Good Books for Gift Giving {2016}


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I love making book lists!  This is an updated version of my previous book lists with new additions at the beginning of each category. 2016 was not a big reading year for me, but I did discover plenty of great new (to us) children’s books!

Adult Fiction:

The Winthrop Woman was my big fiction read of 2016. I loved it!

So Big was one of my favorite reads in 2015.  Rebecca was another one.

I would like to collect all the Black Dog Opera Library collection.  I started with La Traviata last year, and appreciate having background on the composer, the story of the opera, along with the complete Libretto (text of the opera itself–yes, I had to look that up!), commentary, and the opera on CDs.

Kristin Lavransdatter is one of my all time favorite books. This edition is especially beautiful as well. I read the first two books in Sigrid Undset’s The Master of Hestviken this year and really loved them. I need to finish that series.

I love Rumer Godden, and especially In This House of Brede and Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy. Another favorite is An Episode of Sparrows (New York Review Children’s Collection).

Willa Cather is probably my favorite author and I love these two volumes of her novels: Early Novels and Stories and Later Novels.  I read Shadows on the Rock (Vintage Classics) and it is one of my favorites of hers, after My Antonia, one of the very few books I have read more than once. Just typing the title, I want to go pick it up and read it again right now.

Katherine is sooo good, and the reason I read The Winthrop Woman (same author.)

And Wilkie Collins! The best of his that I’ve read is The Woman in White .

And finally, epic and beautiful if not rather long, The Betrothed: I Promessi Sposi (Penguin Classics).  I will re-read it someday.

Jonny’s favorites:

Right now he’s reading The Contrary Farmer and he’s always quoting it.

Favorite’s of his and our older boys are:
One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, and Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (Seth and Keats read this one as well).

Jon Krakauer is a favorite author, Michael Perry is another.

Larkspur’s favorites this year:

She read The Doll People series and loved them! This was actually the most excited she has been about a series of books.

She’s outgrown these, but The Sophie Mouse books are great early reader chapter books. She still likes for me to buy her the new ones as they come out. I don’t mind because I know Beatrix will read them soon.

I’m thinking of buying Happy Times in Norway by Sigrid Undest to read aloud to the girls over Christmas.


I gave my sister, Abby, A Year with the Church Fathers for her birthday this year.

For the kids, Dear Pope Francis is priceless.

I really loved My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir.

The Reed of God is perfect Advent reading.

I find Mother Theresa’s writings to be very encouraging and recommend No Greater Love and Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta.

I also love St. Therese and while I have read her own Story of a Soul, I also really liked this little book: The Love That Keeps Us Sane: Living the Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux (Illuminationbooks.).

Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry is lovely and so is A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul.


I am often asked for camera and photography advice. The book I always recommend, and the one I used to learn how to shoot in manual mode from is Understanding Exposure. That book would make a great gift for someone wanting to learn. A similar book by the same author, that I also recommend (and possibly prefer) is Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Photography Field Guide: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera.  Along those same lines, though not a book, this is the lens that is on my camera 95% of the time.

Nature and field guides:

Nature Anatomy is so fun!  I think it would make a particularly great gift.

For the tree lover, we are on our second copy of Remarkable Trees of Virginia (you don’t have to live here to appreciate this book.) I also really like The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-Ups.

Some of our most used field guides include: North American Wildlife: An Illustrated Guide to 2,000 Plants and Animals (we’re on our 3rd copy), Wildflowers and Plant Communities of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont: A Naturalist’s Guide to the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia (Southern Gateways Guides), Caterpillars of Eastern North America, Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, and A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America (Peterson Field Guides). I don’t have a favorite tree identification field guide, but have Native Trees of the Southeast: An Identification Guide on my wishlist.

Homesteading and Beekeeping:

My top read this year in this category was The Shepherd’s Life. Well worth reading-I loved it.

Sylvia’s Farm: The Journal of an Improbable Shepherd and Goat Song were my top two farming reads last year.

Jonny enjoyed Adventures in Yarn Farming.

The Heirloom Life Gardener: The Baker Creek Way of Growing Your Own Food Easily and Naturally, Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, and The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers.

The Practical Beekeeper: Beekeeping Naturally is our favorite beekeeping resource, though my favorite book about beekeeping in general is A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them.  The Backyard Beekeeper is a good beginner’s guide.

Natural Dyeing:

My favorites are Wild Color and Harvesting Color.


People Knitting!
The Knitter’s Book of Socks, The Knitter’s Book of Wool, and The Knitter’s Book of Yarn would all make great gifts.

Anything by Elizabeth Zimmerman is probably a good choice. I have and love Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac, Knitting Without Tears: Basic Techniques and Easy-to-Follow Directions for Garments to Fit All Sizes, and The Opinionated Knitter.

Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book really is a great resource.

And finally my favorite Stephanie Pearl-McPhee book is Knitting Rules!: The Yarn Harlot’s Bag of Knitting Tricks.

For Children:

I recently purchased these two craft books:  The Christmas Craft Book and  Magic Wool Fairies.

Under the tree this year:

The complete Brambly Hedge!!! How did I not know about this? We have quite a few of the individual titles, but now they are all available in one volume!


On my children’s book wishlist:

We have a dozen or more collections of poetry for children, and I occasionally add a new title.  I want to add A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children to our collection.

We have read several of the books in Tomie DePaola’s 26 Fairmount Avenue Series and I highly recommend them. Endearing stories of family life with a nice bit of humor, they make great read-alouds that will span a wide range of ages as far as interest goes. I also think they would make great first chapter books for young readers.  I just ordered a few more of them to put under the tree this year.

We have really enjoyed this Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales for years. You can’t go wrong with Beatrix Potter!

We also like the Calla edition of Stories from Hans Christian Andersen. The illustrations by Edmund Dulac are some of my favorites. Many of the Calla Editions look beautiful.

James Herriot is another favorite. This volume for children looks lovely: James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and Small (we have an older version of it.)

Picture Books:
(the images themselves are links to the books, more fun that way for pretty children’s books!)

(I better stop now!)

Board Books:

And finally, there are some good lists in my Amazon bookshop including my favorite books written and/or illustrated by Tasha Tudor, and some of my boys’ favorite chapter books, along with more favorite picture books and more board books.

My previous gift list is here.

Never Tamed

The other day, my kids convinced me to stop at the feed store to take a look at the chicks.  They had this idea that we should buy a few and try to tuck them under our mama hen, and see if she would accept them.  Alas, the chicks were too old and not the breeds we were looking for, so we went home chick-less.  The women working mentioned that they would have turkeys in the next few days though.  My first irrational thought was, “Ooooh!  Turkeys!  Let’s get some baby turkeys!”  Reason quickly returned as I recalled that Jonny is already in the middle of building two portable chicken coops (a new smaller one got started over the weekend for our mama hen and her chicks, the big one is kind of on hold right now.)  He also needs to put another stall on the goat barn for the babies that we hope are coming later this month.  We really don’t need any turkeys, definitely not, but it’s awfully easy to get infected with spring craziness.

My kids are definitely infected, especially the littlest four.  A few weeks ago, when I was planning out their Easter scavenger hunt, I bought gifts for the hunt that would encourage quiet, peaceful play (ha ha ha!!!)  Books, and a few games.  And while my plan didn’t really work (still crazy) we did add a few great books to our library and the games were good choices as well.  The book that surprised me the most was Dear Pope Francis.  I had no idea what an absolute treasure it was going to be.  It is filled with letters written to him by children.  Each letter is accompanied by a photograph of the child, the original letter itself along with a drawing, and then Pope Francis’ reply.  My kids LOVE this book.  (I’ve even caught my older boys reading it.)  I also bought a copy of The Funny Little Woman, possibly Silas’ favorite book and one that we’ve had out from the library over and over, and a new to us book, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole.  I highly recommend that one!  My little boys love it, and as always, Jon Klassen’s illustrations are great.

I bought three games, hoping to cover all ages.  The older boys received Risk, which they really like, but also find frustrating because they rarely have time to finish a game, and their younger siblings don’t really allow for setting it aside and returning to it later.  Thinking mainly of the girls, I bought Into the Forest.  They like it even more than I expected them to, and have spent hours playing.  It’s a nature heavy, food chain themed game, with lots of different variations in how you can play, from simple games perfect for the girls, to more complicated ones that appeal to my older kids too.  And finally I bought a cooperative game called Max.  Job is almost old enough to play, and the girls have been playing with Silas.  It’s a simple game, but one they are all enjoying.

Today’s task is to clean out the art and game cabinet.  Just like the pantry and the refrigerator, it seems to need a good clean out every few weeks.  Every time I re-organize it, I get rid of a few more things, and try to make everything a little easier to access both for me and my kids.  My thought every single time is, “There!  Now it won’t get so messy!”  And of course a few weeks later, I find myself looking at the same disorganized chaos with a sigh.  All things return to chaos sooner or later at our house!  And I will continue to do my best to tame it, knowing full well that this is a job that will never be finished.