Joining the 2020 Back to the Classics Challenge

Hello again, dear readers! I’m back with another post about yet another book challenge! Am I in need of an intervention? Haha, maybe! But I don’t care. Bring on the books!

Last year I didn’t participate in the Back to the Classics Challenge hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate like I had in 2018. This year I wasn’t even sure if she was going to host again. It certainly must be a great deal of work to follow up on all the entries at the end of the year. But I checked, and sure enough, she is back at it again! This year’s categories looked like they would fit nicely with the other challenges I am doing. So I decided to dive in! Here are my choices. (You may notice some overlap from my 20 for 2020 challenge list, and that was entirely intentional!)

Back to the Classics 

Last year my reading was all over the place, and sometimes I felt like it was just too scattered for my liking. So having a few reading lists to keep me on track has already been really helpful. Of course, with the Back to the Classics Challenge the other part of the challenge is to keep up with writing the reviews! So I will have to actually come here and write now and then as I finish each book. I sure hope I can keep that going, too! Until next time…

The Literary Life 20 for 2020 Reading Challenge: My Book Picks

The lovely ladies on The Literary Life Podcast are hosting a reading challenge this year, and, of course, I had to join in! Yes, I joined partly because I love them (and work with them and got the list early), but mostly it was because the categories on this list are simply amazing! One of my other book goals this year is to read more from my shelves here at home. In light of that, I tried to plug in as many titles that I own as I could. But every category has one or more runners up that I might end up reading instead/also. All titles with an asterisk are books I own either in print or on Kindle. 

Aren’t these categories great? I mean, this list could go in so many different directions. It has been fun to look at other people’s lists on Instagram and Facebook, at least in the rare moments I have allowed myself to scroll social media. Some of these areas will be more out of my usual reading pattern than others, especially poetry and essays. I decided the best way to tackle these two categories was to add a page of poetry and an essay a day to my afternoon reading time. Enjoying a cup of hot tea with Emily Dickinson and Sir Frances Bacon is, admittedly, a pretty great way to spend a few minutes each afternoon! 

What, if any, reading challenges are you participating in this coming year? I’d love to hear all about it!

The Reading Report, Vol. 19: What Happened to February?

I know a lot of people are glad that February is the shortest month in the year. And I am probably usually one of them. But this year, somehow, February flew by without giving me time to do all the things I wanted to do! It seems like this school year has been extra busy. Or maybe I just have been lacking in my time management skills? Maybe it is a little of both. Either way, I know there is one thing I did a lot of in February: reading. Actually, now that I think of it, maybe that is a bigger part of my problem in the time management department than I would like to admit? Well, let’s not worry about that right now. Let’s just talk about the books I read, because that is way more fun than thinking about all the other things I possibly could/should have been doing instead! Ha!

What I finished reading…

I actually completed so many books last month that I had to consult my Goodreads list because I could not possibly remember them all! So, in no particular order at all, here are the books I read in February, along with star ratings (because you do not want to spend the time to read what I thought of them all, I know!)

Three Men In a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome * * * *

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck * * * * *

Paddington Abroad by Michael Bond * * * *

10 Books that Screwed Up the World by Benjamin Wiker * * * *

Better Together by Pam Barnhill * * * *

Once on a Time by A. A. Milne * * * * *

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather * * * * *

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare * * * * *

My top two favorite books so far this year have been The Good Earth and O Pioneers!, which is interesting since they both have themes that tie into the land, prosperity and family. Both books gave me so much to think about, which is what great fiction does so well!

What I’m reading now…

I am trying to dial back my personal reading a wee bit so that I can focus on pre-reading a little more. (I’m still behind where I would like to be with that!) But I am also trying to keep one for fun novel going, along with a non-fiction book and a devotional book. For my devotional book, I am still slowing reading The Spiritual Life by Andrew Murray. It is SO good! I have really found some life-changing insights in this very scripturally sound little book. Reading a couple of pages a day is just perfect for pacing, too.

For my current non-fiction, I’m actually trying to read Gladys Hunt’s Honey for a Child’s Heart, instead of just mining the bibliography in the back for books to put on hold at the library. It’s not new information, but it is inspiring to read, nonetheless! I finished The Spy Who Came in from the Cold on March 1, so my new novel is some old kid-lit. We borrowed a picture book retelling of Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field from the library a while back, and it made me very curious about the original. So I am reading and enjoying that one now.

New on my TBR list…

When I am finished with The Spiritual Life, I am seriously considering reading a brand new book by Rachel Jankovic called You Who: Why You Matter and How to Deal with It. I have heard a lot of excellent feedback about this book from people I trust, as well as read a few sample pages which lead me to believe this is an important book addressing our current Christian culture. I will let you know what I think when I get it and start reading!

Until next time…happy reading, friends!

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?