As mentioned in one of my last blog posts of 2016, I’ve created a new reading list for 2017 (based on a hybrid I got from my mom who got the entire reading list from Tim Challies’ blog). This year, it’s 40 books long (not 103 like my mom’s!), with room to add to it if I get there.
I’m pleased to report that we’re off to a great start, with five books read in January. Granted, a couple of them were started last year, but they still count in my opinion. With the exception of the last one, all are books I’d greatly recommend.
- The Secret Keepers, by Trenton Lee Stewart [501 pages; Category: A book with at least 400 pages]
I saw this book in Barnes and Noble while Christmas shopping and was instantly drawn to it because of the author (of Mysterious Benedict Society fame). I asked Daniel to get it for me for Christmas and he did, and I immediately started devouring it.
As per usual, Stewart weaves an intricate tale with intelligent children as the main characters – this time with moral decisions at the center. I liked how he showed Reuben’s struggle over the watch’s hold on him, and how Penny was used to counter that and act as a moral grounding for him. Also important were the themes of loyalty, family, sense of belonging, learning to trust others, and the importance of sharing our burdens with one another – as Reuben learned to do with Penny. It also had lots of adventures and a plot that made you think.
Definitely a satisfying start on my book list for the year!
- It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single, by Sara Eckel [Category: A book about a current issue]
So good. Recommended by my sister, Vicki, who said it was the best book on singleness she’s read – and I agree. The author was so straightforward about the excuses and reasons that people give for being single – and how none of them are true. She did so in a calm, non-aggressive way, and it was reassuring to hear that the most likely reason we’re single is because we just haven’t met the right person.
Although the author was not writing from a Christian perspective, I felt that she had many strong ideas that were logical and well-thought out – and could definitely have spiritual lessons applied to them if seen through a Christian lens.
There are so many quotes I could share, but here are a couple of my favorites:
“Reminding me again and again and again that longing was not desperation and loneliness was not failure. And that, ironically, the less I tried to manipulate my inner experience, the more peaceful and content I felt. If you feel sad sometimes, it’s not because you’re single – it’s because you’re alive.”
“Here’s a thought: Maybe you’ve remained single well into adulthood because […] you know what you’re doing. Because there is something right with you. The culture may portray older singles as losers and narcissists, but the truth is the person who ends the mediocre relationship before marriage – or who never starts it in the first place – is a true pillar of the institution.”
“But in a world that treats a forty-one-year old single woman like a teenager who didn’t get asked to prom, I think it’s extremely important to recognize the unique wisdom of a solitary life -a wisdom that develops slowly over many years.”
- Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls [Category: A classic novel]
Yes, I know – shocking that I’ve never read this one. Obviously I’ve heard of it all my life, but I just never got around to reading it until now. And in all honesty, I had to force myself to read it when I had no other options lying around the house! At first I wasn’t all that into it, but soon enough, the author was pulling me in with his adept story-telling skills … which is saying a lot for a girl who really doesn’t like hunting!
But as any skilled story-teller can do, Rawls painted the story of coon hunting as vividly and brilliantly as you could imagine – and left your heart aching with the beautiful loyalty depicted between Billy and his two coon-dogs. And even though I knew what the ending would be ahead of time, I still teared up at the end – especially with the description of the red fern growing at the very end. I can definitely see why it’s a classic.
- Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg [Category: A book about writing]
Another book I’d heard of often, but hadn’t read until Nikki loaned it to me. I started it last October or November when she first loaned it to me, but it’s not a book you zoom through like a novel. No – it’s a book that has to be digested slowly in parts and absorbed into your writing bloodstream. Goldberg’s essays on writing and the essence of writing practice are what every writer needs to know.
And every bit of it was worth it. There were so many things that I need to remember – I’ll have to read it again and again until I can fully internalize them – but there were a few quotes that I had to write down to keep with me:
“If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you.”
“And an artist, though she expresses vitality, must behind it touch down on quiet peace; otherwise the artist will burn out.”
“Anything we fully do is an alone journey. No matter how happy your friends may be for you, how much they support you, you can’t expect anyone to match the intensity of your emotions or to completely understand what you went through. This is not sour grapes. You are alone when you write a book.”
“To write feels better than all the excuses.”
“It’s pretty nice to be talented. If you are, enjoy, but it won’t take you that far. Work takes you a lot further.”
- Anne Frank in the World, by the Anne Frank House [Category: A book about history]
Another one of my reading goals is to read all the books in my classroom library. As I read them, I share about them to my classes to get them more interested in the variety of books they have available to read. Some of the books were left in the classroom when I arrived, provided by the school (especially my nonfiction books), and this was one of them.
I was not super impressed. I love WWII era books, both fiction and nonfiction, and while this book had many interesting photographs and information in it, I found that it was not organized well. Additionally, it was not written in an engaging manner for children – and some of the pictures/information was just plain intense, possibly too intense for 5th-graders (if they ever took the time to look through/read the book!). I feel like there are better books out there on this time era that they could be reading.
I love doing a reading list again. While I read many amazing books last year, I didn’t keep track of them like I did in 2015, and therefore don’t remember a lot of them. I think it’s far better to have these kinds of goals and record-keeping/reporting to keep me on track with my reading. Let me know if you have any fresh suggestions for me … I’m always adding to my mile-long “to-read” list!