Leather Chair Reading! Books That Celebrate The American Spirit!

Leather Chair Reading!  Books That Celebrate The American Spirit!

I think it’s fair to say that we may all be a little weary of the grueling political process we’ve experienced in the past several months as we anticipate the election of a new president of the United States.  Sometimes it seems that the very principles our founding fathers fought so hard for in establishing this great country are being compromised.  The campaign rhetoric got so bad one night, that I found myself browsing my husband’s expansive library of American history books to find a few that would help restore my faith in everything I love about this great land of America.  For this Leather Chair Reading journal entry, I have chosen a few of the books I love that helped me remember, more intimately, the immense sacrifices of past generations as they fought for the many freedoms we now enjoy, as well as reenergize my belief in the great American spirit!

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“There is nothing so wrong with America that faith, love of freedom, intelligence and energy of her citizen’s cannot cure!”   Dwight D. Eisenhower  

“1776” by David McCullough

1776 by David McCullough

“The eyes of all America are upon us as we play our part; posterity will bless or curse us!”  Henry Knox

If you are a fan of Pulitzer prize winning author, David McCullough, like my husband is, (don’t even get him started on John Adams, McCullough’s book written just prior to this one) you know he always does extensive research.  In 1776 McCullough focuses on a single momentous year in the fight for American independence, rather than any one individual, although George Washington definitely takes on a starring role.  If you have ever wondered how a bunch of unruly farmers, so to speak, end up defeating the great monarchy of England, you’ll learn from this book that it was done with a great deal of suffering, determination, ingenuity…and perhaps a bit of divine intervention!  McCullough details both sides of the conflict, and how England underestimated abiding hunger for victory.  Besides a new respect for George Washington and his ability to garner an unwavering loyalty from those he led, you’ll also see that he had the rare gift to learn from the criticism he received from other commanders.  When Washington learned that other military leaders considered him to be hopelessly indecisive, he considered their views, agreed with them and made himself more decisive.  An unlikely hero in this book was Henry Knox, a small, rotund Boston bookseller, who trekked over wintry, frozen terrain to bring much needed ammunition from Fort Ticonderoga to help American soldiers be victorious in the battle at Yorktown, a pivotal turning point in winning the Revolutionary War.  On the book jacket it states that 1776 is another landmark in the literature of American history.  In reading this book, I was in awe of all the players that, by no small coincidence, came together to help America gain its freedom!

“A More Perfect Union” by Dr. Ben Carson with Candy Carson

A More Perfect Union by Dr. Ben Carson

“Our founding fathers wrote the Constitution for ordinary men and women, in clear, precise language; they intentionally made it short enough to read in a single sitting.”  Dr. Ben Carson

My husband and I picked this book up long before Dr. Carson made his bid for the 2016 presidential race.  I had read his autobiography, Gifted Hands, and liked his thoughtful, determined approach to life.  We read a few chapters after purchasing the book, then got busy with other projects, so it sat neglected on my nightstand.  But when the constitution became such a focal point of the current presidential race, we decided it was time to become better versed on this document drawn up by our founding fathers as a fundamental directive that helps to define key points that promise to protect the rights of the citizens of the United States of America…even amid all their varying viewpoints.  Dr. Carsen so profoundly states, “I wrote this book to encourage every citizen to read and think about the Constitution, and to help defend it from those who would misinterpret and undermine it in our age of political correctness…it’s so important to defend the Bill of Right, which guarantees our freedom to speak, bear arms, practice our religion and much more.” 

The Constitution. A More Perfect Union!

The Preamble to the Constitution says, “The purpose of this document is to create a more perfect union of this blessed nation!” 

May we all be empowered, in some small way, to protect that union and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves.  I also loved the insights from Dr. Carson’s wife, Candy, as she put a female spin on the privileges we are afforded as a result of upholding the Constitution.  (If you really want to treat yourselves, get the audio version of this book, Dr. Carson’s kind voice is such that listening to him read this book can’t help but restore any lacking faith you may have in the great American Spirit!) 

“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I actually read this book some time ago with a neighborhood book club; and while I’d like to think of myself as somewhat of a dedicated learner about World War II, I have to admit that I found I wasn’t too knowledgeable on the Japanese element of this horrific war.  Unbroken is the true story of Louis Zamperini who learns to channel his youthful defiance into being a world-class runner who eventually makes his way to the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  But when World War II breaks out he finds himself enlisting as a United States airman.  I found this book to be a hard read sometimes as it documents Zamperini’s perils of being lost at sea after his plane is shot down over the Pacific Ocean and the brutality he eventually faces as a Japanese prisoner of war.  I loved learning that the author was able to interview Zamperini many times as she wrote the book, and was able to find out first hand that his character, even in old age, exemplified hope and humor amid his memories of the most desperate of human conditions!  I later saw the movie based on the book that was produced by Angelina Jolie, who said Zamperini taught her about having faith.  “There’s just something greater than all of us…and it’s uniting and beautiful!”   Wonderful wisdom to keep in mind as we each face life’s challenges, whatever they may be.  

The great American spirit of Louis Zamperini!

(Louis Zamperini in 2014 at 97 years old.)

“When he thought of his history, what resonated with him…was not the pain he had suffered, but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him.”  Laura Hillenbrand on Louis Zamperini

I  hope I can learn to love deeper when facing adversity…and may we all learn to truly cherish those who have forged the way for America to exist as it does today, and honor its greatness by the way we live!

I Love America quote.

Please share what books you’d recommend about American History and its great spirit that are a “must read”?     

–Mary

Leather Chair Reading! A Life Changing Book!

Leather Chair Reading!  A Life Changing Book!

Although we have enjoyed an unusually warm fall season here in Utah where I live, the night air is starting to turn cooler, so it seems the perfect time, (before the busy holiday season) to come home after a busy day and wrap up in a warm afghan for a little while and read a chapter or two in a good book!

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To change ones life:  Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly.  No exceptions.”  William James

For this “Leather Chair Reading” journal post, the book I’m going to share with you literally changed the trajectory of my life and helped me and my husband redefine our true priorities at a crucial time for us when balancing work, family and time together seemed a little off kilter.  It is a book you’ll want to keep handy so you can refer to it often, because we all know it often takes constant reminders to help us keep what’s most important in our lives in good perspective!

Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter!  by Hal Urban

Leather Chair Reading! Life Changing Books!

“The author has put into wise bite-size pieces some of life’s most important truths.  Read, learn, and enjoy!”  Obviously, I was intrigued after reading this quote on the inside cover of the book, “Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter!”, while browsing through some bookshelves several years ago when my husband and I were on a “bookstore date” one of our favorite kinds of dates, so how could I not buy it!

The author, Hal Urban, was a high school teacher for several years, and then a professor at the University of San Francisco, but more importantly, as far as I’m concerned, he raised three sons as a single father, and in this role realized pretty quickly that he had a limited amount of time to get his priorities figured out.

This book is the kind of book you’ll tend to want to devour in a single sitting, since you can’t help but anticipate all the amazing changes that are sure to take place in your life when you finish the last chapter!  But realistically, since this book does requires some self-introspection, reading each chapter carefully, even taking time to make notes in the margins, rewards the reader with time to really ponder all the individual topics, and then know better how to implement the lessons learned into daily living.  As the wise literary scholar, Ralph Waldo Emerson, once said, “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived in order to be understood.” 

Mr. Urban states in the introduction of his book that he wrote it for four reason:

 ◊ Because they don’t teach how life works or what is essential in school.

Because most of us need help in discovering how good we can really be.

Because old fashioned truth never goes out of style—-even with a new generation.

Because we are never too young or too old to learn life’s greatest lesson…and the time is always right.

I love the common sense approach taken with each lesson so that people from all walks of life can ultimately empower themselves to live better lives.  For example, in Lesson 4, titled:  “Attitude Is A Choice–The Most Important One You’ll Ever Make!” the author shares a personal story of how he slowly put the pieces of his broken life back together after a painful divorce.  In so doing, he tried hard to live by the creed of World War II prison camp survivor, Victor Frankl, who believed that the ability to choose our attitude in any given circumstance should be valued as one of man’s most celebrated freedoms!  “We can’t adjust every situation to fit our lives perfectly, but we can adjust our attitudes to fit all situations.”

Good attitude quote.

Lesson 6: “Being Thankful Is A Habit–The Best One You’ll Have!” talks about an experiment Mr. Urban did with his students throughout the years of his teaching career; he would simply asked his students to go for twenty-four hours without complaining.  I will admit, I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read that the first response from his students was usually to complain about the assignment, but this was only the first part of the assignment…he also asked his students to list things they were thankful for, then read that list four times a day!  The author then goes on to describe the significant changes in his student’s demeanor as they entered his classroom after the experiment, “There were more and bigger smiles, eyes appeared to be open wider and bodies seemed more alive.  Was it magic?  No, just appreciation.  Thankfulness does wonders for the soul!  When we focus on what’s right instead of what’s wrong, life improves considerably!”  

Probably the lesson I related to the most was number 11: “There’s No Substitute For Hard Work!”  I was blessed to have parents who taught me that motivation is fantastic and goals are great, but nothing happens until hard work is added.  It’s the last lesson, number 20, that often stumps me the most: “Life Really Is Quite Simple, Don’t Insist On Complicating It!”  While we live in a complex world, it doesn’t mean we have to live complicated lives.  In the final chapter of his book, Mr. Urban intuitively states, “Living a more fulfilled life is often as simple as looking for the best…in the world, in others and in ourselves!  Doing this will unlock your mind to a treasure chest of life’s opportunities and possibilities!” 

Be Happy Quote

I will always treasure “Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter!” as a reference guide on how to be authentic and live my best life!  

I’d love to know about any great books you’ve read that have inspired you to live better. 

–Mary        

 

Leather Chair Reading! International Children’s Book Day!

Leather Chair Reading!  International Children’s Book Day!

It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a Leather Chair Reading journal entry, so I thought International Children’s Book Day seemed the perfect time to do one.

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International Children’s Book Day is a yearly event held on April 2, to celebrate the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen, the renown author of many timeless children’s books and fairy tales like, The Ugly Duckling, Peter Rabbit and The Princess and the Pea, just to name a few.

Thumbelina, a fairy tale classic. www.mytributejournal.com

A personal favorite fairy tale classic of mine from Hans Christian Andersen was Thumbelina.  I even had a Thumbelina doll!  

NYC_Hans_C_Andersen

Statue of Hans Christian Andersen in New York’s Central Park

It is ironic that oftentimes many children’s authors have such sad upbringings themselves.  Hans Christian Andersen grew up in abject poverty, his mother was an alcoholic and his father was a poor shoemaker who died when he was a young boy; he never married or had children of his own.   Maybe these childhoods were the inspiration for their stories!

Celebrating International Children's Book Day! www.mytributejournal.com

The International Children’s Book Day is sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People.  Founded in 1967, this committee was developed to help inspire children all over the world to read!  There are several special events held each year, including storytelling, writing competitions, and talks from prominent authors and well-known illustrators.

One of the things my own children seemed to love the very most when they were growing up was going to the library or browsing a book store.  Now my two sweet granddaughters are proud holders of their very own library cards!

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Here’s a short list of a few of my favorite children’s books and one I recently purchased to celebrate the Easter season.

“Friends” by Helme Heine

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This darling book is about Charlie Rooster, Johnny Mouse and Percy the Pig, who are the best of friends, who do everything together and stick by each other during good times and bad–but when night falls and they try to sleep together, they soon realize that even best friends have to be apart sometimes.

Illustrations from the children's book "Friends" by Helme Heine. www.mytributejournal.com

My copy of this book is well loved, it was a favorite of my children and now my two granddaughters adore it too.  The story is clever and the illustrations of these three friends on their ventures are extraordinary!  (I love this book and have even given it as a gift, on occasion, to some of my adult friends!)

“Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelmans

The original Madeline book www.mytributejournal.com

The original “Madeline” book was first published in 1939 and won the Caldecott Award for most distinguished children’s picture book the following year.  The beloved Madeline books come in a five book series about twelve girls who attend boarding school in Paris and are under the watchful eye of Miss Clavel.  Madeline is the smallest girl, but also the most fierce!  My grandma first read the Madeline books to me, and I just gave my oldest granddaughter two of them for Christmas.  As it states on the jacket cover, “…there is a certain magic about Madeline that cannot be explained!”      

“Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters” by John Steptoe

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My granddaughters and I happened upon this delightful book on a recent jaunt to get frozen yogurt, but since there was a bookstore right next door to the yogurt shop, we couldn’t possibly resist taking a few minutes to look around!  “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters” is sort of an African variation of Cinderella.  Mufaro’s two daughters, much like Cinderella, are presented to the king as possible choices for marriage.  The king secretly observes Manyara and Nyasha and soon discovers that the beauty of one is only skin deep!  It was fun to discover this enchanting tale that inspires a fascination with Africa and the people and traditions there!

“Ollie’s Easter Eggs”  by Olivier Dunrea

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Since it is the Easter season, I picked up this funny book from the best-selling creator of the Gossie and friends books.  I love the whimsical pictures and the funny strategies carried on between the characters in this book, and it’s an easy read, so my oldest granddaughter can read it out loud to me!

I hope on this International Children’s Book Day you’ll be able to find time to snuggle up with a few of your favorite little people to read some good books together, because after all…

“Every man’s life is a fairy tale written by God’s finger!” 

Hans Christian Andersen 

Who doesn’t just love a great children’s book, what are a couple of your favorite ones?

–Mary