Rich Dad’s Rich Kid, Smart Kid : Giving Your Child a Financial Head Start by Robert T. Kyosaki (audio), rank 5. This was an amazing, eye-opening book that all of our children should hear/read.  It turns out it is is fifth book.  Some six years ago, on our very first ski vacation (2006, A-Basin in January – BRRR!), I listened to (and my brain went tilt over) his first book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. This man has insights that I need to know.  I think I’ll be looking for his other three books soon.

Hero Found:  The Greatest POW Escape of the Vietnam War by Bruce Henderson (print), rank 4.5. A German-born U.S. navy pilot shot down over Laos in the 1960s was captured and imprisoned by the vicious Pathet Lao.  He was starved, beaten, and tortured repeatedly, but refused to sign documents condemning the U.S.  With five other POWs (American, Chinese, and Thai), he eventually orchestrated and pulled off a successful escape, only to spend weeks with his fellow POW (and later, alone) lost in the Laotian jungle, barefoot, with almost no food or supplies.  Despite his continued efforts to signal his existence to overflying U.S. planes, he had been given up for lost moths before and no one was searching for him.  Riveting.

Paradise General:  Riding the Surge at a Combat Hospital in Iraq by Dr. Dave Hnida (print), rank 5.  Give me medical, give me adventure, give me military, give me history.  This book was full of it.  It’s also full of the f*** word, the sh** word, and a few other similarly choice items.  If you’re willing to get past that and a few grammatical errors, this is a fascinating first-person account of a 2007 version of M*A*S*H.

Healing Hearts:  A Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon by Kathy E. Magliato, MD (print), rank 5. I just love a good medical story, and despite some raw language (the author is clearly not a Christian), she told a great and fascinating story very well.

The Fields of Home by Ralph Moody (print), 2010, rank 3.5. I like Ralph Moody, but this book didn’t have a lot of plot.  I kept reading, wanting the story to go somewhere, but finally realized it wasn’t going to.  However, much could be said about Ralph’s learning how to deal with a difficult person, how to keep going in the face of insurmountable odds, what happens when you give up and run from challenges (and from yourself), and how to look beyond a person’s words and actions to see into his heart.

Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris (print), 2010, rank 2. I read about the first third of this book and skimmed the rest.  The Harris guys have a good point with a number of interesting examples, and I’m glad it made them a lot of money and evidently influenced a lot of people, BUT I just couldn’t get into it.  I read for information, and I felt that in the first forty pages I had gotten the information I could use, and then I was bored.  Of course, it was written toward a teenage or twenty-something audience, not a 49 year old.

Eight Women, Two Model Ts, and the American West by Joanne Wilke (print), March 27, 2010, rank 2.5. The only thing that made me finish this book was that it was telling a cross-country story and I felt I needed to keep going till they got back to Iowa.  It was kind of stream-of-consciousness, with the author interjecting her own life experiences into her telling of her grandmother’s amazing cross-country jaunt in 1924.  The grandmother, one of her sisters, and six other young ladies (late teens and early to mid 20s) bought two Model T Fords and drove them from Iowa to California and back over the course of some nine weeks.  The story is told mainly as quoted journal excerpts and is mildly interesting.  I wish she had just stuck to that and left out the stuff about her own memories. However, then the book may have only been 40 pages instead of 169.

Second Person Rural:  More Essays of a Sometime Farmer by Noel Perrin (print), March 2010, rank 5. I just like well-written essays on rural life.   This was just as good as the first one, and now I’m looking for a copy of the final installment, “Third Person Rural.”

Robert E. Lee by Guy Emery (print), rank 4. This would be another book that I’m glad I read (as I’ve always wanted to learn more about Lee), but which I found to be a downer, just because so many aspects of the man’s life were so sad.  I hate it that so many good people – often very strong Christians – have such incredibly difficult and painful lives.

First Person Rural: Essays of a Sometime Farmer by Noel Perrin (print), rank 5. A re-read.  So fun.

Last Flag Down:  The Epic Journey of the Last Confederate Warship by John Baldwin and Ron Powers (audio), rank 4.5. This is the story of a Confederate battleship that traveled from London to the US, across the South Atlantic, around the cape of Africa, to Australia, up through the Pacific, through the Bering Se up to the Arctic circle, zigzagging all over the Pacific, back east beneath the south tip of South America and back to London, over a period of more than a year, capturing and destroying Yankee ships.  The executive officer, a young man of only 24, had impeccable morals and manners, and this book gave me a good look into how the mind of a true southern gentleman really viewed the “War Between the States.”  I found myself cheering the Shenandoah on, and was, with her crew, devastated when they learned in the summer of 1865 that the war they were been prosecuting had ended several months previous, rendering all their actions since that time illegal acts of piracy.  A very interesting listen.

Refined by Fire by LTC (Ret) Brian Birdwell & Mel Birdwell (print), rank 5. LTC Birdwell was critically burned when the terrorist plane flew into the Pentagon.  He was standing only a few yards from the point of impact.  This is the very moving story of his medical and spiritual recovery, told alternately by his wife and himself.  To have lived through such horror and suffered such incredible pain for so long and still maintain an unshakable faith in God is a tremendous testimony.  I read the whole thing in two days because I couldn’t put it down.

My Hospital in the Hills by Dr. Gordon Seagrave (print), rank 5. This is the 3rd in his series of books about his years as a missionary surgeon in Burma before, during, and after WWII.  I read the first and loved it, and this one was just as good.  I wish I could find the 2nd, “Burma Surgeon Returns,” to fill in the intervening years.

Ten Minutes from Normal by Karen Hughes (audio), rank 5+. WHAT AN AWESOME BOOK!!!  And read by the author, too.  She sounds like such a neat, balanced, energetic, wise lady; someone I’d like to have as a friend.  President Bush was really blessed to have her in his inner circle.  I’d recommend this to anyone, anywhere, anyday, and would even enjoy hearing it again.

The $64 Tomato:  How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden by William Alexander (print), rank 4. I smiled at portions of this one.  This guy really did go totally overkill on his garden, and it came close to destroying his finances, his health, and his sanity.  It was funny, and it reminded me that if I can’t enjoy life while gardening, I need to cut back on the gardening.  Of course, this would never apply to things like photography or blogging. . .

Queen of the Road:  The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own by Doreen Orion (print), rank 3. These folks were definitely not Christians(!), so there was some questionable content.  It was funny in places, but got draggy, as books involving travel around large segments of the US can do.

Nickels and Dimes:  The Story of F.W. Woolworth by Nina Brown Baker (print), rank 3. A children’s book.  It was interesting and gave me a lot of background information.  I’m glad I took the time to read it, but it will never make any bestseller list.

No One Left Behind:  the Lieutenant Commander Michael Scott Speicher Story by Amy Waters Yarsinske (audio), rank 5. An outstanding book, reflecting meticulous research and seemingly pointing to a huge and unacceptable failure on the part of our military.

He Heard America Sing by Claire Lee Purdy (print), rank 2.5. I finished it because I was determined to do so, but it was a sad and depressing story.  I have enjoyed Stephen Foster’s music since I was a kid, and I had no idea what his life and personality were really like.  This book is older and well-written, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

The Red Suit Diaries by Ed Butchart (audio), rank 4. Even though our family doesn’t “do” Santa, I really enjoyed this book – read by the author – about his many adventures as a Santa over some 20 years.  He is a strong Christian, who uses his role to bring the love of Christ to many.  Good book.

One Man’s Medicine:  The True Story of a Country Doctor by Morris Gibson (print), rank 5. A re-read of a great book.  I really enjoyed this man’s writing.  He told a great story well, about being a young doctor in Yorkshire, England during and after World War II.

What Time is the Midnight Buffet?  How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Our Cruise by Richard T. Holleran (print), rank 4. This was a short, fun book about a couple’s first experience on a cruise to the Bahamas.  Lots of detail, humor, and useful information.  If we ever take a cruise, I should re-read this as a resource.

I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land by Karolyn Smardz Frost (audio), rank 4. Good book about Thornton and Lucie Blackburn’s totally amazing escape from slavery, their subsequent recapture(s), and the life they eventually carved out for themselves in the north.

Two in the Far North by Margaret E. Murie (print), rank 4. I just about always enjoy books about Alaska, and this one was the memoir of a naturalist couple in the early 1900s.  On several different occasions, they traveled by river up to the north slope and camped there for weeks at a time, doing all types of research.  This is the story of a few of their trips.  Really incredible.

Old Farm:  A History by Jerry Apps (print), May 2009, rank 3.5. The author writes of the natural and chronological history of the 100+ acre “farm” he bought as an adult.  It is located only two miles from another farm on which he grew up, and although he and his wife and children live in Madison, Wisconsin, they have visited the farm frequently for weekends and other longer stays over a span of some 40 years.  The text is interesting and the photographs by the author’s son are outstanding.

A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabellla L. Bird (print), May 2009, rank 4.  The author, a middle-aged English exploratory type, had traveled all over the world, including Canada (a few months in her twenties), the eastern United States (one year, to study the religious revival of 1857-58), and the the Mediterranean, prior to the trip documented in this book (her Rocky Mountain tour of 1873).  Later in life, she spent seven months in Japan, five months in the Malay Peninsula, and made repeated trips totaling several years to India, Tibet, China, and Korea – doing charitable work in many of those locations.

Her trip through the Rockies was magnificent, and her writing of it is very satisfying to read.  She endured blizzards, hunger, and financial destitution, but was always cheerful and dealt with every situation as it arose.  Her descriptions of places I have personally seen bring back warm memories.  Although in places the book drags – simply because it is a compilation of letters written to a friend (that is, no plot; just documentation) – I enjoyed it very much.  I agree with Miss Bird that the Colorado Rockies must be some of the most beautiful landforms in the world.

Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable by John Steele Gordon (print)

Lazy B:  Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest by Sandra Day O’Connor (audio)

Uncle Tungsten:  Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks (print)

See You in a Hundred Years:  Four Seasons in Forgotten America by Logan Ward (print)

Slipping into Paradise: Why I Live in New Zealand by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (print)

10 Days that Unexpectedly Changed America by Steven M. Gillon (audio)

Digital Photography Problem Solver: The top 101 digital photography questions answered by Les Meehan (print)

Marooned:  The Strange But True Adventures of Alexander Selkirk, the Real Robinson Crusoe by Robert Kraske (print), rank 3. I read this one a while back, and it was one of those true stories that is somewhat interesting, but then drags.

Wondrous Cold:  An Antarctic Journey by Joan Myers (print), rank 5. This is a superb “coffee table” book.  The author is an acclaimed photographer, probably in her late fifties, who spent several months living in Antarctica.  The text is informative and interesting and the photographs are truly remarkable.  I’d like to have a copy of this one to keep.

Tell Me Where It Hurts: A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope in My Life as an Animal Surgeon by Nick Trout (audio), rank 5. A well-written, informative, and quite entertaining look at the field of animal surgery, which is a sub-specialty of veterinary medicine.  The vet/author works as a surgeon at an animal hospital, and the book was as delightful as any of James Herriott’s.  Highly recommended.

On Call in @#!*% : A Doctor’s Iraq War Story by Richard Jadick (print), rank 4. The doctor was a battalion surgeon fore the Marines during the extremely bloody battle of Fallujah.  His team had an outstanding record for successfully treating casualties, mainly because he was able to convince his superiors to act on his conviction that aid stations needed to be up front where the fighting was.  This enabled them to receive in coming wounded sooner and treat them more effectively.  This book gave me a good feel for trauma medicine in general, and battle medicine in particular.

Man of the Family by Ralph Moody (audio), rank 5. You know, I tried to read Little Britches (maybe aloud to the kids?) a few years back, and I just couldn’t get into it.  However, I absolutely ADORED Man of the Family.  The boys heard bits of it with me, and Andrew liked it so much he asked to borrow my cassette player. . . which he couldn’t figure out how to use.  = )  The young man in the story is 11, and he is very resourceful in providing for his family (Mom and four siblings) in the year following his father’s untimely death.  This family had wonderfully healthy relationships, which is another reason I’m so glad the boys heard parts of it.  Now I’m eager to look into the whole series.  Maybe I just need to find it all on audio.

The 20-Minute Gardener : the garden of your dreams without giving up your life, your job, or your sanity by Tom Christopher and Marty Asher (print), rank 5. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I’m looking for a used copy to buy.  These guys are hilarious, a la Click and Clack on “Car Talk.”  They also present a lot of practical information about gardening, all based on the premise that most people can only spend 20 minutes a day working on/in their gardens.  SUPERB book!

Edges of the Earth by Richard Leo (print), rank 3. Autobiographical. The author and his girlfriend move from Manhattan to Alaska. They have a son. He eventually homesteads out near Denali, but she lives “in town” in Talkeetna. Their son, Janus, grows up in the woods that he and his dad love. They mush dog teams, ski, swim, hunt, fish, build, etc. The mom eventually marries someone else, but the family remains close. Very interesting.

Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival by Dean King (print), July 2008, rank 3. An American merchant ship crashed on the west coast of Africa in the mid-1800s. The 11 crew members were soon captured as slaves by bedouins and spent most of a year traveling the Sahara, starved and thristy. For weeks at a time, they lived on camel milk and camel urine. The various caravans that bought and sold different ones of them seemed to wander aimlessly over the desert. The author clearly did his homework, but the middle third of the book – although accurate, I’m sure – was really boring, as it was just more and more and more of the same. Only two of the men survived.

Wilma Rudolph: The Greatest Woman Sprinter in History by Anne Schraff (print), July 2008, rank 2. I read this one because I had heard the name Wilma Rudolph and with the Olympics coming up, I wanted to know more about her. She was a black runner who overcame physical problems (polio?) and won Olympic medals. She also became pregnant out of wedlock and turned majorly left in her older years. Her subsequent marriage brought more children and a divorce. This was all portrayed in this “young adult” biography as perfectly normal and no big deal. A disappointing book about a disappointing woman. We need better heroes!

Grandma’s on the Go by Carol Weishampel (print), July 2008, rank 2. Single mom of grown kids adopts a passel more and takes them on numerous camping (RV) trips through the years. The book’s idea was good, but the story was told in fits and starts that made it difficult to follow. I learned a bit about RVing, but I wouldn’t recommend the book.


Finders Keepers: The Story of a Man Who Found $1 Million by Mark Bowden (audio), July 2008, rank 3.5. A rough-and-tumble, out-of-work, drug addicted dock worker saw a yellow tub fall out of the back of an armored delivery truck. In the tub were two bahs of money from a bank, totally some $1.2 million. The man couldn’t keep his mouth shut and after 10 days of wild living was apprehended as he tried to leave the country. Because he was poor and down on his luck, he thought he had a RIGHT to the money, since he found it. He thought it was his. He later died of a drug overdose. The language and lifestyles of the main characters were rough, but the author had done a masterful job of researching and telling the story.

The Driveway Diaries by Tim Brookes (print), June 16, 2008, rank4. I could write this kind of book. A city guy (and NPR correspondent) moved his family from the city to a semi-rural place in Vermont. This book is a series of short essays about various aspects of their lives, the common theme being their very long, difficult to navigate (in winter), and impossible to maintain (year-round) dirt and gravel driveway. Our driveways aren’t as imposing as Mr. Brookes’, but we do have two of them, and their gravel to weed ratio is probably lower than his.

Prisoners of Hope: The story of Our Captivity and Freedom in Afghanistan by Dayna Curry, Heather Mercer, and Stacy Mattingly (print), May 2008, rank 3. I was loaned this book by my sister-in-law, who planned to take it with her to read during her next tour of service in Africa. I had wanted to read it, so I took advantage of the opportunity, but it wasn’t my favorite kind of book. I think it was written from the journals of the co-authors, and while it gave a LOT of background into life in Afghanistan, it dragged quite a bit, simply because being in captivity was – in addition to dirty and sometimes scary – boring. I’m glad to have read it, and I’m really glad there are people like Heather and Dayna whose hearts burn to help the poorest of the poor in such places.

After the Last Dog Died : The True-Life, Hair-Raising Adventure of Douglas Mawson’s 1912 Antarctic Expedition by Carmen Bredeson (print), May 2008, rank 5. This is a children’s book by National Geographic, and both the photos and the text are superb. I learned so much and felt that I was traveling with these amazing men. A book I’d like to own.

A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska by Jane Jacobs (print), May 2008, rank 3. The author taught school initially in the lower 48, but moved to Alaska because she felt the need for qualified teachers was greater there. She was assigned by the government to various stations on and around the Kenai peninsula over a period of several years. This book chronicles her efforts to teach native students and to raise the overall living standard for each community.

George Washington’s Horse Slept Here by Pauline McConnell (print), 4/25/08, rank 3.5. In the early 1950s, a family on Long Island was about to be evicted from their large historic home, because a school was being built there (eminent domain). In a scramble to find new housing for the eight (?) of them – the youngest being about 10 years old – the wife got a great deal on a barn. Having bought it, the family had to convert it into living quarters, and they did most of the labor themselves. It took the better part of a year, and there were many funny events and disturbing problems along the way, but they made it. The wife wrote the book, and the title came from the fact that the barn was so old that everyone assumed there was some significant history associated with it. On day the husband, when asked about this, replied that probably George Washington’s horse had slept there.

As Long As Life: The Memoirs of a Frontier Woman Doctor by Mary Canaga Rowland, MD (print), 4/11/08, rank 3. This lady doctor in the early 1900s married a doctor when she lived in Nebraska. They had a daughter, and three days after her birth, the husband was murdered. This book tells the life of Dr. Rowland as she practiced in Nebraska, Kansas, Idaho, and Oregon, while raising her daughter alone. She was one tough cookie.

Bet You Didn’t Know: Smart Answers for Every Aspect of Your Life by Robyn Freedman Spizman (print), 4/10/08, rank 3. It was a slightly useful compendium of information on a huge range of subjects – everything from auto insurance to weddings.

The Island of the Colorblind and Cycad Island by Oliver Sacks (audio), 3/30/08, rank 3. It was an odd little couple of books together on audio. The author is a British-born U.S. neurologist who had always been fascinated by colorblindness. In a very few individuals afflicted with the condition, the eyes contain no cones, and so there is no sense of color at all. Everything is seen in shades of grey, and in addition, the person is extremely light-sensitive and must spend his/her life in shade or darkness. The author met a person with such a condition, and together they traveled to the Pacific island of Pingelap, where some 10% of the population is totally colorblind. There are many theories as to why this is so, but no scientific conclusion as of yet.

The second book on this tape is similar, in that (while on the Pingelap trip, I believe), the author also traveled to Guam, where there is an uncommonly high incidence of a neurological disorder which seems to be related to A.L.S (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Again, there are a number theories, but not yet any conclusive cause – or combination of causes.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston (print), 03/25/08, rank 5. Aron was an experienced mountaineer, skier, and canyoneer. His goal was to climb all (59) of Colorado’s 14,000 ft.+ peaks – alone, in winter. He had accomplished about 35 of those when he decided one May to make a solo day hike through some of southern Utah’s slot canyons. He also failed to tell anyone where he was going, other than, “I might go do some hiking in Utah.” During his hike, while at the bottom of a “slot” only a few feet wide and some 20 feet deep, a boulder fell down on him, pinning his right hand to the canyon wall. He survived five days and nights with no food and only 22 oz. of water. When folks at home finally realized he was missing, he was nearly dead. The day after they began the search – with very little informatiom to go on – Aron successfully freed himself by amputating his right arm, rappelling down a 150-foot drop and hiking seven miles before he was rescued.

Obviously, he survived and wrote the book. He’s a great writer and he was a superb pianist before this accident. He has now resumed his mountain climbing, using a specially designed prosthesis.

From Maine to the Himalayas by Leon H. Elliott (print), 3/17/08, rank 3. Mr. Elliott grew up a farm in Maine, went to Bible school, and moved to India as a missionary in the 1930s. There he married his wife, whom he had also known in Maine, and they raised two children. They served for over 25 years with the Assemblies of God, mostly in India, but also in Africa (during WWII). This book gives many, many practical and interesting details about life in these places. The Elliotts had some amazing experiences! They retired to Springfield and worked at St. John’s hospital there into the 1980s, so he is a local author.

Icebound by Leonard F. Guttridge (audio), 3/15/08, rank 4. This is a well-researched telling of the story of the Jeanette, a ship that set out from San Francisco in 1879 to attempt to reach the North Pole. She intentionally overwintered in the pack, but ended up spending TWO winters in the ice and was eventually destroyed by the ice. The crew dragged tons of supplies and three boats many hundreds of miles south, and they sailed and rowed many more miles toward the mouth of the Lena River on the northern coast of Siberia. One boat was lost at sea, but two boats landed safely – widely separated and each unaware that the other had landed. The captain’s group was starving, severely frostbitten, and unable to proceed. The second group tried to find them, but by the time they arrived, the captain’s group had perished. There were later court cases and inquiries as to who was at fault, etc. It was also interesting to see how the personalities and relationships among the crew members interplayed and affected the outcomes of the various individuals.

Lincoln and Douglas: The Years of Decision by Regina Z. Kelly (print), 3/9/08, rank 3.5. This is a Landmark book for children that deals with the various factors and events that led up to Lincoln receiving the Republican nomination for President. I learned a lot about the Kansas-Nebraska act, John Brown, the differences between Whigs, Democrats, and Abolitionists, who Douglas was and why he took the stands he did (with which, by the way, I think I probably agree; his position seeming to have been the most constitutional), and the formation of the Republican party. It was a quite interesting, easy read, although because it covered SO much varied material in such a short number of pages, it tended to be choppy and sometimes hard to follow. My 3.5 rank reflects that, although for pure content it would get a 4.

Old Glory: An American Voyage by Jonathan Raban (print), rank 1. I couldn’t finish it. Don’t bother trying.

In Harm’s Way: Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton (audio) 3/4/08, rank 5+. This was another “re-read,” although I didn’t recognize that when I checked the book out. It’s one of the very best audio books I’ve ever heard. The author did loads of research on the sinking of this ship – the vessel that (unknown to its crew) carried the components of Hiroshima’s “Little Boy” atomic bomb across the Pacific from San Francisco to Guam. The ship was later torpedoed by a Japanese sub, and because of numerous communications failures, no one knew besides the crew even knew that the attack had occurred. Those who survived the initial blast attack were left to float in the Pacific for over four days. They had no fresh water, virtually no food, and few life jackets, and most of the men were not in lifeboats or on life rafts. They simply floated and treaded water as long as they could. Many of the men died from their injuries and/or exposure. Many were eaten by sharks. The story of the survivors’ rescue and subsequent determination to clear their captain’s name is unbelievably remarkable.

Cheaper By the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth (audio) 2/20/08, rank 5. I read this one to the kids years ago, and it was so very fun. The dad was one wild guy who made learning come alive. He was homeschooling long before it was fashionable. What a shame that he died so young, but what a treasure for all of us that his children wrote this book!

Me, Myself, and Bob: A True Story about God, Dreams, and Talking Vegetables by Phil Vischer (print) 2/15/08, rank 5. Our family is full of Veggie fans, so any book by Phil Vischer was bound to be popular here. Katie, Jessica, and Josiah all read it before I got my hands on it, and I am really glad I did. Phil tells the WHOLE history of Veggie Tales – the good, the bad, and the ugly – as well as the personal journey he has gone through. This book reaffirmed the fact that people who are uncommonly creative are usually not also super savvy businessmen. The story is sad, but Phil really redeemed it at the end. This is a book I’d like to own.

Lost in My Own Backyard: A Walk in Yellowstone National Park by Tim Cahill (audio) 2/10/08, rank 4. Since we did our eleven-day camping thing there in 2000, I generally enjoy anything Yellowstone, and this book was no exception. The author lives in Montana about 50 miles north of the park and hikes the back country there frequently. He’s also a great and funny writer. Reading about places I have seen and loved was like “going home.” Informative and fun, and I came away from this read with one piece of advice we all should heed: No matter how badly you want the photo, never try to sit your four-year-old on a bison’s back.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police by Richard L. Neuberger (print) 2/8/08, rank 5. I’m so glad I decided to read this one. It’s a Landmark book (1953!) that’s been in our family library for at least eight years. Katie and I have been “culling” the library and we both agreed that no one would ever read this one. However, it being a Landmark book and easy to read, I decided I should at least skim it before we gave it away. Boy. am I glad I did. Until reading this book, the only thing I knew about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was what I remembered from Bullwinkle and Rocky. = ) These guys were INCREDIBLE! The stories of what they went through, sometimes for YEARS in order to “uphold the right” were absolutely astounding. The Mounties make the rest of us look like total wimps. I’m planning to read this one to the boys.

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana (audio), stopped listening 1/20/08, rank 4. This book was fascinating, and I really enjoyed it, even though I only listened to half of it. It is L-O-N-G. It’s an autobiographical account of a young college student’s two years on a merchant vessel out of Boston, around the Cape Horn to the California coast. The goal of the voyage was to obtain from Indians many thousands of cattle hides, which would be returned to Boston and made into shoes, etc. I learned a great deal about life at sea and the hide trade, but with our girls doing a lot of the driving these days, I’m just not in the van long enough to finish such a long book before it must be returned.

Condi: The Condoleezza Rice Story by Antonia Felix (print), 1/28/08, rank 3. I think this may have been an unauthorized biography. I have been curious about Ms. Rice and this book gave me her full background, from birth until about 2002. She is a remarkable woman – brilliant, a classical pianist, single, fluent in Russian, and an expert on foreign relations. I didn’t realize that she has also been a tenured professor at Stanford and provost of the University, credited with balancing a budget of several billion dollars in just a few years. Wow!

My American Adventure by Amy Burritt (print), 1/13/08, rank 4. As a twelve-year-old, Amy, her parents, and her seven-year-old brother, Jon, bought a motorhome and traveled the US to meet (and hopefully interview) all 50 governors in one year. This book tells the story of that journey. I am amazed at how well Amy wrote this. She kept it interesting, and it was filled with great photos and journal excerpts. The Burritts are a homeschooling family.

Working on a Miracle by Mahlon Johnson (print), 1/2/08, rank 4. While doing an autopsy on an AIDS victim, neuropathologist Dr. Mahlon Johnson’s scalpel slipped, cutting his finger and infecting him with HIV. In this book, he tells his story of the fight for his life and the lives of other HIV-infected people. Dr. Johnson was single (never married) at the time he wrote this book, and he met the love of his life through his accident.

Miracle on the Mountain: A True Tale of Faith and Survival by Mike and Mary Couillard (print), 12/19/07, rank 5. An Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, stationed in Turkey in the early 1990s took his 10 year old son on a ski trip. Both were experienced skiers, but when a blizzard came up, they got lost while skiing and were stranded on the mountain for 10 days. How they survived, were found, and rescued is an amazing story. It is told in tandem with his wife’s memories of what was happening with her while she waited and prayed. This books is overtly Christian. An unforgettable story.

It’s Not the End of the Earth, but You Can See It from Here by Roger Welsch (print), 12/16/07, rank 4. Welsch is evidently a well-known writer, but I did not know if him prior to this book. He’s laid down a series of short essays (chapters) about life in rural, small-town Nebraska. Some of poignant, some are hilarious, and some are just very apt descriptions of human nature. An enjoyable read.

Buttered Side Down by Faith Addis (audio), 12/13/07, rank 5. The was a fun audio about a couple who live in the English countryside – Devon, to be exact – on what is known as a smallholding (a small farm). Her mother lives in the other half of the monstrous, drafty old farmhouse, and they raise all kinds of things to try to break even – cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, chrysanthemums, apples, anenomes (type of cut flower) – as well as running a riding stable. Their adventures are amazing and funny. I really enjoyed the book, and its excellent writing.

Prudence Crandall: Woman of Courage by Elizabeth Yates (print), 12/4/07, rank 4.5. I had never heard of Prudence Crandall, but she was a woman of superb character. In the 1830s, she ran a boarding school in her Connecticut home for “Young Ladies and little Misses,” where she and her sister taught them “Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, English Grammar, Geography, History, Natural and Moral Philosophy, Chemistry, Astronomy, Drawing and Painting, Music on the Piano, together with the French language.”

There were about two dozen students in residence, all white, when Prudence admitted a young Negro lady, and that single act put the entire town in an uproar. Prudence subsequently decided to close her school and re-open is as a school exclusively for “Young Ladies and little Misses of color.”

This book tells what happened with the school, the students, and Miss Crandall. Oh, that I could have as much spine as she!

A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir by Beverly Cleary (print), 11/22/07, rank 3. I thought Beverly Cleary’s autobiography would be interesting, and it was. However, in this part of her life – toddlerhood to age 18 – there was a lot of sadness, especially concerning her relationship with her mom. I am assuming that things changed a lot in her young adulthood to help her have a happier life. She is a very good writer; succinct yet funny.

Seven Roads to @#!*% by Donald R. Burgett (audio, abridged), 11/21/07, rank 3.5. I didn’t realize this book was abridged, but I’m glad I listened to it anyway. It told the story of the Allies at the battle of Bastogne in World War II. What these guys went through in holding this small town and preventing the Germans from plowing on through France was just amazing.

The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin (print), 11/16/07, rank 4. This was a well-researched account of the a horrible blizzard on January 12, 1888, which killed hundreds of people in the Nebraska and Dakota territories. A large percentage of those who died were children who tried to get home from school when the blizzard suddenly hit. Many died within yards of their own homes or other shelter, but the winds and snow were so severe that they became lost, were blown off course, and froze to death. It was an unbelievable situation, and I found the book interesting, as well as tragic. There were a few miraculous survivals, which helped with the overall tone of the story.

Okee: The Story of an Otter in the House by Dorothy Gross Wisbeki (print), 11/10/07, rank 4. I am quite sure that this author must have been at least one brick shy of a full load, but she certainly gets extra points for spunk and determination! She and her husband bought a newborn South American otter as a pet and at the time this book was written (in the 1960s) the otter was 16 months old. He was truly wild – in every sense of the word – and the things this couple did to accommodate having a wild animal in the house were hard to believe. It was a fun read.

The Climb by Anatoli Boukreev and G. Weston De Walt (audio), 10/24/07, rank 5. Having read two previous books about the May 10, 1996 Mt. Everest disaster, I was delighted to be able to listen to a third perspective on the events up to and surrounding that day. Boukreev’s book is much less emotional than Krakauer’s Into Thin Air or Weathers’ Left for Dead. While Krakauer is a journalist by trade, and Weathers is a physician, Boukreev is a sportsman, an athlete who specializes in high altitude climbing, and who has summited not only Everest (4 times, I believe), but also many other peaks over 8000 meters, all without the use of supplementary oxygen. I have great respect for him and found his book to be a real page-turner.

Bag Balm and Duct Tape: Tales of a Vermont Doctor by Beach Conger, M.D. (print), 10/19/07, rank 3.5. I found this to be a witty and sarcastic look at the life of a doctor at a small hospital in rural Vermont. It was VERY tongue-in-cheek; true, but with all the names creatively changed. Sometimes a little hard to follow, but in general fairly funny.

African Creeks I Have Been Up by Sue W. Spencer (audio), 10/16/07, rank 5++. This was a SUPERB book! Sue Spencer lived with her husband and three young sons in rural west Africa in the 1950s. Her husband was a mining engineer in Sierra Leone, and their two older daughters were in college in the States. This book is a series of letters that she wrote to the girls over a period of several years. They are without a doubt some of the funniest pieces of prose I have ever heard. She writes about simple everyday things – the foibles and fables of life in the bush – in the most literate and interesting ways. She “authored” a similar book which I also greatly enjoyed (on tape), called “More Creeks I Have Been Up.” I highly recommend either or both, and when I grow up, I wanna write like Sue Spencer!

This Stubborn Soil: An autobiographical chronicle of frontier life in twentieth century Texas – and the story of a boy in search of something beyond a one-room school by William A. Owens (print), 10/15/07, rank 3.5. I kept reading this one because I kept thinking it would become more positive. The author grew up destitute on a series of farms in 1920s east Texas, and desperate to become an educated person. I guess the good news is that he did finally make it (and is now a college professor!), but his success came long after the end of this book. It did give me a good idea of what those times in that place were like.

Trinny and Susannah Take on America: What Your Clothes Say About You by Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine (print), never finished it, but it would have been a rank 4. Useful, funny, and I can’t decide if it discouraged me or gave me hope.

Oh Great, What Do I Do Now? Parenting Remedies for When Kids Cook Up the Unexpected by Charles Fay (audio), 9/23/07, rank 5. One single cassette packed with great ideas for dealing with whiny, disobedient, oppositional, defiant kids. I need to listen to this one again and take notes, since we have two that each fit several of those categories. I won’t say which kids they are, but their middle initials are D and A.

Ambulance Girl: How I Saved Myself By Becoming an EMT by Jane Stern (print), 9/20/07, rank 4.5. I can identify with this author. She shares candidly about her feelings, thoughts, depression, and mid-life challenges, as well as walking the reader (enjoyably) through the training for and first two years of volunteer EMT work in a small town. Some raw language, but a great book.

Peace Kills by P.J. O’Rourke (audio), 9/17/07, rank 4.5. Very enjoyable conservative political satire. O’Rourke is a widely traveled journalist and in this book he comments on life in places as diverse as Bosnia, Iraq, Kuwait, and Washington D.C. Laugh-out-loud funny in places, witty always, cogent and biting analysis. I told Katie this book was cerebral humor.

The Life of Robert E. Lee by Mary Williamson (audio) – finished 9/6/07 – rank 5+. I loved, loved, loved this book! I picked it up just because I’ve always wanted to learn more about Robert E. Lee. It turns out this gem was written in 1895 as a biography for third-grader. It was SO good. I learned a ton and have even more respect for the man. I liked it so much that I looked for a print copy for my collection. Guess what?!? I found an 1895 original and bought it on the spot. I’m just thrilled to have it to read again and share with the kids.

Shooting the Boh: A Woman’s Voyage Down the Wildest River in Borneo by Tracy Johnston (print) – finished 9/3/07 – rank 3. This woman journalist signed on to a first descent of a remote river. It was an approximate 18-mile stretch through a rocky gorge with numerous big waterfalls. It took the team 10 days to traverse this distance, amid many accidents and crises. I wanted to like this book, but didn’t really care much for it.

The Raid: The Son Tay Prison Rescue Mission by Benjamin F. Schemmer (audio) – finished 8/25/07 – rank 4. I was vaguely familiar with this event, but I didn’t understand the politics and other events leading up to it – or the results from it. I hate that the book was abridged, but it was well worth the listen.

Doc Susie: The True Story of a Country Physician in the Colorado Rockies by Virginia Cornell (print), rank 4.5. This was a book I found hard to put down, probably because it combines some of my favorite subjects: the West, pioneering/homesteading, memoirs, and medicine. Susie was one heck of a lady, and she had a very interesting, if somewhat lonely life. It was extra nice that she lived only a few ridges over from Georgetown, where we vacationed this spring. There was also a fair amount of information about the construction of the Moffatt (railroad) Tunnel, that opened the way for the development of a ski resort called Winter Park.

Fight Fat After Forty by Pamela Peeke, M.D. (audio), rank 4. She explained everything I have been doing wrong for a lot of years. Now I just have to decide to do everything right! Actually, this was a VERY practical book, and I am gradually implementing the things she recommends.

The Sinking of the Eastland by Jay Bonansinga (book), rank 4. I was amazed to learn that I had never even heard of this disaster. In 1915, several large steamships on Lake Michigan were commissioned to take a huge number of folks across the lake from Chicago to a Western Electric company picnic in Michigan. It was to be an all-day affair with thousands of people at a large amusement park area. One of the ships, The Eastland, tipped over at the dock in the Chicago River, before ever getting under weigh, resulting the loss of more than a thousand people dying. The majority of the dead were women and children. The shock and horror of the event was beyond imagination. This book was well-researched and well-written.

The Wild Colorado: The True Adventures of Fred Dellenbaugh, Age 17, on the Second Powell Expedition into the Grand Canyon by Richard Maurer (print), rank 4. I knew about Powell’s first Colorado River expedition, but I never realized there was a second one. Now I know why: he kept it a secret! This was a kids’ book, so it gave an overview with huge gaps in between. I find that a bit frustrating, but it is the price I pay for picking a juvenile book. More maps would have been quite helpful. I liked the photos and Dellenbaugh’s sketches, and I found the author’s note at the end very interesting.

Living with Hearing Loss by Marcia B. Dugan (book), rank 4. This was a useful, quick read, written by a person who is very organized. I like that in a writer. For the past several years, I have realized that my hearing had gradually deteriorated, and this book was my first step in researching what I should be doing now and what I may need to do in the future.

The Rise of the Silver Queen: Georgetown, Colorado, 1859-1896 by Liston Leyendecker (book), rank 3. I always like to get a book from/about the places I visit, and I bought this one when we vacationed in Georgetown this spring. For $22, I wanted very much to like it better than I did. It was interesting initially, but it turns out that Georgetown was really only a happening place for about 25 years. I wanted this history to continue up to the present, but it stopped in the 1890s. While it was fun to read about streets and mountains that we actually saw, when you’ve done the details on ownership, financing, and productivity for one silver mine, you’ve done ’em all – and there were a LOT of silver mines in and around Georgetown! I did enjoy the photos.

Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart (audio, completed 07/20/07), rank 5+. I totally enjoyed this collection of letters, written by Mrs. Stewart in the early 1900s. What an amazing woman she was – always optimistic, always doing what was necessary without complaining, and always helping others. The letters are simply wonderful, and I was sorry to reach the end of this book.

The Worst Journey in the World: Antarctica 1910-1913 by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (audio, completed 07/17/07), rank 5+. This is a superb book and one of the best I’ve read/heard in a LONG time. Cherry-Garrard, a Brit, writes with eloquence and great detail of Robert Scott’s successful but fatal Antarctic journey. He was a member of Scott’s team and spent the better part of three years on this amazing and agonizing trip. To craft the book, he used entries from his own diary, as well meticulous research from the diaries and letters of other team members. This is a classic polar adventure story, and it is both extremely well-written and well-organized. It’s so rare to find in the same person a great adventurer and a gifted writer. In addition, the narration I listened to was outstandingly read. A real treat.

A Long Way from Home: Growing Up in America’s Heartland by Tom Brokaw (audio), rank 4. I usually enjoy memoirs based in the west or midwest, and this one was good. It gave me insight into who Tom Brokaw really is and the experiences that molded him. He had an interesting childhood in South Dakota, and I have a bit more respect for him now than I did before listening to this book. He may still be a left-wing news reporter, but now I can understand him as a fellow human, as well.


Ebola by William Close, M.D. (book), rank 5. My sister-in-law thought I’d like this book and she was right. It is a “documentary novel,” which means that the story is true but some details have been slightly changed to make the story easier to follow. In 1976, a horrific fatal disease broke out at a Catholic mission in Zaire. Hundreds of people died before the epidemic ran its course. No cause or cure was found, and many wonderful people died as a result. The book was a real page-turner, but I found the ending rather disappointing. I was hoping that there would be some closure, and there was not. However, if you like to read true medical, you’ll like this book.


Meant to Be by Walter Anderson (book), rank 4. The author, for years the editor of Parade magazine, discovered as an adult that his mother’s abusive husband, the man who raised him as his son, was not his father. A very interesting, quick read.


Down the Wire Road by Fern Angus (book), unfinished. I like to read books about local history and this one deals the county to the west of us. The author talks about all the various things that happened over hundreds of years in this same section of real estate, but I didn’t really care which Indian trails went where and why. Based on the title, I thought this book would teach me some detailed information about the construction of a telegraph wire system in the rural Ozarks. However, the book lacked a “story” element and I lost interest.


Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City, by Neal Bascomb (audio), unfinished. This sounded good. It had to do with the building of two skyscrapers in New York City in the 1920s: The Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. I listened to the first few tapes, but it was broken up a lot, so I would lose track of what was happening in between listening opportunities. It’s a fairly long book – maybe 8-10 tapes – and it was due back at the library, so I quit. The author gives tons of detail, much of which really is interesting, but it made the story drag a little more than I could handle. If I had unlimited time to listen, I think I would have really liked it.


Songbird Journeys by Myoko Chu (book), rank 4. My mom gave me this book, and I enjoyed it. I would have enjoyed it even more if I had made time to read it in fewer longer chunks. As it was, I read it in bed, and I could usually only read a page or two before falling asleep. Therefore, although it’s a short, easy-to-read book, it took me quite a while to finish it. I learned a LOT about birds, and it has motivated me to be more persistent in trying to locate and and identify new ones.


I was a Stranger by General Sir John Hackett, rank 4.

This book was recommended by some folks on my favorite homeschool forum. I liked it, but it was a little slow in places, as most memoirs are. The author was the commander of the 4th Parachute Brigade of the British 1st Airborne Division during WWII. He was dropped into Nazi-occupied Holland where he was (it was assumed at the time) fatally wounded in the Battle of Arnhem.

This book chronicles his time in Holland, including the amazing surgery that saved his life, the Dutch family that risked their lives to hide and care for him post-operatively, and the details of his harrowing escape.

Worth the read, especially if you like WWII history.


Real Farm by Patricia Tichenor Westfall, rank 2.

It would have gotten a 1, but I decided that since I finished it, I should have mercy. The reason I finished it, although I didn’t like it very much, was that it was short and I kept thinking it would get better.

I usually like memoirs about city people moving to the country, partly because they are usually funny and partly because I can identify. This book was emphatically not funny and way too philosophical for my tastes.

In the end, the author and her husband divorced, she stayed on the farm for a number of years, and then, when her contract came due and she couldn’t get a loan to refinance it, sold the farm.

A downer. Don’t bother reading it.


Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer, rank 4.

First of all, I must say that this book was LONG – 14 cassettes, and I think they were 90 minutes each! It was well-written (a characteristic I always appreciate) and explained in great detail the background factors on both sides – British and American – that led to and influenced the two Battles of Trenton and the Battle of Princeton.

I learned a lot of stuff, and a good deal of it will probably stick with me. I am now much more knowledgeable than I was about military strategy; foraging for food, supplies, and fodder; the difference between British, Hessian, and American training of recruits; the distinction between regular armies and militias; and how the temperaments of leaders can cause outcomes that alter history.

This was not a “fun” book, but I’m glad I listened to it.

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