Introducing: The Children’s Books Project

Pim being born was the perfect excuse to finally purchase a copy of 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up:

1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up // Universe Publishing, 2009

It’s a list. A list of children’s books. Arranged by ages 0-3, 3+, 5+, 8+ and 12+. Within these categories the books are listed by publication date. And so the list includes classics and recent titles. (That is, recent in 2009, because unlike the other 1001 books list, there have been no updates).

I could say I plan to read them all. In a way I am. But I know I am being unrealistic as I say it. However, I am more motivated to read through this list then the general fiction one that I have been staring at for years. I like books for children, though I have mostly focused on books for ages 8 and up before.

With Pim, there is an additional motivational factor. I want to be able to offer him a range of books to choose from, not just based on my own limited knowledge, or the books available in the local library.

So what I plan to do is the following: read books from the list provided in this book. Review them here. And revisit them once Pim is old enough to read them as well. Somewhere along the way, I plan to have posts devoted to Pim’s reading, probably titled “Pim’s corner”.

But of course, a list is limited. And I would also like to read more children’s books recommended by you. So please feel free to leave your suggestions.

New Year, New Beginnings?

2014 was an eventful year for me, but not so much on the bookblogging front. In between being pregnant, moving house, and being a new mom, I had trouble being online once a week, let alone update my blog regularly.

Bonus Pim picture, taken earlier this Christmas break.

I hope 2015 will be different. As I settle in with all these new circumstances in life, I hope to find the time to return to blogging.

To make a return easier on myself, I plan to look ahead instead of concentrating on what I did not do in these past 12 months. So there will be no 2014 in review for me, no enforced catching up on books I read and should have written about. A shame, certainly, and I will probably wish I had written about them sometime in the future, but it is just not realistic to ask that of myself right now. If I want to return to books I have read in the past few months, I will, but not because the blog needs content or because I feel obliged to myself to catch up.

Instead, I plan to write about books that I have read in 2015. Starting with the book I finished yesterday: Finding Violet Park. Hopefully, I will actually write about a book right upon finishing it, instead of letting it linger for weeks, and then months.

I also have other goals in mind:

  • Actually keeping track of my reading stats (Ana’s end of the year post is always a thing of beauty and example);
  • YAY for random reading!!!! (but of course, I secretly also plan to do the following:);
  • I am at 25 of 100 books for the A Century of Books challenge. I hope to get to at least 50 by the end of 2015. Or I could start over since I hardly reviewed any of the books? Perhaps that’s a better idea;
  • I want to reduce my TBR pile to 450 unread books by the end of 2015. Today, it is at 486. So that means 36 books to read, or more should I buy new ones (which will inevitably happen);
  • I have not looked at my Classics Club list in ages. Perhaps I should revisit it;
  • Read one non-fiction book a month;
  • And I shall be embarking on the project that has been lingering in my mind these past months: the Children’s Books project (more on which, later).

Happy 2015 everyone! Do you have any reading and blogging resolutions?

Announcing: Advent with Alcott

adventwithalcottReturning for the third time… Advent with [Enter author name with an A here].. We’ve done Austen and we’ve tackled Margaret Atwood, now we felt it was time to focus on Louisa May Alcott.

Perhaps you have always wanted to (re)read Little Women? Or to read the other books about Jo and her sisters? Or maybe you’d like to try a selection of Alcott’s other writings? You could also read about her life and times. Anything! (There is quite a list of titles to choose from according to Gutenberg).

Join us by reading and/or engaging with any media related to Louisa May Alcott during Advent (Nov 30 — Dec 24). Post your thoughts on your blog, or join the conversation on twitter (#AWAlcott)

I am particularly tempted by the pretty Penguin edition of her Christmas stories.

Oh, and we are planning to do another group watch. I cannot wait to revisit the 1994 Little Women movie. (The date of the watch-along will be announced shortly).

As was the case during previous years, I am co-hosting Advent with Alcott with Yvann, Ana, Alexandra, and Lyndsey.

Will you join us? Are you planning to read anything in particular? 

How To Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman

How To Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman was one of the gifts I received at my babyshower. The idea was to help me through those last few weeks of pregnancy without getting bored. However, since I had just moved house and had lots of stuff to organise before Pim’s arrival (we literally fixed the central heating 2 days before labour — which was a good thing because I had an unexpected home delivery), I never got around to any of these gifts. With just a few weeks of maternity leave left (and as I am writing this, only 3 more days *sniff*), I decided to finally read Goodman’s book.

How To Be a Victorian – Ruth Goodman // Penguin Books, 2014

In How To Be a Victorian Ruth Goodman describes the lives of people living during the Victorian era, for both rich and poor, man and woman, for those born in 1837 as well as 1901. She does so by progressing through what a day would have looked like, beginning with the moment people got out of bed and touched the cold bedroom floor with their feet, until the end of the day where she provides a glimpse of what happened “behind the bedroom door” — as the last chapter is called.

 Goodman’s book was the perfect read to hail the end of my maternity leave with. From the very outset, she reminded me what it is that I love about studying history, and what it is I wish I could accomplish:

I want to explore a more intimate, personal and physical sort of history, a history from the inside out: one that celebrates the ordinary an charts the lives of the common man, woman and child as they interact with the practicalities of their world. I want to look into the minds of our ancestors and witness their hopes, fears and assumptions, no matter how apparently minor. In short, I am in search of a history of those things that make up the day-to-day reality of life. What was it really like to be alive in a different time and place? [*]

She does so by paying particular, but not exclusive, attention to material history, discussing the objects and clothes people used in detail. Because Goodman has made, worn, and used many of these objects she can reflect on things that would not have crossed my mind in first instance. For example, I never realised to what extent the heaviness of clothing, the different skirts or corsets, etcetera, affected every movement.

I enjoyed How To Be a Victorian for two reasons. First, because it provides such a readable and accessible history of the Victorian period. I liked the approach of looking at the Victorian era by going through the motions of a typical day for various groups of people living during Victoria’s reign. Goodman does a good job of providing in-depth detail while still engaging the reader’s interest. Of course there were subjects that I personally found more interesting than others, but I was never bored. And like Tea by the Nursery Fire, I wanted to remain in Goodman’s world to learn more about the things she explored in her volume.

Second, I enjoyed it from a more professional standpoint, as Goodman made me contemplate the various angles historians can take, and particularly what approaches I might want to use (if I had the time) in my own research.

There are, however, two points of criticism I also want to raise here. There is the minor fact that I would have liked to see footnotes from time to time, as I like to explore “further reading” through things that pique my interest in a current book. Or, if not footnotes, I would have liked a “further reading” section at the end of the book. Recommendations by authors you enjoy in non-fiction is something I always appreciate.

As for topics covered in the book, I found How To Be a Victorian lacked an in-depth reflection on Empire. As I am beginning to understand more and more from my reading on missions and Empire, colonial rule was not invisible in daily life, particularly in the Victorian era. I think Goodman mentions it once, but the topic remains on the sidelines. You could say her focus is definitely on the United Kingdom and not its colonies, and we cannot blame her for that, however, I would have appreciated a little more acknowledgement of the extensive entanglement of some of the things she discusses. And there were at least a few opportunities for her to do so. At the same time I admit this experienced gap might be due to my own particular interest in this subject. Goodman does manage to combine “macro history” with the “micro history” of every day life for a number of subjects extremely well, but it does remain contained to what happened in the British isles.

Despite these drawbacks, I definitely recommend How To Be a Victorian, and I am extremely pleased that I received it as a gift and that I managed to read it before work-related craziness takes over again.

After reading How To Be a Victorian, I am going to raise the same question as I did upon finishing Tea By the Nursery Fire: What books about this subject (being the Victorian era and/or daily life in historical settings) would you recommend?

[*] of course Goodman is aware of the fact that we can only ever try to approach “what is was really like” and that sources are selective.

Library Loot: A Visit to my Local Library

Visiting my local library has been on my to do list ever since moving. I figured maternity leave would be the perfect time to explore. However, I only found time for it last week, two weeks before maternity leave ends.

Library loot, 6/11/2014. I can’t believe how bad the lighting has been this past week, so excuse the bad picture.

The local library is.. well.. not as big as I am used to, but that was hardly to be expected. I feel it is important to support these smaller branches so I was always going to become a member. They did have the Goldfinch, but that was the most recent book on the English language books shelf. (I did not pick it up because I felt reading it right now would be a bit too ambitious). They do have the possibility of putting any title available in one of the other libraries in the province on hold for free, so after I picked up these books I went home and did just that. As for the Dutch language shelves, there is quite a bit of YA (they had two copies of the Dutch translation of A Monster Calls!!) and I have some exploring left to do of the Children’s and General Fiction section.

As for the books I picked up last Thursday:

The Girl who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen: I had this on loan from the library in my former place of residence a long while back.. I picked it up back then because this is one of those titles that kept being mentioned when I first started blogging. I never got around to it. I wonder if I will this time? Somehow I keep meaning to read this but once I have it at home I lose my excitement?

Gifts by Ursula le Guin: I think I remember Ana mentioning this as the go-to book by Le Guin if you first read her. I have read A Wizard of Earthsea in January before this one, but am very curious about Gifts. Let’s hope it is a good translation.

A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett: I have only ever read one of Pratchett’s titles and always mean to read more. I thought this might be a good one to begin with as it is one of his more well known titles? I have Nation (in English, woohoo!) on hold.

Aya : Life in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet: I came across this title while browsing the YA section. Again, this is one of those “I always mean to read more..” books, this time in the category graphic novels. I had never heard of this one, but it is about a girl who grows up in Yop City, a neighbourhood of Abidjan, Ivory Coast. This is the first in a series (which my library also owns, I found out at home), so if I like it I might pick up the other titles too.

Have you read any of these titles? Which do you recommend I read first? And did you pick up anything from the library recently?

librarylootbadgeLibrary Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.