The Reading Report, Vol. 10: A Little Spring Cleaning

We woke up to a light coating of very wet snow on the grass and trees yesterday, all glittering in the sunshine and making the woods look like a fairy world. But by mid-day, the snow had melted completely, as I expected since it is nearly spring in Middle Tennessee! I know a lot of people start talking about spring cleaning this time of year, and we get to itching to air out the house after being shut up for so long. I participated in a local consignment sale over the weekend and hauled out a bunch of the kids outgrown clothes from last year. Of course, I also brought home a fresh batch up new-to-us duds for this spring and summer.

It would also happen that I noticed this week that my reading life has gotten a bit messy lately. I have started a lot of books already this year, but I haven’t finished nearly so many. My mental  book lists are in quite a jumble! Even though my physical book shelves may appear pretty tidy, I feel like my reading life is in desperate need of a good decluttering session. Do you ever feel that way? Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I get overeager to read “all the things.” Then I get overwhelmed with decision fatigue every time I sit down to read because I can’t figure out just which book I should pick up and keep reading. I know some people can have up to 10 books going at the same time, but I don’t think I am one of those people.

In order to clean up my reading life, I am going to shelve a bunch of the books I have started, just for the time being, and focus on just a few at a time. My approach to doing this needs to be balanced so that I always have some different types of reading material to choose from. My goal is to have only 3-4 books in progress at the same time. I aim to keep at least 2 fiction books on the docket at all times, one print and one audio. I also always need to be working through just 1 non-fiction devotional or self-help book. (This is the most challenging genre for me to actually finish, so just reading one at a time will help me stay on task.) Since I am continuously reading something aloud with my son, usually a new book for us both, I count it as part of my personal reading, as well.

Books I’m Keeping on My Active List:

True Grit–this is the newest selection for the Close Reads podcast. I am halfway through this book already, and I have relished it so far. It is not only a quick-moving book, but it is surprisingly humorous. I have also been intrigued by the many references to Scripture and bits of moral commentary.

Call of the Wild— I chose this book largely because I got it free on audio and had never read it before. I have to admit, I was not prepared for the vivid descriptions of mistreatment of dogs that make up a large part of the storyline. It has not been an easy listen, although it is an excellent piece of literature and a compelling story. Painful but powerful…I think that is how I would describe this book.

Hello Mornings–I am determined to finish this book by the end of the month! It was the selection for the February focus in the Cultivating the Lovely Podcast Patreon group, but I didn’t get started until halfway through the month. I am enjoying and gleaning some good insights, but it is just slow going for me because of the genre.

Dr. Dolittle–this is our new family read aloud. I am sure it won’t take us very long as the book is not thick, and the story is a fun one!

Books I’m Shelving for Now:

The Wreath–I was borrowing this from the library and hadn’t gotten far enough in before the due date to merit renewing it. It’s on my B2tC Challenge list, so I will get back to it sooner or later!

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (and the Key)–another B2tC Challenge book that I started with good intention. But this one is a painful read for me, and I can’t have more than one of those going at the same time. Maybe I will pick it back up when I finish one of my other fiction books.

Full–I do want to finish this book very soon. I only wish I had started it at the beginning of the 40 Day Sugar Fast because once that was over, I lost motivation to read the book, too!

Utopia–Another B2tC title that I started and couldn’t get into right away. I have had this book sitting on my bookshelf since college days and have never read the whole thing. I WILL finish it this year if it’s the last things I do, ha!

Better Together–I did read the first several chapters of Pam Barnhill’s new book, and I am really enjoying it so much! I just can’t read everything at once, and since I am pretty content with our current Morning Time and school schedule at the moment, I decided to put this on hold for the time being. I may come back to it during break week, though, just for a fresh bit of inspiration during my planning for the next term. (I do highly recommend you get your hands on this book before March 31, 2018 so you can get the fun exclusive bonuses Pam is offering! Just order through my Amazon affiliate link, then go to the Better Together book page and fill out the form at the bottom of the page to claim your bonus!)

The Spiritual Life–I started this yesterday on one of our long drives to and from church because I had forgotten to bring a book or knitting along for the ride. It is another of my B2tC titles, and I am looking forward to reading this as a devotional supplement, once I get finished with my other books in that genre.

Books I’ve Finished Lately:

Frankenstein–Having finished this book, my reaction was mixed. I was glad to have read it and gotten rid of all my pop-culture saturated ideas about what it would be like. I did find it a captivating and suspenseful read. There were some very thought-provoking ideas presented throughout the book. However, I also felt that I had to have a willing suspension of disbelief about the way Frankenstein acted throughout much of the story. Perhaps he really was a genius, but he did not display a lot of common sense or ability to foresee the consequences of his actions. His failure to take proper responsibility for the creature he had made really, really bothered me. But I guess that was part of the point of the story.

Farmer Boy–My son and I just finished this one together, and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole book. Even the 2 year old found it enjoyable when she happened to be around. Of course, all the descriptions of food make this a book you don’t want to read when you are hungry! But as a model of a hard-working boy who not only did his work but grew to love it, Farmer Boy is pretty hard to beat!

Babe, the Gallant Pig–this was a quick, fun little book to read on a quiet afternoon! I’ve loved the film version of Babe since it came out waaaay back in 1995 (honestly, how did that get to be so long ago!?), but I somehow missed the fact that there was a book until just recently. My son read it on his own and thought it was great, too. My one word of caution, however, if you are thinking of handing this over to your independent readers….the author uses the “technical term” for a female dog throughout to refer to the mother collie. I did not know this until after my son read the book, and I was reading it myself. He did not mention it, and having not come across this word in daily life, it is probable he just skimmed over it. However, if I had it to do over again, I would probably do this one as a family read-aloud and edit that out as I read!

Well, I think that’s about it for this round of the Reading Report! How is your reading life these days? Do you have any readerly spring cleaning to do? Or is your booklist already nice and tidy? I’d love for you to leave a comment and tell me what you’ve been reading lately!

The Reading Report, Vol 9: February Edition

With February flying by, it’s time for another installment of The Reading Report! I honestly have not been reading as much this month as I might like, and I’m not sure exactly why. I have listened to some audio books, and I have been slowly dipping into a couple of non-fiction books.  Since non-fiction is hard for me, I am always pleased at every bit of progress I make through them! So, let’s dig in and chat about what I’m reading these days.

What I’m reading now…

Frankenstein— This was my selection for the “Classic that scares you” section of the Back to the Classics Challenge. I really don’t know why I was afraid to read it, except that I didn’t know anything about the book and thought it would be kitschy or boring or just plain weird. But, surprisingly, I have enjoyed it immensely! It has been very thought provoking, especially in terms of ethics, morality and justice. I am primarily listening to Frankenstein on Librivox, but sometimes I read a chapter on Kindle instead. I’m actually at least 3/4 of the way through, so I am sure I’ll finish it by the end of the month.

Full: Food, Jesus and the Battle for Satisfaction— I started reading this during the 40 Day Sugar Fast, and I have been using it as one option for extra devotional reading in the mornings. It is really an excellent companion for fasting. I would also recommend it to anyone who struggles with any kind of food battles from overindulging to under-eating and everything in between. Asheritah has a very conversational, encouraging voice, and the format of the book is perfect for individual or group study.

Hello Mornings— This book was on my list to read this year, and it came into my hands in a totally God-ordained way. I have only just begun reading this, but it’s already made me cry! Kat Lee has an encouraging and challenging way of writing, and this book gives plenty of opportunity for reflection as well as action. If you are tired of starting your days a frazzled mess, feeling like you are just along for the ride instead of really living each day with intention, I would strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of Hello Mornings.

The Wreath— This was another of my picks for the Back to the Classics Challenge, under the “Classic in Translation” heading. I really didn’t know anything about this book except that it was Scandinavian, and that it is the first in a trilogy. I have only finished a few chapters, but it has definitely sucked me in with its hints at something mysterious and magical going on beneath the surface of normal daily life.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin and A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin— Another pick from my B2tCC list, Uncle Tom’s Cabin also happened to hit my radar this month due to a discussion thread on the AmblesideOnline Forum. The discussion group there is also reading the “companion” that Stowe wrote as a response to criticism that she painted a more grim picture of slavery than it really was. I can tell these books are going to be very frustrating reads on one level, since they highlight the mistreatment of human beings for no reason but the color of their skin. At the same time, though, I can also predict that I am going to really enjoy the character development and Stowe’s writing style.

What I’ve finished reading…

Howards End— I had to return my print copy of this book long before I was finished, but I was thrilled to find the audio version available to check out on the Libby app. And it was even narrated by one of my new favorites, Nadia May. She did an excellent job of bringing the characters to life. I know I wasn’t able to listen as closely as I would have been able to read, but all the same, I really enjoyed Forster’s prose. This is the current Close Reads podcast selection, so it has been enlightening to listen to some deeper digging into the themes than I could ever even imagine doing myself!

A Door in the Wall— This was one of our free reads for AmblesideOnline Year 2. Even though it is a short book, my son and I took our time reading through it together. I appreciated the way De Angeli wove in the themes of overcoming adversity and learning to serve God in whatever capacity we can without being heavy handed. It was also a great living book for looking at the daily life of a boy in Medieval times, which fits in very well for the period of history that we are studying in many of our other books right now.

What I’m reading next…

Better Together— Podcaster and blogger Pam Barnhill has just come out with a new book all about her specialty: Morning Time! I am looking forward to reading an advance copy since I am part of her launch team and picking up a few ideas and pointers to improve our own morning time and homeschool in general.

And now it’s your turn…what are you reading these days? What books have you finished lately?

The Reading Report, Vol. 8: Reading in the New Year

Welcome to the first 2018 edition of The Reading Report! I hope that you are off to a positive start to this new year. I can hardly believe that it is already the middle of January! Here in Middle Tennessee we are enjoying a beautiful snowy day, which is a bit of a rarity around here, I think. We have already chuckled just a bit (sorry Southerners!) at the speed at which everything gets cancelled when a little snow is falling. But, homebody that I am, I guess I don’t mind the added excuse to stay home and enjoy the extra time playing in the snow, drinking hot tea, and (of course) reading good books. Which leads me to the main point of this post–what I’m reading in the New Year!

What I’ve finished reading…

If you read the last installment of The Reading Report for 2017, you know that I have taken on the “Back to the Classics Challenge.” That post outlined the 12 (or more) books that I plan to read to fulfill each category for the challenge. I do, however, plan to read other books as well, and I have set a goal to finish 30 titles this year. I have already made a small dent in that number in just 2 weeks, which is good because I actually have been so busy with other things that I feel like I haven’t spent as much time reading as I should.

First, I finally finished Triggers! This book was so packed with good spiritual insight and practical help for me in my parenting struggles. I really think I need to read it again, focussing on just one chapter every week and intentionally trying to improve in that area. If you have any anger issues at all as a parent, I highly recommend this book!

The kids and I listened to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland together on Audible. We enjoyed it so much! I had read this book years ago, but it was delightful to get re-aquainted with the story with my children. We listened to this one for free on Audible Channels, which is a feature for Amazon Prime members. They have several classic audio books, both for families and adults only, as well as newer releases. If you have Prime and haven’t used Audible Channels, you should give it a try! And if you don’t have Amazon Prime, you should! Ha! 😉

Another great book I finished (also via Audible Channels) was The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie. It was so good! I am finding that Christie’s mysteries make a really good “break” from heavier reading or non-fiction.

What I am reading now…

The first book I am diving into from my Back to the Classics list is Howards End by E. M. Forster. It is also the current selection being discussed on the Close Reads podcast. I knew nothing about Forster or Howards End before I started reading, but so far I am thoroughly enjoying it. Several thought provoking passages have jumped out at me, as well as many humorous lines. I still am not sure where the plot is going, but the characters I have met so far are delightful!

One of my goals for this year’s reading is to work my way through at least one of Charlotte Mason’s volumes. Since I still have young children, it made sense for me to start at the beginning and read Home Education. I am taking it very slow, only reading a few pages at a time, because I want to absorb the ideas and make lots of connections as I go.

The third book in my basket right now is Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu. I started this one as a companion to the 40 Day Sugar Fast devotionals. Although I am only a chapter in, I can already tell it is going to be good! The focus of both the book and the fast is not food as much as it is on breaking free from bondage to food fixation and other sins so that we can find our satisfaction in Jesus. I am looking forward to talking more about these concepts as I go through this journey over the next month.

Oh, and I almost forgot! I also am listening to Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Since this was one of the books that I said I was “afraid” to read on the Back to the Classics list, I decided to get an early start on it. The first several chapters have been fine so far, just a little slow, perhaps. It is a lot of character set-up. But I think listening to it on Librivox has been a good way to get into it. I will probably start reading it in print, too, and go back and forth between the two.

That’s all for now…

I have been interrupted so many times while writing this post, I certainly hope it doesn’t sound as scattered as I feel! If it does, and you still made it this far, thanks for hanging in there with me! By the way, if you are a regular reader of my blog (or hope to be one in 2018), would you mind filling out this quick little survey for me? I am looking for some input on what you all would like to see more of in this space, as well as how I can best connect with you in the future! It is just 3 short questions, so if you can give me just a minute more of your time, I will be so grateful.

 

The Reading Report, Vol. 7: Back to the Classics Challenge 2018

Welcome to the December edition of The Reading Report! I can hardly believe that Christmas is only two weeks away! The holidays feel a little different this year since we are in a new location, but we have been enjoying the local festivities. We will also get to see some family during Christmas break, which will be very nice!

My reading life has been a little off lately. I got a bit overwhelmed with life a couple of weeks ago and stepped back from a lot of things to give myself a mental break. During that time, I realized that I had succumbed to a bad case of start-itis, especially where books are concerned. I have started a lot of books recently and then lacked the motivation or focus to finish them. As I thought over what I want 2018 to look like, I came to the conclusion that I need to simplify and narrow my focus in several areas, one of those being my reading habits. And just at the moment I was thinking about how to do this, I stumbled upon some posts by fellow AmblesideOnline moms about the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge. Perfect timing!

This challenge is hosted by Karen at her blog, Books and Chocolate. (Sounds like a great combo, right?!) What I like about her challenge is that it will give me a chance to narrow down just exactly what I want to read in the coming year, with a creative twist. I have a specific goal to shoot for, and a timeline to do it in. It also will challenge me to read some things I might not otherwise have the courage to crack open. Some these prompts made me think of more than one book that I might like to read, so I am writing down both options and will see what mood I am in when it comes down to the actual reading. Now, without further ado, here are my proposed titles for the Back to the Classics 2018 Challenge:

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: Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
4. A Classic in Translation: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert or The Wreath (book 1 of Kristin Lavransdatter) by Sigrid Undset
5. A Children’s Classic: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder or Heidi by Johanna Spyri
6. A Classic Crime Story: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
7. Classic Travel or Journey Narrative: Endurance, Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
8. Classics with a Single-Word Title: Utopia by Thomas More or Walden by Henry David Thoreau
9. Classic with a Color in the Title: White Fang by Jack London
10. Classic by a New-to-You Author: The Spiritual Life by Andrew Murray
11. A Classic that Scares You: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley or The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
12. Re-read a Favorite Classic: something by Jane Austen (because I just have to read an Austen ever year!)

At the end of the 2018, I will report back with the complete list of finished titles. I really do hope I can discipline myself to focus in on this list and not get distracted by too many other books I could read. In 2017 I finished 16 books, not including numerous children’s classics we either read aloud or listened to as a family. In light of that, 12 classics should not be too much to ask, even if some of them a bit long. I also am very slowly working my way through Charlotte Mason’s Home Education Series, but I just read a few pages of one of those each day or two and let the ideas simmer.

Do you have any reading plans for 2018? Are you joining in the Back to the Classics Challenge? I’d love to hear what you are going to be reading in the New Year, so leave me a comment below!

 

 

 

This post is linked up with Books and Chocolate: Back to the Classics 2018. 

The Reading Report, Vol. 6: Picture Book Edition

Happy Almost Thanksgiving, readers! I am excited to be entering into this holiday season in a new place this year! My parents and my brother and sister-in-law will be coming in for Thanksgiving, and we are looking forward to their visit. In light of the beginning of a busy season for most families, I thought I had better go ahead and get this month’s Reading Report written up so that it isn’t lost in the holiday shuffle. Besides, as promised last time, this edition is chalk full of favorite picture books, all of which would make great gifts for the children on your list! Keep in mind, this is not an exhaustive list, just the most recent favorites the kids and I have been enjoying together. Many are classics, but some are newer books. All are well-worth a spot on a child’s bookshelf!

Picture books we’ve been loving:

            

                     

             

    

     

What I’ve Finished Reading:

I can’t publish this month’s Reading Report without mentioning a few of my own books, of course. I certainly cannot skip over my thoughts on finishing GileadI turned its final page just a couple nights ago, and I have still been thinking about the book ever since. It did take a while to get into, and I will admit that for a while it seemed to move so slowly and quietly that it nearly put me to sleep a couple of times. However, the pace of the storyline and tension between characters picked up later on, and the ending was very moving to me. I actually honestly cried big fat tears at the end. The book had so many themes woven through it: grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, family relationship, generational heritage, aging, youth, beauty of creation, small town life…I could go on! It is more of a fictionalized memoire than a plot-driven book, which may not be for everyone. I seemed to me very much a chronicle of a man coming to peace with himself and his fellow man near the end of his life. And I loved it.

Also, if you are looking for a fun fantasy sort of book to read with your kids, Edith Nesbit’s Five Children and It is a great read aloud or audible choice! The kids and I listened to it on our car rides recently, and we fell in love with these ordinary children who have extraordinary adventures (and learn some good lessons) thanks to finding an unusual mythical creature who can grant their wishes!

What I’m Reading Next:

The Penderwicks: I saw this one while browsing at the library today and decided to pick it up for my own light reading. If I think it is appropriate, I may read it aloud to my son once I am finished.

I also just started in on Last Child in the Woods. This book has been on my radar for a long time, but I never had a chance to actually sit down and read it. Seeking to spend more time outdoors is always a goal I have for myself and my kids, and I know this book is just going to drive home the point. But so far I am finding the statistics and other information in the first few chapters very interesting.

The next Close Reads podcast pick is Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. My son and I just read the E. Nesbit synopsis version in Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare, so I am looking forward to reading and watching the play next!

What I Shelved:

The Explosive Child: Since I mentioned this book in the last Reading Report, I thought I should let you all know I ended up returning this title to the library after only reading the first few chapters. There was just too much emphasis on the psychological and developmental theories from a secular point of view, not taking into account the sin nature of the child. I do not know if I would have found some helpful tips later on in the book, but I decided it was not a book for me right now.

And that is probably enough from me for now! Happy Reading, friends!