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What I’ve Read and Watched this Winter

The Chicago winter is long—here are some of the books and TV shows that have gotten me through it so far!

What I’ve Been Watching:

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1. The Crown on Netflix. The first season of this fabulous biographical drama about Queen Elizabeth II was so good that I recently watched it all over again because I wanted my husband to see it. The ten episodes of the first season cover the period beginning in 1947 with Elizabeth’s wedding to Philip and ending in 1955. This show is visually stunning, featuring breathtakingly beautiful costumes, sets and locations, and the acting is top-notch. The history is fascinating, too. Fortunately, season two is filming now; I can hardly wait for its release next year!

Series and TV

2. This is Us on NBC. This is an hour-long drama on Tuesday nights that began in September. After binge watching several of the first episodes, I was hooked. The series is about a young couple and their three children (twins and an adopted child). The stories go back and forth between the time the children are young and when they are adults. The show handles a lot of emotional topics, so be prepared to cry—each episode has me tearing up! The stories are engrossing and well-acted. This is definitely a show to watch after the kids go to bed.

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3. Victoria on PBS Masterpiece. Although I enjoyed elements of the first season of this series about Queen Victoria, I was a bit disappointed with it by the end of the season, which covered her early reign. I loved the dynamic between the young queen and her older adviser, Lord Melbourne, but once she got engaged to Albert, I lost interest. The show seems amateurish in comparison to the Crown—the sets, writing and acting
are inferior. There is a shallowness to the stories, and the show just doesn’t come across as realistically as I would like. I am not sure if I will continue following this show next season. I would be curious to hear what you think of it.

What I’ve Read (and Can Recommend)

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1.The Hours Count by Jillian Cantor. This is a great book for those of you who like historical fiction. It is a story about the young Jewish couple, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were executed for spying for the Russians in the early 1950s. The book blends fact and fiction, focusing on a young woman who was a neighbor of the Rosenbergs in their Lower East Side apartment building in New York City. This is a gripping story, even though you know how it ends. It had me reading and thinking late into the night.

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2.Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. This well-written and interesting, but emotionally challenging, book shows how impetuous parental decisions can destroy children’s lives. It is an engrossing and cautionary story about divorce and family relationships, very sad and hauntingly realistic.

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3.The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz. My daughter recommended this young-adult novel to me, and I absolutely loved it. If you are a fan of Anne of Green Gables or Jane Eyre, you will enjoy this charming coming of age story that seems like it should be a modern classic. It is the story of 14 year old Joan Skraggs, a motherless farm girl in Pennsylvania who is mistreated by her father and runs away to Baltimore, where she becomes a house maid for a wealthy Jewish family. The story is written in diary form and is an endearing account of the heroine’s adventures, dreams and trials.

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4.The Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon. I had never heard of this book, but grabbed it off the new books shelf at the library. It is a time travel story that takes place in both San Francisco in the 1970s and an idyllic community in the Sonoma Valley in 1906 (the year of the great earthquake). It is an emotional story of family and love. It is a suspenseful page-turner, and I thought it was a beautiful story.

What Podcasts I’ve Been Listening To:

  1. NPR’s The Hidden Brain. I recently started listening to podcasts while I go about my business around the house. I used to just turn the radio on, but I am finding that I get much more out of a good podcast. I love NPR’s The Hidden Brain. Host Shankar Vedantam talks about interesting human behaviors in a way that I haven’t thought about before.

Do you have any good recommendations? I would love some suggestions!

header image from Vanity Fair









4 thoughts on “What I’ve Read and Watched this Winter

  1. Thanks for the recommendations! Here are 2 books I can recommend: My most recent favorite is God’s Kingdom by Howard Frank Mosher, a sort of coming-of-age story taking place in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. I loved the characters and the writing is wonderful. The second book, published a number of years ago, is Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest, about his work with gang members in Los Angeles. At first I was put off by his style, but gradually I came to appreciate his stories of individuals he has worked with, and ultimately I was completely inspired by hi compassion and his insight that the point is not “serving” the poor and marginalized, but “sharing life with” them — which he certainly does. He founded Homeboy Industries — you can google it.

    Finally, a great movie — A United Kingdom, the true story of the man who became the first president of Botswana and his wife, an English clerical worker he met while studying in London. We loved it.


  2. Love your show choices! They are the same as mine! I’ll check out the YA book – I’m looking for something new to read. If you like the British royal family, you might like “The Royal We”. It’s a fictional account of Prince William and Kate Middleton – I loved it! Also for podcasts – I’ve been listening to Ballard Designs How to Decorate and YHL’s Young House Love Has a Podcast. Love both!


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