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!

To Homeschool Happier: A Little Recap and Refresh, Part 2

Well, it’s taken me a bit longer than I had planned to get back to write the second part of this post! But here I am, nonetheless! To recap, last time I wrote about the end of our school year and how burned out I felt, essentially. Today, I am sharing what I am doing differently going forward in order to have a happier, healthier homeschool!

First of all, I have decided to switch from the year round school schedule we have been using to a more traditional school year schedule. There were several factors that helped me make this decision. Even if we had been finished with our previous year’s work by the end of December, I was leaning in this direction anyway. My husband’s work is now completely tied to the traditional school year, for one thing. My daughter will not be old enough to start Year 1 of AmblesideOnline until April, and I think she will be even more ready for that in late summer/early fall. My son will be doing Year 5, and I need him to continue building some independent study skills before diving into that next step up. Plus, I need much more time to begin pre-reading for Year 5! Instead of rushing us all to be ready when we aren’t, we will just wait and start a new school year in August or September!

So what, you may ask, are we doing in the mean time? Well, we are taking a step back from AmblesideOnline, but we are still doing things in a mostly Charlotte Mason style while “fun-schooling” a little bit. I have lightened the load for skill work somewhat while still keeping a daily list that includes some math, handwriting, spelling and such. I created a binder for my son that has all his weekly work already organized and laid out for each day, and that has been a HUGE blessing for us both! We are doing all of our books together as read-alouds in a “morning basket” style setting right after breakfast, which is working well for our daily routine.

For the current 6 week “term” we are doing an in-depth study of Chinese history and culture using a mixture of picture books, nonfiction, missionary biographies and folktale-inspired fiction. We have been watching a lot of fun videos of traditional Chinese music and art forms, as well. I chose this themed study partly because we have friends who live in China and because I travelled there for a few weeks before beginning college. Plus, we all love Chinese food, ha! 😉 Our normal school studies center very much on the western world, which makes sense, since that is where we live! But I do want my children to have an idea of the broader world in which we live and also have a heart for the people of other cultures and locations. We are all really enjoying this time learning together, and I am so glad I decided to give our homeschool refreshing change!

Of course, it isn’t just the schedule or subjects or routine that have helped make our homeschool a little happier. I am also being much more intentional about being totally present when it is school time, not distracted with my phone or trying to multitask and do housework when the kids are doing lessons. And perhaps more importantly, I am placing the emphasis on enjoying being together and learning together instead of just checking off the boxes. I am listening to my kids and seeing how they learn best in different subjects and trying to find ways to make the most of those strengths. I am looking for opportunities to practice grace and patience, and I am prioritizing relationships over academics right now. Of course I want my children to succeed academically, but more importantly, I want them to love each other, to know that I love them, and most of all, to know and love God with all their hearts. Because THAT is the key to true and lasting happiness in this life and the next!

To Homeschool Happier: A Little Recap and Refresh, Part 1

I’ve wanted to share how our homeschool year ended up, but it is hard to get it all out in words. The year 2020 was a very rough one in our homeschool, if I am to be perfectly honest. It was not just the stress of COVID, either. Yes, having less time out and about with friends and having much more limited access to places like the library and even, for a time, local parks and green spaces, definitely took their toll on us.

But moving to a new state mid-year, during COVID, was probably the bigger stressor on our life and homeschool routine. It was also challenging for me to keep up with everything with both kids when I needed to start really working with my daughter on letter and number skills. We fell “behind schedule” by about 6 weeks from where we would usually be and ended up not finished my son’s AmblesideOnline Year 4 books until mid-February. But we DID finally finish!

Looking back, there were many things we did not do as well or as thoroughly as I thought we would when we started Year 4, especially written narration, which I completely forgot about until after we had finished the year! Oops! We did start a Book of Centuries, but many weeks I completely forgot to have my son work on it, and it still is mostly just a timeline, which I know is not entirely “correct” in terms of following Charlotte Mason’s intent for the BoC. But we tried to do something along those lines, and hopefully in the future it will improve. We also did start Latin, although we primarily just used Duolingo for practice a few times a week and only just started memorizing some verb conjugations near the end of the year.

The books were definitely the highlight of Year 4, even the hard ones that started off rocky. Here are some of our favorites:

  • George Washington’s World (my son read this one independently and really enjoyed it)
  • Abigail Adams (a hard book which I read aloud, but one we all learned to appreciate by the end of the year, including my 5-year old who tags along)
  • Kidnapped (this started out being one of my son’s least favorite partly because of the dialect, but he ended up being very sad when he finished)
  • Incredible Journey (an easier book and one that my son definitely enjoyed reading every week)
  • Minn of the Mississippi (we have really come to love Holling C. Hollings books over the years)
  • Robinson Crusoe (I almost forgot this one was even a Year 4 book, it seems to long ago we read it, but it was and is one of our favorite books!)

All in all, the thing I regret most to say about this school year, at least the second half, was that we lost our joy and pleasantness in the midst of all the difficulties of the year. I tried to re-infuse some of that with extra special morning tea time snacks after we got settled in our new house, but that also became somewhat of a stressor for me eventually. By the end of the year, everything felt like we just had to press on and check things off the list so that we could say we had done it. This was obviously not the spirit or atmosphere I want to have in our homeschool. Something had to change.

In the second part of this series, I hope to write a little bit about how I am attempting to make positive changes to make our homeschool a happier place again. So far, a few days into a new routine, I think it is making a difference! Stay tuned to hear more next time!

What Are We Doing Here? (A Writing Update)

My family room and dining room are under renovation. Dust is flying as my husband sands drywall mud off the patched spots on the walls. I am over in the finished living room (that was under construction during the holidays), sitting under my cozy blanket writing this post while the puppy dog sleeps on his pillow a few feet away. The kids are in bed, so I have some time to sit and write for a while.

A couple of days ago I published a long blog post out of the blue after almost 2 months of quiet. I have been wanting to write regularly again for some time, but I always got stuck on the idea that if I didn’t have time to sit down and make everything perfect and pretty, I needed to wait. But you know what? That time is never going to come. And if I don’t just sit down and start writing, it isn’t going to get any easier. So I gave up the idea of waiting until I had crafted the perfect post with gorgeous graphics and meaningful quotes. I decided it would be better if I just wrote something and put it out there. So I did. And you know what? It felt good.

But now for a little backstory…one of the big reasons I am getting back to writing on the blog is that I am leaving Facebook and Instagram again. This time, it’s permanent. My husband and I decided that after so much that has happened on and through social media over the past year, it was time for us to make a change in how we use it. For me, that means my permanent departure from all things Facebook related. I am trying out MeWe, but since I have very few contacts there, I am not spending much time or energy on that platform.

Instead, I want to return to the habit of long-form writing, both on the blog and in emails and letters to friends. I will likely be devoting more time to the subject of long-form writing in a post very soon because it has been on my mind so much of late.

That is what we are doing here…returning to this space, this writing habit, this “outdated” form of communication…and I couldn’t be more pleased about that! Perhaps you’d like to join me?

Faithfully Moving Forward While Honestly Looking Back

This year started out much like any other for me, though perhaps with less anticipation and expectation than most. Call me jaded, but I had no illusions that the world would suddenly return to pre-COVID, pre-election peacefulness and predictability once we flipped the page on the calendar. No, instead, as much as I may yearn to go back to what seemed be better days, I knew that the outside world and culture would continue on in much the same way it has been. And this knowledge did not encourage me one single bit. In fact, to tell the truth, I’ve been a bit of a Negative Nancy here lately.

Moving during a “pandemic” and trying to find a new church, new friends and even new places to shop and get library books is not easy, let me tell you. Some bad attitudes and some complaining, and some long periods of loneliness are sure to crop up, especially when winter weather in the Appalachians compound the problem by keeping us home more. But even in the midst of these challenges, we do have a regular hiking group we see at least once a month, a church in which we have been able to start serving in a small way, and the option of Walmart pickup only 5 minutes from our house, not to mention 2 small local libraries to browse. So my situation was not really a good explanation for all the negativity.

This week I had to admit that most of my personal pain points have had more to do more with setting too expectations for myself a bit too high and not making enough of an effort to organize both my attitude and my life. I realized this ugly truth this week as I did some honest evaluation of how I truly spend my time on a typical day as well as an audit of our homeschool over this winter season. When I came to questions about how much time certain parts of our routine take, I was completely stumped. It suddenly dawned on me that our days have become so helter-skelter and unpredictable that I don’t have the foggiest notion how much time we are spending doing lessons or even how much time we should be spending at this point. Oops…

As much as this honest reflection hurts, it is also a necessary and beneficial step in moving forward. I have to identify what is not working, as well as what is, if I want to have any hope of changing things for the better. Although it is of some value to keep trudging on and doing the next thing, I think that truly being faithful involves more than just checking things off the list and going through the motions out of a sense of duty and drudgery. Faithfully moving forward should involve not only a choice to obey but to rejoice in obedience. And I certainly have not been modeling an attitude of joyful obedience recently. So it is time for an attitude adjustment, as well as some serious, prayerful consideration of how to adjust things in out house and homeschool to set us all up for success.

Even though I had felt for some time that things were going poorly, it wasn’t until I sat down and had an honest look back that I was able to see some of the causes of that feeling. It hasn’t been easy to stare my faults in the face like this, and more soul searching is definitely in order, but I do look forward now with hope for positive change. And I know now how to pray for guidance in taking the next step and move forward with faithfulness, and joy!