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.”

The Reading Report, Vol. 15: So Many Books, So Little Time

Ah, yes, the title says it all, doesn’t it? So many books, so very little time! I find my desire to read many books far outweighs the actual time I have, or perhaps the time I take, to read them. My TBR list is ever-growing, and I truly need to start writing down all the books I have in mind to read sometime soon. My head is a poor place to store such information, but at the same time, perhaps in this case it is better that I forget a few titles since I surely will never get to all of them anyway.

The month of September has been particularly bad for tackling my TBR list for a few reasons. For one thing, our family’s schedule has been exceptionally full this month. It seems like everything has been happening at once around here, and by the time I have a moment to sit down and read something, I’m often too tired to do even that! Also, after finishing one particularly difficult read, I tried to start another book only to find that I couldn’t get into it at all. (More about that later.) Finally, I didn’t have a good audio book going until this week, so I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts instead. Good, but not helpful for my reading life (unless you count adding more ideas about other books I want to read!)

So, let’s see…what have I actually finished since last month’s report?

Finished Books:

I’m afraid to say that the only personal book I finished this month was Crossing to Safety. (I did finish a couple of read-alouds with the kids, but I’m not counting those just now.) Yes, I did decide to press on and finish this book even though I had a hard time with it for the first several chapters. Thankfully, I was rewarded for my stubbornness, because the second half of the book connected with me so much more deeply. I actually was in tears at the end. I still don’t know how to talk about Crossing to Safety or what Stegner was doing in this book that made it both so hard for me to read and so moving in the end. But I am glad I stuck it out, and I even would read it again someday and see what more I can glean from it.

Currently Reading:

King Lear has been pushed to the back burner a bit, although I have been keeping up with The Play’s the Thing podcast discussions. I just need to dive back in again, because I’m nearly to the end anyway.

I picked up Jan Karon’s At Home in Mitford because I needed something light in between all the difficulty of CTS. I haven’t read but a few chapters, but I am enjoying it. I like that it is light but still literary in quality and not pedantic or trite. Sometimes I have trouble with modern fiction because my tastes have become so accustomed to classic lit that a lot of popular current novels just don’t satisfy me.

My new audio book is Whose Body by Dorothy Sayers, the first in her Lord Peter Whimsy mystery series. I have read one other Lord Peter mystery and enjoyed it thoroughly. I’m listening to this one on Librivox, and it is going to replace Age of Innocence in my Back to the Classics Challenge list in the female author category.

Try as I might, I just could not get engaged in the New York socialite scene of the opening chapters of Age of Innocence. I will come back to it some other time, but after struggling so with CTS, I just don’t have it in me to force myself to read yet another book that isn’t interesting me. A good mystery story is just the thing to get a girl out of a reading slump, and Whose Body fits the bill perfectly in this case!

I’m reading a few pages of The Spiritual Life every few days, purposefully reading slowly with pencil in hand. It is more of a devotional and educational book, obviously, so I want to let the points made by Mr. Murray and the Scriptures he references really sink in. So far, I find it very approachable for a book that is actually a collection of transcribed sermons from over 100 years ago!

More Time:

Since we are now over halfway through September, I am challenging myself to finish at least 3 of these 4 current reads by the next edition of the Reading Report. I think life should settle down some once we get through this month, and I am also trying to pare back on my social media time. I really need to spend more time with an actual book in hand and less time staring at my phone, unless that phone is playing an audio book, that is! 😉

How about you? How is your TBR list looking this month? Do you have more time to read now that fall is approaching, or is the school year busier for you like it has been for me? I’d love to hear more about your reading life, so leave me a comment below and we’ll chat!

The Reading Report, Vol. 14: When You’re Not in Love with a Book

Ever start reading a book that comes highly recommended only to have it fall sort of flat for you? It happens to all of us once in a while, doesn’t it? I am currently reading a book that is well-liked by many people, but I just can’t decide how I feel about it. I am nearly halfway through, so it is not that I haven’t given this book enough time. The confusing thing is that I love the overall style of the writing, especially the descriptive passages that have an almost poetic feel. But I don’t care much for the characters so far, and I am having trouble resonating with the story for some reason. At the same time, I do want to know what is going to happen to these characters. It is a complicated feeling!

I’m curious to know what you do when you come across this situation in your reading life. When do you decide to give up on a book that you just aren’t loving? What makes you finish a book even when it isn’t your cup of tea? I would love to hear how you deal with books you don’t just love? In other news, here are the books I have finished since last month and what I am currently reading:

Finished Books:

I finished reading, or I should say listening to, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. It was not the most riveting detective story ever, but considering that it is known as the original detective novel, I suppose that makes sense. It was longer than I anticipated, and the epistolary format seemed a bit cumbersome at times. However, I did enjoy the story and character development. And the solution to the mystery did have some unexpected twists!

I also finished Richard Adams’ Watership Down and absolutely fell in love with it! Who knew a book about rabbits could be so captivating?! I don’t know quite how to write about it, honestly. Adams succeeded in addressing so many deep themes in this fantastic adventure that I still find myself mulling over the ideas presented. I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t yet!

Currently Reading:

Crossing to Safety: This is the book I’m struggling with right now. I am going to finish it, though, and I will let you all know how I feel about it when I’m all done!

Age of Innocence: I haven’t really spent much time with this book yet, but it is not my first Edith Wharton. I expect to be fully engaged in this story once I have time to read past the first couple of chapters.

King Lear: The CiRCE Close Reads Podcast Network just started a new podcast called The Play’s the Thing. It is dedicated to slowly reading and discussing all of Shakespeare’s plays! The first one on the docket is King Lear. I knew virtually nothing about this play until I started, but I am enjoying it so far, although it sounds odd to say I am “enjoying” reading a tragedy!

Up Next:

I only have one more book (after Age of Innocence) to complete on my Back to the Classics Challenge list, and that is The Spiritual Life. When that is all done, my plan to is to compile a list of books that I already own to read. I am looking forward to finishing my B2tC list so I can give myself more permission to read whatever I want whenever I want to read it!

P. S.–Later this week I am going to a local library book sale, so I will probably be posting on Instagram about my finds, and maybe share about them in next month’s Reading Report. Be sure to follow me so you don’t miss seeing what I bring home!