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    Books & Reading, Mother's Education

    The 2024 Afterthoughts Book Awards

    January 26, 2024 by Brandy Vencel

    This past year was wild. I’m surprised I finished as many books as I did! (As usual, the book awards only includes books I read on my own. I’ll create another list that contains all our read alouds from this year, so stay tuned.) Somehow, in the midst of scoping out a new town in a new state, selling a house, and buying a house, I still got through 23 books. (Thank the Lord for audio books!). Reading keeps me sane, I think.

    The list below isn’t broken down exactly into my Scholé Sisters 5×5 Reading Challenge categories, but it’s close. If you’ve never done the 5×5 Reading Challenge, I cannot recommend it enough. Every year, I rewrite my plan at the end to reflect reality, it’s true. I’ve never performed 100% as I set out to do. 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.

    On to the awards!

    This post contains affiliate links.

    Best in Health

    Healing Complex Children with Homeopathy: ASD, PANDAS/PANS, Lyme, ADHD, and More by Angelica Lemke

    As I’ve said before, this is a more advanced book. It’s not that there is a beginner’s book for these types of conditions; it’s more that you really need to have a working understanding of homeopathy in general before you try to tackle chronic issues. In fact, many would advise you to never try to tackle chronic issues on your own. However, comma, sometimes it’s hard to afford the help you need, or it’s hard to find the help you need.

    This book is amazing. I read it cover to cover and chose a remedy that sounded like it would help one of my children, one I had read about before, but didn’t make the connection because the book I was reading was using antiquated language. (That’s one of the things about this book — Lemke’s remedy descriptions use modern language so they are easier to understand.) Less than a week after giving the first dose of the remedy, people were marveling to me at the change in my child! It really was remarkable!

    Other contenders: You, Happier: The 7 Neuroscience Secrets of Feeling Good Based on Your Brain Type; The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life; Super Gut: A Four-Week Plan to Reprogram Your Microbiome, Restore Health, and Lose Weight; Peace over Pain: How to Eliminate Chronic Pain and or Chronic Illness So You Can Break Free from the Medical Monopoly; and Fast Like a Girl: A Woman’s Guide to Using the Healing Power of Fasting to Burn Fat, Boost Energy, and Balance Hormones

    Best in Growth and Leadership

    Art of War by Sun Tzu

    I’m currently midway through my second reading of this book. I love it so much. As someone who has been reading Plutarch almost constantly for over a decade, I have a huge appreciation for and interest in war tactics. But when you start to ponder what makes a good general and a good leader, you realize this book is so much more than meets the eye — it can hold great life lessons for a simple homeschooling mother like myself! We’re currently reading it for the Grow Up: Courage to Be the Adult in the Room mentorship in the Scholé Sistership, but you don’t need to read it in a group to dig for riches in this book. Just think analogically about it: what battles are you currently fighting in your life? Then, find the advice that applies. Sun Tzu is certainly a wealth of good and wise counsel!

    Other contenders: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

    Best in Economics

    The Bodies of Others: The New Authoritarians, COVID-19 and The War Against the Human by Naomi Wolf

    What can I say? Naomi Wolf and her perspective as a liberal feminist refusing to wear a mask in New York during the height of the pandemic fascinated me. I have followed her career since I was a child and she was working in the Clinton administration. She strikes me as such a traditional liberal (believing in freedom of speech, for example, rather than than the communism-light that passes for “liberal” lately) she’s almost a libertarian. I highly recommend this book, which reads like a memoir, most especially if you lived in a state that was mostly untouched by Covid restrictions. You need to know what some of the rest of us went through.

    Other contenders: Black Rednecks and White Liberals, The Housing Boom and Bust

    Best in Education and Enculturation

    Redeeming the Six Arts: A Christian Approach to Chinese Classical Education by Brent Pinkall

    Brent Pinkall is, first and foremost, a missionary to China. Or, at least he was … before the communists kicked him out. During his time in China, Pinkall spent a significant amount of time helping the Chinese churches set up private classical schools for their children. I thoroughly enjoyed all the Chinese history as my husband’s grandparents were also Chinese missionaries who were forced out by communists (this was at the beginning of the revolution when the communists first took over, about 80 years ago). His thoughts on the possibility of a classical education that is also distinctly Chinese were interesting and frequently reminded me of the assertion of a number of the Church Fathers that each culture was lovingly prepared by the Lord for the eventual coming of Jesus Christ.

    Other contenders: Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Beauty Matters: Creating a High Aesthetic in School Culture, School Education, Foundations of Christian Education: Addresses to Christian Teachers, Tried & True: A Primer on Sound Pedagogy

    Best in Christian Living

    Ourselves, Our Souls and Bodies by Charlotte Mason

    I have read this many times now, but it still wins. This is by far the best book on living the good life I have read. Not that it’s easy to read — it’s super convicting. Almost every page confronts me with my flaws. But I am not deterred! If you want to grow as a person in Christian virtue, read this book! I have found it to be the most helpful book outside of the Bible when it comes to living daily life as a Christian.

    Other contenders: The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith

    The 2024 Afterthoughts Book of the Year

    A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix by Edwin H. Friedman

    This is, hands down, the best leadership book I’ve ever read in my life. If you want a book that teaches you how to lead while navigating this insanely high anxiety culture, this is the book for you. Friedman asserts that leadership problems are essentially the same at every level, whether you are leading a family, a church, a business, a social organization, or even a national government. This book will bolster your courage and help you grow up into the adult you were meant to be. It will help you get comfortable with ignoring the hand-wringing crowd. It is excellent. Highly recommended. Five zillion stars. 😉

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  • Reply Anne Neulieb March 8, 2024 at 11:13 am

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing your habit of having enough read alouds going for whatever combination of kids you have present. I have struggled so much with the lack of read aloud time available since having high schoolers. And I really feel soul-filled when I get to read with my kids so it has been hard to settle for 10 minutes 3 or 4 times a week after a decade full of many hours per day. I’m slowly learning that reading to whoever is available is WAY better than waiting for everyone to be available. So even if I end up with four or five read alouds at the same time I’m going to keep embracing this idea. Thank you a bunch!

  • Reply Congetta Gregg March 6, 2024 at 10:53 pm

    I buy way too many books after reading your blog posts!

    Anyway, I was reading Toby Rogers Substack and he mentioned an author you have read in the past and listed in your book posts and I thought you might find his concept of the social pole switch interesting. I also bought the book he mentioned at the end.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 9, 2024 at 9:12 am

      OH WOW. Thank you for this link! I have been baffled by both Klein and Taleb’s response to COVID so this was super helpful.

  • Reply Tiffany January 29, 2024 at 9:24 am

    I always love your yearly book posts. Thanks so much for sharing. I’d like to read Art of War but I’m wondering about the translation. Is this the one you would definitely recommend or are there a couple that would be fine? I ask only because my public library has many, many different translations, but not the one you have pictured. Thanks!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 29, 2024 at 9:56 am

      I do like this translation, but I read another a while back and it was also good. I can’t say I know a lot about the various translations, but so far I haven’t met one I disliked!

  • Reply Stefanie January 27, 2024 at 12:49 pm

    Just curious if you recommend all the ‘also-rans’ under the winners? Thanks for the list, my shopping cart is always fuller after I read your book posts 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 29, 2024 at 9:54 am

      I do! On the rare occasion when I disliked a book, I either leave it off entirely or call it something other than a contender — contenders are books that were also good!

  • Reply Leisa January 27, 2024 at 10:28 am

    I always love your book awards of the year. So what is a good book to beginning homeopathy?? I read the Nemenchek Protocol based on your recommendation. I implemented some of those protocols and huge changes in all my kids happened. Thanks!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 29, 2024 at 9:55 am

      If you can find it, Homeopathic Medicine at Home is one of my favorites for learning to treat acutes like colds and coughs.

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