top three book finds from 2014

Happy New Year!  We have been in Minnesota for the last two weeks relaxing with my in-laws.  I’ve been spoiled in every sense of the word.  Sleeping in, not cooking, reading books and playing games. Don’t get too jealous though because my jeans are feeling a little snug tight. It isn’t my fault however.

My mother in law has stocked her pantry full of different kinds of cookies and treats.  That is not an exaggeration.  I present photo exhibit A (each plastic cool whip type container contains a different type of cookie or fudge).  I count over 10.  And never fear, in the garage there are larger plastic containers to refill these smaller containers as needed! She is amazing and I have the sugar pulsing in my veins to prove it.

All this extra downtime has been great for reading.  I finished two books and Hunter and Ashlyn have almost cleared out the stash I brought along for them as well. As I have been lounging and turning pages through some thought-provoking books, I’ve been secretly wishing I was in a book club so I could verbally process all that I have been taking in. My next best is to share the books with you so ready or not, I am going to start including some posts related to literary loveliness. To start, allow me to share with you my three favorite book finds from 2014:

For kids
I discovered a great online resource (One More Story) that has a collection of over 70 high quality picture books including authors such as Ezra Jack Keats, Donald Crews, William Steig and Cynthia Rylant. With a paid subscription (for 3, 6 or 12 months) you have access to the entire library of books on your computer or handheld device.  One More Story has a promotion going (until the 5th) and if you use the discount code: gift2014 you can get a year membership for $34.99.

I love that there is no animation, simply the book artwork and highlighted words of the story accompanied by a great reading voice, music and sound effects.  When we are doing school, I often let my younger two pick a story to listen to while I am working on a subject with the older two that requires focus.  I personally prefer this option to allowing them to watch a movie.  That said, my older two kids (8 and 11) enjoy listening in as well so it isn’t just for young kids.  The only downside I have found is that when we are on the road traveling through states with little to no internet connection (such as Montana or the Dakotas) the books cannot be accessed.

For everyone

I have been resisting an Audible subscription since last Christmas.  Instead, I’ve checked out audio books from the library like a reasonable person who wants to save money.  I’ve listened to podcasts (and found a really stellar one by the way which I will link to at the bottom of this post).  But the allure of listing to a book on demand is hard to resist.  I was a click away from breaking my resolve this last week when Tsh at The Art of Simple turned me on to a resource I had not yet heard of: LibriVox.  LibriVox is a library of free public domain audio books read by volunteers.  Accessible though your computer or handheld device, you have a plethora of books available for the choosing.  I’ve “favorited” many that I’d like to listen to and many for my kids.  They are quick and easy to locate via the app on my phone.  Stories can be streamed online or downloaded.  You will find books such as Treasure Island, Jane Eyre, Heidi, The Jungle Book and Anne of Green Gables. So far we have been thrilled with the large variety of classic books. My Father’s Dragon was a particular favorite not only because the story is so fun but because the reader was a young boy who used wonderful verbal expression. Note that because they are read by volunteers, some readers are more expressive than others, but many books have multiple reader versions so if you don’t like one reader, you can just listen to another.

For mom (or dad)

My favorite podcast in the reading genre is the Read-Aloud Revival.  Sarah Mackenzie creates lovely podcasts filled with some very notable guests (such as Ken Ludwig, Marie Rippel, Jim Weiss, Jamie Martin and Tis Oxenrider) all centered around the goal of encouraging and equipping you to build your family culture around books. Every time I listen in I get all riled up about the value of books and am encouraged to read aloud to my kids all over again.

If you have any favorite book related finds, I’d love to hear about them! For now I am off to pack our car and prepare for our road trip home. Wish me luck in resisting the cookie leftovers I’m being offered!

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