Reading Report, Vol. 22: My Literary Life Update!

Reading Report, Vol. 22: My Literary Life Update!

Hello there! How can it be that I haven’t updated the blog in over two years!? Yikes! It has been a very full two years, let me tell you! Many life updates would be in order after such a long break, but for today, I will stick to an update of the bookish kind.

Last week, I had the great pleasure of chatting with my podcast clients (and friends) on The Literary Life podcast about my own literary life. I was a bit nervous and scattered, and I didn’t love editing my own episode (ha!). But it was great fun to talk with Angelina, Cindy and Thomas in real time, instead of just responding to them in my head while listening to their book chat. We talked about my literary education, mostly, the ups and downs of my life in books, and I threw out a few titles and authors I am enjoying now. If you want to listen in to our conversation, you can do that at

One of the topics we discussed was how I approach reading goals and decide what to read next. If you have read my blog for a while, you know that I have participated in a lot of challenges in the past. In the past couple of years, though, I have found it harder and harder to stick to following a set reading list. There are just so many books out there that I want to read, and every time I read one thing, it leads to a rabbit trail book that I didn’t even know about before. Of course, listening to book podcasts also helps expand my TBR list exponentially, as does looking ahead at my older child’s homeschool reading lists for the next several years!

That being said, I do like having some direction in my reading goals for the year, which at least helps me have some ideas to run with when I finish one book and am trying to decide what to read next. This year I feel particularly interested in digging deeper into a few specific genres/topic areas, so the Scholé Sisters’ 5×5 Challenge is most helpful in that pursuit. However, I think my list might end up looking more like a 3×10 by the time I’m done with it! I have so many different interests that I just can’t narrow it down to 5 categories right now. But filling out a full 5×10 would just be too much to do along with all the other non-challenge reading I also do! So here are some of the books and categories I have set goals to read during 2023. (Books marked by an asterisk(*) are ones I’ve already finished, and ones with a ^ are those I am currently reading.)

Time and Life Management

This category is one I’m actually doing really well with filling up. I started the year reading a title that is currently very popular on the topic of time management, and that led me to want to get some other perspectives on the subject of time and related topics in living well in the time we are given.

Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman*

Ploductivity by Doug Wilson*

Wintering by Katherine May*

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg*

Grit by Angela Duckworth^

Contemporary Fiction

I love classic literature, as you well know if you’ve been around here for any time at all. But I do like to try and find worthwhile newer books when I can, though I find it incredibly hard to do being a sensitive reader and not very tolerant of poor writing. The books I have finished already passed the sensitivity test and were, in my opinion, at least, worth the time to read. (I will note that The Thirteenth Tale just barely qualified on the content level. It does have some rather grizzly and dark subject matter. I switched back and forth between reading on my Kindle and listening to the audio, and I may have skimmed over some of the unfavorable parts just because they came after I was already too invested in the storyline to stop.) The last two titles that I haven’t read will hopefully be at least as good as the others on the list! Books for this category need to have been written since at least the 1950s if not much more recently.

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden*

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield*

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patty Callahan*

Virgil Wander by Leif Enter

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

It’s a Mystery to Me

Although I read a fair amount of detective fiction, I haven’t branched out much from my small handful of favorite authors in the genre, partly because of that content sensitivity issue, and partly because mystery novels are a little bit of a comfort genre for me. So I like to stick to familiar territory. But I know there are some more great writers of the golden age of detective novels that I haven’t read yet, as well as some slightly more contemporary authors who have written good stories, too. This little list is an effort to expand my horizons a little and read more of favorite authors in the genre all at the same time.

Black Plumes by Margery Allingham*

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth

A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh

Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers

I Have an Inkling

I have long been wanting to read more written by and about C. S. Lewis, as well as other members of the Inklings. This category is going to be a sort of catch-all for those books that fit the bill as either by or about these literary greats. It is an ever changing list, but for now, these are the titles that I currently have as goals to complete this year.

Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis^

Bandersnatch by Diana Glyer

The Reading Life by C. S. Lewis

The Narnian by Alan Jacobs

Sir Gawain and The Green Knight by J. R. R. Tolkien

Education and Philosophy

These areas are two I don’t read enough of as a homeschooling mom, but I want to get better about educating myself in them. The titles on this list have also been changing throughout the first half of the year, but at the time of writing these are the books on education and philosophy that I want to get through in 2023.

Poetics by Aristotle^

The Convivial Homeschool by Mystie Winckler

Revitalized by Anne White

Range by David Epstein

The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius

Home and Health

This is another category for me to educate myself better, a kind of professional development for homemakers, if you will. Since there are so many varying options for me to add to this list, the titles are ever in development in this category as well.

The Mind-Gut Connection by Emeran Mayer, M. D.*

Walking by Andrew Weil, M.D. and Mark Fenton*

Continuing the Good Life by Helen Nearing^

A Year Without the Grocery Store by Karen Morris

Something by Dana K. White

Go Back in Time

Some of the first non-fiction that captured my imagination was narrative non-fiction history and biography. I always liked history in school, but I don’t feel like I really learned much in the typical textbook driven curriculum of school. There is so much I want to know about, so many interesting people and events and time periods that I want to learn about. Some of the books I want to read are memoir, some biography, some history…but they all give me a chance to go back in time and gain a little more historical perspective. This list could go on and on, but these are the main titles that I am going to prioritize this year.

As Long as Life by Mary Canaga Rowland, M. D.*

Eusebius: The Church History trans. by Paul L. Maier^

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer

The Elizabethan World Picture by E. M. Tilyard

Radiant: 50 Remarkable Women in Church History by Richard Hannula

Christian Living

This category is pretty self-explanatory. I am always wanting to learn and grow in my spiritual walk. Being in a more biblically rich and grounded church these days is definitely helping, but I also want to expand in my personal religious and devotional reading. A few of these titles I have had on audio for a while now, and I really want to take advantage of that accessibility and absorb the truths held in those books.

The Necessity of Prayer by E. M. Bounds^

You are Not Your Own by Alan Noble

All of Grace by Charles Spurgeon

Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray

You Who? by Rachel Jankovic

Phew! I think I will stop there. That’s eight categories, in case you weren’t keeping track. I do have a couple more category ideas, too, but I haven’t even started a single book in either of them, unlike the above lists in which I am currently reading at least one title even if I haven’t yet finished any. I will try to report back at the end of the year and let you know how I did following these reading tracks or if I went off the rails and followed a bunch of rabbit trails instead! 🙂 If you got this far, thanks for reading! I hope to be back with more posts soon, but if not, I’ll see ya ’round someday!

The Reading Report, Vol. 21: 2020 Year in Review

My, oh my, how time does fly! Moving to a new state and getting all settled, home renovations, homeschooling, Revelation Wellness Instructor Training, and podcast jobs have all kept me on my toes this fall! They have also taken so much of my physical and mental energy that blogging has taken a sad hit this year. But I have some time today, and I wanted to sit down and look back on this year in my reading life. Maybe sometime I will get around to a more general “life update” type of post before the end of 2020. For now, though, I just want to talk books for a bit. Hope that’s good with you! 😉

Back to the Classics Challenge Report

It looks like I haven’t written reviews here for all the books I read for the challenge, and I have ended up just one book shy of completing all 12. But that’s not bad for a year that ended in a whirlwind of activity and very little reading time! Here is my (almost) completed B2tC Challenge List:

The Literary Life 20 for 20 Challenge Report

For the year’s Literary Life 20 for 2020 challenge, I also am just one title short of a complete list, with only my “high school re-read” category left unread. Here are the books I did end up finishing:

Scholé Sisters 5×5 Challenge Report:

The 5×5 challenge was by far the one I most neglected, but I did read some interesting new things that I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. Let’s see how things shaped up. Titles marked with a ^ are finished. Those with a ~ were started by not finished. Unmarked titles are ones I never even cracked open!


  1. ^ Here’s Looking at Euclid by Alex Bellos ^
  2. ~A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley~
  3. ^ The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz ^
  4. Math with Bad Drawings by Ben Orlin
  5. Change is the Only Constant by Ben Orlin


  1. ^ Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser ^
  2. An American Princess by Annette van der Zijl
  3. ~ Ocean of Truth by Joyce McPherson ~
  4. ~The Wilderness World of John Muir by John Muir (ed. Edwin Way Teale)~
  5. ^ My Family and Other Animals by George Durell ^


  1. ^ The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer ^
  2. ^ In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen ^
  3. ~ Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman ~
  4. Knowing God by J. I. Packer 
  5. ^ Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton ^


  1. ^ The Wellness Revelation by Alisa Keeton ^
  2. Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman
  3. The Mind-Gut Connection by Emeran Mayer
  4. ^ The Complete Homeopathy Handbook by Miranda Castro ^
  5. ~ Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols ~

Literary Fiction

  1. ^ A Room with a View by E. M. Forster ^
  2. ^ A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens ^
  3. ^ Silas Marner by George Eliot ^
  4. ^ The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde ^
  5. ^ Imperial Woman by Pearl S. Buck ^

Summing It All Up:

In the end, I am pretty happy with my reading for the year. With all that has happened in my little world, not to mention the greater craziness that has been 2020, I think I did pretty well with these challenges and am pleased that I stretched my reading life in some new directions. Plus, there are so many more books not on these lists, things I read to my kids, audio books we shared together, or that I listened to on my own, as well as some fun, lighter reading that I have enjoyed indulging in here at the year’s end. (I’m looking at you, Alexander McCall Smith.)

It remains to be seen whether I will attempt another Scholé Sisters 5×5 Challenge in 2021, but I will definitely be on board for The Literary Life’s 19 Books in 2021 challenge. My son will even be joining in on their kids’ version of the challenge this year! It also looks like Karen is hosting yet another Back to the Classics Challenge for 2021, so I will be checking that out, too! (The books on my B2tC list were honestly some of my favorite books for the whole year.)

How did you do with your personal reading goals this year? I would love for you to drop me a comment or link to your challenge reports. Let’s chat books! 🙂

“The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club” Book Review

This past weekend I finished reading The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers. It is one of her Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, and it was, of course, an enjoyable read. I seem to be gravitating to an awful lot of mystery stories this year. I guess it is no wonder because with the world in such chaos, I need a good detective book to take all the broken bits and puzzling clues and finally bring everything to a satisfying end. As my friends at the Literary Life podcast have pointed out in the past, mystery novels move from disorder to order, so they have a way of reassuring us that justice and right will win at last.

Anyway, back to the story at hand… This story is, I believe, the fourth book in the Lord Peter series, so it still comes rather early in his sleuthing hobby/career. However, Lord Peter is a keen observer and judge of human character. His task at first seems relatively mundane, to try and pin down the time of death of the elderly general who was a member of the Bellona Club in order to help settle a dispute over the man and his deceased sister’s estates. Quickly, however, Lord Peter (and the reader) become convinced that some foul play may have had a hand in bringing about the old man’s death. In the end, Wimsey is able not only to solve the mystery of whodunnit, but his suspicions about the murder’s motives prove correct as well.

If you are not familiar with Sayers’ detective novels, you may be interested to know that they are set in post WWI England and often deal with the cultural repercussions on the Great War on British society. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club is a good example of this. The story begins in the middle of Armistice Day festivities, and both of the General’s grandsons are also veterans of the war. One of them was partially disabled by toxic gas and also was suffering from shellshock (now known as PTSD.)

This book fulfills the “Classic with a Place in the Title” category for the Back to the Classics Challenge. That means I just have three more titles to read in order to check all 12 categories off my list! Yippee!

“Seacrow Island” Book Review

I seem to be on a roll with the heartwarming family stories here lately. Today I’m writing a review of Seacrow Island by Astrid Lindgren. This book fulfills the category of a “Classic in Translation” for the B2tC Challenge and the “Book by a Minor Author” for 20 for 2020 Reading Challenge. The edition I read was translated beautifully by Evelyn Ramsden.

This gem of a book was written by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, best-known for creating the character of Pippi Longstocking. But Lindgren was actually quite prolific, writing many children’s series, dozens of stand-alone novels, and even some screenplays.

Seacrow Island was the most recent book I read aloud to my son each night before bed, and we were both rather sad to leave the island and the Melkersons at the end. In this book Lindgren tells the story of a family who rents a summer cottage in a small island community. At first it seems like the arrangement might not work out, but the Melkersons quickly fall in the love with the island, the cottage, and more importantly, the people who are their neighbors.

The widowed father, Melker, is somewhat of a bumbling artist type, but he loves his children fiercely and does his best to provide for them and make them happy. His eldest daughter Malin fills the role of both mother and sister to her three younger brothers. She is both responsible and somewhat of a romantic, not to mention lovely. Her brothers have the goal of keeping boyfriends away at any cost. Johan and Niklaus are closest in age and seldom seen apart in any adventure. Pelle, the youngest boy, is an incurable animal lover and something of a young philosopher. These, along with their island neighbors, form a delightful, colorful cast of characters. Seacrow Island is a story full of the joy of the everyday, as well as the love of family and friends.

If you are in the market for a light, hopeful story with just a bit of whimsy and adventure, as well as lovely prose, I highly recommend Seacrow Island.

“My Family and Other Animals” Book Review

Boy Under Tree by Norman Rockwell

If you are looking for some light fiction that is also written in sparkling prose, My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell is the book for you. I really cannot say enough good things about this read. It was sheer delight.

The book begins with a family of four children and their widowed mother tired of their humdrum average British life. On a whim, they sell their house and move to the island of Corfu and rent a house sight unseen. The story is told from Gerald’s perspective as the youngest brother, describing his family with a loving touch, though each member has his or her definite shortcomings. He strongly focusses on his intense fascination with the natural world as well as the curious cast of characters in this island community. Durrell relates his anecdotes in a such a humorous way that many times I frankly laughed outright. My husband gave me the side-eye more than once while I was reading before bed, tee-hee.

Also, I feel like I must mention that I am aware of the TV series loosely based on this book, but after watching some of it when I was finished reading, I would strongly recommend you skip the show and go straight to the book. The TV version doesn’t even seem to the be about the same people, really. They took the names and places and twisted Durrell’s optimistic, funny and uplifting family comedy into a somewhat dark, depressing and dysfunctional family drama. But that is just my two cents. If you loved the TV show, maybe you will like the book, too. In fact, you might like it even better!

I read My Family and Other Animals in fulfillment of the “Classic About a Family” category for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2020. It also fills the “Biography/Memoire” category for me in both the Literary Life 20 for 2020 challenge and the Scholé Sisters 5×5 challenge.