2015, in books

Books are always in the background of my life, but in 2015, with the arrival of Leo, they were pushed a little farher into the background.  In comparing my list of reads from 2015 to 2014, this year is a much shorter list.  Although I'm always reading through 3 or 4 books at a time, this year I went through them slower.  With the exhaustion a baby brings, I frequently fell asleep with the pages open.

Leo also influenced the type of books I read.  Unsurprisingly, you'll find books about birth and parenting on my list this year, but I realized another theme within my choices in 2015 - books about nature, particularly by women.  If you've been following this blog, that shouldn't surprise you.  Of course, the books on our shelves say a lot about us.

So here is a reflection of me this past year, in books.

The Invention of Wings - Sue Monk Kidd
My favorite novel of the year, by one of my favorite authors.  Sue Monk Kidd managed to discover an incredible true story about two sisters from Charleston - Sarah and Angelina Grimke - who became 2 of the first American abolitionists.  She brilliantly brings to life Sarah's upbringing in an aristocratic Southern family and parallels it with the story of Handful, the slave girl given to Sarah on her 11th birthday.  This is a treasure of a novel and those who I've recommended it to have come back to tell me how much they loved it, too.

Womanly Art of Breastfeeding - Diane Weisseinger and Diana West
This has been my breastfeeding bible since Leo came along.  From La Leche League, a well-known organization and well-trusted source for breastfeeding women, it takes the anxiety out of your nursing relationship and allows you to simply trust yourself and the bond with your baby.

The Moral Imagination - John Paul Lederach
One of my favorite books I've read about peacebuilding by a professor in one of the best-known Peace Studies programs in the world.  It avoids all the dryness of overly-academic books and, in fact, I found it speaking to me on a profound spiritual and personal growth level. 

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - Annie Dillard (as an audiobook)
Annie Dillard's writing was the perfect antidote to Kampala traffic.  I listened to her words opening entire worlds within nature and it took me out of the city and into a spectacular universe - the simple creek near her home.  Her descriptions of stalking muskrats, the lives of praying mantis, and the overlooked worlds of insects, flora, and fauna manage to take you to an unexpected philosophical place, but don't let that scare you.  Beauty and wonder are interwoven into every paragraph and you'll find yourself viewing the world around you in a new and fantastic way.

The Art of Communicating - Thicht Naht Hahn
Communication is an essential part of our life and one that can often be the root of division or the beginning of reconciliation.  The renowned Vietnamese peace activist inspires his readers how to build peace at the most interpersonal levels with simple, but meaningful insights.

Tao Te Ching - Lao Tzu
I read at least one passage from this treasure in bed each night for a month and often I would poke Eric to see if he was still awake, to share with him the profound lessons in such a simple book.  The Tao, also known as "the Way," is grounded in simplicity and can guide your heart to embrace the wisdom of paradox, among so many other lessons.

The Engaged Spiritual Life - Donald Rothberg
How is a "big" (international, global, cross-cultural) peace connected to a "little" (personal) peace?  This is a question I've asked myself often and this book gives practical ways to answer that.  For practitioners of social justice work, it guides us in ensuring that we emulate the very peace we want to bring into the world and provides practices to nurture that peace within ourselves.

The River Why - David James Duncan
Given to me by a friend after publishing my book list from last year, this novel surprised me in its humor, depth, and beauty.  I never imagined I would enjoy a book about fishing, but I quickly came to love the main character and enjoyed following his path through life, fishing on The River Why in Oregon, and discovering meaning, purpose, and love.

Other books I enjoyed this year:

Prodigal Summer - Barbara Kingsolver
A Girl of the Limberlost - Gene Stratton Porter
Leo the African - Amin Maalouf
The Mermaid Chair - Sue Monk Kidd
The Power of Now - Eckhart Tolle
The Conscious Heart - Gay Hendricks and Kathlyn Hendricks
The Gift of Being Yourself - David Benner
The Sacred Balance - David Suzuki and Amanda McConnell
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth - Ina May Gaskin
Attached at the Heart - Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker
The Tao of Motherhood - Vimala McClure
Goddesses in Every Woman - Jean Shinoda Bolen
Of Woman Born - Adrienne Riche

Yes Please - Amy Poehler
Freckles - Gene Stratton Porter