The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.  – Abraham Lincoln

My friend Julie is a book person.  Some people claim to know books and love them and yadda yadda, but Julie?  She doesn’t have to say anything (because she’s rather quiet), she just is. And this is lucky for us because she works at the used bookstore downtown.  She’s held our hands through trading in our books and put store credit right back in our clammy palms.  I’m not joking around when I say I can go in and mumble something about, “A book . . . maybe with a red cover?  Or blue? . . . About this boy . . . does he have a horse?” and Julie will walk directly to the shelf and pull out the book I was imagining.

She’s amazing.

I am most thankful for the books she recommends.  She is a treasure trove and I have absolute trust in her taste. So, when she gifted me a book by Maud Hart Lovelace for my birthday and assured me that I would love the characters, I was excited. And relieved.

“I’m always nervous about new books because I don’t want to get invested in characters that I’m not going to like.  And I’m always a little afraid to introduce the kids to characters I love so much for fear that they won’t like them.”

“I know!” was all Julie said but it was enough.

We read the book she gave me, ‘Carney’s House Party and Winona’s Pony Cart’ and we did fall in love with the characters.  And they introduced us to more friends, too. Actually, over the last few months we’ve been extremely fortuitous to meet up with numerous good books and even better characters.  So, inspired by Julie and her generous spirit, here’s what we’ve been reading:

The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace

We met Betsy and Tacy in the book Julie gave me and wanted to hear more.  What I want to know is WHY I’ve never heard of these books before.  They take place in Minnesota and I can’t get this nagging feeling out of my mind that Nana Joyce should’ve known about these girls.  She HAD to have.  Anyway, the books are sweet and funny and even though they’re about 2 girls, all of the kiddos love them.  (Meanwhile, Tacy is a nickname for Anastasia and I find myself regretting not having used Anastasia for Gemma’s first name . . . )

The Saturdays and The Four-Story Mistake – two novels from the Melendy Quartet by Elizabeth Enright

These were a lucky find at the library and we have fallen in love.  Set in the 40’s, these books were written at the time, so we’ve had lots of fun looking up games and movies and slang that is mentioned.  We are in the middle of the Four-Story Mistake and the kids laugh out loud and request more at every turn.  The characters are real and humorous and easily likeable.  We are so glad we’ve met!

Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry

Max received the first Gooney book from the Hanson’s 2 years ago and we liked her a lot but we had no idea that there were multiple volumes.  We’ve read 3 Gooney books in the last 3 weeks.  They are quick reads and rather funny. The kids are big fans (perhaps it’s the school setting they can live vicariously through?) but I am less impressed.  Gooney is smart and her classmates quirky, but the adults are written to be less than brilliant – a downside in MY book.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

STM’s fall production was the drama Remember My Name about a Jewish girl in WWII France.  It was the weekend of the sickness so Max and I ventured to the show alone.  It was a great discussion starter and I remembered this book.  I first read it when I was in fourth grade and it is definitely on my favorite list.  I had great trepidation introducing Annemarie and Ellen to Max, but now Philip is reading it with us, too and we all seem to be getting along just fine.  And learning about Scandinavia while we’re at it.

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

We finished Tom Sawyer on the way to California and upon our return home, Philip requested we start up Huckleberry Finn. We are opting to listen to this one on Audible and we haven’t gotten very far yet, but they are requesting it each time we get in the car.  Jac learned quick why it’s on banned book lists so that’s fun.

Meanwhile, Jac and I are still working on Les Miserables in the hopes of being done by Christmas.  Again, we are listening to this one but it’s so very good.  Brutally sad and disturbing in the best sort of ways, it speaks to the flaws and glories of man.  Plus, it makes me feel smart reading a big, grown-up book like this.

I’m also reading Fr. Thomas Dubay’s And You Are Christ’s, a study on virginity.  I was asked to join in on the discussion of this particular title because I am married. The group perusing this book is young women discerning their vocational calls and Susan asked me and another friend to be on hand to answer questions about marriage.  Fr. Dubay is brilliant and causes the reader to dig deep and then go even farther.  His words draw you closer to Christ and his truths.  This is good stuff.

And speaking of “stuff”. . . Jac and I are reading Unstuff Your Life! by Andrew J. Mellen because we want to make long term changes to simplify our life.  We’re a chapter in and have answered a boat-load of questions and re-listened to the chapter a few times.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Lastly, I heard this read on the radio, but the piece is hilarious. Honestly, laugh-out-loud-read-to-your-spouse, funny.  It makes me want to read all sorts of essays by Ian Frazier. Check it out!

Thanks again, Julie, for the book and the introduction to Betsy.  You’re the best kind of friend!

How about you? What books are keeping you occupied?