BOOK THIRTEEN: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I picked this one up in Chester, England at a used bookstore. I've heard friends reference Atwood and thought I'd give her writing a try. I agree with the Daily Telegraph's two-word take on the front cover: "Compulsively Readable." A science fiction, post-apocalyptic tale of America way, way down the road, I was hooked. I thought about The Giver (one of my favorite books, especially after teaching it once, reading it aloud in its entirety five times to students, and reading it on my own multiple times) a lot while I was reading, as well as Station Eleven, which I finished earlier this year. If you liked either of those books, give The Handmaid's Tale a try, though be warned that it's a bit more graphic. I'm curious now what other Margaret Atwood books are like.

When the table is full, heavy with platters, wine glasses scattered, napkins twisted and crumpled, forks askew, dessert plates scattered with crumbs and icing, candles burning down low it's in those moments that I feel a deep sense of God's presence and happiness. I feel honored to create a place around my table, a place for laughing and crying, for being seen and heard, for telling stories and creating memories.

BOOK FOURTEEN: Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist. Another recommendation by the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog (which strangely enough features an article today about Shauna Niequist's new book, Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are), and another favorite that I will be referencing in the future. There are so many good things about this book, it's hard to know what to say in a small space. It's an honest look at her own relationship with food and her body that I can relate to as a woman (you know, really liking and savoring food but also seeing these constant images of tiny, skinny, and did I mention TINY? women in every advertisement and commercial). It's full of stories of traveling, her cooking club, and her family and dear friends gathering together around the table. She is a firm believer in the power of food to unite people, old friends and new ones, family and strangers, and to bring us together to talk about life. There are some incredible recipes in the book, too! I just made her mushroom parmesan risotto which was incredible (John can testify to that!) and I look forward to making more of her recipes soon (bacon wrapped dates anyone?). This is a beautiful book.