Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Happy New Year!

Ah, a new year is upon us and full of endless reading opportunities. As we plan our lesson plans and look to our children's literary development, it's important to remember to cultivate our own love of great books. So, in light of that, I am wondering what books are on your 2016 to-read list? I would also love to hear about your favorite reads from this past year. Let's help one another engage in what is known in Charlotte Mason circles as "mother culture" and encourage one another to spend time reading for our own hearts and souls. I love the approach put forth by an article in one of Charlotte Mason's journals:
The wisest woman I ever knew--the best wife, the best mother, the best mistress, the best friend--told me once, when I asked her how, with her weak health and many calls upon her time, she managed to read so much, ‘I always keep three books going--a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel, and I always take up the one I feel fit for!’ That is the secret; always have something ‘going’ to grow by.”
This speaks to me so well because there is no rigidity in this approach. The author recognized that reading serves different purposes at different points in a woman's life. I've just finished an intense semester of heavy reading that included Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, the Federalist Papers and more. Right now the very last thing I want to read is something that requires a lot of close attention. My current reading serves as a distraction from third trimester pregnancy fatigue and two-year-old meltdowns. It needs to be enjoyable and interesting. As I grow older I've also found that trivial reading no longer provides the entertainment it once did. This probably has something to do with the realization that reading time is much more limited then it used to be so if I'm going to be reading for pure pleasure I want books that are well-written and thoughtful. It also means that even if I am reading a "classic" and it is just not working for me, I now feel free to set it aside. I had to read The Brothers Karamazov for a class recently and did not enjoy it at all. I found the characters to be less than sympathetic, the constant tirades and emotional meltdowns too reminiscent of the tantrums I have to deal with in real-life. I was able to see that this is an important piece of literature, but if I had been able to, I would have set it aside and returned to it at another point in my life.

This year I am looking forward to more unstructured reading. Three years of grad school are behind me and I now will be able to pick and choose whatever my heart desires! I plan on reading more on Charlotte Mason and her educational approach (which I will share here), some biographies, and returning to some well-loved books because I love re-reading old favorites. Books I'm especially looking forward to are:

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More–Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior
I absolutely loved Prior's autobiographical Booked, Literature in the Heart of Me and have had her biography of More on my nightstand for over a year. This one will be one of my first reads of 2016. 

I will also plan on re-reading Marilynne Robinson's Gilead and Home. I read Lila when it came out and it made me want to return to the Reverends and their wise and thoughtful and flawed lives. 

One of my all-time favorite novels is Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner and I also loved his Angle of Repose so I plan on digging in to his works a bit more. 

What about you? Any favorites you would like to share? Any books you were expecting to love but found to be disappointing? Which books have spoken to your soul - share them here so we can all benefit! 

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