Cheaper By The Dozen – by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (1948)

Cheaper By The Dozen

For being written so long ago, this book certainly holds up well. It was written by a brother and sister team from a family of twelve children. Their father, Frank Sr., was an efficiency scientist who often used his own family as the subject of his time and motion studies. He made a living advising companies and factories in how to make the end product in as little time and movements as possible. Their mother was a psychologist, and assisted her husband in his surveys. “Cheaper By The Dozen” recalls the wild and crazy years of growing up in this unusual household. The book was made into a movie in 1950, a radio drama at some point, a stage play in 1992, a musical after that, and most recently into a movie again in 2003. It was translated into ten languages, and has been re-printed many times. It won a French International Humor Award. And humorous it is!

Is it a biography or a novel? After checking online catalogs of three different library systems, I found that some of them catalogued it as biography, and a few put it in fiction. When I read the book, it did seem like it was somewhat embellished at times, but it seems to be mostly biographical. It’s a humorous read that can still be enjoyed more than 70 years after being written. I’d call that a winning read!


I’m A Stranger Here Myself – by Bill Bryson (1998)

I'm A Stranger

When you leave your native country for 20 years and then return, does it still feel like home? That is the question!

This book is actually a compilation of columns that Mr. Bryson wrote for a newspaper column, describing his re-adjustment to the United States after having lived in Great Britain for 20 years. So many things about American living now seemed absurd to him.

The tone of the book was humorous, poking fun of both the oddities of American lifestyle and of himself. There were many articles that had me laughing, as I had often had the same sentiments. I loved Bill’s reminiscing about the post office, computers that don’t work, highway diversions, immigration paperwork, voice accents, and too many cupholders in cars.

Other subjects were more serious, such as the War On Drugs and the inconvenience of modern conveniences. The book was was well-balanced, mostly silly but with a few deep moments. It was a fun book, and made a good break from heavy books and depressing news shows.

Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul – by Jeff Kinney (2014)

As I continued my quest for some books that my 4th-grade granddaughter could read, I kept bumping into suggestions to read books from the “Diary Of A Wimpy Kid” series. Never having read one, I thought it was time to give it a try. After all, it had to be better than the last children’s book I tried to read.

I settled on “The Long Haul”, which happens to be the ninth book about the Heffley family. Mom Heffley has decided that what the family needs is a nice road trip together. So off they go, Dad, Mom and the three boys, with Greg writing down their adventures. As you might suspect, nearly everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. Greg records it all with a witty humor, and adds lots of illustrations to the story.

Before I realized it, I’d zipped through the entire book. Yes, this is a book make for 4th graders! Of course it’s full of silliness and crazy pictures, but isn’t that what a fun kids’ book should be? No depressing story line or ghoulish conversations. No swearing or inappropriate content. Just a really humorous story that makes even an adult laugh.


Growing Up On The Edge Of The World – by Phil Callaway (2004)

Growing Up On The Edge Of The World


If you grew up in an old-fashioned church, where everyone knew everyone, and there was a definite code of conduct, and keeping up your image in the community was all-important, you will identify with a lot in this book. The main character is 12-year-old Terry Anderson. He loves his parents, but thinks they are sometimes a little extreme in their faith.

Terry and his brothers are very tight, sharing a love of playing practical jokes, but also yearning to break free from the pressure to be perfect young Christian men. The Anderson family has always been poor, but things become even worse as the mother battles a debilitating disease, and the father is injured in – of all places – church.

There are three story-lines that run throughout the book – the Anderson family trying to survive bad health, Terry finding a stash of money that becomes an albatross around his neck, and a church congregation moving from an attitude of legalism to grace and forgiveness.

I absolutely loved Terry’s quirky dad, and the way he worked to keep his family together. It didn’t matter what kind of trouble his kids got into, he still loved and encouraged them. I also enjoyed the descriptions of what Terry was thinking about in church, and things that went wrong during the worship service. But most of all, I appreciated Terry’s inner struggle to do what was right when he really didn’t want to, which is something everyone likely struggles with.

This would be a good book to read for a discussion group. It’s not overly long (283 pages), and it has a good range of issues to talk about.