Saturday, January 14, 2017

My Year in Reading: 2016 (Part 2)

By late Spring, I had hit a reading slump. I had read a series of meh books. The weather outside was warming up and I was burnt out from homeschooling. To try and inspire the kids to read, I printed off a summer reading challenge I had downloaded from Pam Barnhill called Traveling the Pages: An Enchanted Journey.
The fairy-tale map had different squares with challenges on them to color in when you completed it. The kids decided that I should participate too. I turned to my beloved children's literature to keep up with the kids, and I ended up enjoying reading again and discovering some delightful books like:

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (Read a Fairytale Square)
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (Read a fantasy book)
Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter (Read a Classic)
My Mrs. Brown by William Norwich (Read a book about a voyage, vacations or adventure) (Not a children's book, but a delightful story about an older woman and her journey to buy the perfect dress.)

I also found a way to fit in some books from my recent favorite time period: the period between World War I and World War II in Europe. 

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson (I have been missing my British tv shows Downton Abbey and Larkrise to Candleford, and this helped fill the void.)
Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear (As an adult, I've discovered that I love character-driven, not too gruesome mystery series, and the Maisie Dobbs series is excellent. Maisie is a former WWI nurse, turned detective, and now Secret Service agent who finds herself in Germany right before WWII in the latest installment.)
 Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World's Deadliest Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (compelling children's non-fiction that will fascinate adults.)

Fall brought us The Most Anticipated Book of the Year: 
Ember Falls by S. D. Smith.
We have been anxiously awaiting the sequel to The Green Ember. I have loved all of Smith's books, but only recently introduced my kids to them. So they were super excited when our Kickstarter package came. I kept finding tiny rabbits with swords all around the house. We passed the books along to our friends.The kids loved them, their parents loved them, even their grandparents loved it. Right before we got to the end of the book, I was telling the kids how some authors are cruel enough to have a cliff-hanger ending. Then the book ended. That's all I'll say, but we are all begging, "Please, Mr. Smith, write the next book soon!"

My Favorite Book of the Year
The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter
I discovered Stratton-Porter as an adult and I seem to like each book I read by her more than the last one, I started with Girl of the Limberlost, then Freckles, but her last book, The Keeper of the Bees, is her masterpiece. This is the story of a WWI veteran named Jamie who escapes a hospital and finds himself in the home of a beekeeper in California, where he is soon woven into a new community and family. A beautiful story of healing and faith and nature. Very moralistic and old-fashioned by today's standards, which is probably why I loved it.

Fall also brought a lot of nasty politics, which made me want to only read books about baking cookies. But I did tip my toe into the world of politics by reading Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance. Because he's Appalachian and he had something to say. I also made my way through the first debate by reading The Plain Reader: a collection of essays by Amish, Quakers, and Luddites.

Then came the holiday season. My reading took a more religious tone. I discovered Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John. When I picked this up, I thought because of its setting in Switzerland, that it would just be a Heidi knockoff. But I was so wrong. This is a deeply Christian children's book, which talks beautifully about the power of forgiveness and salvation in two children's life (one a bully, and one the persecuted). I still find myself thinking about some of her images. I definitely want to read more of her books.
In December, I discovered that I had reached the end of the year, and had not read a single Elizabeth Goudge book. I had several on my shelf, and had picked up The Dean's Watch more than once and just couldn't get into it. This time I picked up the book and couldn't stop reading. It turns out that the whole arc of the story leads to Advent and Christmas, and this was the perfect time to read it. This is the story of the unlikely friendship between a local clockmaker and the Dean of the Cathedral. As with all of her books, it was full of healing and redemption and beautiful religious symbolism.

For my final book of the year, I decided to reread my favorite book of 2015: The Awakening of Miss Prim. A modern book that reads like an old-fashioned one about a community that has built a refuge from modern life.While the main character is hardly sympathetic, I fell in love with everyone in the town. If you are at all inclined to want to have huge libraries in your house and stop by friend's house for a cup of tea and slice of cake, while you discuss classic literature, faith, and the failings of modern society, you will want to read this book.


  1. I have enjoyed your book lists. I will consider this list of books for reading in the future. We do have "Treasures Of The Snow",but I have not read it yet.

  2. Thank You for your book list. You always suggest nice and interesting books. I too do not like gruesome murder stories.