If you haven't guessed already, I love books. At one of my annual check-ups, the doctor always asked if I have any hobbies, and I always reply, "Yes, I read." Then I spend the rest of the check-up feeling guilty that I don't have a healthier hobby like running marathons or making green smoothies.
But, a few years ago, I realized that for my particular personality and spirit, I need a steady inflow (and an occasional outflow) of beautiful words or my soul starts to wither. So I read-- for my health.
For the past three years or so, I've been keeping a book journal to track my progress and make a central place for all the quotes I scribble down in my notebooks haphazardly next to the menu plan and the kids' school stuff. I've also been setting myself a goal of books to read, and this is the first year that I actually exceeded my goal. I aimed for 52 books and read 62.
January always leaves me with a big stack of books from Christmas and my birthday. Looking back over the past few years, the books that have spoken to me most have been stories of the healing and transformative power of home and community. Some of my favorites this year were:
For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macauley (great homeschool inspiration)
The Life-giving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson (adding beauty and traditions to your home)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (I decided to reread this since we were hoping to move somewhere that I could grow things. We didn't end up moving or growing anything, but it did inspire me to fill my freezer with veggies from my farmshare.)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (I hadn't read this since sixth grade. So worth a reread as an adult. Marmee is so wise. She will inspire you in all new ways as a mom.)
In the House of Brede by Rumer Godden (A book about nuns that speaks beautifully about living a life of sacrifice and devotion.)
Most Disappointing Books of the Year
Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs and Emily's Quest by L. M. Montgomery
I hate to criticize L. M. Montgomery as she has always been one of my favorite authors. I received a new set of the Emily series with the most beautiful covers, and was looking forward to rereading them. These books were a favorite in childhood. I probably would have even said I preferred Emily to Anne. But sometimes when you reread books as a parent, you find you have different feelings. It's why my husband find himself always shaking his head at Pa Ingall's adventures. As a mother of young daughters, I found myself creeped out, especially by Dean Priest's character. No older man needs to be skulking around young girls and claiming that they owe them anything.
The Book I Finally Conquered
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I rarely feel compelled to read books because I should, but this year I did challenge myself a bit. You see, I've always had this shameful little secret. I've never liked Jane Austen. I've tried, but there was always just so much talking. I know so many people who love these books, though, so I decided to try again. First off, I watched the BBC miniseries. I tried to watch furtively in the kitchen while cooking, but I soon discovered the kids hanging around. What I did not expect was that they got totally into P & P. They loved the dresses and they thought it was really funny. I had never noticed the humor before! Then I listened to the book on audiobook, which made all the difference. It turns out that so much talking makes a great audiobook. That is how I finally enjoyed Jane Austen. I might even read more.
Most Inspiring Real People I Learned About This Year: Hannah More and William Wilberforce
Fierce Covictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More--Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior
Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxes
This year I discovered this fascinating group of British Christian friends who shaped the moral imagination and history of their entire country (and I'm not talking about the Inklings). The Clapham Circle, included William Wilberforce and Hannah More and other abolitionists: he a politician, she a writer; both fierce abolitionists who helped abolish slavery in Britain, as well as make a host of other societal changes. Who wouldn't want their home to be described as "the favored seat of intellectual and religious sunshine" as Hannah More's was? I also had to rewatch the excellent movie Amazing Grace, when I was finished.
Stay tuned for Part 2.