Give me a warm fire, a cup of tea and a good book and I’m in heaven. During January and February, I retreat into winter hibernation: soups and stews for dinner, a cozy uniform of fleece and Uggs, hot chocolate with extra marshmallows and a stack of books to relish as I wait for spring!
The following is a curated list of books that will carry you away to the Paris of Coco Chanel, the Amazon of Roosevelt and the Africa of Churchill, poetry to feed the soul, some kitchen inspiration and a favorite new children’s book. I also invite you to peruse my virtual bookstore, Farrell’s Bookshelf, on the website for some of my all-time favorite fiction, spiritual literature and cookbooks. I also invite you to share what you are reading!
Mary Oliver remains one of my all-time favorite poets. She has this exquisite way of gifting her readers with a brief moment of transcendence through her soulful words. She will be the first to say that she longs to experience a glimpse of eternity in her everyday life. She speaks in this beautiful memoir about her three-personhood: the child in her that will always remain, the person grounded in the obligations of the earthly “a servant of the hours,” and the third person, her creative & otherworldly spirit. It is her third self, the one whom she says, “has a hunger for eternity,” that we are blessed to meet in her poetry. In this short treatise on the creative life, Oliver introduces us to some of her “writing saints” like Poe, Wordsworth and Whitman that have laid the path for her own artistic contributions. Oliver is now 82 years old strong and when she speaks of true hope at the end, your heart will reward her with a standing ovation.
Bob Goff, where have you been all my life? I have my new friend Elizabeth to thank for introducing me to this gem of a book. It came at just the right moment for me. It is both a love letter and luminous map for how we can find our way into a life of greater joy, purpose and crazy love. I want to tuck myself into the side pocket of Goff’s backpack and be brought along on all of his adventures, but then I would be missing the point. Bob wants me to pack my own backpack and trust love as my compass.
I discovered this book, now in its 15th anniversary, on a trip to France this summer. I confess that I was eavesdropping on a conversation between a husband and wife from England who were both reading, The Secret Letters of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. If the title didn’t grab me, then my all time favorite author, Paulo Coehlo, commenting on the back cover, “This book will bless your life,” had me ordering it that very night! This fable is about a 40-something husband and father who is in a spiritual crisis. At just the right time, his uncle beckons him to set out on a journey to retrieve seven important talisman that carry the secrets to living a meaningful life. From the catacombs in Paris, to the mystical desserts of Sedona, the journey helps the reader remember again how to be true to yourself, follow your dreams and live a life of deep meaning.
As we enter Lent, I invite you to use The Pocket Cathedral as your devotional. Following is a review from Amazon: It’s as if you have stepped into a beautiful sanctuary. Turning the pages brings the scent of votives and the brush of angels’ wings. The Pocket Cathedral is a gift of prayers, scriptures, and quotes that shine serenity and light into the corners of your heart to bring hope, inspiration, and consolation. Pages to be read with your family, friends, or in times of sacred solitude. A truly blessed benediction!
Theodore Roosevelt remains one of our country’s great Presidents and brave adventurers. Living in a time before penicillin was even available, he braved the wild African safari, the Badlands of the U.S. and the dangerous Amazon in South America. This selection of nonfiction retells the dramatic adventure of Roosevelt and his son Kermit to put a yet undiscovered river in the Amazon on the map. Not only do they face flesh-eating pirañas, coral snakes, monkeys, ferocious waterfalls and rapids, and a tribe of Indians that have never seen a white man, but Roosevelt and his son nearly lose their lives to infection and treacherous malaria. It is a surprising good read and it begs the question, “why am I not more adventurous?” This would be a a great gift for the man in your life.
If like me, you are in love with the highly acclaimed PBS special, The Crown, then you must also buy Candice Millard’s most recent work of nonfiction detailing the wiles and adventures of the young Winston Churchhill! I am one hundred pages in and I can hardly believe the bravado and heroism of the man affectionately known as “Winnie!” This is a must!
This book was given to me by my sister in law and boy was it a fun read! Mademoiselle Coco Chanel lived a most extraordinary life. I had no idea that Chanel grew up in a convent where the nuns taught her how to sew, was friends with Churchill, tried to help a German officer take down Hitler, came to Hollywood to design costumes for MGM, and was friends with Cocteau and Picasso. Her life was exciting, full of love interests, ground-breakingly creative, often sad, but never dull. She lived in the Paris Ritz for goodness sakes!
Ruth Reichl was the editor of Gourmet magazine for over decade. Delicious is her first foray into fiction and it proves a very sweet read. The protagonist of her story takes a job at a leading magazine of gastronomy in New York City only for it to be abruptly closed (fiction mirroring true life). Asked to stay on to answer fan mail, she discovers letters hidden in the magazine’s library between James Beard and an eager young girl trying to cook for her family during the second world war. All the characters in the novel are endearing.
I liked Delicious so much that I immediately went out and purchased Ruth’s new cookbook, My Kitchen Year. Ruth speaks my love language of cooking. She says, “Most cookbooks are in search of perfection. But you’re not a chef in your own kitchen, trying to please paying guests. You’re a traveler, following your own path, seeking adventure.”
When the French say, “Mettee du Piment dans sa vie,” they mean add a little spice to your life. When they meet you in the bistro for a Sancerre and comment, “Avoir la peche,” or translated into English, “You are having the peach.” It’s a top compliment. It means you are top of your game! The French speak about day to day life in food metaphors because enjoying nature’s gustatory bounty is their soul joy and the true language of their heart. This book was such a treat for me. Not only are the watercolor illustrations exquisite, but the French expressions had me giggling. And there are even some recipes for French classics scattered throughout. My daughter just made Clotilde’s recipe for crepes and they were three-star. For years, I have been a huge admirer of the French author and blogger, Clotilde Desoulier. Her cookbooks have a special place in my kitchen.
The Night Gardener by the Fann brothers has become one of my family’s favorite children’s books! The story opens with a young orphan named William discovering a tree sculpted outside his window into the shape of a wise owl. With each day that passes, the mysterious “Night Gardener” creates a new topiary to stir the imagination and open the heart. The illustrations are exquisite and the message speaks volumes!
Live in Hope,