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Book Recommendations from Literature & Larder

Updated: Feb 6, 2019

Books are one of the great subjects of my Literature & Larder class, but they are also where I go digging for the information I share with my students, and the way I keep myself inspired to teach. I thought you might enjoy some of these as well!

Queen Victoria's Highland Journals, Edited by David Duff


This is the record of Queen Victoria's travels in Scotland in her very own words. She and Albert loved to escape to the beautiful, wild countryside of Scotland. Together they bought and rebuilt Balmoral Castle which became the Scottish home of the Royal Family.






Jane Austen's Country Life by Deirdre LeFaye


The by-line of this book sums it up quite well: "uncovering the rural backdrop to her life, her letters and her novels." This book gives insight into daily life at the rectory where the Austen's lived, including the farm their family ran to supplement their income. The book also talks about the county of Hampshire they resided in, what a rural, farming year looks like, and some of the unique joys and trials of living in the country. The book includes period drawings, paintings, and sketches.




Take Courage: Anne Bronte and the Art of Life by Samantha Ellis


This was a fun, biography-like book which explored the lives of all the Brontes, but particularly focused on Anne, author of "Agnes Grey" and "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall." Ellis' premise is that Anne may be the most talented of the Bronte sisters, even though the others tend to get the most attention. The book explores the family dynamics and relationships that cause us to see the Brontes the way we do now. (Ellis turns the book almost into a memoir by adding some of her own life story as she explores Anne's life, which is not my favorite part. Otherwise the book is enjoyable and very helpful.)



Charles Dickens: A Life, by Claire Tomalin


This is a full-length biography, and a well-written one for those interested in exploring at length the life of Charles Dickens. Close examination of a person's life usually reveals things that bother us, and this will be the case with Dickens. Understanding where a man or woman comes from is of great help in understanding their works, and Dickens' life, especially his childhood, informs his writing in every way.






Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott


Louisa May Alcott served as a nurse for six weeks in a Washington, D.C. hospital during the Civil War. These "Sketches" chronicle her time there in the hospital and the things she experienced. Those six weeks would have a life-long impact, emotionally and psychologically, but also physically.







A Passion for the Impossible by Lillias Trotter


This book tells the story of Lillias Trotter, a talented Victorian artist who decided to take her paint box and move to Algeria to become a missionary rather than pursue becoming England's "greatest living artist." The story of Lillias is one of tender yet steel-strong faith in God and how that faith was worked out in years of ministry in a foreign land.






A Blossom in the Desert by Lillias Trotter


This book contains quotes and artwork from Lillias Trotter. Lillias used watercolor and gouache to capture the beauty of the Algerian landscape and her paintings are breathtaking. The excerpts from her diary give a glimpse into the faith God built into her heart over the years.




House of Dreams: the Life of L. M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg


This recently published biography of L. M. Montgomery is aimed at young adults and thus is a very readable telling of Montgomery's life story. It's fascinating to see how so much of Montgomery's own life ended up in the characters she created such as Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon.





The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables by Catherine Reid


The next best thing to traveling to Prince Edward Island is opening this book and jumping into the natural world of Anne of Green Gables. Filled with picture after picture of the lush beauty of PEI, this book also gives glimpses into L. M. Montgomery's life and extended family. If you love Anne, you'll love perusing this book!





Over the Hills and Far Away: The Life of Beatrix Potter by Matthew Dennison


Dennison's biography is recently written and kept to a length that is easily manageable. Beatrix Potter's life is always fascinating and I particularly enjoyed reading about the literary influences in her younger years that formed her imagination and fueled her own writing.






Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, by C. S. Lewis


This is an easy-to-read autiobiography in which C. S. Lewis tells about his childhood and the people and ideas that influenced him. If you enjoy the Narnia books, you will enjoy seeing how specific events, interesting people, and good books, gave Lewis the inspiration for what he created.






Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan


This work of historical fiction tells the story of Joy Gresham, the woman who eventually married C. S. Lewis. The book is fascinating and well-written, and even praised by Joy Gresham's son, Douglas. It is a delightful way to learn more about C. S. Lewis and the intriguing relationship that formed between him and Joy. It was one of my favorite reads in 2018.






J. R. R. Tolkien Artist & Illustrator by Hammond & Scull


Few people realize that Tolkien was an artist as well as a writer. In fact, he illustrated the first printing of the Hobbit! And, he wrote Christmas letters to his children each year complete with painted stamps on the envelopes and drawings in the letters! This book will introduce you to Tolkien the artist!






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