I have joined a book club this year, which is a new adventure for me. We are using “On Reading Well” by Karen Swallow Prior as a guide. In her book, Prior discusses virtues using 12 books as a backdrop. I’ve always believed it’s important to read a variety of literature from throughout history, but I’ve never been able to articulate WHY that is so important. Prior answers that question more eloquently than I ever could have. So far, I’ve really been enjoying her book. I’m excited to continue this reading challenge and to discuss some great books with some great friends.Share on Facebook
The Boy Who Loved Too Much
by Jennifer Latson
I loved listening to this book. It was one of those audiobooks that made me want to do the dishes or drive across town just so I’d have an excuse to listen to it. The book follows the journey of a mom and her boy who is diagnosed with Williams Syndrome, a lesser known disability compared to autism or Down Syndrome. The author does a wonderful job of alternating between the scientific research and the mom and boy’s story. This is a book I would recommend to teachers, parents with kids who have disabilities, and anyone else who has every interacted with a person with a disability….So basically, everyone could benefit and learn from this book.
The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
by Henry Fielding
I am ridiculously excited to be a part of a book club this year. We are reading through the books discussed in Karen Swallow Prior’s book, “On Reading Well.” The book for January was “Tom Jones” which, at 800 pages, is not for the faint of heart. I won’t be recommending it to too many people because of the length, but overall I found this book interesting and comical. Set in the 1700s, this book tells the story of Tom Jones, a young man who shows charity and care to others but lacks prudence when it comes to making life choices. Although it was written over 250 years ago, the themes and topics dealt with in this book are surprisingly relevant for modern readers.
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This book was on my to-be-read list for a while because one of my favorite quotes about serving others comes from this book. There is so much packed into this little book, but I found I didn’t agree with Bonhoeffer on everything. There were still some great truths in this book, but it made me think more critically about what the Bible says is essential in order to have a healthy Christian community and what are traditions or preferences we have developed in the church.
A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War
by Jospeh Loconte
I started and stopped this book several times before sitting down and reading the last half, but it was not because I didn’t enjoy it. I just kept getting distracted by other books that had due dates. In this book, I loved how the author combined the history of WWI, the themes in literature as a whole in the post-war era, and the friendship of C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkien. I have a greater understanding and appreciation for the works of Lewis and Tolkien now. Their writings truly went against the grain of their time. In their fantasy stories, they didn’t shy away from the horror of war but embedded a message of hope for those willing to fight for good.Share on Facebook
Usually, I barely complete my reading goal for the year and find myself scrambling to finish books in December. This year, audiobooks opened up a whole new world for me, and I was able to surpass my goal. I read a total of 55 books this year. I got out of my reading comfort zone this year by reading more recently published and popular novels. This meant I also abandoned or disliked more books than I typically do, but I enjoyed exploring other authors and figuring out what my reading style really is. As I look back over the books I read this year, here are some of my favorites that stand out to me:
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr
Reading People by Anne Bogel
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges
Is it strange that I’ve been reading so many books about art theft lately? It’s just such an interesting area of true crime that you don’t hear about much.
1. El Deafo by Cece Bell
My students are obsessed with graphic novels, and I find many of those books annoying (sorry, Dog Man). This book is an exception. One of my students requested a copy of it, and I ended up telling him he would have to wait until I finished reading it first. The author tells the story of her own childhood as a student who was deaf. She highlights the challenges of being a student who is deaf or hard of hearing in a truthful and humorous way that all kids can relate to. This was a quick, delightful read.
2. The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel (audiobook)
This book tells the true story of the men who worked during WWII to protect and rescue artwork. These men risked their lives to save the culture of people and nations. At times I had a difficult time focusing on the information because of the many details and length of this book, but overall I really enjoyed it. Also, I watched the movie based on this book and thought it was excellent!
3. Hallelujah: A Journey through Advent with Handel’s Messiah edited by Cindy Rollins
I used this book as a guide through the advent season this year. I loved how the book explained the traditions behind advent. Each day, there were several Bible verses to read which were paired with 3-10 minutes of Handel’s Messiah.
4. Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva
The author readily admits that she did not base this story strictly on history. Keeping this in mind, I enjoyed this atmospheric, fictional retelling of how Charles Dickens wrote his beloved “A Christmas Carol.” This was a great light read for the holiday season.
5. The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser
This book took me a long time to finish because I kept getting distracted by other books. I kept coming back to it though and found it interesting to read about Boser’s experiences investigating the Gardner heist, which is the largest unsolved art theft in the world. It’s amazing to me that after all these years none of the art has been recovered and no one has been arrested for the crime despite the numerous theories and possible suspects. This books pairs well with the new podcast “Last Seen,” which also investigates the Gardner heist.
6. The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Books by Nancy Guthrie
I started this study in the summer but didn’t finish up the last couple chapters until this month. I really enjoyed this study and how it connected the wisdom books with the gospel and New Testament.
Book I abandoned:
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The mystery of this story intrigued me, but I found the romance too annoying. I just couldn’t do it.Share on Facebook
I feel like my reading life is typically put on hold this time of year as things get busy with work and the holidays. But don’t worry, things always pick up over Christmas break! One of my favorite things about winter is curling up by a blazing fire with a warm blanket, steaming mug of tea, and a thick book.
1. The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore (audiobook)
This is the fascinating, true story of the women who worked painting dials with radium paint during the early 20th century. They would leave work literally glowing from the radium powder. They loved their work and were admired by their peers. It wasn’t until years later that many of them began to suffer aches and painful deaths. Doctors could not give them an accurate diagnosis or find a way to ease their symptoms. If you feel squeamish with oral surgery or bone decay, this books is not for you! I found myself wincing many times as I listened to what these women suffered, but I believe their story of pain and perseverance deserves to be told.
Although I would recommend this book, I would not necessarily recommend the audiobook. The narrator’s voice was annoying at times, especially when I could hear her audibly swallowing between sentences!
2. The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges
I highly recommend this book! Bridges does a wonderful job of explaining through scripture the intertwining of God’s work of grace in our lives along with our own responsibility to live holy lives.
3. The Bible (ESV)
My pastor recently challenged our church family to read the Bible in 90 days. I thought this sounded impossible, especially since I’ve struggled to complete reading the Bible in 1 year before. I used the YouVersion Bible app plan for reading the Bible in 90 days and really enjoyed listening to the passages while getting ready in the morning. Reading the whole Bible in such a short time span helped me see some of the themes and big picture. It was a nice change of pace from studying one book in depth.Share on Facebook
1. The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis (audiobook)
I finished my sojourn through Narnia. C. S. Lewis never disappoints.
2. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
If you like character-driven stories, this book is for you. I loved it. In the 1920s, Count Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in a Moscow hotel where he will spend the next several decades. The privileged aristocrat watches as world events reel outside his attic bedroom. Instead of retreating in hopelessness, Rostov resolves to pursue a purposeful life…with the help from a young girl who knows the hotel like the back of her hand.
3. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (audiobook)
This coming-of-age novel is beautifully written. I enjoyed immersing myself in the moments of joy, fear, sorrow, and determination that shape Francis Nolan’s childhood and her whole family.
4. Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
This was the perfect, atmospheric mystery to curl up with on Halloween night. Poirot is called in to help solve the mysterious murder of a girl at a children’s Halloween party. As he learns about other mysterious deaths in the community’s past, he begins to connect the pieces and enters a race against time to prevent another murder from occurring.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
I just couldn’t get on board with the obvious romance and dramatic character development that I could predict coming in this book. A nice young women goes to sell books to a small bookstore owned by a grumpy, unlikable middle-aged man with a tragic past. Need I say more?Share on Facebook
I was very thankful for audiobooks during this busy and hectic month.
1. Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis (audiobook)
I continued my journey through Narnia this month. I may be enjoying the series more now than I did when I was younger. Each story is so unique and powerful.
2. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis (audiobook)
3. Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures by Robert K. Wittman & John Shiffman (audiobook)
In this memoir, Robert Wittman recalls his experiences as an undercover FBI agent tracking down stolen art. This is an area of true crime that I hadn’t considered before, and I now have a greater appreciation for art and those who protect it. Understandably, Wittman paints himself in a very positive light in this book, but it was interesting to hear his perspective on art and art crime.
4. The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis (audiobook)Share on Facebook
Is anyone else sad to see summer reading draw to an end?
1. The Door Before (100 Cupboards prequel) by N. D. Wilson
I’ve been so excited for this prequel to one of my favorite youth/fantasy series! I enjoyed learning the backstory to the series, but I’ll admit I was slightly disappointed. I didn’t fall in love with this book like I did with the others, but it is still a good book – especially for fellow N.D. Wilson fans.
2. The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis (audiobook)
Growing up, I always said “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” was my favorite book in the Narnia series. As I’m rereading them, I think “The Magician’s Nephew” may take that place. I love this story and the analogies in it so much. It’s absolutely fantastic. Also, as a side note, I’m thrilled that I finally found an old copy of “The Magician’s Nephew this past year. My collection is now complete!
3. Hoping for Something Better: Refusing to Settle for Life as Usual by Nancy Guthrie
I enjoyed going through this devotional on the book of Hebrews this summer. So much practical truth!
4. The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis (audiobook)
1. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
I grew up reading and watching movie adaptions of Jane Austen’s novels, but I was completely unacquainted with “Northanger Abbey” until now. I found it very enjoyable to go into an Austen novel without knowing what to expect. I didn’t have any preconceptions of the characters based on the movie, so I could imagine them based solely on the descriptions in the book and my imagination. I loved it.
2. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (audiobook)
In this delightful story, Professor Don Tillman lives a structured, ritualistic life. When he decides to get married, he tackles the project as he does everything else in his life: with an efficient, scientific method. He creates “The Wife Project,” a survey and elimination process to help him identify a potential wife. But when Rosie comes into his life and refuses to leave, she doesn’t meet any of his qualifications of a good match. The story that follows is both humorous and heart-warming as it examines what it really means to love someone.
3. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (audiobook)
This book was absolutely dreadful. I heard several sources compare it to Harry Potter, so I decided to give the audiobook a try. The story and characters were unconvincing and weighed down with plot holes. It was supposedly set in the early 1900s, but this wasn’t evident until midway through the book. Also, no major events took place during the first two hours of the audiobook (unless you count folding paper cranes and cooking pasta major events), but then suddenly a sorcerer appears on the scene and nonchalantly rips the heart out of a character’s chest. WHAT?!?! My friend and I finished this audiobook together, but only because we needed entertainment for our 40+ hour road trip. We did enjoy mocking the author and audiobook narrator, plus some of the 1 star amazon reviews are hilarious.
4. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (audiobook)
It has been quite a few years since I lost myself in the world of Narnia. I’m making my way through the series and finding it even more magical and meaningful than before.
5. Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I don’t think you can travel to Acadia without reading the poem “Evangeline.” My friend and I explored Acadia National Park and the Maritime provinces of Canada together, and she read this aloud while I drove. I love reading about the places I’m visiting, so this was perfect. “Evangeline” is a beautiful, tragic romance that also unfolds the history of the Acadians during their expulsion.
6. Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr
I adore the way Doerr writes. “Four Seasons in Rome” is his memoir about the year he spent in Rome with his wife and twin baby boys. I have never been to Rome or raised twins, yet his descriptions and stories are both vivid and relatable.
7. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
I moved this book to the top of my reading list when I found out Netflix was releasing a movie based on this book. I’m so glad I read it! Written as a series of letters, this book is set during post-WWII and tells the story of a young author who travels to the island of Guernsey for inspiration. The characters she meets are so charming and enduring. This is a must-read in my opinion.
8. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan (audiobook)
“Echo” is considered middle grade fiction, but both youth and adults will enjoy this book. The reader is introduced to three children who live seemingly different and unconnected lives but all use their musical talents to face life’s challenges. I love how the author mixed history with a touch of legend and fantasy.Share on Facebook