(A post for people who like books. It may be a disappointment to you if you do not enjoy reading. It may also be a disappointment to you if you do enjoy reading.)
During a moment of reflection on Sunday, I gathered these books off my shelf and took pictures of them. These represent a good deal of the reading and rereading I have done over the past months. I can’t remember all the books I’ve read, and I couldn’t find others. Some of these I recommend; others I wholeheartedly recommend.
These are children’s books and a smattering of novels (term loosely applied). The children’s books are mostly childhood favorites, and almost all of the novels were rereads.
Mama’s Going to Buy You a Mockingbird: A story of a boy who lost his father. Not Jean Little at her best.
The Ramona books: My little sister-in-law Alyssa likes to come read them although Ramona rather shocks as well as attracts her. After she referred to an incident in one of them, I sat down and read three in a row.
Ramona was suddenly filled with longing. All her life she had wanted to squeeze toothpaste, really squeeze it, not just one little squirt on her toothbrush but a whole tube, a large economy size tube, all at one time just as she had longed to pull out a whole box of Kleenex.
Caddie Woodlawn: possibly my favorite book as a young child. She gave me a vision for being the tomboy which I never got around to being. I was too busy reading.
Daughter of the Mountains: I liked it because I have visited most of the places in India that it talks about.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: A powerful narrative of racial oppression and entirely deserving of its award. It is written for children, but the story haunts me as an adult.
Papa’s Wife: I reread it with new eyes as a married woman. Mama’s behavior is as shocking and attractive to me as Ramona’s is to Alyssa.
“Papa had felt guilty and very ashamed of his hasty words, and he told Mama so. “Of course, I love all the children, Maria. But it isn’t good to spread the love so thin. Don’t you agree that eight children are enough, Maria?”
Mama had just looked at him for a long time, and under her steady gaze, Papa had felt very evil.
It caused me to research travel to Lapland.
Miss Buncle’s Book: I have read this twice now. I suspect it is a childish taste, but the plot of a story inside a story inside a story delights me.
At Home in Mitford: After years of hearing about this series, I finally read this book. I wish I had read it when I was younger. Then I might have enjoyed it more. There is a fine line between well-done and grating in writing, and I couldn’t decide which this was. It has promise, but I think the small town characterization was overdone and obvious. Jan Karon fans may ostracize me.
A Time in the Sun: A historical novel about the demise of the Apache nation that taught me about a time and a people that I did not know well. I enjoyed it. I will not read it again.
Eight Cousins: A childhood favorite that I reread. I think of eating honey mustard pretzels and kicking my feet against the hot woodstove when I look at this book. It did not hold up as well under an adult inspection. If I were to read it now for the first time, I would not like it. Louisa May Alcott has a curious ability to moralize. (Does anyone ever call her Louisa or Alcott? I can’t separate her names.)
This is a random stack of a few classics and “worthwhile” books.
Not pictured are the plays of Oscar Wilde The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband: I recently re-explored Wilde’s work after listening to the The Literary Life Podcast ‘s discussion on it, and Wilde is fresh on my mind. Years ago when a friend recommended the first to me, I mistook it for a didactic piece intended for soul betterment and shrugged it off. In truth, it is high comedy, king of paradoxical composition. I wanted to include a catchy quote from it, but it was impossible to choose only one. The whole play is a string of catchy quotes. There is one line about it being perfectly scandalous the number of women who flirt with their own husbands that runs through my head, but I’ll leave it at that. Go read it yourself, or, better yet, listen to a good audio version.
Little Women: Having slandered Louisa May Alcott, I here redeem her. Little Women is timeless. Apparently, she did not want to write this book. After having published a series of Louisa May Alcott’s more sensational pieces, her editor ordered a nice book for girls, and she grudgingly produced this. Isn’t that phenomenal?
The Great Divorce: An allegorical exploration of Heaven and Hell… How can I praise this book adequately enough? It has impacted me in the way that a brightening sun gradually lightens shadows before our very eyes. I fear that many people will turn this allegory into a doctrinal argument and lose sight of truth in the metaphor. If you read it on my recommendation, please read it for what it is meant to be. It is an allegory, not a dissertation on the qualities and actualities of Heaven and Hell.
There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All who are in Hell chose it.
Northanger Abbey: Lovely. A step out of the ordinary for Jane Austen, and yet a precursor of her most celebrated motifs… I found it terrifically amusing and revealing.
No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her. Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected, or poor, and a very respectable man, … not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters. Her mother was a woman of useful plain sense, with a good temper, and, what is more remarkable, with a good constitution… instead of dying in bringing the latter (Catherine) into the world, as anybody might expect, she still lived on… Catherine’s abilities were quite as extraordinary. She never could learn or understand anything before she was taught; and sometimes not even then…
Northanger Abbey is also the source of the celebrated coffee mug quote: “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid…”
I fell in love with Pride and Prejudice as an adolescent and was so enamored with it that I could not enjoy any of her other books since they were not about Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Although quotes from that book forever and anon surface in my consciousness, I have by now recovered sufficiently to be able to appreciate her other work. Not pictured are the other Jane Austen books that I binge read for a week after finishing Northanger Abbey.
Sense and Sensibility was better than I remembered but not spectacular. Persuasion was a treasure.
The Hand that Rocks the Cradle: mildly inspirational. I liked it because it was a gift and because I am a new mother. In general, I do not find devotional writing to be inspirational although I am aware that to be inspirational is its purpose.
Surviving the Tech Tsunami: the book that caused me to make many many extreme declarations of what I would and would not do with raising my daughter and technology. It will make a fool out of me yet, but I’m still determined to try. I recommend it to anyone who has a smartphone. Don’t tell me you are reading this on a laptop.
King Jesus Claims His Church: In a way, this book is a manual for church life. I cannot tell you how pleased I am to include it in my “have reads.” I worked on it for a long time. It is so full of revolutionary teaching that I continually set it down so that I could process and usually left it lying for awhile. I am no authority on Biblical theology, but I respect this man’s scholarship. Therefore, his teaching on church life will doubtless affect me.
This is a stack of biographies and non-fiction that have made up the bulk of my reading over the last year. You may notice a theme of royal women and Roosevelts. A well-done biography is one of my favorite things to read, and I find it the best way to learn history. I will not comment on all of these.
Not pictured is The Hills is Lonely by Lillian Beckwith, a travel memoir, (if anyone has borrowed it, please remind me) but I wanted to mention it because Beckwith was one of my most pleasurable discoveries this year. I began reading it the night before Winter was born, and it enriched the first quiet days of motherhood. I laughed out loud reading it. I rarely laugh out loud when reading anything including a text message which is why I don’t like to use the term LOL. This book was LOL.
P.S. Your Not Listening: a recounting of the experiences of a teacher who taught students whose emotional difficulties kept them out of regular classrooms. Tragic and touching.
Killers of the Flower Moon: the story of the Osage tribe and how dozens were serially murdered in the 1930’s after their reserve was discovered to have rich oil deposits. The FBI, newly founded, and J. Edgar Hoover, director, cut their teeth on the case. A shocking tale of little known history.
Catherine the Great: followed me to bed several nights where I regaled Charles with tales of the Russian courts. Catherine captured my imagination.
I am just finishing one (not pictured) called Paul Revere and the World He Lived In by Esther Forbes. Esther Forbes is the gifted author of Johnny Tremain, one of my favorite young adult pieces. I was thrilled with her non-fiction style. Anyone who can make a detailed account of information from documents and letters out of the 1700’s funny is a master of refined humor.
Since it is my experience that anyone who is interested in books is usually interested in discussing them, I welcome your comments, questions, opinions, and arguments about these books below.