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. 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!