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    Books & Reading

    The Official 2018 Afterthoughts Read Aloud List

    January 1, 2019 by Brandy Vencel

    It’s that time again! I love to read book lists and I love to share book lists, and I know you are just the same. We finished 22 titles this year — we’re in the middle of a few books that I’ll list at the end. Those will also appear on next year’s list.

    As I share these books, keep in mind that my four children range in age from 10 to 16. These are wonderful read aloud titles, but that doesn’t mean they’d all be appropriate for younger kids. Remember this if you’re using this list to get ideas for future titles!

    One of my themes for the year — not that there was a deliberate theme — was to read all the things I have always wanted to read. I know that sounds way too broad, but my oldest is a junior this year. It’s likely that, at the start of the year, I only had two more years left to read aloud to him. What did I always think would be part of our family read aloud canon? I needed to include it before it was too late.

    Before I share the list … every year I’m asked how we fit in so many books. The simple answer is that we have a habit of reading aloud. The longer answer can be found in my post The Read Aloud Liturgy.

    This post contains affiliate links.

    The Wilderking Trilogy by Jonathan Rogers

    The Bark of the Bog Owl, The Secret of the Swamp King, and The Way of the Wilderking — also known as The Wilderking Trilogy by Jonathan Rogers — were fantastic. This is fantasy without magic. It feels a bit like Florida meets fairy tale meets the story of King David from Scripture. I highly recommend this series. Rogers is a fabulous writer.

    The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

    The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, and The High King are books in a series that I wanted to like more than I actually did. While there were moments when I could surrender to the story, it didn’t help that my husband kept making fun of the similarities to Tolkien. And you know what? I think he was right. My favorite in the series is Taran Wanderer, and part of that is because it was the least like Tolkien of the series.

    Rowan Farm by Margot Benary-Isbert

    Rowan Farm comes after The Ark, which we read last year. Like The Ark, it’s out of print and fabulously expensive — unless you can find a deal, which is what I did.

    Personally, I didn’t think it was nearly as good as The Ark (please note one of my daughters disagrees with me).

    Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough

    This is a book I’ve owned for ages and kept meaning to get around to reading aloud, so naturally it sat there for years. I’m glad we finally read it — everyone loved it, and it reminded one of my daughters that history books aren’t so bad, after all.

    Warrior Scarlett by Rosemary Sutcliff

    This one was sooo good! I love Sutcliff, especially that she uses historical backdrops many other authors avoid. This one was fascinating, plus there was the disabled-boy-conquers motif as well.

    The Odyssey by Homer (translated by Robert Fagles)

    This fits with my theme of don’t-delay-what-you-don’t-want-to-miss. I always wanted to do Homer aloud, and The Odyssey is the one I like best (yes, it’s true). The kids loved it, even though they had read many children’s versions before this. More proof that classic tales never get old?

    The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

    In tension with my theme was a deep desire to re-read books we’ve loved one last time. I gave in, and we began with our fourth read of The Hobbit, though admittedly O-Age-10 wasn’t born when we did the first reading.

    The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien

    What can be said? These are my favorites. That is enough.

    Oh. And also that we haven’t actually finished The Return of the King yet.

    Boys of Blur by ND Wilson

    Beowful meets Florida meets football season? Yes, please. This was such a fun read.

    Wingfeather Tales edited by Andrew Peterson

    We read the Wingfeather Saga last year (I highly, highly recommend it!) and this was a follow-up: a collection of stories by various authors that take place in the Wingfeather world created by Andrew Peterson. We loved all the stories, but especially fun was the one by ND Wilson that connects the Wingfeather world to the 100 Cupboards world.

    Beowulf translated by Burton Raffel

    I bought this translation after Angelina Stanford convinced me it was preferable. I am not a Beowulf expert, but I can say it was a great family read aloud, and that’s enough for me.

    The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

    We haven’t read them all yet, but here’s what we’ve finished so far:

    Prince Caspian is my least favorite, and we’re through that one now, which means it’s all wonderfulness ahead. We’re usually in the mood for fantasy this time of year.

    What We’re Reading Now

    These are the books we’ve begun to read aloud, but not yet finished:

    What about you? What’s your favorite read aloud from this past year? What can you recommend to me to put on our to-be-read stack?

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  • Reply Liz March 20, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    Did you find the AO5 book on TR or the Mornings on Horseback to be unabashedly glowing of TR or a more even account in his negative attributes as well? Have you read American Fascist: The Real Theodore Roosevelt?

  • Reply Kortney Garrison January 6, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    What a great reading year! Thank for the nudge toward a longer read aloud time. You got through quite a few pages together! We might try Mornings on Horseback as we have some Teddy fans here! Loved reading again the Liturgy of Reading Aloud. So good.

  • Reply Becky January 6, 2019 at 9:15 am

    My favorite read aloud this year was Once upon a Time Saints. It is a series of 3 books by Ethel Pochocki. She makes saint stories feel like fairy tales! My oldest(11) would come and listen every time, even though he’d heard them all before. They are meant for the younger crowd but enjoyed by all. I would warn you to read through the St Nicholas story (3rd book) before hand! It reads like an horror story but all turns out well and you learn the reason why he’s the patron saint of children! It is Catholic but I don’t think any Christian would find the stories problematic. I love Tolkien, but we haven’t read them together yet, my oldest has,…maybe when we finish Narnia. Love Little Britches, but that could be our lifestyle! My kids wanted to rename our milk cow!

  • Reply Ann-Marie January 5, 2019 at 11:35 am

    Wow, Brandy, that is an amazing list!
    How much reading aloud do you do daily?
    I am guessing you spread it out over the course of the day.
    Glad to hear that your children enjoyed the Odyssey. We are going to do that as a read aloud this year too.
    Thanks for the inspiration and the great books!

  • Reply Tania Bingham January 3, 2019 at 7:22 am

    We didn’t read it aloud, but my Year 7 and I read Beowulf this year (I guess I should say “last year”now. That feels weird.) and loved it as well! So much so that it made it to my top 5 books read this year. I didn’t know about Wingfeather Tales! Thank you for the recommendation. I have a 12-year-old who adored the Wingfeather Saga and 100 Cupboards so she will love this.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 3, 2019 at 12:26 pm

      Have you seen the prequel to 100 Cupboards? I think it’s called The Door Before? I hadn’t heard of that one, but my daughter received it as a gift for Christmas so likely it’ll be on next year’s list. 😉

      • Reply Tania Bingham January 4, 2019 at 5:31 am

        Yes, she has that one. She got it for her birthday last year along with 100 cupboard series. She said it was great.

  • Reply The 2019 Afterthoughts Book Awards | Afterthoughts January 3, 2019 at 1:31 am

    […] My read aloud titles are listed here and aren’t part of my total of 31. I count them separately; I guess I like to know what I’ve done on my own. […]

  • Reply Kelly Cumbee January 2, 2019 at 9:50 pm

    Oh, man, Prince Caspian is my favorite Narnia book. I love everything about it — the fact that it was the old nurse’s “fairy tales” that turned out to be the True stories, the way Doctor Cornelius taught Caspian, the way he talked about the planets and their dance, Trufflehunter and his remembering, Trumpkin’s loyalty. . .

    When I told Angelina it’s my favorite, she said, “Of course it is. It’s the most Medieval of the series.” She also said that’s why it’s most people’s least favorite. Maybe as you spend more time in the Medieval world, it will rise in your estimation.

    And I love Warrior Scarlet — it’s one of my favorite Sutcliffs. Beowulf! Ah, what a great book. Love the Raffel translation.

    Looks like y’all have had a delightful year.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 3, 2019 at 12:22 pm

      Ha! Well, I confess that I liked Prince Caspian more this time than ever before, so perhaps I’m maturing? 😉

      My favorite has always been The Voyage of the Dawn Treador. The big reason for that is because it fully captured my imagination as a child. My mother’s close friend had — I was convinced at the time! — the exact painting in a hallway in her house. It didn’t match anything else in the house and you had to go to a sort of obscure location to find it. I was convinced I could get to Narnia through it someday. I would sit in the hallway and stare so hard that I swore I saw the waves moving.

      Naturally, the other children thought I was crazy. 😉

      • Reply Kelly January 3, 2019 at 2:02 pm

        Oh, how delightful! I guess every house should have some bit of Narnia in it — I think I need to spend to some time at the antique down the road from here and see what I can find.

        And CLEARLY the more anyone gets like me the better off they are. :-p I’m glad you liked it better this time. If you ever get around to reading the sixth book of The Fairy Queen, about Courtesy, having met Prince Caspian and company will have prepared you, since Courtesy is a Martial virtue.

  • Reply Nancy Buterbaugh January 2, 2019 at 4:59 am

    A book that my family has loved over the years and has been a very successful read aloud for many ages is Richard Adams Watership Down. The younger kids enjoy and exciting adventure with talking animals while the older kids think through important issues of leadership and political systems.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 2, 2019 at 9:02 am

      Oh good idea, Nancy! I’ve never done that one as a read aloud before. ♥

    • Reply Erika January 5, 2019 at 12:28 pm

      First read this as a child, maybe 10?, when my grandmother read it to my brother and I. Just listened to it on audio last year and loved it all over again. It’s on my list to listen to with my daughter during our sewing time…

      Also, proof of the power of reading aloud… I have many negative memories of my grandmother, as do my siblings. However, I have some great, positive memories as well, directly from the read aloud time, while my older sisters do not. I think my desire to carry on our relationship with her and my children now, even from our current distance, is because of all that time spent together over books!

  • Reply Mama Rachael January 1, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    Oh my. Loved Wingfeather Saga (we all cried), still working through The Chronicles of Narnia (and in order! Lewis’s order). You should read Planet Narnia, makes even my least favorite, The Last Battle, more enjoyable.

    I’ve run into a difficult spot. We finally got Little Man reading, and really enjoying it. But at every opportunity, he wants to read his book. How do you navigate this? He is the only one I’m reading these kinds of books to, Mr Wigglesworth at age 2 isn’t really ready for them (though he hears them!) and I understand the focus on the story you are reading… I do the same thing. He is devouring Harry Potter at the moment, and I’ll see about getting him to another series after this. I hate to interrupt him with a different story… maybe I need to put it in morning time. Anyhoo, I know we will figure it out, just not sure how.

    I do think that when Mr Wigglesworth is old enough to actually actively listen, rather then only be disruptive, we will shift back to doing more of these read alouds. At least I hope.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 3, 2019 at 12:22 pm

      Rachael I’ve actually been working on a blog post on this topic!

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