Monday, 4 May 2015

Spring Cleaning & Genealogy

I love books!
It's that time of year (at least in the Northern hemisphere!). It's Spring and many of us are opening windows, storing the heavy blankets and comforters, rolling up rugs, changing out our dishes, and driving with the top down (convertibles mind you!). The weather is gorgeous enough that whether you have a free afternoon or weekend, reading outside on the deck or at the park is mandatory, it's a rite of Spring!

I am a huge reader - it is something I saw growing up (both my parents are readers and we went to the library twice a month for our "book fix" when I was a child). All my siblings are readers as well and whether it is a biography, thriller, reference, mystery, historical fiction, military history, current event or self-improvement - we often share titles and sometimes share the actual book. Whenever I move or visit family, I find the library and the bookstores so I can easily get my "book fix." I appreciate the "Lucky Day" or "New & Noteworthy" section of the library where I often find books that I might otherwise miss. (For those unfamiliar with this section of the library, new books are shelved here and can be checked on for 14 days - no renewals and if it is on the shelf, it is your "lucky day"). I appreciate author interviews on certain news and talk shows because I am introduced to new-to-me writers and new ideas (closed minds are most definitely not a good thing!).

So what is in my stack this month? I'm glad you asked.

  • The Road to Character by David Brooks - in the introduction David Brooks suggests that we need to rebalance our lives as too many of us (himself included) focus on resume virtues (external success) rather than eulogy virtues (internal success). He posits that something profound is being lost in our Society when we forget or denigrate the core virtues of "kindness, bravery, and honesty." The strength of this book is in the examples the author shares - my personal favorites are Dorothy Day and Frances Perkins (both women saw Society's ills and worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the marginalized and the working classes). This is a book you really should purchase because it is one of those books you read slowly, think about and annotate. It is also a book that drives you to the notes (I love footnotes for sources and fuller explanations), Wikipedia and biographies of the selected individuals. This is an excellent Spring to Summer read as you gather additional materials to learn more about these individuals - their lives, their struggles, their choices, and their core values in action. Perhaps one of these individuals had some impact on an ancestor or what they did or stood for shaped some aspect of your ancestors' lives. 
  • Resilience by Eric Greitens - so often when I research my ancestors' lives I wonder how they survived such tremendous difficulties and setbacks (personal ones such as the loss of several children or systemic ones such as religious or class persecution). How do people pick up the pieces and not only survive but thrive? Eric Greitens' book is a fascinating read - the correspondence between two men, one broken and lost and the other "been there" and encouraging - that will give hope to anyone who wants to learn how to navigate difficult times.
  • the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo - you will have several of those "aha moments" when you read this simple but quite useful book on getting organized and the effect that finally decluttering (not simply moving around, filing or storing our stuff) will have on our personal and work lives. I am using Marie Kondo's suggestions/directives to finally get through my genealogy materials - both on my computer and my paper files (this is my Spring to Summer project). 
  • Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson - I read everything Erik Larson writes because his research is meticulous and his interweaving of the facts, personalities, and the times makes every subject he takes on riveting. Dead Wake is his most recent effort and in light of our focus on World War I in genealogy and family history circles (the centenary of WWI) it is a timely addition to my reading stack. Note to everyone - find a free weekend because you won't be able to put this book down; each of his books reads like a thriller! Dead Wake places the reader right in 1915 and tells the story of the history and use of submarines by Germany, the attitudes of people making the Atlantic crossing during wartime, the attitudes of those involved in the war effort, and the actions and inactions of politicians in Germany, the UK and the United States. History comes alive in Dead Wake.    

So there you have it - four of my must reads for Spring - it's all about variety and taking advantage of books to learn, reflect and nudge my thinking in new directions. And just to show you that I'm not all about the serious - I love mysteries and thrillers! These books were in my reading stack for the past two weeks.
It will play with our fears, take us on adventures,
put a new spin on history, and give use clever characters and quips
a good book opens a door to all kinds of possibilities
I'm a pretty fast reader when I am trying to figure out who committed the crime and I tell myself that it keeps my mind sharp for figuring out genealogical mysteries or learning more about Minnesota where several of my ancestors settled (thanks John Sandford!).

What's in your reading stack? Why not share in the comments section below. Thanks for reading and I'll fill you in next month on how my tidying up project is going.


  1. Well, now that I have finished the Outlander books (all 8 of them) I'm moving on. Next up is "The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code" by Dennis Prager. It's a little book, with space after each section to write my own reflections. In the words of the author, "If you are a person of faith, this book will strengthen it; if you are agnostic, it will force you to rethink your doubts; if you are atheist, it will test your convictions." Looking forward to it. Then I have a book about tracing Irish ancestors to Scotland, "Finding the McCains: A Scots Irish Odyssey" by Barry McCain. And one of these days, if I get organized, I'll read "The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering" by Marie Kondo. :-)

  2. Between my hard copies and my digital copies of books to read, there are so many, I cannot list them all. There are genealogy books, resources and family histories. There are a few biographies. Many "how to" books.

    I do believe I am in FAIL mode here. SIGH

  3. Love your quotes Tessa! Like you I'm a book fanatic and I don't care whether in ebook or hard copy....the former having the advantage of being more portable and fixing the decluttering problem. I keep reading about Marie Kondo ;) I'm definitely going to check out "the Road to Character".

  4. I am coming to this thread rather late.

    I borrowed the Marie Kondo book from the library following reading a review. Suddenly everywhere I looked there was a reference to Marie Kondo. Having read the book I purchased my copy and once I have completed the project I am working on I plan to use her methods for clearing my study and filing my mountain of paper.


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World Wide Genealogy Team