I’ve been listening to the podcast, What Should I Read Next? with Ann Bogel, author of the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy. On each podcast, Ms. Bogel interviews a reading guest, asking a few specific questions about the guest’s taste in books, and then recommends three books or authors for the guest’s consideration. I thought I’d try to answer Ms. Bogel’s questions, not because she’s asked me to be a guest on her podcast, but just because it might be an interesting exercise. If any of my readers want to recommend books to me based on my answers to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s questions, or if any of you want to answer the questions, have at it. Spring seems like a fine time for a lively book discussion.
First question: What are three of your favorite books (books that indicate your preferences in books)?
This question is a bit tricky. If I were to name my three favorite books of all time, you would get a wrong impression about the breadth of my reading tastes. My three favorite books of all time are Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. From that list, you would get the impression that I only read huge, weighty tomes about a character’s journey from youth to manhood and from innocence to maturity. Actually, there is some truth in the idea that I like characters that develop over time, grow and mature, and learn important lessons from the other people they meet along the way—and also rich and classic family sagas or books about an entire community. However, I’ve read all of Agatha Christie’s detective novels, not much character development there, and I can enjoy a good suspense novel or some narrative nonfiction, too. So, three favorites that indicate different things about my reading preferences are The Magnificent Century by Thomas B. Costain (narrative history), The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (Christian theological fantasy), and Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (time travel science fiction). Make of that what you will.
Second question: What is one book that you hated?
Only one? This question, were I to answer truthfully, would immediately disqualify me from ever being a guest on Ms. Bogel’s podcast. Her first three guests ALL named Me Before You by Jojo Moyes as one of their three favorite books. I hated that book with a purple passion. If you want to know why I hated it, you can read about it, but (warning!) there are spoilers in my rant on the many ways in which I hated Me Before You. And now I will, instead of naming that book as The One that I hated, break the rules all to pieces and choose two other titles that I also disliked—so much so that I failed to finish either one. And to make the heresy even more egregious, these two are books I have seen many, many other readers designate as favorites, even classics. I pretty much hated Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.
Third question: what are you reading now?
This one leaves less room for controversy, so I’ll just answer it straight. The last two books I read were Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah McKenzie and Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria. All I can say about these books is that the first was a good reminder of things I already know but tend to forget, and the biography of Joy Davidman Lewis was thorough and readable, but I opine that the author, Ms. Santamaria, didn’t grow to like her subject very much over the course of her research for the book.
Fourth question: is there anything you would like to change about your reading life? Switch genres? Read more of this or less of that? Change the way you read or the amount?
Honestly, I would like to go back to reading more slowly and carefully—and still read lots and lots of books. I think the internet has changed my reading. I have always read fairly quickly, mostly by skimming through descriptive passages. However, my skimming and my shorter attention span in the past few years have negatively impacted my enjoyment of the books I do read. I would like to read more carefully and more delight-fully. Stop and smell the roses, so to speak. I don’t really think that any particular reading recommendations can fix this problem. I just need to do it.
So, given those questions and those answers, what book(s) would you recommend that I read next? What do you think Mrs. Darcy/Bogel would recommend? Or would she recoil in horror at my lack of respect for Jojo Moyes?
I still loved listening to the podcast, Ms. Bogel.