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    Books & Reading, Mother's Education

    The 2023 Afterthoughts Book Awards

    January 10, 2023 by Brandy Vencel

    This felt like an odd reading year to me. My categories were a bit different from normal, and I did a lot more whim reading than I intended. (I really think whim reading is the only solution during times of high stress!) But I’m happy I read what I did, and I do have a number of gems to share with you today.

    As usual, the only contenders for these awards were books I actually finished in 2022. I read in lots of books that I didn’t finish — some I may never finish (or, at least, not anytime soon), others will be contenders for the 2024 awards if all goes as planned.

    This was another year where half of my best reading was actually during read aloud time. Those books aren’t listed here — they’ll be featured in my annual read aloud list, which I’m publishing soon. Maintaining the habit of reading aloud hasn’t just been good for my teenagers — it’s been good for me.

    The books below aren’t broken down exactly into my Scholé Sisters 5×5 Reading Challenge categories, but it’s close. If you’ve never done this reading challenge, I cannot recommend it enough. Every year, I rewrite my plan at the end to reflect reality, it’s true. But every year, also, I find I’ve read more books, better books, and a broader variety of books than I would read if left to my own devices.

    Let’s face it: on my own, all I read is science and science fiction (with a smattering of philosophy)!

    Now … on to the awards!

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    Best in Philosophy

    Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power by Josef Pieper

    This book is so short, I almost can’t call it a book! But it sure packs a powerful punch in its 54 pages. I read this twice (one benefit of its short length), and got something new and wonderful out of it both times. That is always indicative of a worthy read!

    I’ve never met a Pieper book I didn’t like. This one gets five stars.

    Other contenders: The Great Divorce, The Communist Manifesto, That Hideous Strength

    Best in Family

    Balanced and Barefoot by Angela J. Hanscom

    While I was fairly good about outside time when my children were young, this book made me want a do-over. Hanscom’s arguments are compelling as well as inspiring. This is definitely on my list of books to give new mamas.

    Other contenders: Why Children Matter, The Christian Family, Eve in Exile, The Happy Dinner Table, For the Family’s Sake

    Best in Fantasy

    The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

    This is such a powerful book. It’s powerful because it is just so true. If you have ever watched a beautiful person fall in love with himself and then fall deeper and deeper into immorality and transgression, this book describes that situation at a deeply insightful level. It made me wonder if some of this came from Wilde’s struggles with his own sin and immoral self-love. Dorian Gray is a beautiful train wreck who leaves a path of destruction behind him. It’s not an uplifting book, but it does make one wise if you read it as a search for symbolic truth.

    Other contenders: 100 Cupboards, Dandelion Fire, The Chestnut King (re-reads all)

    Best in Health and Medicine

    Béchamp or Pasteur? by Ethel D. Hume

    This book actually has two books in it. The “preface” is actually a short book by R.B. Pearson called Pasteur: Plagiarist, Imposter (so I guess you know where that person stands!). What was most fun to me is that this book includes a critique of how Pasteur is portrayed in Paul de Kruif’s book Microbe Hunters, a book I assign all my students before they graduate. I had always suspected the Pasteur chapters were overblown — they read more like idol worship than the rest of the book. Hume would say de Kruif was just plain wrong (or worse, perhaps he was lying or deluded). While I’m not ready to throw germ theory out the door, Pasteur seems to deserve condemnation for a lot more than ruining raw milk for generations! Excellent read … if you’re a science geek. It definitely gets into the biology weeds.

    Other contenders: A Learned Treatise of the Plague, Irreversible Damage, Deep Nutrition

    Best in Science Fiction

    Ready Player One by Ernest Clime

    First, a warning: this book is not one to hand over to your kids. The language is terrible (I think it had the most foul language of any book I’ve ever read — most of my books never have anything like that) and a bit of the content is also questionable. I read it myself mainly so I could better edit as a read aloud. But reading it twice was something — Clime tells an amazing story in an unbelievably believable world he’s created called The Oasis. I separated science fiction from fiction just so I could give this book an award!

    It was a great read aloud for our family (youngest is 14) and might be for yours, too, as long as you are willing to be a human Vid Angel!

    Other contenders: The Color of Magic, The Light Fantastic, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Childhood’s End

    2023 Afterthoughts Book of the Year

    Deep Nutrition by Catherian Shanahan, MD

    This book builds on the work of Weston Price’s classic book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. If your children only read one nutrition book before they graduate high school, it should be Price’s book. If, however, you are like me, and want them to have greater exposure throughout their teen years, this book is my number two. I require it of my students for graduation now (and my college student read it this summer while he was home).

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  • Reply Susan Everett January 15, 2023 at 8:11 pm

    Yep, reading “Deep Nutrition” changed my shopping and diet for sure! Thanks for mentioning it last year.

  • Reply Leisa M January 15, 2023 at 3:20 pm

    I always love your book reviews and recommendations.

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