My Year of Reading 2015

I was not as regular or dedicated in 2015, as I was in 2013 in terms of recording the dates of my reading, or in 2014 in keeping quotes. Fortunately, I started the habit of keeping my library receipts in my Year of Reading journal, so they served as a handy tool to jog my memory about when I read, what I read.  My Goodreads account is another helpful tool. A few times a year I enter the books on my bookshelf by type, and usually just rate them.

Between these two systems I noticed that I started several books this year that I didn’t finish. Normally I would keep that sort of confession to myself, since I am not by nature a quitter.  However, among the many great things The Daughter and I have learned from our slow soaking in “How to Read a Book,” is that if a book is not worth your time, stop reading it. Thank you Mr. Adler.  


Miracles, Eric Metaxas – I was so thoroughly affected by this author’s biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, that I made a point of including two of his books in my reading this year. First, his biography of Wilberforce (Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to  End Slavery) was part of our homeschool reading. We both read it, and The Daughter even wrote to Metaxas to meet a requirement for her AHG Book Adventurer badge, sadly she never heard back from him. Miracles is a quick and heartwarming apologetic for those unexplained occurrences – miracles – both Biblical and in contemporary times that point us to God.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee – This was my first time reading this classic, and found to my relief that it was about so much more than what everyone says it’s about. Perhaps because it was unexpected, I particularly enjoyed the hilarious antics of Scout and company, and most especially her opinions.  My two favorite quotes are actually quite brief:

Matches were dangerous, but cards were fatal.”  An assessment of the relative danger of being caught playing with matches, or caught playing cards.

Atticus was feeble: he was nearly fifty.”  An assessment of the limited potential of parental involvement in various physical activities due to “advanced” age.

A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature, Wiker & Witt –  This is a pre-read from the AO y12 Worldview list.  Philosophical, but readable, the authors dispel the reductionism at the root of evolutionary thought by discussing the brilliance of the systems of language, geometry, chemistry and physics and demonstrating their deep meaning and purpose.  I loved the book, and look forward to reading it again.

As You Like It, William Shakespeare – A silly, silly play, and rather insightful.
Hamlet, William Shakespeare –  It was truly enjoyable to see just how much of this play is infused into our thought and everyday language.

Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year , Edwin Way Teale – A collection of nature journal entries for almost everyday of the year, this book was one of our favorite morning time reads. Teale has a number of books suggested on the AO list for Nature Reads for Y7 and Y8 and Circle of Seasons just happened to be one which I could find on Abebooks in good shape for a reasonable price.  I think best of all, it inspired us to start our own “Circle of Seasons” Journal.

The American Patriot’s Almanac, William Bennett and John Cribb – Another of the books I used for a morning time readthis almanac has brief 2-3 paragraph summaries of a key event for each day from American History, as well as a listing of other events from American history and culture. I found this book a good way to keep American history in the diet during our Y7 and Y8 years, when our school books were focused on Medieval and Renaissance Europe.

The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, Vishal Mangalwadi – I find it ironic, but perhaps more credible in some ways, that an Indian man, born Hindu, turned atheist, then converted Christian (Swiss L’Abri) must tell us what we should already know.  By examining the history of Western Civilization and its effects on education, literature, society, the family, medicine, government and comparing it to other cultures in the East, Mangalwadi makes his case that the Bible is the soul, the origin, of Western Civilization.  This will be our Worldview read in Y11.  I liked this quote:

“Why did my university in Allahabad have a church, but not a Hindu temple, or a Muslim mosque?  Because the university was invented and established by Christians. 

Neither colonialism nor commerce spread modern education around the world. Soldiers and merchants do not educate. Education was a Christian missionary enterprise. It was integral to Christian missions because modern education is a fruit of the Bible…

At the confluence of the “holy” rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati, Allahabad is revered as one of India’s holiest places…Annual festivals drew every important Hindu religious, political, economic, and intellectual leader to this confluence in the last two millennia.  The money pilgrims donated is incalculable. Yet the Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim civilizations did not establish a single significant institution of learning in this center of Gangetic civilization.” 

Note By Note: A Celebration of the Piano Lesson, Tricia Tunstall – This was a short memoir about the joy and passion imparted to life by music, by the piano, and by piano lessons.

“What is the enduring appeal of the piano lesson as a basic ritual of American childhood? I have spent a great deal of my life as a piano student, pianist or piano teacher, and I can only begin to guess at the reasons.  What I can say – what I do know – is that piano lessons are not only about music but also about trust and confidence, chaos and order, spontaneity and discipline and patience, sometimes even about love…and once again, and always, about music: its beauty, its power, its capacity to convey profound emotions beyond the reach of words.”  

Pilgrims of the Kingdom, Deborah and David Douglas –  This husband and wife writing team took turns visiting 16 sites in the United Kingdom; the islands, cathedrals, towns and homes of the great English spiritual writers; Whithorn and Saint Ninian, Iona and St. Columba, Canterbury and Thomas Becket, Bemerton and George Herbert, Olney and John Newton etc.  Part travelogue, part biography, and part spiritual reflection, Pilgrims of the Kingdom also offers an informative and insightful journey to the touch points of British and Celtic Christianity.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard –  This book is a Nature Read for Y11 and because I had read excerpts elsewhere and was familiar with the area I chose to read it.  At times I loved it, other times I found it darkly morbid. I much prefer the first half, to the second half. I might cut the book in two and toss the back half into a pond filled with evil insects under a dark and threatening sky and watch the words sink into the mud while the water sparkles with bits of escaped sunlight.  (Just kidding.)

Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves, Edmund Spencer  by way of Roy Maynard (The Fairie Queene, Book 1)  – Would I have ever read this if it weren’t on The Daughter’s AO Y8 list?  Clearly not. It would have been my loss.  I’m so glad that we were able to read this together!

A Preface to Paradise Lost, C.S. Lewis –  This book was the most serendipitous of my year. I was actually searching the library’s online catalog to see if they had another Lewis book, when this title caught my eye. When I went to pick it up, I was shocked to be checking out a particularly bedraggled paper back with half of the cover missing (no kidding). I proceeded to read through it twice, marking it up shamefully (in pencil), renewing it over and over, until finally I had to give it back. I highly recommend this book. The first chapters discuss the idea of epic from Aeneid to Beowulf to Sir Gawaine.  Lewis then shifts to an explanation of poetic style and an apologetic of sorts for classical poetry before launching into a look at Milton’s great epic. Preface to Paradise Lost is very readable. Lewis is always concise and clear.  I imagine that other homeschool moms approaching an AO type of literature program would find it especially helpful right before they start Year 7.

After a three year church search we have landed in an Anglican church, associated with Anglican Church of North America.  The next grouping of books reflects our family’s desire to learn more about Anglicanism.  My favorite of the three by far is the Mark Galli book – I have pages of quotes.

The Anglican Way, Thomas Mckenzie
Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy, Mark Galli
Never Silent, Thaddeus Barnum

Our homeschool studies took a detour semester to delve more thoroughly into American History, specifically Virginia’s Colonial history and fill in some gaps in the AO reading list. I focused on the Colonial Period and found some great living history books to pre-read.  
Jamestown Skye Series: Dark Enough to See the Stars and When the Moon Has No More Silver, Connie LaPallo – The Jamestown Skye series is a richly resourced journal account of the Jamestown colony from the perspective of one of the three women who survived the starving time, who happens to be an ancestor of the author.
English Civil War Series: London in Chains andCorruptible Crown, Gillian Bradshaw – The English Civil War series by Gillian Bradshaw also has a female protagonist who earns her living operating a press during a time when freedom of the press was not at all assured, and it was the rare woman working outside the home.
Lion of Liberty: Patrick Henry and the Call to a Nation, Harlow Unger –  This is a pre-read for my Y9 list. Many of the suggested biographies on homeschool lists are of Northern Federalists.  I wanted some balance for our American history so I chose this biography of the eloquent and prescient statesman, Virginia Governor, and anti-Federalist, Patrick Henry. 
Celia Garth
, Gwen Bristow – A Y9 pre-read for a Historical Fiction Free Read set in Charleston during the Revolution.

Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Everyday Life, Gretchen Rubin – Some good ideas.

Ted Cruz: A Time for Truth, Ted Cruz –  I like Ted Cruz.

The following books closed out my year.  Homeschool slows down in December, providing more time to read books of my choosing. My degree field is Communication, so I was delighted to be able to delve into several books recently published by women about their career experiences in public relations and journalism.

And the Good News Is: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side, Dana Perino –  A cheerful – really cheerful – chronicle of mostly happy memories from Ms. Perino’s childhood, marriage and career as White House Press Secretary and her experiences currently as a personality on The Five on Fox News.
Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington, Sharyl Attkisson – If you watch the news, and it seems there are some people that still do, this book is a must read.  You should know how the sausage is made, because you’re eating it.
The Story: A Reporter’s Journey, Judith Miller –  Star reporter for the once great New York Times, Miller was a foreign correspondent in some of the most dangerous areas of the Middle East; a Pulitzer winner; and longest jailed correspondent for protecting her sources. The book is a memoir, and an apologetic for her writing on weapons of mass destruction.

It seems that every year I carry forward a few books; books that I’ve started, and that I plan to continue to read but have set aside in order to read something else, or because I’ve gotten stalled and need a break, or sometimes because they are so incredibly rich that I’m savoring them.

The Cross of Christ, John Stott – This book is in the category of incredibly rich. I suspect once I finally finish it, I will turn around and start it over.  It’s that good, and the subject – Christ and His cross – what could be more important?
Truth Overruled, Ryan Anderson – I’m stalled.
Sounding the Seasons, Malcolm Guite – This book of sonnets by contemporary poet and Anglican priest Malcolm Guite is designed to be read over the course of the year. I have peeked ahead though. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

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