My Year In Books: Top Ten Titles of 2014

What a fabulous year in books! I’ve compiled my top ten choices from last year’s “books I’ve read” titles- not all were published in 2014, some I wrote reviews on, and others I just simply savored. I definitely notice a leaning towards women writers telling the stories of strong willed, independent women – and lots of historical fiction. I’ll miss these women, but I’m eager to start my discoveries in 2015- my shelves are groaning with new titles!

I Shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

A fabulous novel by a northern California ex-teacher-turned writer – after years of research, Erin Lindsay McCabe’s tells the love story of Rosetta, a strong willed young woman who follow her new husband into battle during the Civil War. I had the most wonderful time getting to know Erin this year – I love it when a great author is living right in my backyard! You can buy her terrific novel here: I Shall Be Near to You: A Novel.

Cover of "These is my Words: The Diary of...

These Is My Words/Sarah’s Quilt/The Star Garden by Nancy Turner

I fell in love with Nancy Turner’s stories last summer – I couldn’t put down her thrilling stories of Sarah, a tough willed woman living in the 1900s Arizona Territory. This trilogy was the type of story that sucks the reader in, riding the prairies alongside her as she shows us how very hard it was to be a strong woman at the turn of the century. You can purchase her stories here: These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.)

Mitten Strings For God/The Gift of an Ordinary Day/Magical Journey by Katrina Kenison

I must say, finding the books of Katrina Kenison was a true highlight to my year. I first read her blog, and fell in love with her simple yet poignant stories of the changing landscape of motherhood, and what it means to keep in touch with our selves during it all. I found myself savoring each word of each book, knowing how much they would be missed when I came to the last page. My books are highlighted and flagged, and in her words, I found so many quotes to include in my own writing. If you’re a mother, start with Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry and relish each word through The Gift of an Ordinary Day and Magical Journey. You’ll be glad you did.

The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson

I discovered this book through From Left to Write, an online book review group I’ve been writing with for the past few years. Maddie’s story of 44-year-old Rosie, who suddenly discovers she is pregnant, made me think a lot about motherhood and how simple, yet not always easy, parenting can be. You can buy Maddie’s book here: The Opposite of Maybe: A Novel

Mom and Me and Mom by Maya Angelou

Oh, the sadness of losing the brilliant voice of Maya Angelou in 2014…only tempered by her heartwrenching story of her relationship with her own mother. One of my role models, mentors, and most cherished writers of all time, Maya’s words of love and her stories of being raised by Vivian remind me of the importance of showing our daughters how to be strong, confident, and fiercely loyal to our ideals. You really should read this book – you can purchase Mom & Me & Mom here.

Impatient with Desire: The Lost Journal of Tamsen Donner

In keeping with my fascination with strong women in history, picking up this title was a natural. When I read stories of the Donner Party, particularly as I’m spending my weekends in the Sierras, I’m endlessly fascinated by their sheer determination to not only survive, but to maintain a ‘normal’ family life amidst the complete devastation of all they knew to be true. If you enjoy historical fiction, fiesty women and stories of survival, pick up a copy of Impatient with Desire: The Lost Journal of Tamsen Donner this winter.

If you’re looking for more titles, you might find some additional ideas on lat year’s post, My Year In Books 2013. If you’re a book nerd like me, I’d love to connect with you on Goodreads – I love adding books to my shelves and reading and writing and chatting about books!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Parenting: Simple, But Not Always Easy

Parenting: Simple, But Not Always Easy

Parenting: Simple, But Not Always Easy

Having a child seems like a simple enough decision. It’s a fulfillment of lifelong dreams for some; others agonize over the decision as if they can predict just exactly how a child will fit into their well-orchestrated lives. As if a child is something like a new couch or a vacation that can be scheduled neatly into our busy days, and we will not only know exactly when it will be delivered but are assured that we will meet all our connections and the hotel room will be ready when we arrive.

I was one of those people, I must admit. I was that woman – a natural born organizer, a teacher used to lesson planning, assessing, and holidays right on schedule. How could a baby be that difficult for someone like me, right? It should be easy if I plan it right.

Even the delivery nurse tried to warm my mom shortly after my firstborn entered the world. “It’s women like her,” she whispered, “that have the most trouble, you know.” Little did I know how true her words would become.

I never thought, really, that when that first little person, and then another, entered my life, I would be so shaken. I never thought about how hard all the transitions would be for me-it just seemed like I should know how to handle it, just as if it was a disruptive student in my class. I could surely lesson plan for this little being to become a part of the fabric of our daily lives, couldn’t I? If I could handle a room of tweenagers, surely a child of my own would be simple.

It turns out, simple is relative. Did my maternal instincts kick in? Absolutely. Did I realize how painfully difficult and gut-wrenching parenting could be? Not in my wildest dreams.

I surely didn’t plan for the abundance of love I would feel for these two beings-a love that would create strength I never knew I had. I didn’t realize that every decision, every plan in life from here forward would involve them. It went way beyond the logistics of car seats and strollers; having children simply altered my perception of life and why we live it. And I most definitely didn’t plan for the heartache I would feel when, eighteen years later, my firstborn is ready to leave.

Simple doesn’t mean easy, that’s for sure. The simple part of parenting, I realized, is watching your child grow and reach and try and be curious about everything life has to offer. Sometimes, though, simple is easier said than done.

This post was inspired by the novel  The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson. At the age of 44, Rosie finds herself suddenly single and pregnant. She tries to hide in her grandmother’s home but meets two men that will change her life forever. Join From Left to Write on April 8 we discuss The Opposite of Maybe. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

The Opposite of Maybe

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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