Reader reviews 2019

Every year I like to do a review of the books I read.  I have not been great about keeping a journal as I read but I do love to look back and see what has stayed with me from a particular book.  I did not read a lot this year because my life has been so full to the brim with my kids.

A Phone Call Can Change Everything

newoman  In June we got a call from a social worker asking if we were open to adopting the children we had loved through foster care 2 1/2 ago.  They came to live with us permanently in August and we are happily traveling down the road to adoption.  But not every moment has been happy or easy.  Adding the responsibility of two school-age children in crisis has been overwhelming and as a top priority, it has not left a lot of time for reading.

I only got through 18 books in 2019 but I am fine with that reality and I feel like I have a plan to read more in 2020.  I have never been so thankful for my book club as I was this fall.  It made what I was going to read a no brainer and gave me a goal to finish the book before we met.  On more than one occasion I was reading the last 20 pages feverishly in the car before I went in to discuss.

I love to read in community and that is mostly how I got m reading done in 2019,  Here are my thoughts.

February – The Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry

This was a second reading for me.  It is another story set in Port William and by now this town is as beloved as Green Gables to me.  Every time I visit I fall more in love with the people.   This is a story of saying goodbye and letting go.  I think it is a great place to start with Wendell Berry.

March – Home by Marilyn Robinson

We read this book because most of us loved Gilead the year before.  This story has lots of great quotes and is full of beautiful sentences but I just can’t get into the author’s way of telling a story and I can not abide the absence of chapters.  It’s hard to not like a book everyone else loves in your book club.

April – Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton

We read The Man Called Thursday a few years ago and that was a wild ride and a great discussion so we added another Chesterton to our list.  Well, this is not fiction and it is very dense.  I am not sure that many of us finished it because it was so hard to understand and we had to keep going back and reading to catch what this genius was saying.  When we met to discuss it we took turns reading aloud and discussing the first chapter and it was one of our best book discussions yet.  I also listened to a podcast at Christmas time that drew on the chapter, The God of the Cave.  I was thrilled that I had this book to go back and read that chapter after I listened to that podcast.  This is going to be one that I go back to again and again to read and contemplate.

May – Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster

We chose this book because it is a classic none of us had read and it is set in Italy.  We are chasing the feeling we got from Enchanted April so when we come across a classic set in Italy we add it to the list.  This was not the same feeling at all.  It is a crushingly sad book that forces you to say, “Hold it, what is going on?”  You think it is going to be a fun book about silly people who think they are important.  Then there is a turning point and you are not laughing anymore.  It is a great book to discuss.

June – Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

We read this book about miracles at just the right moment.  My own miracle was happening with that phone call that brought my children home to be adopted.  I would slide into this book and witness the miracles within it and close it with a deeper understanding of my miracle.  I will always love this book.  We all loved this book.  For about a month after reading it anyone who sat too long with me on the sofa was treated to my favorite passages being read out loud to them.  No one complained.  We added another Leif Enger book to our list for 2020.  We cannot get enough of his words.  I am so glad he has written more that one book.

July – Fyodor Dostoevesky short stories

Well, this is a clear example of the wrong book at the wrong time.  It is also the second time we have tried to read a Russian in the middle of summer.  Which led to my tirade at this year’s meeting to compose our list,  that we must choose the right book for the season.  Anyway, I could not read this by the pool.  I failed completely and so did everyone else and we did not even meet this month because we were too busy living summer lives.

August – All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

We had all heard the hype and we had to see if it was really as good as everyone said.  And it was!  This is a marvelous story that I will read again and again.  When I finished this book I felt like I was still walking around in it for a month afterward.  The world it creates is like a maze that I was walking,  always taking a different turn and realizing something new.  I know that some people are bothered by the ending but that is how war ends, with miracles and death.

September – The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

We all read Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery in high school.  It is a masterpiece.  We wanted to read something creepy for fall and Andrew Klavan suggested this one.  It was creepy but the ending was so disappointing.  There was such a build-up and then nothing.  No big revelation.  This house has a personality and its crazy, the end.  Don’t waste your time.

October – The Crucible  By Arthur Miller

We chose this because we were going to see an outdoor production played at night by firelight.  I could not go and life was so hard at that moment that I did not even try to read it.  I’m sad I missed the play and the road trip.  We are trying to make it to more plays as a group.  We have one member who loves the theater and she works out all the tickets.  It is a nice addition to our monthly meetings.

November – The Great Good Thing by Andrew Klavan

We always try to read a memoir or a biography.  We could not decide on one when we met in January so we left this spot open and came back to it with this choice.  I love this book.  I love this man.  I listen to four days a week so I have his voice in my head and it was just like he was reading his book to me.  It is not your ordinary come to faith story.  Read it!

December – The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding By Agatha Christie

We try to choose a seasonal book for December and this one fit perfectly because it was short.  The audio is only 45 minutes so it is perfect for a December book club.  This is another month I missed because things were really crazy at my house but I plan to make this a listen with the fam next December since we all love Hercule Poirot.

Other Groups

Identity Theft   Edited by Melissa Kruger

I read this one with a group of women at church.  I mostly hate Bible studies written for women so when I realized that this is a collection of works written by all the main women’s Bible study authors of the day you can imagine my eye roll. But I went to each meeting and read each chapter.  This book was so much better than your average Bible study because each chapter was fresh.  One topic per chapter devoted to expanding the larger theme and written by different authors kept this book so interesting.  The questions to answer did not feel like busywork.  This is how Bible studies should be written.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

We listened to this on a road trip.  The scene where the queen is revealed for what she is still playing in my head sometimes.  The Chronicles of Narnia are always a good choice when the van is full of kids.

Everybody Always by Bob Goff

We were in the mood for a little nonfiction on a road trip and we turned to Bob Goff. I love this book so much that I gave it to everyone for Christmas. When he talks about followers of Christ he calls us “those who -are becoming love.” Can you just imagine if that is how Christians were known?   This book was so refreshing.

Call for the Dead by John LeCarre

Another road trip listen, for Ed and me. The kids retreated to their own entertainment while we listened to this one. It is the first in a series so I am excited to go on more missions and adventures with George Smiley. This is a great one to listen to with your husband.

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron

I say that I read this in community because my sister-in-law and I read this to each other section by section on a road trip to the beach. We were figuring out every family member and having aha moments all the way. It was so therapeutic.

A Scone to Die For by H.Y. Hanna

If ever there was a moment for bubble gum it is December and that is where this book landed. We were driving to meet my mom for a little bit of Christmas cheer so I listened to this with my girls on the way. It was so fun because it is set in one of our favorite places in all the world, Oxford England. This book is going on my list of recommendations to read before going. It gives such a great picture of life in that strange world of Oxford college life.



Other books I read on my own:

Babbette’s Feast by Isak Dinesen

I read this in November and there cannot be a more perfect moment for this story. It does with a story what a lot of women’s bible studies try to do with 12 chapters of sermons. It paints a picture of piety, feasting and community and the true nature of sacrifice. I hope I read this story every November.

Peace Maker by Christie Purifoy

I read this one over thanksgiving too and I wanted to just sink into it and love it. But there was a lot going on at the moment and I just couldn’t. It was the wrong book and the wrong time for me.  I’ll try it again later.

The Nightmare Feast by Andrew Klavan

I love Andrew Klavan. He can weave a story so full of meaning that I think about it for a long time. This is so much more than a story. It is a social commentary on how we live and what we value. It is not for the faint of heart. There is plenty to object to and if that bothers you, then do not read it or listen to it. Just know that it tells the truth about the real world and there is plenty to object to in the real world.

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Here is our 2020 book club list:

February- This Is My God by Herman Wouk

March- Andy Catlett by Wendel Berry

April- Virgil Wander by Leif Enger

May- Four Seasons In Rome by Anthony Doerr

June – 84 Charing Cross  and The Duchess of Bloomsbury by Helene Hanf

July and August- The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

September- Beloved by Toni Morrison

October- 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

November- The Splendid and The Vile by Erik Larson

December- TBD

Keep reading and come over to follow me on social media where I will give updates and quotes as I make it through my book list in 2020.

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