Top Reads of 2016

I’m afraid this year wasn’t as big of a “reading” year for me: most of the reading I did was scrolling through rental home listings all spring (over, and over, and over again: it’s darn near impossible to rent with 6 pets, but thankfully we finally found a wonderful landlord who allowed it.)  This fall and winter I finally got back into my reading groove.  Here’s what I found:


Tales From Texas Tables: Recipes and More by Carol Blakely (2003)

This cute little spiral-bound recipe collection from Texas is a delight.  Ms. Blakely compiles classic Texas recipes for us, many from out-of-print cookbooks, complete with quaint sayings and old-timey advice. I picked this up at the visitor's center during our trip to the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm in Stonewall, TX in 2014 and have enjoyed it ever since.

       Essential Pepin by Jacques Pépin (2011) 

Monsieur Pépin stole my heart with this lovely piece for the New York Times last year.  I am enjoying this fat volume of his, although frog legs will probably always gross me out, even if I could find them at the store. I love his emphasis on soups and breads.

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (2001)

         This cookbook has made it onto my top-favorites list several times, mostly because the recipes are simple to prepare and incredibly good for you.  I love all the words of nutrition wisdom in the sidebar of each and every page. Together they make up a book within a cookbook!  Only thing I haven’t ventured into is her recipes for consuming raw meat & fish, which I cannot recommend to anybody who respects the sanctity of their insides despite possible nutrition value.

       Goddesses Never Age by Christiane Northrup, M.D. (2015)

Wonderful new book from Dr. Northrup, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom.  I’m about halfway through this one as I write.  Great ideas for developing a better self-care routine for 2017.  She has us sitting less, for starters.

       The Budget Kit, Sixth Edition by Judy Lawrence (2011)

If getting your finances in order is another of your new year’s resolutions, I can’t recommend this book more highly.  After years of struggling to understand the concepts of budgeting, Ms. Lawrence finally explained it all in a way that made sense to me.  She includes a number of blank charts which you can copy and fill out each month.  This is the most comprehensive and common-sense book I’ve ever read on money management.  Major plus is that it isn’t a long book--just over 200 pages--so if you’re pressed for time you can still fit this one into your schedule.  I wish I’d read this book 10 years ago.


      Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior by Judith Martin (2005)

What about developing social skills, is that on your agenda for 2017 as well?  If so, Miss Manners will help you out on that front.  Judith Martin writes the popular syndicated “Miss Manners” column for the Washington Post and can be found online.                 

This book is an excellent summary of her advice on how to behave yourself, stay out of trouble, and refrain from killing your extended family at the holidays (oh, you already did that over Christmas, did you?  I’m sure she has some advice befitting the incarcerated.)  Wry, spunky, and timely, given the utter breakdown of manners and decency at the presidential level.  Let’s all rise above the fray and preserve common decency, shall we?


Miss Manners’ Guide to Domestic Tranquility: The Authoritative Manual for Every Civilized Household, However Harried by Judith Martin (1999) 

Like too many good books, this one is out of print, but can still be found from used booksellers online.  I loved this book: it was my personal favorite of the year.  Miss Manners offers her own insightful take on how the modern household should be run, to the benefit of all.  Wonderful, common-sense advice.  Our home and family have blossomed from putting her wisdom into practice. 


       The Blue Book of Stationary by Crane & Co. (2009)

Anyone who knows me well knows I love writing letters (it’s an obsession of mine.)  This slim           reference book is helpful if you find yourself struggling over how to address a letter to the Pope, for example.  For families in the military who must contend with all those confusing branches and ranks, I can highly recommend the venerable and quite correct Service Etiquette, Fifth Edition (Conetsco & Hart, 2009). 


       The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White (2012)

This book is a fantastic tool for anyone in a management position, no matter what the field.  My    husband found the advice in this slim volume priceless as he navigated a new workplace this year. The book was instrumental in building the skills to understand and work with his new team, which was operating in a fast-paced, short-staffed military environment (and still is, for that matter, but with fewer frayed nerves now). Thank you, Mr. Chapman & Mr. White!



      The Ghosts of Virginia by L.B. Taylor, Jr.  (1995)

This is a truly haunting 13-volume series (naturally) which for some inexplicable reason is now out of print.  Absorbing, delightful, and charming, Mr. Taylor has compiled for us a treasury of the colorful folklore and history of the Commonwealth, much of which he dug out of dusty libraries all over the state during his prolific second career as an author.  I’ve made it through Volume VI so far.  Highly recommended if you’re into Virginia history, or just looking for a good ghost story!  How much is fact…and how much is fiction?  Will we ever know?


Crooked House by Agatha Christie (1949). 

I’m on a mission to read everything the prolific Dame Christie wrote, and this was my favorite novel of the year.  Splendid, spooky, chilling.  Almost as terrifying as her earlier work And Then There Were None (1939).  From the Queen of Mystery, who always makes you look over your shoulder and start suspecting your dearest loved ones of evil (and possibly murderous) intent.


      The Story of Holly & Ivy by Rumer Godden, illustrated by the inimitable Barbara Cooney (1985)

And on a totally non-morbid note, this touching children’s Christmas tale always makes me cry.  Glowing illustrations; beautiful story of compassion and of wishes come true.  If you ever find yourself losing hope in humanity, read this book first before you do anything drastic.  Lovely story to read aloud at the holidays.


And finally, a shout-out to this year’s favorite…

BLOGS, WEBSITES, PODCASTS, ETC. (i.e., amazing people who helped us get smarter)


The Grovestead

Mother Earth News 

The Greenhorns

Mr. Gene Logsdon's Blog  (Mr. Logsdon just passed away this year, rest in peace. The editors have been re-publishing his work, and many of his books are still in print...all are worth a read.  Mr. Logsdon was incredibly kind and wise.)  

Sustainable World Radio


Life Skills/Self-Improvement

Barking Up The Wrong Tree (great weekly emails)

 The Art of Manliness

  London Real



 Dr. Northrup



Peak Prosperity

The Dough Roller


   Thanks for a great year, y'all!  Happy 2017!!