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    A Year of Reading

    January 3, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    I know that lots of bloggers were posting their lists last week, but I have a tradition that I Do. Not. Blog. from before Christmas all the way until New Year’s Day. I consider this non-negotiable because I find I enjoy the holidays much more without thinking about my writing.

    All of this to say, I post my lists, my analyses of how I kept my resolutions, and my new resolutions, sometime in the month of January.

    So today we’ll talk books.

    In January 2011, I resolved to keep a list of books read. I haven’t done this since I was a kid trying to win reading contests at the library! I keep enough notes on my reading {both here on the blog and in my numerous notebooks I carry around and pile up around my house–much to my husband’s dismay}, that I’m sure I could recreate my lists from past years if I really wanted to.

    However, comma.

    I found that keeping a list as I went caused me to be more mindful about my reading. It reminded me to finish books that I had put down and aside or become distracted from. There are a number of books that I know I completed this year only because my list reminded me.

    Which means I’ll be keeping a list again this year.

    I included all of my pre-reading for school in my list. Not everyone does this, I know, but I do. There are a couple of reasons for this. First and foremost, if I really think that these books are important to a good education, then they should be important to me and not just to my children. The vast majority of books assigned in a given year are books I never read because my education was plagued by those horrible things we call textbooks. Secondly, I find that incorporating pre-reads into my own list keeps it from ever feeling like a chore. It is true that I probably wouldn’t read these particular books in this particular order were it not for school, but approaching them with the attitude that this is my reading, too has caused pre-reading to become a delight for me over the past couple years. It is a weekend ritual that I enjoy. Another thing I included on my list were the family read-alouds. I only included chapter books here and not the piles and piles of picture books. A huge amount of my reading time is spent orally–my husband doesn’t read aloud much, and I love to do it.

    I counted, and if I counted correctly, there are 55 books on my list. I believe that 11 of them, however, remain unfinished. So this means I completed 44 books. I was sort of hoping for 52 because it works out to an average of a book per week, but that’s okay.

    And now…for the list. This is roughly in order, though there were a few that I forgot to put on at first, which I later tacked on at the end. Naturally, there will be commentary.


    • Oliver Twist: This is the first time I began and completed a Dickens novel {other than A Christmas Carol, of course}. What can I say? I liked it, and I’m willing to read more Dickens.
    • The Charlatan’s Boy: I loved this book, and immediately gave it to over to E-Age-Nine to enjoy. You can read my review here.
    • Uncle Tom’s Cabin: I wish I could have blogged through this book, but I didn’t know it would be that kind of book when I started it. This is definitely an ideas sort of book, great for starting fruitful conversations. I wrote two posts {see here and here}.
    • An Old-Fashioned Girl: I have always liked Alcott, but this book was a little preachy in places, even for her. Still, it had that typical Alcott feel, along with the typical Alcott admirable, dutiful heroine.
    • The Book Thief: Loved it. My son thought it was hilarious to “steal” the book from me at every opportunity, so that he could be a book thief. My review is here.


    • Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child: This was one of our fabulous book club books for the year. Here is a link to the category label which will bring you to all the posts I wrote for the club.
    • Future Grace: I haven’t finished this one. We’re reading it for our small group with our friends, and at only a handful of chapters a month, I hope we finish it in 2012! Piper is profound. But he is also very wordy and we are all getting antsy to finish the book and just be done with it. I wrote about chapters 1, 2, and 3 and then I got tired of writing about it.
    • Childhood Vaccination: Questions Every Parent Should Ask: The review for this one is here.
    • Spanking: Why, When, How: I have to laugh at the title of this book…for a couple reasons, actually. First, it is from the 70s, and no author in their right mind would use this title these days. It’s a tiny little book and really would work better as a chapter in a bigger book on the various facets of parenting. There were no surprised at all, at least not for someone like me who has read a typical “spanking” chapter before. The other {better} reason I laugh has to do with a memory. My friend, who lent me the book, mailed it to me. When I opened the book, I made a big deal out of it. You know: “Oh! I am so happy this finally came! I can’t wait to read it!” E-Age-Nine was all curiosity and wandered over. As he read the title, his eyes got bigger…and bigger. It was hilarious.
    • Home Economics: I love Wendell Berry, as you know. I think I actually have a couple essays left in this one to read. It’s wonderfully thoughtful and beautifully written, which is expected of a man like Berry. I posted a quote from it here. That’s still my favorite one so far.
    • Crazy Love: I haven’t finished this either. It is my pet peeve that the New Christian Authors try to be all interactive, pointing us to websites and videos along the way as a way of “taking action.” I wanted to like this book, mainly because I like Francis Chan. But seriously? I think Chan is a weak writer with good ideas. I’ll finish it, though, just because I try not to quit unless it’s terrible.
    • Holy Cows And Hog Heaven: Ah, Joel Salatin. He’s Wendell Berry with more energy and action, but less strength in the art of writing. Good read, though, especially if you are thinking about raising your own meat.
    • Cure Tooth Decay: Read this book, and we still have cavities. Actually, what I learned is that, hypothetically, cavities can be healed, but in reality it is expensive to do so. And I mean very expensive. However, I’m glad for what I learned, especially when it comes to remineralizing my two older children, who were so depleted from their early food allergy years. Read more in these posts: Tooth Decay and Germ TheoryTeeth are Alive and Need Their Vitamins, and Final Thoughts: How to Cure Tooth Decay.
    • Mere Churchianity: I sympathized with the author’s plight, but didn’t agree with the book. My review is here.
    • A Philosophy of Education: I’ve read this one before, but I’m not done with this reading yet. I’m going through one chapter per month with my local {in person} reading group. It’s been great fun, and the slow pace is perfect.
    • Creation in Six Days: It took me over a year to finish this. It was okay. I wrote some thoughts on this book in 2010, and those thoughts still stand, while also explaining why I am only “okay” with the book.
    • Love That Lasts: Great marriage book! My posts are here: I’m in Love with Love that Lasts and Love that Lasts: Final Thoughts.
    • Poetic Knowledge: This is another book club book, and it was the second time I read the book. This is, as many of you know, my favorite book ever, ever, ever. All of my posts for the club are here.
    • Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?: Great book for ladies who have been single longer than they expected. And, honestly, a great book for all women, in my opinion. It’s better than a lot of wife-type books I’ve read. I posted quotes twice: here and here.
    • From Behind the Veil: This is one of the two commentary-type books I’ve been using this year. I’m not done with it yet, but I’m close, and I’ve enjoyed the process of learning to use a commentary to enhance my Scripture reading. I quoted this book in my post How to Evaluate Technology.
    • Creation Regained: I read this aloud with Si. It was the only book we were able to get through together this year, as he’s had lots of reading to do for school. It’s a good primer on the application of Reformational theology. I posted some quotes here and here.
    • Young and in Love: This was a copy I reviewed. My review post is here, and some quotes are here.
    • How to Read a Book: I’m not even close to done with this book. I’m reading it in little snatches here and there, rather than sitting down and combing through it. There are great thoughts on every single page, and so I grab a thought, and ponder. Wash, rinse, repeat. I posted quotes once so far, and I also mentioned one of the concepts from the book in my post On Herbartian Unit Studies.
    • Against the Protestant Gnostics: This is another book I am reading slowly, but this time it’s because it is a tough read and I can’t read much at a time due to lack of brain power {or something}. I’m learning a ton, though. Also: this is the first book I’ve ever borrowed from a reader {Thanks, GJ!}. I quoted this book in my post Why We Read Mythology.
    • The Twilight of American Culture: Okay, I read this book because it came highly suggested from a lot of different folks out there. It was very difficult for me to go through it and tease out all of the intellectual hubris, the socialist/communist angles, and so on. This author is one of those guys who thinks people like me are only Christians because they are arrogant. He also insists that the Middle Ages were truly Dark {an outdated concept even in 2000, when the book was published}, while thinking the best thing we can do is return to an Age of Enlightenment. His comments on monasticism were worth reading to the very end, however, and I’m glad I didn’t put it down.
    • Raising Them Right: This book was highly over-protective of children, especially older children. With that said, I appreciated that the faith of the parents was emphasized, as was the idea that Christian children ought to literally be raised in the faith
    • A Return to Modesty: Hard to read in some places, this book is great for mothers of daughters. I quoted the book here, here, and here, and wrote about it here.
    • Raising Real Men: Good book for…mothers of sons. {I guess we have something for everyone on this list!} Quotes are here and here, and my review is here.
    • Reversed Thunder: I’m not quite done with this book, but I’m loving every page. It is poetically written, in the best sense of the phrase. Quotes are here and here {so far}, I wrote about it in my post God the Poet, and it got an honorable mention in Bible Lessons, CM-Style {Part II} and at the end of my On Religion article.
    • The Abolition of Man: Yet another book club book. The category for the club posts is here.
    • A Mother’s Rule of Life: I had hoped to finish this over Christmas break, but instead I had fun and then nursed sick children {actually, I am still nursing sick children}. I don’t’ know that I’ll blog every single chapter, but so far I’ve written four posts {1, 2, 3, and 4}.


    • The Children of the New Forest; Wonderful book, and if you think about it there is a lot of applications for parenting and educating. I enjoyed this book as an adult, but would have adored it as a child. I’m so glad my son was able to read it this year.
    • The Landing of the Pilgrims: Nice, basic book on Pilgrims.
    • Secrets of the Woods: Written by a naturalist, and very intriguing. It almost made me want to go live in a tent for a while. The key word here is almost.
    • Robinson Crusoe: Can’t believe I never read it before. It’s a story of Divine correction, and great for conversation.
    • Poor Richard: Also a great book for conversation. Yes, we learned about Benjamin Franklin, but what we talked about after the reading were great ideas.
    • Madam How and Lady Why: We are only a quarter of the way through, and it is tough going. I’m glad this was split into two years.
    • Story Book of Science: Fabre is a joy to read. His love for the natural world is contagious. We’ll finish this book by June.

    Family Read Alouds

    • Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass: I liked this one better as a child.
    • John Adams: McCullough is fabulous. If you want to get a feel for the founding of the United States, read this book.
    • Redwall: Great fun for the children; we’ll have to read more in the series in the future. This book inspired my post {Mis?}Judging Heroism.
    • The Hobbit: This was the first time through for the little girls, and they liked it much more than I expected.
    • Farmer Giles of Ham: This was read in a single day on a long drive. Highly recommended.
    • Sir Nigel: This was a great book for young and old. I cannot suggest it enough. It was mentioned in my post Modesty and Chivalry.
    • More Stories from Grandma’s Attic: Great for little girls!
    • Pinocchio: This is the story of all of us: the story of redemption.
    • Men of Iron: Also great fun to read aloud. We read it quickly because we couldn’t get enough.
    • Still More Stories from Grandma’s Attic: Also great for little girls.
    • Bambi: A Life in the Woods: Wonderful coming-of-age-type novel. Lots of application for those of us who think about education. Enjoyable for the children. Disney really gutted this novel of its best stuff when they made their movie.
    • Pollyanna: Not annoying as I expected! Wonderful story, and helpful to be able to encourage my grumpiest child to “play the glad game.”
    • Miss Hickory: Strange book about a “doll” made of an apple twig and hickory nut. The children loved it. I thought that near the end, when a squirrel eats her head was very disturbing. Sometimes I wonder what some people are thinking when they write. 
    • The Peterkin Papers: Please don’t make me read this book again. I read it, but I feel about it the way I felt about Mr. Popper’s Penguins: “remind me why this is a good book again??” Ahem.
    • Treasures from Grandma’s Attic: We just loved this series, and it was funny enough that even my son tolerated it as a read-aloud.
    • A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23: This was a perfect fit for us this year. The children memorized Psalm 23, and then we read this book every day at lunch. It is written by a shepherd, and it goes phrase by phrase, explaining how each phrase relates to the literal keeping of sheep, and then using that context to interpret the passage. The children ate it up–it was great.

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  • Reply Cayley September 25, 2015 at 5:55 am

    Love this post. You mentioned pre-reads are your weekend routine. I was wondering if you could share more about that. I need to do more pre-reading, but I just don’t know when!

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 4, 2012 at 4:17 am

    Amy, You definitely need more books on your stack!

    Anonymous, My theory on Mr. Popper’s for the rest of my children is to wait until they can read it themselves. πŸ™‚ Oh. And welcome to Afterthoughts. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Anonymous January 4, 2012 at 3:39 am

    A new reader here…I had to laugh because I just finished reading my 4 year old Mr. Poppers Penguins. Though he enjoyed it and in a way I liked it; I know exactly what you mean.

  • Reply ...they call me mommy... January 3, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    LOL. Thanks a lot. I have only like 19 books on my “to read” stack. πŸ˜‰ I LOVE this post and the reviews!

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 3, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    KM, I know what you mean! Well, except the part about decreasing my book list. πŸ˜‰

    Jeanne, Thank you for making me feel normal. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Jeanne January 3, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Hah, I suffered through the Peterkins as well, but Jemimah adored them.

  • Reply Kansas Mom January 3, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    The only problem with posts like these is they undo all the hard work I’ve done in the past year to decrease my list of books to read…

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