If you've known me for any number of years, you know that I am a reader. I always have been and I probably always will be! There are even photos of me as a toddler sitting at the foot of my bookshelf with the shelves bare and the books all around me - discarded on the floor after I'd finished reading them. My mom also tells a story about how once when I was (again) a toddler, she woke up in the middle of the night and came out into our living room to find me sitting on the couch, reading a book (and the book was upside down). Needless to say, books have always been a big part of my life. So, when I found myself packing up my worldly possessions to move across the ocean to Germany, I suddenly found myself looking at my entire bookshelf wondering how I could ever decide which books to bring with me. Between the tiny bit of space I had in David's luggage when he visited in June, and the three suitcases I brought with me, I only had about 150 lbs. of weight space (sounds like a lot, but when you're trying to bring your entire closet with you as well, it really isn't...). Eventually, I did decide on my books, and while I definitely will be bringing more with me at Christmas, these were the ones I brought first.
#1 The Book I Had Yet to Read
Clémentine in the Kitchen by Samuel Chamberlain
I picked this book off of the shelf at Half Price Books back last December, having every good intention of making it my Christmas holiday read, but, of course, it ended up on my bookshelf and was forgotten. Then, sometime in June while I was gathering items of mine for David to take back to Germany with him, I rediscovered the book and it somehow made its way into his suitcase, across the ocean and onto my bookshelf here! I originally bought it because I love reading travel memoirs and books about cooking, and this one was about both, so how could I not like it? But over the past two weeks as I’ve begun to read it now for the first time, I’m finding so many parallels between the main character of the book and where I am in my own life. The book follows the story of an American family - the Becks - who are expats living in a small country village in France. Their French (actually, she was Burgundian) cook - Clémentine - is their pride and joy and almost a part of the family. When the Becks are relocated back to the States due to the unsteady political climate of 1930s Europe, they are devastated at the thought of parting with Clémentine, until she decides to come with them and move with the family to the States. The book follows her as she adjusts to the very strange and foreign things she encounters in her first few months of living in the States - things like modern supermarkets, the English language and marshmallow creme. And it follows the Becks family as they resettle into life in a New England town, while still eating like they are in France! I find myself relating to Clémentine in a lot of ways - getting used to being constantly surrounded by a new language, navigating a way of life that is just a bit different from what I’m used to, exploring foreign grocery stores with all kinds of new foods but missing many things I’m used to having readily available… At least, unlike Clémentine, I’m not combing the grocery scene looking for things like veal and truffles! Anyways, this book really was a treasure of a find and I’m so glad I brought it with me. It’s nice to be reminded that I’m not the first (or last) person working through that adjustment period after moving to a new country!
“The gentle art of gastronomy is a friendly one. It hurdles the language barrier, makes friends among civilized people, and warms the heart.”
― Samuel Chamberlain
#2 The Book I’d Read a Million Times
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
I knew right off the bat that I’d definitely be bringing a Harry Potter book with me. The only problem is that most of the Harry Potter books are giant. Like 700+ pages and several pounds each for the later books. So, I opted for Book 2 - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets because a) I liked it more than the 1st book which is ultimately the smallest and b) even though I like the 3rd book more, the copy I had was hardcover so it was going to weigh a bit more. Anyways, the Harry Potter series is one of those series of books that I have read so many times, I can open any of the books at any point and I probably know whats happening. It’s what I read when I’m sick and I don’t have the brainpower for something a bit more hefty, it always gives me a good laugh, and reading them just gives you that cozy feeling - like you want to be curled up on the couch with a candle burning and a cup of hot tea in your hand. Cheers to you J.K. Rowling - your books will always be classics in my book (haha no pun intended)!
"October arrived, spreading a damp chill over the grounds and into the castle. Madam Pomfrey, the nurse, was kept busy by a sudden spate of colds among the staff and students. Raindrops the size of bullets thundered on the castle windows for days on end; the lake rose, the flower beds turned into muddy streams, and Hagrid's pumpkins swelled to the size of garden sheds."
– Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
#3 The Book that Inspires Me
The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
There really is no story like Corrie ten Boom’s. If you don’t know it, then this book is a must read. If you do know it, this book is still a must read. Corrie ten Boom was the spinster daughter of a watchmaker in Haarlem, Holland. The Hiding Place follows the story of her and her family during the Second World War and their own personal fight against the Third Reich. Her and her family were Christians, and when Jews in Holland were being arrested and taken to concentration camps, the ten Boom family helped hundreds of Jews escape from the Nazis. While they were hiding six Jews in their own home, the Gestapo came and arrested Corrie and her entire family for their work with the Resistance, imprisoning them, but failing to find the six people hidden in a secret compartment behind the wall of Corrie’s bedroom. Her sister and father both passed away while imprisoned, but 12 days after her sister's death, Corrie was released for reasons unknown, after 11 months as a prisoner, one of those being in complete solitary confinement. She then devoted the rest of her life to setting up rehabilitation centers for concentration camp survivors and even went on to take in those who had cooperated with the Nazi regime. For the rest of her life, Corrie devoted herself to traveling and speaking about God’s love and forgiveness, and the healing, restoration, and means to overcome hardship that it give us.
“Do you know what hurts so very much? It's love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.”
– Corrie ten Boom
#4 The Smallest Design Book I Own
Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton
Like many graphic designers out there (I’m guessing), I somehow find myself drawn to books about design like ants are to a picnic. While I surely have not bought as many design books as I’ve yearned to, I have managed to get enough that I just couldn’t bring them all (obviously). Also, so many books about design are ridiculously heavy and large! So, I made it my task to find a book that fell in the center of my mental Venn Diagram - one side being my favourite design books, the other, the smallest books. Which is how I landed on Thinking with Type! This book also seemed like a good idea for me, because typography is one of those things that I’m fascinated by, but also it’s not always 100% my strong-suit. So, anything that can be of help to me in that region is a definite bonus. This book covers everything from lettering to mixing typefaces, from grids to kerning. It’s really an encyclopaedia of knowledge when it comes to type. For all you designers out there reading this, if you don’t own this book already, put it on your list. You won’t regret it.
“This is not a book about fonts, this is a book about how to use them.”
– Ellen Lupton
#5 The Book with my Favorite Heroine
Persuasion by Jane Austen
For so many years, I always said that Pride and Prejudice was my favourite Jane Austen book. Isn’t that everyone’s favorite? But maybe thats just because its the only one most people know… About two years ago, I decided to expand my “Austen Exposure” and read some of her other books. I ended up picking up Persuasion, and I loved it. I felt like I identified with Anne Elliot, the protagonist of the story. Not in every way, but something about her just seemed to be a kindred spirit to me. Anne is level-headed, practical, and clever and she’s not like some of Jane Austen’s characters who can be a little bit ridiculous and dramatic at times. I have a deep appreciation for the reserved and observant nature of Anne. And, like any great Jane Austen story, I do love a good ending, and this book of course has one of those.
“My idea of good company...is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.' 'You are mistaken,' said he gently, 'that is not good company, that is the best.”
– Jane Austen, Persuasion
#6 The Book for David and I to Enjoy
The Picnic: Recipes and Inspiration from Basket to Blanket by Andrea Slonecker, Jen Stevenson, and Marnie Hanel
About 2 weeks before I was due to fly me and all my personal belongings over here to Stuttgart, I of course walked into the cookbook store, The Book Larder, in Fremont, expecting to just have a glance around and browse some cookbooks for a few minutes, but (this was inevitable) ended up walking out with a book - The Picnic. One thing that David and I enjoy doing when the weather is nice, is packing up a nice lunch into a wicker basket, and laying out a blanket in some park somewhere to have a picnic! We haven’t yet gotten to the level of fanciness that this book suggests doing, but we do tend to opt for real dishes and glasses to eat and drink from, and charcuterie and cheese platters do tend to jump into our basket to come along… I got this book in anticipation for this upcoming spring and summer here in Germany with David. Just across the street from my house are acres of wide open fields and orchards with fruit trees. I mean, this is PRIME picnicking land. Just steps from my home! So, prepare yourselves for the onslaught of amazing picnics and fancy basket lunches that will be my spring and summer! And I’ll throw in a little picnic incentive for those of you friends that are thinking of visiting at some point… come, and we will picnic like queens!
“A picnic is a great escape from our day-to-day and a chance to turn a meal into something more festive and memorable.”
– The Picnic
One thing I never travel without is my Kindle. Before I bought it, I was a die-hard “I only read real books” person, but then over a Christmas vacation I borrowed my brother’s Kindle and went on to read for several hours without noticing any huge differences between it and a real book! Because of its special “e-ink” technology, you don’t feel like you’re reading off of a screen like on your computer, or iPhone - your eyes never get over-tired! It’s light, I can hold it in one hand easily because I don’t need to hold the two covers of the book apart (especially helpful when reading while laying down in bed), and its the easiest thing to stick it in my already heavy backpack so I can read on my commute to school. But, my absolute favorite part of owning a Kindle, is that through my library back in Seattle, I can check out books for free using my library card online! This completely makes the Kindle worth it because while I have bought some books from Amazon to read on it, mostly I’m getting them from the library! So, despite only being able to bring a few "real books" with me, I really have an (almost) endless library of books at my disposal thanks to the King County Library System!
Viel Spaß beim lesen! Or, to those English speakers out there, happy reading!