"As to moral courage, I have very rarely met with the two o'clock in the morning kind. I mean unprepared courage, that which is necessary on an unexpected occasion, and which, in spite of the most unforeseen events, leaves full freedom of judgement and decision."
Ah, two o'clock in the morning. We're old friends now. When I was young, and my first baby was born, I delighted in her midnight murmurings which meant I could wake up and stare at the astounding perfection of her features. A few years into mothering, with a backlog of missed sleep, it did indeed require a certain moral courage.
Luckily, by that point, I lived directly across the street from a Dominican monastery, where women of all ages awoke to pray throughout the night, without the alluring reward of baby snuggles. They were summoned by a bell and I by a baby's cry, but it was comforting to unite my own drowsy prayers with theirs on the mornings when my eyes simply didn't want to open. "O God, come to my assistance," I would pray (and still do), "Lord, make haste to help me."
In subsequent years, I've come to have a true appreciation for these early mornings of nursing and wakefulness. I wish I could say I always open my eyes with joy and alacrity every time… I don't. I'm middle aged now, and energy is in short supply. But once I do rustle up some motivation, I genuinely enjoy being awake while the rest of the household sleeps. I am glad for the time to speak and listen quietly with God. When I finish prayer, I enjoy reaching for a book (or my kindle, thanks to its backlit screen) and diving into stories while the baby nurses. It's another kind of two o'clock courage, I suppose, to open a book instead of scroll on a phone.
A few weeks ago, a friend asked my favorite question: "Do you have any books to recommend?" She needed some reading recommendations for her own two a.m. nursing sessions, and I was most happy to oblige. Since then, I've put some extra thought into this question… What makes for the best early morning reading during the early months of motherhood? Not just any book will suffice. It needs to be engaging, certainly, but also not require too much deep thinking. (I love a good, philosophical treatise…but not at two a.m.) For me, it can't deal with any terribly stressing topics--no child abductions or violent, traumatic deaths on this list. At that time of day, I tend to prefer character-centric works over plot-centric ones (although there are exceptions), but the pacing needs to skip along just as well as if it were a thriller.
Without further ado, then, my list of Best Books for Two O'Clock Nursing Sessions—or anytime you need some good, lighthearted, and brilliant stories in your life.
The Blue Castle is L. M. Montgomery's only "adult" novel—its main character is twenty-nine and there a couple more mature themes than her other books. It's funny and clever and heartwarming, and one of my two favorite books ever.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Excellent historical fiction that will definitely make you want to plan a trip to Guernsey.
While you're daydreaming about Guernsey… Green Dolphin Street, by Elizabeth Goudge, brings the nineteenth century version of the island to life in a thought-provoking and challenging book about the sisters and the power of the presence of God and the decision to love.
Daddy-Long-Legs, by Jean Webster, may technically be categorized as a children's or YA book, but its sweet romance, low stress, and epistolary style makes it a go-to recommendation for me to give anyone at all.
And if you love Daddy-Long-Legs, you should definitely give Katherine Ray's Dear Mr. Knightley a read! Her books (that I've read so far) are all delightful, with at least a touch of literary influence for you book nerds like me.
A recent (and wonderful) discovery for me was the writing of D. E. Stevenson. Her Miss Buncle's Book trilogy is lighthearted and hilarious, while still being very intelligent. I found the whole series, but the third book in general, full of sound advice for a good marriage. Bonus!
Maybe it's living in New England, but I will always love a good Revolutionary War story, and In Pieces, by Rhonda Ortiz fits that bill to a T. Romance, intrigue, beautiful dresses (the main character is a seamstress, and the descriptions are rich and historically accurate), philosophy, faith… This book has it all.
A Countess Below Stairs, by Eva Ibbotson is the perfect lighthearted read for those of you who binged Downton Abbey.
I love every word I've ever read by P. G. Wodehouse, but Lord Emsworth and Others is my favorite nighttime reading collection of his stories. I consider "A Crime Wave at Blandings" to be a perfect short story.
There are moments in my nights when my prayers are less like peaceful meditations and more like anxious raging. In those moments, I find the stories of The Little World of Don Camillo, by Giovanni Guareschi, particularly comforting. Even better than their steady humor is the beautiful relationship between God and the character Don Camillo portrayed in these stories. God is tender and patient and ready with a witty answer when needed. Don Camillo is imperfect but sincere. It's so good.
Are there any books you'd add to this list? What gets you through wakeful seasons of life with peace and poise—or at least general sanity?
Here's my read-before-Advent book stack for November!
Three re-reads, two non-fiction, and one I've been meaning to read forever.
The Vanderbeekers Lost and Found, by Karina Yan Glaser, was the one I've been meaning to read—somehow I'd fallen behind on the series without realizing it until the latest book came out and my children scolded for me for beginning it without catching up. This was lovely, as expected! My favorite, favorite part (and skip ahead if you don't want spoilers) was when the children sat at the bedside of an elderly friend who was dying. Death is so, so hard but its hardness seems to make many people overlook the beauty of a happy death. I'm very blessed that my children have been able to be present at wakes and funerals and one death bed, and I'm happy to report that they cherish these memories and were not traumatized (that's not to say they aren't still grieving, but that is a very different thing). But children are very often sheltered from both the hardness and the beauty of death—I was so glad to see it handled sensitively but honestly here. Brava.
Online Marketing for Busy Authors, by Fauzia Burke. Oof. All the things I really need to learn before I get a book published, because we can all admit I've been flying by the seat of my pants for a bit. This book is well-structured and encouraging, as well as full of good sense.
I've just begin Tranquility by Tuesday, by Laura Vanderkam, and I already am gleaning so much wisdom. Her 168 Hours was life-changing for me in terms of time-management and mindset. This follows along the same vein, but with the focus being on contentment and calm rather than productivity alone.
When choosing books for my November reads, I had to go with comfort over everything else, and that's why I pulled from my three favorite authors for re-reads (I don't usually re-read this much in a month). Heaven to Betsy is the first Betsy-Tacy high school book, and Jane of Lantern Hill is one of L. M. Montgomery's most overlooked titles (also the rare story not set on Prince Edward Island). Pure comfort-y goodness. And besides being my favorite book, Pride and Prejudice is on my curriculum for my high school daughters, so we've been reading through it together (it's been a blend of read-aloud, read alone, and audiobook). I LOVE sharing favorite books with my teenagers. This is such a fun stage in our homeschooling journey. I've been loving it so much that I'm planning a post on read-aloud with teenagers, so stay tuned.
Okay, now I need your help: I need recommendations for good December reads! We read lots of picture books as a family during Advent (lots of Jan Brett this year as part of Read Aloud Revival's Christmas school), and I'll be reading the devotional Waiting for the Light. I'd love to add a new-to-me novel to the stack—do you have any you really love? Classic, contemporary, mystery, history—I'm pretty open! Please share your favorites!
Hi! I'm Faith. I blog about books and creativity, family and faith. Welcome!