Why Can’t I Write About the Books I Love?

Earlier in the month I finished reading The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, and I have been wanting to write some of my thoughts about it ever since. The book moved me and has given me much about which to think, so it should be easy to write a post on it. Every time I think of it, however, the words just will not come.

Why is it so hard for me to write about books that I love? This is certainly not the first time I have struggled with the words to express how a book has impacted me. When I read My Antonia I had a similar struggle, and Watership Down is another book that I thought deeply about long after but could not find a way to put those thoughts down in black and white.

Perhaps one reason I have trouble writing about the books I love is that I don’t have a literary education, and I am not sure of the terms to use to talk about them. I feel somehow to discuss themes and structure and setting and all because I have no formal education in these things. All I know about literature has been picked up from places like the Circe Close Reads podcast or the Center for Lit podcast. Otherwise, my only qualification to talk about books is that I just love them so much.

And because I love books, I have trouble talking about them. It is almost as if the thoughts and feelings that I have about stories that I love feel too close and personal in some ways for me to express. Books have a way of getting to my heart in a way that other media don’t, especially fiction. The characters and settings somehow become a part of my personal experience, and I have a hard time telling others about that experience, even when I really want to do just that.

Reading The Good Earth was an incredibly moving experience, being part of the intensely human story of Wang Lung, the farmer, and his family. I felt like I was there watching his life unfold through all the trials and successes, the joy and the immense tragedy. But how can I tell you all my thoughts as I process this book? I hope that one day I will learn how to write about the books I love.

In the meantime, I will just have to content myself with recommending you read them, too! So, go get your hands on a copy of The Good Earth, and be prepared for a heart-wrenching story of the human condition. You can await my next report, in which I will likely have another book that I have come to love deeply and can’t find words for, because I have just started reading Willa Cather’s O Pioneers!, and I’ve already been feeling swept off my feet!

The Reading Report, Vol. 18: New Reading Goals for 2019

With January quickly coming to a close, it is definitely time for another installment of The Reading Report. I have so many bookish thoughts swirling around right now that I think I am going to need multiple posts for all of them. I want to tell you about what I am reading currently, as well as how I am trying to better organize my reading life, but those topics will need to be covered another time. For today, I am going to briefly review my reading goals from last year and tell you what my new goals are for 2019.

2018 Reading Recap-

Last year I set a goal to read 30 books, and I participated in the Back to the Classics Challenge in an effort to read some books I might otherwise not pick up. I ended the year having read 62 books, according to my Goodreads records, an accomplishment which frankly amazed me! I think that I made much better use of audio books to fit in extra reading time than I have in previous years. I also spent a lot more time reading a less time on the internet ding other things this year, which helped. I read mostly classic novels, with a decent number of those being kid lit, but there was a handful of nonfiction titles in the mix. Some of the books that most impacted me in 2018 were as follows, in no particular order:

Watership Down

Howards End

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

The Power and the Glory

Crossing to Safety

Reading Goals for 2019-

Now that I know I have a greater capacity for fitting in time for reading than I thought I did, I have set my goal at 50 complete books for 2019. I am pretty optimistic that I can beat that goal again this year, especially since I am not only doing a good amount of personal reading but am also pre-reading all my son’s school books this year. I decided not to do the Back to the Classic Challenge again this year because I have so many other book goals this year.

First, I like to keep up with the Close Reads podcast selections, as well as whatever the current Shakespeare play is being discussed on The Play’s the Thing. Another book discussion outlet I want to make better use of is the AmblesideOnline forum. This year, the parents on the forum are discussing books from AO’s Year 12 selections, which will all be a good challenge for me and excellent for my own educational improvement. In addition to these, I have been feeling the pull to read more of what is on my personal bookshelves, so I have compiled an ambitious TBR list just by perusing the bookcase here at home!

Finally, I have a goal of reading much more nonfiction this year, especially to actually read the nonfiction titles I started last year but didn’t finish. I am keeping myself accountable in this area using my habit tracker, marking off those days that I read at least one chapter of a non-fiction book. And pre-reading my son’s school books doesn’t count. So far, this habit is working well, and I am honestly enjoying and finishing the books in this category so much more than I have before!

I think it is helping that I am following a vein of interest, rather than reading the personal development or self-help books that seem popular among my friends. For example, I am currently on something of a brain research and the development of modern thought kick. The books Switch On Your Brain, Deep Work, The Shallows, and 10 Books That Screwed Up the World are all nonfiction titles I have been reading somewhat simultaneously. Even though these books are not exactly on the same topic, I am fascinated by all the connections I am making as I read about how our brains work, how we think and work best, and how society has changed with technology and the written word.

Read with Me!

Now it’s your turn! What are your reading goals for this year? I would love to hear what your hopes and plans are and what kinds of books you are going to be reading in 2019. Comment below and tell me all about them! Also, we can connect on Goodreads! I enjoy seeing what other folks are reading, and I often add to my own to be read list that way. Let’s read together, shall we?

The Reading Report, Vol. 17: Back to the Classics 2018 Wrap-up

How on earth is it already the second week in December? Life here in the Lemon house has been so full (of mostly good things) that I just can’t seem to keep up with the passage of time. But at long last, here I am with my final report and wrap-up on the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge. I will be posting some other bookish news and reviews on non-B2tCC reads later on this month, I hope. For today, though, I will just be listing all the finished titles under their categories and linking each title back to the post in which I gave a brief review of the finished book.

Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 Wrap-up

1. A 19th Century Classic: Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

2. A 20th Century Classic: Howards End by E. M. Forster

3. A Classic by a Woman Author: Whose Body by Dorothy Sayers (read in place of Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton)

4. A Classic in Translation: The Wreath (book 1 of Kristin Lavransdatter) by Sigrid Undset

5. A Children’s Classic: Heidi by Johanna Spyri (This is the most recently finished book on my list, so I didn’t get a chance to post a finished review after last month’s “in progress” report. We both loved the book, although I did end up feeling like Heidi’s character was a little too perfect throughout. The lessons taught still ring true, regardless.)

6. A Classic Crime Story: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

7. Classic Travel or Journey Narrative: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

8. Classics with a Single-Word Title: Utopia by Thomas More

9. Classic with a Color in the Title: White Fang by Jack London

10. Classic by a New-to-You Author: The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene (in place of The Spiritual Life by Andrew Murray)

11. A Classic that Scares You: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

12. Re-read a Favorite Classic: Persuasion by Jane Austen

I am so proud of myself for pushing through some of the less enjoyable choices I made for the challenge. And I must say that I am glad I participated this year! Also, according to my records on Goodreads, I have finished 54 books in 2018, which is a big deal for me! I honestly think this challenge pushed me to up my reading game across the board. Now I need to decide whether I want to tackle the 2019 challenge. We shall see!

Until next time, happy reading!

Tuninghearts (at) gmail (dot) com

The Reading Report, Vol. 16: Fall Reading Edition

Due to the October Write31Days Challenge, I am late with this edition of The Reading Report. However, I have a lot of books to share with you! Taking time away from social media has, as I expected, given me more time and inclination to read and listen to books. Besides that, cooler and cloudier fall days just seem to lend themselves to cozying up on the couch with a blanket, a book and cup of something hot, don’t they? So, if you need some ideas for your fall reading list, brew yourself some tea or coffee, and let’s talk books!

Finished Books:

King Lear: I finally finished listening to this Shakespeare play, and I think knowing the plot line from listening to The Play’s the Thing podcasts before having finished helped me appreciate it more than I might have otherwise. It is definitely one I will return to again one day! I thought about trying to watch the Amazon Prime miniseries version, but the previews tell me that it would probably be too intense for my sensitive nature.

Much Ado About Nothing: I’m still waiting on the final podcast episode for this one to come up, but I have finished listening to the play. I would really like to watch the film version sometime just for fun. I need to find out if the library has it.

Whose Body: I decided to sub this Dorothy Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey mystery for Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence in the B2tCC Classic by a Woman Author category. It was a quick listen, and a nice change from the denser reading I have been doing lately. If you haven’t read a Lord Peter detective novel yet, I highly recommend them…thought-provoking, suspenseful without being too gruesome, and highly literary while also being fast-paced.

The Grey Woman: This was another quick listen when I just needed a new audio book in a completely different genre than I’d been reading. I finished it in a couple of evenings while cooking and cleaning up from dinner. It is a novella by Elizabeth Cleghorn Glaskell, and it has a rather Gothic feel, with a murderous husband and a young wife fleeing for her life.

The Power and the Glory: The Close Reads Podcast is currently working their way through this Graham Greene novel. I had never read any of Greene’s work before. Since I’m taking my sweet time getting through Andrew Murray’s The Spiritual Life, I decided to sub The Power and the Glory for that New-to-You Author spot in the B2tCC. This means I am now FINISHED with my challenge reading for 2018! (I will do a wrap up post with my complete list later this month, hopefully.) I still have a lot of thoughts to mull over in relation to this book, but it was a very compelling story. I came away feeling that the journey taken by the priest was in a sense a picture of the Christian’s journey toward sanctification. I also came across some verses in my Bible reading this week that I think may be connected to the book’s title and message:

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”  But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?  What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

-Romans 9:19-24 (ESV)

Books in Progress:

The Nesting Place: After hearing a lot of good things about Myquillyn Smith’s newest book, Cozy Minimalist Home, I decided to read her first book about making the most of the home you’re in. Since we are renting, I have struggled with the idea of wanting make this house feel homey without doing anything permanent or expensive. This book has some good points and ideas, even though I have decided that I am not quite ready to do anything much with them at this exact moment.

For the Children’s Sake: My homeschool mom’s book study group is going through Brandy Vencel’s Start Here: A Journey Through Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles, and this book is part of our required reading. Susan Schaffer Macauley’s book is a must-read if you are a homeschool parent or are even considering the idea of home education.

Heidi: My son and I are reading Heidi for his bedtime read aloud right now. I am pretty sure I read at least part of this book as a child, but I really only remember the Shirley Temple movie version, which obviously is not quite the same. I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the Christian principles woven into the story so far, and we still have the second part of the book to go.

Love Among the Chickens: This is my current “purely for fun” audio book. P. G. Wodehouse wrote, in my opinion, classic British humor at its best! If you need some lighthearted reading or listening, you simply must try some Wodehouse!

Books on Hold:

The following books have been put on the back burner for the time being, but I definitely have plans to finish all of them in the near future!

Deep Work by Cal Newport

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

The Spiritual Life by Andrew Murray

Looking Ahead:

A Tolkien Miscellany/Farmer Giles of Ham: My kids and I started reading Farmer Giles together over breakfast a few days ago, and it has already elicited many laughs and requests to “keep reading!”

Pre-reading for AO Year 3: Now that we finished AmblesideOnline’s Year 2 work, it is time for me to gather and begin reading the books for next year! I have some book mail on the way this week, as well as a couple books I picked up at the most recent library book sale. I must discipline myself to begin pre-reading and taking notes in ernest this year since my son will be reading more of his books independently instead of listening to me read aloud so much.

Otherwise, I am not sure what else I’m going to read next besides whatever the next picks are for Close Reads and The Play’s the Thing. I may try joining in on whatever the next book is over on the AmblesideOnline forum official book discussion thread. We shall see!

Now it’s your turn! Tell me what you’ve been reading so far this fall or what you’re reading next! 

 

Day 23: Common #write31days2018

In the interest of honesty, I am not setting a timer for this post, and it will likely take me more than five minutes to write. But the word “common” prompted me to think of my somewhat neglected commonplace notebook…so I’m going to talk a little bit about “commonplacing” because I don’t think I have written about it here before. It fits within the themes of contemplation and creativity, too!

This week’s prompt brought to my mind my all too oft neglected commonplace book. I keep meaning to dig it out of the drawer next to my favorite reading spot and make a better habit of jotting things down in it. But I may be getting ahead of myself because I realize that some of you may have never heard of a commonplace book and don’t know what I’m talking about! Well, don’t feel too out of the loop. Until I started reading Charlotte Mason homeschool mom blogs a few years ago, I’d never heard the term before, either. 

A commonplace book is, in its simplest form, a place in which you write down favorite quotes and passages as you read so that you can come back to them again later. You can google “commonplace book” and find all sorts of examples, but each person keeps their commonplace a little differently. I don’t use mine as much as I perhaps should, but when I do take the time to write quotes, poems, sayings or meaningful passages from books (or articles, or even blog posts), I find I remember them better later on. And I do enjoy flipping through the notebook and seeing them again, sort of like looking at snapshots of good times with old friends. (Because I do think of really excellent books as my friends, don’t you?)

The first examples of commonplace books I’ve read about are from medieval and renaissance scholars. They used them as a way to keep and organize ideas and facts as they studied, and looking at some of these artifacts is truly a peek into the mind of the great thinkers of that time period! I don’t have any such grand visions of my own commonplace as being anything so intriguing to generations to come, but perhaps some day my children might find them and enjoy reading what I found a comfort or an inspiration. 

One little fact I found enlightening is the etymology of the word “commonplace” in reference to these keeping books. It made little sense to me that a word that now means ordinary or trite would be used to denote a place in which we record that which we find extraordinary and worth noting. But I discovered that the term originally was two words, “common place” and was translated from the Latin, locus communis, which was in itself a translation from the Greek words that meant “general theme.”

mid 16th century (originally common place ): translation of Latin locus communis, rendering Greek koinos topos ‘general theme.

Now that made sense to me, since many people did and still do organize their commonplaces according to theme or subjects. But I think a good many more of us are less structured than that and just write down whatever strikes our fancy. I like the idea of my commonplace being a spot where all the books I read come out and play together! As I read through the many quotes I have gathered over the years, I am sometimes surpised at how much the science of relations is at work as I find connections between the various books and quotes I might not have seen otherwise.

Writing all this has certainly inspired me to start writing in my own commonplace book more often, and I hope that it might inspire you, as well! If you want to read (or hear) more about commonplacing from some of my favorite people online, here are a few links you can chase:

  • The Scholé Sisters Podcast, Ep. 42: Carpe Librum–the whole podcast is actually about book recommendations, but they open with a short discussion about commonplacing that I thoroughly enjoyed.
  • Sarah Mackenzie’s “What I Keep in My Commonplace Book
  • Celeste at Joyous Lessons has started a whole online community around the theme of Keeping Company, sharing our commonplace entries with others! She and her children add a lot of illustrations and such to their notebooks, and they are simple beautiful. (GOALS!)

This post is part of the 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes and Write 31 Days blogging challenges. Find all my posts in this series under the tag “write31days2018.”