‘Tis the season for Book Lists and Book Challenges! At the beginning of 2020, I looked wistfully at several book challenges. I had about three I was considering and was pondering which “book in translation” to read when the Spirit of Reality Check stopped by for a little visit. A la the cheerful mockery of Carol Kane in Scrooged, she ever so unkindly threw my very full plate in my face and demanded I “snap out of it.”
Well, she wasn’t wrong.
It’s not that I didn’t read. I just read without lists or challenges or planning; books I was given, or picked up for scanning. Then in late December, an email arrived, from Goodreads and to my surprise, I felt the excitement within me arise! My Year of Reading ~ I would write, and so share, all of the great books I’ve read, (a few were just fair).
I signed into my (sadly neglected) blog and was reminded that I’m rather behind. Something in me could not skip 2017, 2018, or 2019. So, here we go, starting with 2017.
My Year of Reading 2017 – The Year I did Not Blog
I didn’t blog in 2017.
It was a good year. My daughter was approximately a sophomore in our homeschool and uber busy with several YMV music ensembles and American Heritage Girls, our academic plan, and classes in French and Drawing. Flipping through my planner I don’t know how I had time to breathe. It’s full of meetings for church, our AHG troop, meals prepared for new mothers, recitals, rehearsals, campouts, concerts, a week of working the collection centers for Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes, not to mention family commitments. Thanks to Goodreads Garner’s Year in Books, my Commonplace Book, and my 2017 Planner, I’m also reminded that it was a great year for thought provoking books with lasting impact. Here are a few of the standouts:
The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech ~ by Kimberley Strassel ~ As I have mentioned in previous book posts, my degree field is Communications. I like to keep up with certain journalists for whom I have respect. Kimberley Strassel is one of these, and her book, like her journalism is balanced and backed up, with facts.
Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth ~by William Bryant Logan ~ For our homeschool, we adopted the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education, which among other things requires reading among a variety of genres which includes nature. Because so many of the books recommended were out of print and required reading shadowy copies online (for which I have a deep dislike), I hunted down contemporary authors that might fit the bill. My first encounter with this author was his fascinating book, Oak: The Frame of Civilization. I. Loved. That. Book. So, I watched for some of his other titles, and picked up this one, and Air: The Restless Shaper of the World. Neither of these have the same organizational style as Oak, so I found them harder to stay engaged with. They are more like topical essays. I finished this one in 2017, and, I have Air on my Unread Shelf read for 2021.
The Great Christ Comet ~ by Colin Nicholl ~ So what was the “Star of Wonder, Star of Night, Star with royal beauty bright?” This was a question discussed on Eric Metaxas’ podcast and after hearing his conversation with the author, I had to check it out. The book takes a very scholarly treatment of that question. First the author discusses the current theories ~ a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, a meteor, a supernova, etc. Then he presents his own theory – a comet. There are mathematical discussions, some astronomy, and Scripture. I confess to skimming through the math, but I got enough out of the other chapters to grasp his compelling argument. I think he’s right. 🙂 (Here’s an encore presentation of the Eric Metaxas Show podcast episode in case you’re interested.)
How To Read A Book ~ by William Adler ~ Because our Charlotte Mason curriculum scheduled this book to be read in sections over several years it has appeared to languish on our Goodreads shelf. In 2017 we finally finished it. It’s a dense read, but with solid advice; a classic instructional about how to intelligently approach reading a book.
Writing to Learn ~ by William Zinsser ~ This engaging book discusses the connection between thinking and writing, and, for the purposes of this book, how they helped the author to learn about a wide variety of subjects through writing about them.
Writing organizes and clarifies our thoughts. Writing is how we think our way into a subject and make it our own. Writing enables us to find out what we know and what we don’t know ~ about whatever we are trying to learn. Putting an idea into written words is like defrosting the windshield. The idea, so vague out there in the murk, slowly begins to gather itself into a sensible shape. Ch 2 Writing to Learn
Hannah Coulter ~ by Wendell Berry ~ Many CM (Charlotte Mason) “influencers” were gushing over Wendell Berry a few years ago. I couldn’t get excited about reading him because of his politics. However, enough people whose taste I trust recommend this book. So, I borrowed it from the library to avoid a commitment. I like this book. His characterization of Hannah is lacking in feminine intuition, but his insight on the deep value of healthy community makes up for it.
The Dragon Singer (Harper Hall) Trilogy ~ by Anne McCaffrey ~ I can’t quite remember the catalyst, but I sought out a lovely, “dustjacket near fine” hardbound collection of this trilogy that I loved in my late childhood, early teens. As soon as they arrived, I dived into them and found to my chagrin that they aren’t that great. I made myself finish them out of commitment to my younger self and abandoned my plan of sharing them with my daughter. Anyone want them?
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded August 27th, 1883 ~ by Simon Winchester ~ This is a nature read that I found at our Bargain Books store. Winchester not only talks about the science involved in the volcanic eruption, but explores the history of the islands and how the explosion affected a great many things around the world. I absolutely loved it and recommended it to everyone. In a similar experience to William Bryant Logan, I looked up other Simon Winchester books, and started reading Atlantic. However, his contempt for Christianity and a lack of factual accuracy marred my appreciation, and I began to question his trustworthiness and research.
Ben Hur ~ by Lew Wallace ~ I love this movie, and I’m so glad to have read the book. What a delight to savor the scenes and find more details than the movie offered. The edition of the book I read was also quite lovely with artwork on the pages. 🙂
The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote ~ by Sharyll Attkisson ~ Journalism simply isn’t what it used to be. Sharyll Attkisson is another journalist that I follow and her books provide a deep dive into whatever news topic she is focusing on. You will never look at the news the same way. Her consistent advice holds up: “Do your own research. Make up your own mind. Think for yourself.” She has a new book out now entitled Slanted. It’s on my list for 2021.
The Awakening of Miss Prim~ by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera ~ A friend of mine gave this book a horrible review on Goodreads and I have to think it’s because she didn’t “get it.” It’s a fish out of water story; and a commentary on education, and contemporary society. Highly recommended.
Why I Am A Christian ~ by John Stott ~ After reading The Cross of Christ, in 2016, I found this book to be a much easier, quicker read, though still deeply thoughtful, touching on the key themes of Christianity. I have pages of notes from this book. It’s that good.
Reclaiming Conversation ~ by Sherry Turkle ~ I highly recommend this book. This was the first of the books I read discussing the unintended consequences (at first) of ubiquitous cell phone use on daily interactions between family members, and in broader applications encompassing school, work, and community. I told everyone about it. More than once.
“If we feel addicted to our phones, it is not a personal weakness. We are exhibiting a predictable response to a perfectly executed design…the apps on our phones are designed to keep us at our phones. Their designers profit from our attention, not from how well the technology supports us in the lives we want to lead.” Sherry Turkle
The Nature Fix ~ by Florence Williams ~ Wow. This book had quite an effect on me. Ask any of my friends or family. I quoted it at them for months. It was also really nice to see how this book supported scientifically, the things that Charlotte Mason states in her books about the importance of children being outside.
We don’t experience natural environments enough to realize how restored they can make us feel, nor are we aware that studies also show they make us healthier, more creative, more empathetic, and more apt to engage with the world and with each other.
Thanks for following along! If you’ve read one of these books, let me know what you thought!