Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bookmarking the Year

Full to the brim and fast as lightning is my summary of this past year's days. The first four months were dominated with preparations for the wedding of the year, which was glorious on that last weekend of April. The next third of the year was marked by my husband's absences from home to attend training for his new job and the gardening season. The last third of the year was consumed with caring for my mother in her illness and death. That day came on the shared birthday of two of my children, which was followed by Thanksgiving and the Christmas season.

Somehow I managed to keep my balance by that steady habit of reading. Earlier in the year I offered a six month challenge that I suggested could be accomplished with only ten minutes of reading per day. I would love to hear from some of you on how you did with that.

I decided to highlight a few of my favorites first, then organized my list by category rather than consecutively. Every year I push myself to read something classic I've never attempted, as well as to delve into areas outside my natural interests to stretch my thinking and knowledge of the world. Some were read on the recommendation of others, some as preparation for speaking engagements, some to explore future possible material for my boys' school lessons, and some just for the fun of it. I guarantee I have been marked by them all as they altered, shaped, and influenced me.

If I pick one outstanding book that I know I will return to again and again and urge others to read, it would be Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies by Marilyn Chandler McIntyre. As a Christian, a reader and some time writer, the ideas in that book enthralled and challenged me and her writing was an exquisite reflection of what she was attempting to convey. 

A close second would be Death by Living by N. D. Wilson I sucked this one down in a couple of days and was giddy with delight. Little did I know when I read it how his thinking would buoy me up in the coming months of saying goodbye to Mom. It's not a book about death at all, but about how to live the life you have today.

My favorite biography was Uncle Tungsten, Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks This was a pleasant surprise as I do not consider myself to be scientifically inclined. I gave it to my Dad for Christmas as he grew up in that era and has a similar inquisitive nature to this author.

It's tough to choose my favorite fiction book, but if pressed, I probably would have to choose Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I had no idea how much history was packed into that book and was continually astounded at his beautiful and powerful use of language.

So what are your favorites from this past year? My challenge for the New Year to you is to read every day, read a wide range of books, keep a record, and see how they carry you through the coming year.

1. Alfred the Great by Jacob Abbot
2. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
4. The Microbe Hunters by Paul DeKruif
5. David Livingston by Jeannette Eaton
6. Uncle Tungsten, Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks
7. Mauve: How One Man Invented a New Color That Changed the World by Simon Garfield
8. Pebble in a Pool, The Widening Circles in the Life of Dorothy Canfield Fisher by Elizabeth Yates

9. The March of Folly: from Troy to Vietnam by Barbara Tuchman
10. Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen
11. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
12. The Aztecs and Spaniards by Albert Marrin
13. Log from the Sea of Cortes by John Steinbeck
14. Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
15. The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn
16. Endangered Minds by Jane Healey
17. The Shallows by Nicholas Carr
18. Toward a Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason
19. God and the Astronomers by Robert Jastrow
20. The Book Nobody Read by Owen Gingerich
21. The New World of Mr. Tomkins by George Gamow
22. Science Matters by Robert Hazen and James Trefil
23. The History of Reading by Alberto Manguel
24. Get Dominion by David Bostrom
25. Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies by Marilyn Chandler McIntyre
26. Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl
27. In Search of Schroedinger's Cat by John Gribbin
28. Death by Living by N. D. Wilson
29. Longitude by Dava Sobel
30. The Glass Wall by Frank Smith
31. Lit! by Tony Reinke
32. A Child's History of England by Charles Dickens

33. Poems by Robert Frost, selected and edited by Hollander
34. King Lear by William Shakespeare
35. Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot
36. Wasteland and Selected Poems by T. S. Eliot
37. Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
38. MacBeth by William Shakespeare
39. Complete Poems by Elizabeth Bishop

40. Mother Carey's Chickens by Kate Douglas Wiggins
41. The Story of Roland by James Baldwin
42. Water Babies by Charles Kingsley
43. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
44. The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte Yonge
45. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
46. Cathedral Courtship by Kate Douglas Wiggins
47. The Sorrows of Young Werther and other Selected Stories by J. W. Goethe
48. Little Vic by Doris Gates
49. The White Company by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
50. The Black Arrow by Robert L. Stevenson
51. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
52. Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell
53. The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence
54. In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
55. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
56. When the Snow Flies by Laurie Alice Eakes
57. The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton
58. Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore
59. The Awakening and Selected Stories by Kate Chopin
60. Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy by Rumer Godden
61. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
62. Over Sea Under Stone by Susan Cooper

Thanks be to God for the gift of reading,



  1. Liz -
    I am so inspired by your post! It was because of you that I became more intentional in my reading last year. I did not do a great job of keeping track of them, but I have that fixed for this year! Among what I read last year:
    -The Chestry Oak - Kate Seredy (really set me on fire for seeking out the best children's books!)
    -Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child - Anthony Esolen
    -The Shallows - Nicholas Carr
    -Queen and Country: The Fifty-Year Reign of Elizabeth II - William Shawcross (lent to me by a friend - not sure how it ranks in quality reading about Elizabeth II but it marked a huge step for me to read about a historical figure I knew nothing about)
    -The Door in the Wall - Marguerite de Angeli
    -String, Straightedge and Shadow - Julia Diggins (another stretch for me but I enjoyed it)
    -Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton (audiobook and loved it)
    With my kids:
    -The Narnia Chronicles - C. S. Lewis (I was blown away by this series)
    -Heidi - Johanna Spyri

    We read a ton more as read-alouds and I read more personally, but this is a taste of my reading year. I have big plans for this year, but we're not out of January yet and my list is huge! :) Thanks for your inspiration, Liz.

    God bless you!

    1. Dear Kelly,

      It gave me a little thrill to know someone is out there becoming more intentional about reading. You don't realize what a minority you are in. You read some great books and so did your kids. Don't worry about the mile-long list, just pick away at it and you will be surprised how much of it you move through in the coming year.

      Good reading to you.


  2. I will write the list of books another day but wanted to say how our conversations about books has enriched my life. I still have to finish Les Mise.........but I did read SO many other books . ( ok, send me an email on that !)

    1. Bonnie,

      Friends are always wanting a book list, and I think one of the most fruitful ones is the recommendations of books read by our friends. I certainly read a number here that you recommended to me.


  3. I am up to Marius in Les Miserable. I seem to stop awhile at the end of each book. Still one of the best, very best , books I have read.