Gables book and telling the story. This is a faithful adaptation, not a retelling with a twist. It would be great for a young reader who is more interested in graphic novels than reading classics, or for a lover of Anne who wants a fresh reading experience with a favorite character. 

Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer - Corrine, one of my local friends, was telling me this is one of her favorite books and she loves to re-read it. It's a historical regency romance published first in 1932. (But not one of the super sexy ones that are so popular these days.) It reads like a classic. This one took me a while to get into as there is a fairly large cast of characters and they go by both their names and titles interchangeably. But once I got settled into the book and the scandal started to develop, I was hooked. There's scandal, secrecy, duels, attempts to elope, misunderstandings and absurdity. I really enjoyed this one, and I think I shall try my hand at more Heyer in the future. I know Ruth Mitchell would be happy to hear this, as she mentioned really enjoying Frederica by Georgette Heyer on her episode of the podcast too! 

Welcome Home: A Cozy Minimalist Guide to Decorating and Hosting All Year Round by Myquillyn Smith - I liked the Cozy Minimalist book so much that I bought a copy to own and reference. So I was excited about this new book by Myquillyn Smith (aka The Nester). It's such a pretty book! I appreciated some of her tips on hosting. I would have loved to see more pictures of her principles applied in other homes and not just her own -- but maybe that's just because my personal style and hers are so different that it felt a bit hard to relate to. I did appreciate her emphasis on looking for seasonal inspiration outdoors instead of just at the retail trends. I also loved her advice on hosting, to focus on a few key things and take the pressure off the rest, instead of feeling like one has to home-make everything and have everything perfect. If you're looking for a revolutionary new perspective, this isn't the book. But if you're looking for relatable content that pushes your home and hosting a step in the right direction, this might be a great resource for you. And did I mention this is such a beautiful book? 

Home For Christmas - This collection of four short stories written by four different authors wandered onto my shelf when our church was getting rid of their collection of books. At the beginning of December, I pulled several Christmas books off my shelf to add to my TBR pile for the month, and this was one of them. It does fall into sort of the stereotypical Christian fiction tropes, but I ended up enjoying the book quite a bit. It's the story of four children who were separated from each other by foster care/adoption after their mom died and their dad disappeared. Through a series of circumstances, they are finally able to track each other down many years later. Each story has a romance in it, and the ending is happy. This book was just the right speed to read during the holidays. 

A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids by Shelly Tongas - Another recommendation by Laura Stegman from her episode of the podcast! I have had this book checked out from the library since like October, but I kept being able to renew it and not other books, so I kept not reading it. It's the story of Mary Margaret and her family during the wedding of her cousin. Mary Margaret has decided that God is too busy and important to answer her prayers, so she starts directing her prayers to the patron saints for different areas in hopes that that works better. But when she's suddenly deep in the preparations for her cousin's wedding and desperately needs help with all the family drama, she discovers THERE IS NO PATRON SAINT FOR JUNIOR BRIDESMAIDS! Now what? I found this story laugh-out-loud funny at some points and painfully awkward at other points. I can't believe the adults put so much pressure on poor Mary. But it was an endearing story with a happy ending, and I'm glad I read it. I'm looking forward to reading Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life by the same author.  

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver - I've owned this book on my Kindle for quite a while, and have been slowly working through it this year. It's 480 pages and covers Oliver's poetry over a 50 year period, so it is not a short, easy read. I am really proud of myself for reading this. As I've said before, I'm a newbie to enjoying poetry. Mary Oliver's poems are ones that I have typically enjoyed, especially when they are about nature and faith. They don't leave me scratching my head as much as some, and I feel like I "get" most of them, which feels nice. I can see why she's named a favorite poet by many and I have a deeper appreciation for her work after finishing this volume. 

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate - I squeezed in this delightful audiobook at the recommendation by Eden from @ponchospages and I loved it. I am so glad she recommended it. It's about a oak tree named Red who is 214 years old and has seen many things. Told from the tree's perspective, we get an overhead view of all the animals who live in its branches, the history of the neighborhood, and the townspeople who live nearby. When a little girl needs a friend, the tree breaks all the Rules of Trees and gets involved. All the animals with their names and personalities are one of my favorite parts of this book. Wishtree is endearing and fun. 

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig - This book has been EVERYWHERE on my Instagram lately, but Christin over at The Green Door Store was the first one I heard about it from. Before I tell you what I liked about this book, I need to tell you that this book needs a huge trigger warning for mental illness and suicide. The beginning of the book is very hopeless, and for a reader in an unhealthy spot, this could be a very bad thing. That important disclaimer being said, this book offers a fascinating premise. In between life and death there is a place containing infinite lives, all different based on one tiny variable being changed. For Nora, this is a library full of green books, inhabited by her school librarian from many years ago. (For another character, it's a video store with his uncle!) In this multiverse of choices and regrets, Nora Seed must find a life worth living. It takes many attempts, and what turns out to be the life worth living is surprising to all, most of all to Nora. This book is thought-provoking and ultimately hopeful. 

Prime Deceptions by Valerie Valdes - The sequel to Chilling Effect, this sci-fi space opera is another fascinating adventure full of danger, intrigue and psychic space cats. Readers should be aware that there is quite a bit of cussing in English and Spanish in this book. I really love the characters and the adventure is compelling. This has been a fun series and I can totally see why Jewel raved about it. 

Reading Statistics For December 2020

Fiction: 14 books
Non-fiction: 6 books
Total books for December: 20 books
Total pages: 5,589 pages 

Owned: 5 books
Library: 5 books
Audiobook: 6 books
E-Books: 2 books
ARCs: 1 book

2020 Reading Totals

197 Books
59,408 Pages 

I'd love to hear any reflections you have on your own December reading or 2020 in general. Drop me a comment below or come hang out on social media! 

With lots of literary love from my library to yours, have a fantastic 2021!! 



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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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