Monday, July 4, 2016

June Books

Happy Independence Day. I take a moment today to give thanks to God for the gift of living in a country where I am still free to read, and consequently think and live, that the rich world of literature is wide open to me.

Here’s the list of books I finished reading in the marvelous month of June, which starts off my summer reading in earnest. It’s funny how "school’s out" for kids means more reading for Mom.

1. Selected Prose and Poetry of Coleridge.
I remember skimming all those anthology selections in my Western World Lit class in college and thinking, “Some day, I want to read more of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.” Naturally, I have run across some of his famous poems over the years, but six months ago started through a tome designated to his poetry and essays. As always, my eyes were opened—to what appealed to me as a 19-year- old, and what undoubtedly means more to me today with a lifetime of reading history and literature behind me. What a mind! Why have I always thought of him as a drug-hazed loser? His intellect is astounding and his logic admirable. It was a treat to explore and ponder the fruit of his magnificent mind (is there any field from
history to science to philosophy that he did not put his pen to?) and I am far from done reading other collections by this gift to English literature.

2. Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan.
Almost a fairy tale—it has all the far fetched evil circumstances and villains and happy ending—this tale of a medical missionary’s 13-year- old
daughter is a suspenseful fiction story and is historically informative on many levels. When Rachel’s parents are suddenly struck down by the killer influenza of 1919 in British East Africa, an unscrupulous couple offer to take her in, but their motives are self-seeking and Rachel finds
herself caught up in a web of lies as they attempt to swindle an inheritance using Rachel as their pawn. Ah, but she is far too clever for them, and the way she extricates herself from their clutches is inspiring, as well as is her tenacious character that sees her through medical school
and long-hoped- for return to Kenya to rebuild her parents dream.

3. Jeremy Poldark by Winston Graham.
My indulgent reading this summer is the rereading of the Poldark series I began 35 years ago. I am sure I enjoy it more now as I have numerous
connections and greater understanding of the historic time period and its political figures. In the busy days of preparation for the CMI conference, I found the distraction of immersing myself in Demelza’s world again to be a delightful diversion. These novels are not dense, but as instructive as most classics.

4. Warleggan by Winston Graham.
Fourth in the Poldark series, the saga enters a dark and despairing phase as all the circumstances of life thwart the hero and heroine’s pursuits. By the end, there is light reappearing at the end of their tunnel and I look forward to reading on to the next novel in this series.

5. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.
Teen boy action adventures are not my preference, but I must admit I couldn’t put this one down. City-raised and recent victim of a dissolving family, the 13-year- old hero finds himself at the tiller of the airplane when the pilot suffers a heart attack. His crash landing in the wilderness of Canada and subsequent struggle to survive is a breath holding experience as this young boy discovers resources in the world and within himself he never knew existed. I can’t imagine a boy under 18 who wouldn’t be riveted by this story.

6. The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall.
Then, there are the everyday traumas of a 10-year-old in a large and maturing family. This last novel in the Penderwick family series focuses
mostly on the youngest of the original four daughters as she leaves her shyness and fearfulness behind and discovers her strengths and talents. It is a heartwarming and so true-to- life account of a busy family supporting one another and remembering what really counts in life. It’s a good
story for girls of nine and up, funny and tear jerking, lighthearted and serious.

7. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder.
How is it that I can try to read the classics and miss some very well-known authors along the way? Within a week, several other authors I was
reading happened to mention Wilder. This is his second novel, winner of the Pulitzer in 1927, and an intriguing account of five individuals who meet their fate on one famous tragic day as a footbridge in Lima, Peru collapses. I had to read this short novel twice to make sure I was not
reading too much or too little into it. My book club chose this and I can hardly wait till our meeting where we will unpack the theological implications that are so blatantly and masterfully woven into the lives of these eighteenth century characters.

8. A Small Porch by Wendell Berry.
Thanks to my faithful read-aloud friend, Bonnie, I got to read this latest in Berry’s collection. It is essay and poetry he wrote while sitting on a small porch deep in his woods, pondering the theme of nature in literature through the ages. It was especially intriguing to me since I had just reread Standing by Words last month, to see how his early ideas and his late-in- life ideas have remained unchanged, yet become more refined and crystal clear. His insights shed light on our 21 st century life, but are wisely drawn from the wisdom of the ages, revealed in the great authors and thinkers of the centuries past. His Sabbath poems have inspired me over the years, and still do.

9. The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin.
I thought it about time I read something by this larger-than- life figure in the world of science. It was a long journey—both his trip on the Beagle around South America, to Australia, and back to England and my trek through his book, , but I enjoyed his chronicle of travel. Truly, it is an account that is eye-opening on many levels—geographical, anthropological, botanical, zoological, and historical. The seeds of his
later theories are clearly germinating, but his youthful outlook is adventurous, brave, and inquisitive. This book reveals the wonders of creation in a readable and even sometimes poetic narrative. (It was also incidentally related to the Wilder novel’s setting—always those science of relations twining knowledge together in books).

For the joy of reading,



  1. Liz! As always, you are such an inspiration. I begin to think I'm beginning to become well-read, and then I read your posts and I see that I will NEVER be as well-read as I want to be. Thank you for keeping my eyes on ever more good books!

    1. Kimberlee,

      Just yesterday, I reminded a mom that we are all always learning. I often feel as you do when I see book lists or hear others discussing what they're reading. It's a good thing that reading is so enjoyable, or we'd all give up.


  2. Hello Miss Liz! I was wondering if you've ever used Learning Ally? If so, could you write a review/tutorial? We have three dyslexic children, one profoundly so, and she craves more books than I can feasibly read aloud in a day. We've used audible for a year, but it's pretty costly as we blow through our allotted membership book-a-month in a few days. Thank you!


    1. Alison,

      My experience with that organization (which I used 35 years ago when in college), and from browsing their catalog is that they specialize in textbooks. There are some classics, too, but probably not the selection you are used to finding. I know of another membership site called Book Share you might check out.