Reading :: spring/summer 2019

It’s been a while since I did any sort of reading update. I’ve been steadily plugging along, starting too many books and not really keeping up with what I’m reading. It’s been the first summer in like the last 4 years that I haven’t had to do any trainings for upcoming teaching responsibilities, so I feel like my reading life has been wide open. I’ve tried to do a little pre-reading for my upcoming sophomore, but I keep becoming distracted by other books that are more appealing or higher on my list.

Currently

Great Possessions: An Amish Farmer’s Journal by D. Kline. :: I’m not really sure how this ended up on my reading list, but so far it’s been pretty interesting. It does cause to one to harken to the simplicity of a farming life and even the Amish life; especially with all the crazy political junk going on.

Phantastes by G. MacDonald :: I’m reading this because apparently it was one of C.S. Lewis’ favorites. I have to admit it’s rather odd and it might not be the best book to read before falling asleep – partially because it is sort of putting me to sleep and partially because I’m not sure I’m awake enough just before bed to really appreciate it.

Beate Not the Poore Desk: A Writer to Young Writers by W. Wangerin Jr :: This book is awesome. I’ve loved all of it and I really love Wangerin. I’ve only ever read his non-fiction, so the jury is out on whether I’d like his fiction, but I completely “get” his writing voice and love it.

Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and Depression by JP Moreland :: I quickly ordered this one when I realized the topic. I’m about halfway through and it has been really encouraging and full of many different ways to combat anxiety attacks. I appreciate his perspective of how the church needs to be in more conversation about anxiety/depression, but also his recognition that sometimes it takes more than prayer and sin confession to overcome this struggle. Medicine is not an evil.

On Hold

I started a few books and they are on hold for various reasons, some because we are on a school break, some because they were due at the library again and some just because I start too many books.

You Learn by Living by E. Roosevelt, In the Land of the Blue Burqas by K. Mccord, The Lifegiving Table by S. Clarkson and Tending the Heart of Virtue by V. Gurolan

Read

Kingdom of the Blind by L. Penny :: I really want to like Louise Penny because I feel like every mystery lover does, but I really am not a huge fan. She’s ok when I’m in the mood for a mystery and don’t have one, but really I just don’t love Gamache and the characters. This one was better than the other one I read, but still not a fan.

1984 by Orwell :: this was a pre-read for my high schooler. He was interested in reading this and I hadn’t read it since high school, so I felt like it was due time for me to read it again. There were some things in it that I didn’t remember at all, but overall it was super scary to read it in these times of history revision/erasure and just all the other lack of individuality (despite everyone crying out for it) and just our inability to respect other peoples differing opinions.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by K. Morton :: this was another one that had been on my list for a while and another author that people tend to rave over. I really felt like I slugged through the first half of this book; maybe even the first 3 quarters. It did ramp up a little in the end, but man the ending was horrible. I finished this and 1984 on the same day and it was totally depressing. Both of them had super depressing endings.

The Night Gardener by Auxier :: this is a youth book and it’s by the guy that wrote Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. I really loved this. I had read many reviews that mentioned how good it was and it really was. My daughter was not so convinced.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Callahan :: this is the story of Lewis and Joy and was our book club choice for July. It was eh; so- so. There were parts of it I really appreciated and enjoyed and then parts of it that I thought were sort of unnecessary . She really takes license with the love story between the two of them and that kind of made me uncomfortable. Callahan is also a very flowery, descriptive writer so that was mildly annoying. Honestly, romance novels are not my thing so maybe that was my utmost issue. It was a good and interesting story and apparently she consulted a fair bit with Joy’s son and there were many tidbits in there that I had no idea about that were interesting.

The Curve of Time by Blanchet :: this is probably my favorite book so far this spring/summer. I absolutely loved it. It’s the story of a widow living on the coast of British Columbia who would take her children sailing all summer in the area between Vancouver Island and the rugged coastline. It’s a crazy area where the Pacific Ocean tides come through and mix with the freshwater rivers coming down from the mainland. I wish I was a mother like this; wild and free and able to just take off and go on adventures. I’m so not.

Persuasion by Austen :: People had been telling me for years to read this Austen, mostly because Emma is hands down one of my favorite books. This did not disappoint, but honestly I still love Emma.

Next up…

I don’t know what’s next. I really need to get busy and make a list because I know I have tons of pre-reading I need to start for school. What are you reading this summer?

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Book Review {Lincoln in the Bardo}

I requested Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders from the library merely because it had been mentioned on some podcast a while back. I couldn’t even remember why I had put it on my wish list, but I realized when I opened the book that this was going to be a very different read from anything I had ever read before. To begin with, I had no idea what the “bardo” was and I realized pretty quickly that I better figure that out before I continued. The second thing was the writing style. Reviewers describe Saunder’s writing as a “non-traditional narrative”. It is written as a series of quotes from the 300 plus characters in the book. Daunting and strange as this was, I couldn’t put it down once I started reading. 

The Bardo is a Tibetan Buddhist word describing a place between life and death. It wasn’t until I was nearly at the end of the novel, that I realized that I had been reading this novel about being lost in a place between life and death during the season of Lent.

The essence of this entire story centers around the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie. Willie becomes ill and passes away and Lincoln’s grief is palpable. He is clearly not at peace with anything in his life and the death of his young son wages a war within him much like the war that is beginning to rage up around him between the North and the South.

But Willie does not just pass on to heaven, but ends up in the Bardo with all the other souls that are lost there. Immediately Willie’s frustration with where he is is clearly evident; only he doesn’t know where he is; he thinks he is still living. He sees his father coming to visit his “white house” and yet when he tries to crawl into his father’s lap he merely passes through him. He is distraught, because this man who had so often cradled him and brought him peace and comfort doesn’t even realize he is there.

Willie is not alone in this Bardo, there are some 300 other voices that readers hear from throughout the novel, but none are as intriguing as the trio. This trio has clearly been stuck in the Bardo for longer than they even know. They become distraught over the idea of Willie being stuck in this purgatory and they know that if they do not relieve him of this place there will be no peace. The recognize their previous failure with a young girl and come together in order to prevent the same happening with Willie. For the first time the trio come together and begin to hope for something better than this place. If not for them, at least for this boy who doesn’t deserve to be stuck there.

At first glance, this is a book about death. Even worse it is a story about being stuck in a purgatory – a death but not death. But in retrospect, I think it is a story about life. Just as the season of Lent is in a sense a season of death, ultimately it is a season pointing us back to life. We sit in the darkness of our sin and in that darkness we realize how bright the Light is that is coming.

My pastor is a Hamilton fanatic and his Easter Sunday sermon centered around the quote from a Hamilton song: “Dying is easy. Living is hard.” Sitting there, surrounded by the glory of the resurrection, I immediately thought of this story. 

Death was easy for these souls because they didn’t really have a choice. Willie died because there was no cure for his sickness despite everything the doctors tried. Others died in accidents or from battles.  It was easy for them to stay in the Bardo – this in between place. There was a sense of safety there. What scared all of them most was the passing on to the place of “eternal living.” Periodically people around them would just disappear in this earthquake of leaving and this leaving was completely frightening to them. 

It is the same for us. This world that we live in, it isn’t a Bardo, but it is still an in between place.  As a believer, I know that a new Eden is coming. When I see the brokenness surrounding me, I know deep in my soul that this is not what God meant for this world. We live in a dystopian focused world. We look around and fall into just accepting that this is all there is. It is easy to see the evil and then lose hope in the future, because we think the future is tainted and filled with danger.

Living is hard because we strive for comfort. We are all terrified of pain and suffering. Our culture is filled with a million things to distract us from considering the sorrow that we are surrounded with. Those in the Bardo continued “living” on as they could within the confines of their ghostly shapes. They played tricks on one another, they traveled in and out of people, they were angry and selfish with those that took up residence in their “sick boxes”. 

They did everything they could to distract from their suffering and from those around them. They did everything they could to keep themselves from considering how to move on. 

They did everything they could to prevent Hope.

Regret moves in, keeps us stagnant and blinds us to Hope. So we stay in the place of death. We stay in our own Bardo; a death of dreams, death of what could have been, death of expectations. This death is easier than living. It is the same sort of darkness that Lincoln was stuck in and couldn’t pass through because of the death of Willie. It’s the same darkness that Willie was stuck in and couldn’t pass through until he admitted he was dead.  It is the same sort of darkness and death that those in the Bardo were in. In order to pass on to the next place, they had to look past their fears and accept and say the word of truth – that they were no longer living and in that acceptance they were able to move on. They had to hope.

This is the Gospel. When we admit that there has to be more to life than this broken world we finally come to realize that there is a way for us to have hope. There is someone who is the essence of this Hope. He chose to walk through the darkness, he chose a death and a passing through – but he passed through and rose again. 

Every Sunday our church serves the Lord’s supper and our pastor reminds us that we do have a future and we do have a hope. We take this meal as a group, surrounded by fellow believers. But unlike those stuck in the Bardo refusing to admit they are stuck, we take the bread and the wine recognizing that we have all made a choice to believe. Every time we take that meal, we choose to rattle the world around us and break the idols that we use to protect us from the darkness. 

And instead we choose the Light that breaks through.

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Reading: July 2018

Currently

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy by J. Birdsall
This is our latest read aloud, which in the summer has been time spent few and far between. I’m anxious to get back into our not summer family rhythm so we can get back to reading aloud more. This comes highly recommended by many friends and so far, so good.

Glass Houses by L. Penny
This is only my second Louise Penny mystery and I’m still struggling to get into it. I love a good mystery and I really love mystery series. People rave about Louise Penny so I’m hoping that the more I read the more I will love her too.

A bunch of astronomy books
I’m teaching an 8th grade homeschool class this year and we do a history of astronomy in the Fall semester so I’m cruising through a bunch of different astronomy books.

The Great Divorce by CS Lewis
This is for my August book club meeting and I’m trying to stay with it, but it’s just strange. I love CS Lewis and I love a good allegory, but this one has been a little bit hard to figure out. Probably because I’m reading so many other things!

Educated by T. Westover
I started listening to this on audio and had to return it and I’m like number 100 in line for the book at the library. I loved the interview on NPR I heard with her, I loved as much as I was able to listen to and I’m almost tempted to just buy the book so I can finally finish it!

Finished

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by S. King
Awesome book. I loved this book as much as people said I would. It’s a fabulous book for write wannabes like me and it was such an amazing insight into King’s process. He’s totally strange, but yet he seems like such an ordinary family guy. He loves his wife and his kids and while what he writes about is often bizarre, his process is totally normal. Highly recommend!

Gilead by M. Robinson
I really wanted to like this book. I know people who love it, but it was so draggy and so somber. It often put me to sleep at night and it was almost drudgery to get through. There were parts I should have totally written down in my commomplace because they were so good, but overall I don’t know. I have one more episode to listen to of Close Reads as they talk about this and listening to the podcast has helped me process the book. Otherwise I would totally not like it.

The Fledgling by J. Langton
Actually we didn’t finish this book, but abandoned it. There’s only a handful of books that we’ve started to read aloud together and then quit and this one added to the list. It’s a super strange book and we really couldn’t figure out the whole point. A girl and a goose who flies. I don’t know. It was weird.

 

What’s Next

Goodness – who knows. I need to keep some good “easy” reads for my afternoon tea time, but I’ve also go so many things I need to read for my class. Not to mention that we’ve started homeschool so I’ve got tons of pre-reading I need to stay on top of too. I’m not going to make the next couple of book club meetings, so I’m not sure that I’ll stay on top of those readings. Who knows!

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Reading: June/July 2018

I totally missed writing about my June books, but it’s no big deal because I really didn’t get much read. I feel like my life has been lived in 45 minute increments in between being the taxi for my kids this summer and just life in general. I’m really hoping July becomes a month of rest so I can catch up on some reading goals and do very little prep for the upcoming school year. I need a vacation!

Finished

Little Britches: Father and I were Ranchers by R. Moody
This was a pre-read for my upcoming Challenge B class and I really loved it. It was a sweet book and a great story; although the ending was a bit sad. Not without hope, but sad nonetheless. I’m interested in reading more of the series at some point.

The Inimitable Jeeves by PG Wodehouse
I’ve seen Wodehouse and Jeeves mentioned all over different groups I’m in so I took the plunge and read one. It was good and funny and I’ll file Wodehouse away as a great “recoup” read (as in after reading a heavy book). As a totally Anglophile, I’ll take any book with it’s dry English humor and enjoy it.

Fanny Crosby
This was a biography that we started for school and actually both of us abandoned it. Mallory got further along than me, but overall it was kind of ehh.

Hannah Coulter by Berry
This was a re-read for me as the Close Reads podcast from Circe was going through it. I really enjoyed it more the second time than the first.

Currently Reading

Gilead by M. Robinson
This one was mentioned on the podcast a bunch while I was reading Hannah Coulter and I kept hearing about it from a bunch of other places so I had filed it away as a to-read. I walked into the library one day and low and behold it was sitting on the top shelf with all the new books just waiting for me. I’m listening to the Close Reads podcast discussion while I’m reading it and it’s helping me get through it. The form is crazy different (like letters or journal entries) and while I know the story is going somewhere – it’s pretty melancholy. I’m not sure what I think about it.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
I’m on the tail end of this book and I’ve loved it all (minus the sections about grammar – ugg) but I love that I’ve been completely surprised by his voice as just a regular guy. He loves his wife, completely respects her opinion and he loves his family. That was refreshing and enjoyable to read in this day and age. And it was totally interesting to get behind the scenes of his crazy imagination. Overall, I appreciate his honesty. As someone who feels like I’ve got “that story” buried deep in my psyche it was just so refreshing to read about his process and just the real life of trying to get the words out onto a page.

The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Literature by N. Guthrie
I needed desperately some sort of Bible study to do and after digging around on the web I came across Guthrie’s studies and figured I would give one a whirl. Low and behold the book arrived and I realized I did this study years ago. At the time, I really didn’t like it at all, but it’s funny how God can bring you into and through places and when you arrive on the other side the things that really didn’t hit you at one point do at the other.

Summer has been a crazy whirlwind and our schedules have been nuts. We’ve pretty much not been reading aloud at all so these books are still on our reading shelf, but are collecting dust:
Across Five Aprils
The Fledgling
Orthodoxy (although this one is collecting dust because I’m still struggling with it)

Coming Up

Once I finish Stephen King’s book, I’m going to finally read The Read Aloud Family and I need to start on The Great Divorce (Lewis) for my August book club. Fiction wise, I picked up a newer Louise Penny mystery and also The Light Keeper’s Daughter from the library. I also need to read a few others before I start teaching this Fall and I’m sure I’ve got a million things to pre-read for my kid’s own schooling. The list is forever long. Jaybar Crow is also on my list but I don’t know if I’m going to get to it before the Fall.

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Reading: April 2018

The angels erupted in song yesterday when I finally put down the book David Copperfield and rejoiced that nearly 900 pages later I was finished. Whew. It was a doozy of a book and the longest one I’ve read in years. I’m so happy to have finished it (and for the most part enjoyed it), but I’m super thrilled to be moving on.

Finished

The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom
Seriously, the best book I’ve read in a while. This one has been on my “to-read” list for years and when it ended up as one of my book club books AND a book that I’m teaching this coming year I was beyond thrilled. It’s an amazing read for the mere story of it, but also for the conviction of it. When I start to look around and become annoyed or dismayed at my life – all I need to do is remember hers. This one is worthy of it’s own review post.

Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel
This was good; not my absolute favorite but I’m not a personality guru either. I really enjoyed the first few chapters, but when she started in on all the different personality tests etc, it didn’t quite hold my interest. It is a great compilation of all the different personality type discussions going on and I do believe in at least being familiar with all the typings as being a helpful thing when trying to deal with people (especially those in your family).

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
To begin with, this is Dickens so it’s crazy wordy. I will say, compared the other Dickens I’ve read this one was definitely more light-hearted. There were places throughout the book where I actually laughed and I did enjoy many of the characters. Dickens is amazing at his ability to create memorable characters and it’s where his love of descriptions is so helpful. By the time you are done with the book you definitely have a very vivid picture in your mind of who is who. I will say the character of David was somewhat annoying. I absolutely loved him as a child, but then it was like he never grew up. From his child-wife to the blindness he carried throughout the book for Agnes (come on already!) drove my absolutely bonkers…and his infatuation with Steerforth! I will say that Dickens did a fabulous job leading up that whole story with Steerforth. I knew from the beginning that at some point David was totally going to realize what sort of goody-too shoes he was.

Caddie Woodlawn (Caddie Woodlawn #1)
The chick and I read this aloud and overall it was pretty good. I feel like it is so much a copy of Little House that I had a hard time getting through that. I don’t know that either of us is a huge Pioneer literature fan so I don’t think we will be continuing on with the series. But it was a good read aloud.

Currently

The Fledgling (Hall Family Chronicles #4)
This is our current read aloud. I picked this up last year when I knew we were going to study birds and we finally started it. So far we are only like 10 pages in, so the jury is still out on how good it will be.

Before We Were Yours by Windgate
My mom passed this off to me a few days ago and knowing I needed something “easy” after Dickens I figured I would try this.

Across Five Aprils
We are attempting to do a family read aloud of this book. It’s been on the list all year and one that I wanted both kids to read. I’ve never read it and the reviews are always great.

Fanny Crosby
This is a pre-read for me as the chick is reading it for school. It’s a biography of her life. She was blind and ended up being this amazing hymn writer; she wrote Blessed Assurance for one.

Island of the Blue Dolphins
The chick is also reading this for school. It was one of my favorites as a child and I’m still enjoying it; she’s not. 🙁

Orthodoxy by Chesterton
This book is making my brain hurt.

What’s Next?

I’m going to re-read Hannah Coulter, because the Circe Close Reads podcast is getting ready to read it in May and I love Wendell Berry so win-win. A friend recommended PJ Wodehouse to me, so I reserved some of those books. Our next book club book is The Good Earth by Buck (I think) so I will need to get my hands on that. I’m also hoping to start reading Steven King’s memoir on writing.

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