So I didn’t read all 17 books on my 2017 reading list. I read lots of other books: new recommendations, book-club picks, and old favorites. I also give myself full permission to quit books, so that kicked a few off the list. And above all, my interests evolved.
The woman who wrote that list in December 2016 is not the same woman writing to you now. Her tastes have changed. Her schedule changed. Her family changed. And her heart changed.
Before And After
2016 Lorelei was a harried mom who would occasionally, furtively admit to having a blog. She read a lot of homeschooling materials because she was determined to one day give her son the education she wanted to have.
End-of-2017 Lorelei goes to parties and brunches. She focuses on loving the child in the moment and leaves his future to God. She hands out business cards and cheerfully says, “I can help you with that!” She not only dreams big dreams; she takes bold actions.
A lot of external factors went into this. Moving to a house with a yard. Stepping out in faith to half-a-dozen Blessed Brunches. Ditching a speech therapist who had no business interacting with autistic kids. Getting 15 hours per week of behavioral therapy.
Along the way, I’ve started two businesses. Neither is going to make me rich and famous. But I don’t want either. My goal in each is to provide more value to others than I receive. And it’s fabulous to have a bit of quantifiable work after 5 years of the cyclical work of housewifery.
I’ve learned more about myself. You can’t change what you don’t understand. The essential purpose of Christian life is the transformation of self. Here are the books that inspired this.
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7 Most Influential Books Of 2017
In a Different Key: The Story of Autism
When your child is first diagnosed with Autism, you get a 3-foot stack of pamphlets, magazines, and books. They say your child is a Martian, but once you choose between 17 ideologically opposing therapy modalities, you will no longer need to murder them. You poor, sainted Autism parent.
This was the first book that didn’t tell me my life was over. It isn’t addressed to parents at all; it’s a narrative history of the diagnosis. From infantile schizophrenia to refrigerator mothers, and vaccine panic. The authors do have a weirdly negative view of neurodiversity though, which is…odd.
The concept of an autism spectrum still eludes many people. They say self-advocacy isn’t possible. That these giants of the neurodiversity movement pass some functionality test and do not merit the label “autistic”. Their mental image of the autistic child is a classic: four-point restraints, unresponsive to speech, drooling from antipsychotics.
Many autistics were institutionalized and neglected before therapies were available. Maybe that advocate or speaker would have been one too. Without acceptance of autism as a variation of humanity, these institutions will continue to operate. *steps off soapbox*
The Abolition of Man
Abolition of Man is a short, punchy, trilogy of lectures by C.S. Lewis. The lecture topic was ostensibly education. What Lewis truly addresses in his witty, confident way, are value systems.
The first lecture Men Without Chests struck me so deeply. I’m so proud of being a rational person, that I often equate it with sanctity. But without a heart, we’re closer to computers or beasts than human.
Cindy Rollins is a homeschooling mother of nine, including 8 boys. She homeschooled using the Charlotte Mason method for thirty consecutive years.
Mere Motherhood is her memoir of the happy times, hard times, and fruits of these wonderful years. Reading this was delightful. She doesn’t paint a Pinterest perfect picture of her kids’ lives, but it still sounds so cozy and loving.
Her reflections helped me to calm down about what I can fit in a day, or what milestones my son hits before age 4. We have time enough for everything needful if we take it day by day.
I also wrote a full review here.
The 4-Hour Workweek
This is one of the most frequently recommended business books around. After listening to the audiobook on one of my 5-hour drives, I see why.
Timothy Ferriss is one of those ludicrously accomplished individuals, whose infectious enthusiasm makes you want to get cracking. I had to pull over in Baton Rouge and scribble pages upon pages of business ideas. One of those actually came to fruition as the Catholic Mom Bundle.
Shirt of Flame
I’ve said I find St Therese hard to read. Too girlish and emotional. But after reading Heather King’s year-long exploration of St Therese, I wonder if I’ve just been put off by the Little Flower’s most popular quotes. King was a divorcee, a single writer, and a recovering alcoholic. Her starkly beautiful prose helped me see the other side of St Therese.
Saint Therese of Lisieux’s short life was marked by suffering, pain, and loss. She suffered a whirlwind of mother-losses in her childhood. Therese fought to enter the convent early (with more grit and moxie that I’ve ever had). She watched from afar as her beloved father slowly went mad. Finally, she died without painkillers from a disease named for the way it seemed to devour and consume its victims.
This sounds like a life that would result in horror movie scripts. Or at least some angsty, emo poetry. To suffer like this and still write beautiful, ecstatic, love-filled words for Christ! King helped me see that our surroundings do not dictate our story. We are still free to write it the way we wish.
Confessions of a Domestic Failure
Bunmi Laditan is already famous for her witty parenting observations. This book is classic Bunmi in novel form. As a first venture into fiction, it’s predictable, obvious, and over-the-top.
But it’s also a book you absolutely can’t read in public. She’s laugh-out-loud hilarious. Sometimes that is exactly what you need.
From Anne Bogel (Modern Mrs. Darcy), this isn’t the same banal navel-gazing as a BuzzFeed quiz to determine what type of garlic bread you are. As early as the introduction, Bogel established that this isn’t an exercise in narcissism. Rather it’s learning about who you are, in order to better mesh with others.
This is the kind of book you can flip around in, rather than read straight through. As a Catholic, I simply skipped over the chapter on the Enneagram. But the final chapter, “Your Personality Is Not Your Destiny,” is a must-read.
It typifies everything I’ve experienced this year. That learning about yourself isn’t for the purpose of cramming into a little cement box. Rather, it’s understanding our weaknesses so that we can overcome and flourish.
Did you read anything wonderfully impactful or delightfully silly this year? Let me know below!
“You can’t change what you don’t understand. The essential purpose of Christian life is the transformation of self.” Loved this line.
So many of these are new to me – adding a bunch to my list. Thank you!
I think I need to read Reading People. So many of y’all are recommending it!
I’m linking over from Modern Mrs. Darcy,