What Should I Read Next?

I don’t have a lack of reading plans or books to be read. If anything, I have an over-abundance of reading plans and books I want to read. But sometimes I have trouble narrowing down the list to the particular book I want to read next. I thought for the month of February, I’d try to read your recommendations—from my To-Be-Read list on Goodreads, which has grown to an unmanageable, out of control, over 800 books. These are all books that I saw recommended somewhere. Maybe I read a review. Maybe I read your review. Or I picked up the book at the library or bookstore, but haven’t managed to read it yet. My question is, of all these 800+ books, which are the priorities? Which ones should I read NOW, in February?

I you want to take a look at my TBR list and give me some advice, I will promise to take your recommendations very seriously and try to read one or more of the books that each of you recommends. Remember, your recommendations need to come from the list I already have of books I want to read. I don’t need to add any books to the list, although I probably will.

So, let’s have a book sharing party. Which of the books on my list should I read next? Let the comments begin.

What Should I Read Next?

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.

Happy Valentine’s Weekend

Valentines Day Cards from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Mark Gstohl, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
A Valentine’s Day Cake

Recommended movie for Valentine’s Day: Marty.

Real Romance for Grown-up Women.

Anatomy of a Marriage: Books about Love and Marriage.

To My Dear and Loving Husband by Anne Bradstreet, 1678.

Love Links, Lists, and Quotes.

More recommended novels about love and marriage:
The Love Letters by Madeleine L’Engle.
Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins
Random Harvest by James Hilton
Green Mansions by WH Hudson. ““Our souls were near together, like two raindrops side by side, drawing irresistibly nearer, ever nearer; for now they had touched and were not two, but one inseparable drop, crystallised beyond change, not to be disintegrated by time, nor shattered by death’s blow, nor resolved by any alchemy.”
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Yes. Heathcliff and Cathy were actually the worst of lovers –capricious, unfaithful while remaining bonded to one another, but let’s not quibble. “I am Heathcliff!” says Cathy, and what better description of the marriage of two souls, for better or for mostly worse, is there in literature?
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Jane and Mr. Rochester are as radically faithful and loving in their own way as Cathy and Heathcliff imagine themselves to be. And they actually get together before they die, surely an advantage for lovers.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy are the epitome of lovers in tension that finally leads to consummation.
Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers. Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane are such a hesitant, battle-scarred pair of lovers that they almost don’t get together at all, but that’s what makes the series of romance-within-a mystery novels that culminates in Gaudy Night so very romantic. They’ve used the same formula in TV series ever since, but Sayers is much better than any Remington Steele (Laura and Remington) or Cheers (Sam and Diane). And Ms. Sayers was even able to write a credibly interesting epilogue novel in Busman’s Honeymoon, which is better than the TV writers can do most of the time.
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon. Who says love is only for the young? Father Tim and Cynthia make it through thick and thin and through five or six books, still in love, still throwing quotations at one another. They’re great lovers in the best sense of the word.

Baker’s Dozen: 13 Cybils Finalists I Want to Read

The short lists of finalists in all of the Cybils categories came out on January 1st, and although I would love to read all of them, I thought 13 books from the finalist lists was a good goal. These are the ones that I haven’t already read that caught my interest:

1. Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bergman. Middle Grade Fiction finalist.

2. Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy by Susan Vaught. Middle Grade Fiction finalist.

3. In a Village by the Sea by Muon Van. Fiction Picture Book finalist.

4. Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson. Fiction Picture Book finalist.

5. Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction finalist.

6. The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction finalist.

7. The Fog Diver by Joel Ross. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction finalist.

8. One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul. Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction finalist.

9. Ranger in Time #1: Rescue on the Oregon Trail by Kate Messner. Early Chapter Book finalist.

10. Big Bad Detective Agency by Bruce Hale. Early Chapter Book finalist.

11. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone. Young Adult Fiction finalist.

12. The Six by Mark Alpert. Young Adult Speculative Fiction finalist.

13. House Arrest by K.A. Holt. Poetry finalist.

Among the others that I have read, I recommend:

Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson.
Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark by Deborah Hopkinson.
Give Me Wings: How a Choir of Former Slaves Took on the World by Kathy Lowing.
I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Martin Ganda and Caitlin Alifirenka.
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin.
Tommy: The Gun That Changed America by Karen Blumenthal.
The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands.
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson.

Baker’s Dozen: Best Nonfiction I Read in 2015

I made a special effort to read more nonfiction this year, and I discovered some gems while doing so. These are my favorite nonfiction reads from 2015. Not all of these were published in 2015, but I did read them this past year.

1. Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis by Tim Townsend. Such a good book about Henry Gerecke, the Lutheran chaplain who ministered to the high-ranking Nazi prisoners at Nuremberg.

2. Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior. I was captivated by “extraordinary life” of this woman of God, “best-selling poet, novelist, and playwright, friend of the famous, practical philanthropist, and moral conscience of a nation.”

3. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink. Deeply disturbing, dare I say scary, story of the events at a hospital in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina.

4. Caught Up in a Story: Fostering a Storyformed Life of Great Books & Imagination with Your Children by Sarah Clarkson. I didn’t review those, but it’s an excellent book about the power of story in the lives of children and adults.

5. The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming. This young adult nonfiction title raised a lot of questions about the ability of religious practice and conviction to actually change our actions and subvert our cultural sins. The Romanovs were devout, but extremely misguided in many ways.

6. She Is Mine: A War Orphan’s Incredible Journey of Survival by Stephanie Fast. The almost unbelievable and harrowing story of a Korean war orphan, abandoned by her mother and unknown to her American GI father, She is Mine is an amazing testament to the courage and endurance of the author, but even more to the grace of God in her life.

7. I Dared to Call Him Father: The Miraculous Story of a Muslim Woman’s Encounter with God by Bilquis Sheikh. Classic testimony of a well-to-do Muslim Pakistani woman, Bilquis Sheikh, who came to faith in Christ at the age of sixty-five through a series of dreams and visions and through comparison of the Koran to the Christian Bible.

8. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman. 1997 story of a Hmong family from Laos and their difficulties with the medical system in Merced County, California, as it related to their epileptic daughter, Lia Lee.

9. Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones. Again, disturbing and riveting, this time concerning opioid abuse in the United States.

10. Sacred Marriage: Celebrating Marriage as a Spiritual Discipline by Gary L. Thomas. I didn’t review this one, but I did give my copy to my daughter who got married on January 2nd. Excellent exposition of the meaning of Christian marriage.

11. The Envoy: The Epic Rescue of the Last Jews of Europe in the Desperate Closing Months of World War II by Alex Kershaw.

12. Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson. Finalist for the Cybils award in Young Adult Nonfiction.

13. The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip and Carol Zaleski. I finished up 2015 with this book about the Inklings I was reading it on New Year’s Eve and into 2016. Review coming soon, the book was dense, but fascinating.

Baker’s Dozen: 13 Books to Read from 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up

I’m part of a yahoo group that was formed to read through the books suggested by Julia Eccleshare in her book, 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up.

The following list gives some of the books that the group is going to be reading in 2016 and that I am going to try to read with them. The others are books from the 1001 list that I plan to read myself, apart from the group.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.
Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold.
The Adventures of Maya the Bee by Waldemar BOnsels.
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch by Ronda and David Ermitage.
Platero y yo by Juan Ramon Jimenez.
What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge.
Why the Whales Came by Michael Morpurgo.
45 + 47 Stella Street and Everything That Happened by Elizabeth Honey.
The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren.
Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson.
The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt.
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie.
Jamela’s Dress by Niki Daly.

So many projects, so little time.

Baker’s Dozen: 13 Books I Got for Christmas

All I really wanted for Christmas was books, books for my library and for my personal reading. So that’s what I got, and a lovely set of books they are:

1. The Father Brown Reader II: More Stories from Chesterton, adapted by Nancy Carpentier Brown. Doesn’t this sound delicious? Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, adapted for middle grade readers.

2. Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle. The edition I got is a small, child-sized book. Just lovely.

3. The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle.

4. Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace. We’re big Betsy-Tacy fans here, but I somehow lost my copy of this book in the series.

5. How To See an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman.

6. The Gardener by Sarah Stewart. A Caldecott Honor book.

7. The Child’s Gifts: A Twelfth Night Tale by Tomas Blanco.

8. The Black Star of Kingston by S.D. Smith. Prequel to The Green Ember.

9. Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria.

10. The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip and Carol Zaleski.

11. Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass.

12. Our Island Story: A History of Britain for Boys and Girls, from the Romans to Queen Victoria by H.E.Marshall.

13. Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon.

I’m looking forward to reading the books that are new to me and placing the picture books in my library.

Baker’s Dozen: Books to Read for my Around the World Project

I’m planning a new project for 2016, an expansion of my Africa Project. This one is an around the world project in which I hope to read at least one children’s book from or related to each nation of the world. Some countries are easier than others to find books, available in English and written by a citizen of that country. I may have to settle for folktales retold by American or Births authors from some countries or even for books that are simply set in the target country, preferably written by someone who has at least visited the particular setting in the book.

So, here is the page for my Around the World Reading Project. Do you have any suggestions to add to my project list, especially for those countries for which I have no books listed? The books must be for children, available in English (translation or original) in the United States, and preferably written in and popular in the country of origin.

Here are thirteen of the books I already chose that I am planning to read this year:

Blinky Bill by Dorothy Wall. (Australia)

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. (Canada)

Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson. (Finland)

The Horse Without a Head by Paul Berna. (France)

The Adventures of Maya the Bee by Waldemar Bonsels, 1912. (Germany)

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie. (India)

The Shadow of Ghadames by Joelle Stolz. (Libya)

A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer. (American author) (Mozambique)

The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt. (Netherlands)

Platero y yo by Juan Jimenez. (Spain)

The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren. (Sweden)

Go Ahead, Secret Seven by Enid Blyton. (England)

Jamela’s Dress by Niki Daly. (South Africa)

I chose these particular books from the list mostly because I have them or have access to them. Have you read any of them? Any recommended or not?

Christmas in South Africa, 1902

From Cowboys and Cattle Drives by Edith McCall:

“He worked there until December. Then he was asked to drive a bunch of mules to the town of Ladysmith. On the way, he saw posters for Texas Jack’s Wild West Show. Such shows had becomes popular all over the world, beginning with Buffalo Bill’s show of the 1880’s and 1890’s, for all the world loved the riding, shooting, roping American cowboy.
Will could hardly wait to go to see Texas Jack and find out if he was really from Texas and above all, a true cowboy.
‘Sure am,’ said Texas Jack. ‘And who are you?’
‘My name is Will Rogers, and I’m a cowboy from Indian Territory,’ he said.
‘Is that so? Are you pretty good at riding and roping?’
‘Just fair as a rider, but I can handle a rope pretty well,’ said Will. He showed Texas Jack a little of what he could do, including the Big Crinoline, one of the most difficult tricks.
Then came the words that started Will Rogers on his career.
‘How would you like a job in my show?'”

To read more about Will Rogers and other famous cowboys, check out Cowboys and Cattle Drives or any of the following excellent children’s books, available in my library, Meriadoc Homeschool Library, and I hope in yours:

In the Days of the Vaqueros: America’s First True Cowboys by Russell Freedman.
Cowboys of the Wild West by Russell Freedman.
Cattle Trails: Git Along Little Dogies by Kathy Pelta.
Cowhand: The Story of a Working Cowboy by Fred Gipson.
Will Rogers: Young Cowboy by Guernsey Van Riper, Jr.
Will Rogers: His Life and Times by Richard M. Ketchum.

Historical Fiction and Nonfiction: Seventeenth Century Europe

Last week I reviewed several books set during World War War II. This week my book travels have taken me to seventeenth century Europe. I haven’t read every single one of the following books, but I can generally recommend either the book or the author.

What have you read that is set in seventeenth century Europe, either England or the continent? About Puritans, Cavaliers, Cromwell, the two Charleses and two Jameses, Louis XIII and Louis XIV, the Sun King, metaphysical poets, English civil war, philosophy, pirates, astronomy, physics, fables(La Fontaine) and fairy tales(Perrault), slavery, and religious upheaval?

Children’s and Young Adult Fiction:
The Dark Frigate by Charles Boardman Hawes. c.1630. England. Newbery Award book.
I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino. Early 1600’s. Spain. Newbery Award book about the painter Diego Velasquez and his slave and friend, Juan de Pareja.
Down Ryton Water by E.R. Gaggin. 1620. Half in Europe, and half in the New World. The book gives a good picture of life for the Pilgrims in England and in Holland before their removal to the New World. Newbery Honor book.
The Walls of Cartagena by Julia Durango. 1639. Cartagena, Colombia. Reviewed at Book Nut.
Campion Towers by John and Patricia Beatty. 1640’s. England. A Puritan girl, Penitence, is transplanted from New England to the England of Cromwell and Charles II.
The Children of the New Forest by Frederick Marryat. 1647. England. The four Royalist Beverley children are orphaned during the English civil war, and they hide from the Roundheads in the New Forest where they learn to live off the land.
Lark by Sally Watson. 1651. England. Lark is a pert, lively, likable girl who, rather than marry her unpleasant Puritan cousin, runs away from home.
Cast Off by Eve Yohalem. 1663. Amsterdam to the East Indies.
The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands. 1665. London, England. Apothecaries being targeted in London.
A Parcel of Patterns by Jill Paton Walsh. 1665. Village of Eyam, Derbyshire, England. The plague quarantines an entire village.
Master Cornhill by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. 1665-1666. London, England. An orphan boy lives through the Great Fire of London.
Pirate Royal by John and Patricia Beatty. 167?. London, Bristol, Cuba, Jamaica, Venezuela. Young Anthony Grey is kidnapped from a Boston tavern and impressed into service with the notorious pirate Henry Morgan.
Huguenot Garden by Douglas M. Jones III. 1685. La Rochelle, France.

Adult Fiction:
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. 1625. Mostly France and sometimes England.
The Child from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge. 16??. The love story of Lucy Walter and Charles II.
The King’s General by Daphne duMaurier. 1642-1656. Devon/Cornwall, England during the English Civil War.
The Rider of the White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliffe. 1642-1656. England during the English Civil War.
Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas. 1645-1650. France.
The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later by Alexandre Dumas. 1660-1667. France. (includes Louise de la Vallière, and The Man in the Iron Mask.)
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. 1665-1666. England.
Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne duMaurier. c.1670. Cornwall, England.
Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini. 1685-1688. England and Barbados.
The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. by William Makepeace Thackeray. 1691-1718. England.

Children’s and Young Adult Nonfiction:
Along Came Galileo by Jeanne Bendick. 1564-1642. Italy.
A Piece of the Mountain: The Story of Blaise Pascal by Joyce McPherson. 1623-1662. France.
The Flight and Adventures of Charles II by Charles Norman. 1642-1688. England.
The Ocean of Truth: The Story of Sir Isaac Newton by Joyce McPherson. 1643-1727. England.

Adult Nonfiction:
A Coffin for King Charles: The Trial and Execution of Charles I by C.V. Wedgwood. 1648-1649. England.
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. 1691. Paris, France.
Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal’s Pensees by Peter Kreeft. Blaise Pascal, philosopher and mathematician, lived from 1623 to 1662.
The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton.
Religio Medici by Thomas Browne. 1652.

Seventeenth Century Poets:
George Herbert
John Donne
Richard Lovelace
John Milton
Henry Vaughan
Isaac Watts
Jean de la Fontaine.