A month or so ago I noticed that my desire and motivation to keep plugging away at my 2016 Reading Plan had wained and I was really having to force myself to read.  My list involves some pretty heavy reads(for me anyways!) and it really began to feel like work, drudgery even, to keep on.

Then it dawned on me: I wasn’t reading any fiction! Here’s the 12 books I’d chosen for the year; I’ve indicated those that are completed:

  1. The Awakening of Miss Prim
  2. Surprised by Joy
  3. Mere Christianity
  4. The Four Loves
  5. The Abolition of Man
  6. Teaching from Rest
  7. History of the Ancient World
  8. Jo’s Boys 
  9. Plutarch’s Lives (I’ve completely abandoned my attempts to read this one!)
  10. Margin
  11. For the Family’s Sake
  12. Heartfelt Discipline

Only 2 of the 12 are fiction! I’m going to have to plan this better for next year, because I need to have one fiction read on the go at all times to keep myself going. Realizing this has made a huge difference for me, and I’ve since gotten my hands on a nice, easy fiction read and it has made all the difference.

Something else that has made a huge difference in my reading is using Goodreads to track my reading. I know I’m a little late to the party on this one, but it is so encouraging to see how many books I have read (both for myself and to my children) this year. I highly recommend using some method to keep a record of books read — and you can’t get any easier than scanning the barcode on your book! It’s also fun to see what your friends are reading, and read book reviews by other users.

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Here’s what I’ve completed from my list since my last update:

Mere Christianity My commonplace is now FULL of notes from this one. So much to think on here. I really appreciated the way Lewis defines the topic of “mere christianity” in his introduction of the book by using the illustration of a house with hall out of which many rooms (or denominations) open. He says that while many of us know immediately which door we must knock at, and others need to wait awhile in the hall. He defines “mere christianity” as the rules in that hall which are common to the whole house; and the book is about those basic tenets of the faith that are common to all christians.

Some of my favourite quotes from the book that I have penned in my notebook:

“You must make your choice. Either this man was and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us”.

“Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbour; act as if you did”.

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world”.

“Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with him everything else thrown in”.

The Four Loves This one was tiny bit more difficult for me to digest than Mere Christianity, and I found at times it a bit hard to differentiate between some of the points Lewis was making about the different loves (affection, friendship, eros, and charity). I really appreciated what he had to say about friendship:

“Hence true friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend … we posses each friend not less but more as the number of those with whom we share him increases”.

“They typical expression of opening friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one”.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival”.

The Abolition of Man – I’m awfully glad to be done the last of the Lewis books on my list for the year — they just kept getting harder and harder for me! I have to say that while this book was short it was pretty meaty, and I’m sure much of it went right over my head. Here are some of the gems he left me chewing over:

“St. Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affection in which every object is accorded that kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it. Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought”.

“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful”.

“You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see”.

In progress are:

Pilgrim’s Progress When I tossed Plutarch aside, I wanted to make sure I replaced it with another substantial, significant classic. This one is often referenced from the pulpit, challenging, and happened to be on my shelf, so I dug in. My oldest also read Little Pilgrim’s Progress this year and loved it so I figured I should read the grown up version! It is slow going, but I purchased the audio to listen along as I read, and I find that it is helping to keep me focused. Maybe I should do that with Plutarch?!

For Better or for Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse with Kids in the House – I’m almost done this one. It’s a light read, and I’ll be posting a review soon.

What Katy Did – I’m reading this one to my big girls, and I think I’m enjoying it as much as they are. It’s just lovely.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – I read this one to my girls last year, and we are just finishing up the audio version in the car. Amazing.

Additional reads:

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction – A very helpful book. What do you think, has my writing improved any?!

The Green Ember – I listened to the audio in the car with my girls. It’s narrated by Joel Clarkson and is excellent! If you haven’t read this one with your kids, you really need to.

The Black Star of Kingston –  This is the prequel to The Green Ember and was another audio for the car. It was not narrated by Joel Clarkson, but the narrator does a good job. I can’t wait to get my hands (ears!) on the newly released Ember sequel, Ember Falls! 

Anne of Avonlea – I really enjoyed sharing this childhood favourite with my girls (audio in the car again) and we watched the movie version when we were done. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s really a mash up of Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island. I love it! 

Shiloh – A bedtime read aloud selection. Enjoyed by my 8 year old, but the 5 year old was not terribly interested. I confess I wasn’t thrilled with it either.

In Grandma’s Attic – Another bedtime read. It was a re-read for my oldest and I, but we enjoyed sharing it with her little sister for the first time. We really love this series!

84 Charing Cross Road – I picked this one up after seeing it recommended in my online book lovers group when I was becoming discouraged by the seriousness of all my other reading. It’s a short, easy, and charming read. It has a very interesting format, and is a series of letters between an American book lover and her beloved British bookshop that sells rare and second hand books. I watched the movie version afterwards with my dad and we both enjoyed that too.

Give Your Child the World – You’ve probably seen Jamie Martin’s new book all over the internet and blogosphere already.  I reviewed it already and it’s pretty awesome.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness – This is the first book of Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Sage, and is actually a juvenile fiction selection.  I picked it up for myself because a) I love Andrew Peterson’s music, b) everyone has been gushing about it, and c) I needed an easy, enjoyable fiction read to balance out my literary diet. I actually DID NOT enjoy the first several chapters of this book and considered putting it down — it was full of quirky and annoying (to me) names, sayings, backstory, and weird animals. I also found the style very annoying. I’m sure my children would love all that though! I’m glad I persisted, the story got much better as it went along, and although I’m not typically a big fan of fantasy, I loved the story. I’ll be getting to the second book, North! or Be Eaten! soon, and encourage my daughter to read about those fearsome toothy cows!

Goodreads tells me that I have read 25 books so far in 2016, so I’m definitely ahead of my goal of 12! Now I just need to get cracking on the rest of my list.

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