The Reading Report, Vol. 21: 2020 Year in Review

My, oh my, how time does fly! Moving to a new state and getting all settled, home renovations, homeschooling, Revelation Wellness Instructor Training, and podcast jobs have all kept me on my toes this fall! They have also taken so much of my physical and mental energy that blogging has taken a sad hit this year. But I have some time today, and I wanted to sit down and look back on this year in my reading life. Maybe sometime I will get around to a more general “life update” type of post before the end of 2020. For now, though, I just want to talk books for a bit. Hope that’s good with you! 😉

Back to the Classics Challenge Report

It looks like I haven’t written reviews here for all the books I read for the challenge, and I have ended up just one book shy of completing all 12. But that’s not bad for a year that ended in a whirlwind of activity and very little reading time! Here is my (almost) completed B2tC Challenge List:

The Literary Life 20 for 20 Challenge Report

For the year’s Literary Life 20 for 2020 challenge, I also am just one title short of a complete list, with only my “high school re-read” category left unread. Here are the books I did end up finishing:

Scholé Sisters 5×5 Challenge Report:

The 5×5 challenge was by far the one I most neglected, but I did read some interesting new things that I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. Let’s see how things shaped up. Titles marked with a ^ are finished. Those with a ~ were started by not finished. Unmarked titles are ones I never even cracked open!


  1. ^ Here’s Looking at Euclid by Alex Bellos ^
  2. ~A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley~
  3. ^ The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz ^
  4. Math with Bad Drawings by Ben Orlin
  5. Change is the Only Constant by Ben Orlin


  1. ^ Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser ^
  2. An American Princess by Annette van der Zijl
  3. ~ Ocean of Truth by Joyce McPherson ~
  4. ~The Wilderness World of John Muir by John Muir (ed. Edwin Way Teale)~
  5. ^ My Family and Other Animals by George Durell ^


  1. ^ The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer ^
  2. ^ In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen ^
  3. ~ Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman ~
  4. Knowing God by J. I. Packer 
  5. ^ Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton ^


  1. ^ The Wellness Revelation by Alisa Keeton ^
  2. Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman
  3. The Mind-Gut Connection by Emeran Mayer
  4. ^ The Complete Homeopathy Handbook by Miranda Castro ^
  5. ~ Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols ~

Literary Fiction

  1. ^ A Room with a View by E. M. Forster ^
  2. ^ A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens ^
  3. ^ Silas Marner by George Eliot ^
  4. ^ The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde ^
  5. ^ Imperial Woman by Pearl S. Buck ^

Summing It All Up:

In the end, I am pretty happy with my reading for the year. With all that has happened in my little world, not to mention the greater craziness that has been 2020, I think I did pretty well with these challenges and am pleased that I stretched my reading life in some new directions. Plus, there are so many more books not on these lists, things I read to my kids, audio books we shared together, or that I listened to on my own, as well as some fun, lighter reading that I have enjoyed indulging in here at the year’s end. (I’m looking at you, Alexander McCall Smith.)

It remains to be seen whether I will attempt another Scholé Sisters 5×5 Challenge in 2021, but I will definitely be on board for The Literary Life’s 19 Books in 2021 challenge. My son will even be joining in on their kids’ version of the challenge this year! It also looks like Karen is hosting yet another Back to the Classics Challenge for 2021, so I will be checking that out, too! (The books on my B2tC list were honestly some of my favorite books for the whole year.)

How did you do with your personal reading goals this year? I would love for you to drop me a comment or link to your challenge reports. Let’s chat books! 🙂

“The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club” Book Review

This past weekend I finished reading The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers. It is one of her Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, and it was, of course, an enjoyable read. I seem to be gravitating to an awful lot of mystery stories this year. I guess it is no wonder because with the world in such chaos, I need a good detective book to take all the broken bits and puzzling clues and finally bring everything to a satisfying end. As my friends at the Literary Life podcast have pointed out in the past, mystery novels move from disorder to order, so they have a way of reassuring us that justice and right will win at last.

Anyway, back to the story at hand… This story is, I believe, the fourth book in the Lord Peter series, so it still comes rather early in his sleuthing hobby/career. However, Lord Peter is a keen observer and judge of human character. His task at first seems relatively mundane, to try and pin down the time of death of the elderly general who was a member of the Bellona Club in order to help settle a dispute over the man and his deceased sister’s estates. Quickly, however, Lord Peter (and the reader) become convinced that some foul play may have had a hand in bringing about the old man’s death. In the end, Wimsey is able not only to solve the mystery of whodunnit, but his suspicions about the murder’s motives prove correct as well.

If you are not familiar with Sayers’ detective novels, you may be interested to know that they are set in post WWI England and often deal with the cultural repercussions on the Great War on British society. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club is a good example of this. The story begins in the middle of Armistice Day festivities, and both of the General’s grandsons are also veterans of the war. One of them was partially disabled by toxic gas and also was suffering from shellshock (now known as PTSD.)

This book fulfills the “Classic with a Place in the Title” category for the Back to the Classics Challenge. That means I just have three more titles to read in order to check all 12 categories off my list! Yippee!

“Seacrow Island” Book Review

I seem to be on a roll with the heartwarming family stories here lately. Today I’m writing a review of Seacrow Island by Astrid Lindgren. This book fulfills the category of a “Classic in Translation” for the B2tC Challenge and the “Book by a Minor Author” for 20 for 2020 Reading Challenge. The edition I read was translated beautifully by Evelyn Ramsden.

This gem of a book was written by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, best-known for creating the character of Pippi Longstocking. But Lindgren was actually quite prolific, writing many children’s series, dozens of stand-alone novels, and even some screenplays.

Seacrow Island was the most recent book I read aloud to my son each night before bed, and we were both rather sad to leave the island and the Melkersons at the end. In this book Lindgren tells the story of a family who rents a summer cottage in a small island community. At first it seems like the arrangement might not work out, but the Melkersons quickly fall in the love with the island, the cottage, and more importantly, the people who are their neighbors.

The widowed father, Melker, is somewhat of a bumbling artist type, but he loves his children fiercely and does his best to provide for them and make them happy. His eldest daughter Malin fills the role of both mother and sister to her three younger brothers. She is both responsible and somewhat of a romantic, not to mention lovely. Her brothers have the goal of keeping boyfriends away at any cost. Johan and Niklaus are closest in age and seldom seen apart in any adventure. Pelle, the youngest boy, is an incurable animal lover and something of a young philosopher. These, along with their island neighbors, form a delightful, colorful cast of characters. Seacrow Island is a story full of the joy of the everyday, as well as the love of family and friends.

If you are in the market for a light, hopeful story with just a bit of whimsy and adventure, as well as lovely prose, I highly recommend Seacrow Island.

“My Family and Other Animals” Book Review

Boy Under Tree by Norman Rockwell

If you are looking for some light fiction that is also written in sparkling prose, My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell is the book for you. I really cannot say enough good things about this read. It was sheer delight.

The book begins with a family of four children and their widowed mother tired of their humdrum average British life. On a whim, they sell their house and move to the island of Corfu and rent a house sight unseen. The story is told from Gerald’s perspective as the youngest brother, describing his family with a loving touch, though each member has his or her definite shortcomings. He strongly focusses on his intense fascination with the natural world as well as the curious cast of characters in this island community. Durrell relates his anecdotes in a such a humorous way that many times I frankly laughed outright. My husband gave me the side-eye more than once while I was reading before bed, tee-hee.

Also, I feel like I must mention that I am aware of the TV series loosely based on this book, but after watching some of it when I was finished reading, I would strongly recommend you skip the show and go straight to the book. The TV version doesn’t even seem to the be about the same people, really. They took the names and places and twisted Durrell’s optimistic, funny and uplifting family comedy into a somewhat dark, depressing and dysfunctional family drama. But that is just my two cents. If you loved the TV show, maybe you will like the book, too. In fact, you might like it even better!

I read My Family and Other Animals in fulfillment of the “Classic About a Family” category for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2020. It also fills the “Biography/Memoire” category for me in both the Literary Life 20 for 2020 challenge and the Scholé Sisters 5×5 challenge.

“Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories” Book Review

Agatha Christie

Last Sunday I had the great luxury of several hours in which to read entirely for fun, and in that time I finished Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories. This book is a truly enjoyable collection of little self-contained mysteries, each in one chapter, all cleverly solved by the unassuming and unlikely character of Miss Marple.

The elderly spinster has a keen mind and a rather uncanny ability to relate seemingly mundane happenings in her small village to crimes on a larger scale. This combination of sleuthing super-powers never fails to take those around her by surprise, given her quiet, calm and old-fashioned demeanor. Perhaps the best thing about this collection of short stories is that you can read just one chapter and have a complete mystery posed and solved, which is perfect for light bedtime reading when you don’t want to stay up all night!

I originally started reading this book because it was the only collection of short stories I had on my physical shelves, and I needed one for the Literary Life 20 for 2020 Challenge. But I later realized it would also fit in the “Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title” category for the Back to the Classics Challenge. So I’ve got both those boxes checked since I finished it!

P. S. – To read any and all my other reviews for the B2tC challenge so far, just click the tag below for “book reviews“!