Back to the Classics Sign up.

I'm once again signing up for the Back to the Classics Reading Challenge over at Karen's Books and Chocolate blog. Because let's face it, if I don't do the challenge I might forget this blog exists and I really don't want that! (Although I won't promise I'll write more this year. Too many kids, too much travel, not enough time and I'm sure I won't. I'll try to of course...but I probably won't succeed.)

Unlike past years, I'm not picking anything in advance! Wow, crazy me! But I've got two other reading challenges going and I pretty much switch all my choices around anyway so I've decided to just be spontaneous this year! 

But I will say that I think I'm most excited about the 

1)  Classic from a place you'd like to visit as we have a few countries on our hopeful list for this year's travel and I'd love to read something related before I go (anyone have any Ireland suggestions?)

and 2) Short story collection. I was recently talking to a friend about how I love golden age detective novels but often forget that the same authors have written a number of short stories with the same characters I love but I rarely read them. This is my chance! I can't moan about having no more Lord Peter or Tommy and Tuppence novels if I have some short stories left untouched now can I?

Education is the Science of Relations: A few Case Studies

As part of the Literary Life Podcast Reading Challenge this year, I'm reading/listening to several poems by the poetry W. H Auden. I hadn't yet really connected to any until I heard Thomas Banks read this one:

Over the heather the wet wind blows,
I've lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose.

The rain comes pattering out of the sky,
I'm a Wall soldier, I don't know why.

The mist creeps over the hard grey stone,
My girl's in Tungria; I sleep alone.

Aulus goes hanging around her place,
I don't like his manners, I don't like his face.

Piso's a Christian, he worships a fish;
There'd be no kissing if he had his wish.

She gave me a ring but I diced it away;
I want my girl and I want my pay.

When I'm a veteran with only one eye
I shall do nothing but look at the sky.

My mind immediately went back to last fall and our visit to Hadrian's wall. And I could picture it - especially the sky. And I do believe Auden has the privilege of having written the very first full poem that has made its way into my commonplace book!

We've also added a few new items to our school routine in the last month at the specific request of the kids: Koine Greek books and studying for the Pegasus National Mythology Exam and I'm pretty sure both are related to this (as of yet, unblogged) trip. 

I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to homeschooling and it's an area I'm trying to hand over to God and let him chisel off parts of me that need it. I've got some changes I'm planning for next year's school as a part of that refining and I don't always do change well, even when I feel life God is calling us to that. But I never want to be so caught up in my own plans that I fail to see true education taking place and the kids making their own connections. It's a balance. We aren't unschoolers. I have a philosophy of education because we (both my kids and I!) don't always know what we are interested in until we are exposed. And not only that but we don't know what true and beautiful ideas are souls are longing for. I had no idea that this Auden poem was out there in the world, waiting to be loved by me. And before our trip to Greece, one of my children was known to roll their eyes when greek stuff showed up on the schedule but is now choosing to add Greek language studies (because I bought the books for them but its a free evening choice, nothing required). But once exposed, I need to give them space to explore and pursue! That's the tricky part when there are a lot of them, only one me, and most of their interests still require something from me in the time and energy department. But I keep going, however imperfectly. 

Which takes me back to the last line of that poem, someday I'll have to time to look at the sky (but hopefully I'm still have two eyes!) but until then I don't want to be singing the blues. And I don't have to be, because I do know why I'm doing this. And that is what makes all the difference. 


Some of my favorite books of this year.

Everyone else seems to be posting about their new readings plans and I'm anxious to start making mine but I really do want to look back over this past year first. It was a banner year for my reading. I beat my Goodreads record by reading 123 books this year so I'm setting my goal this year for 100. I never want my goal too high that feel numbers driven but having an actual numerical goal really helps me pick up a book and not social media. And I want to continue to incorporate more audiobooks now that I'm learning how to make the work for me. (high speed like 1.5+,  non-fiction still narrative in style and bluetooth earbuds so the dog doesn't get tangle on our walks). 

Top Fiction

Stephen Fry's Heroes and Mythos - So much fun. Alternated between audio and e-book and enjoyed it both ways. I'd love to get to his Troy and Odyssey eventually too. 
Anthony Horowitz's Mysteries - I read several and thoroughly enjoyed them and am just waiting for our library to get more. I do love old books but sometimes its nice to read something written in our century. Especially when it means that the author can keep writing things! (Nothing is more depressing than finding an author you love, reading everything they've written and knowing there will never be more. So sad.) Although I also read several Agatha Christie mysteries this year and I'm fairly certain I will never read every single thing she's written, at least not before forgetting who did it in earlier ones and being able to re-read those :-)

Vittoria Cottage - D.E. Stevenson is quickly becoming one of my favorite safe/cozy reads. They aren't ground breaking but they are delightful and I'm never sad to spend an evening in one of her worlds. Vittoria Cottage might be my favorite of hers so far. 

Piranesi - This one is strange and I totally get why some people do not like it. But I did. 

The Chosen - I'm trying not to repeat my Classics Challenge reviews which is making this fiction section difficult but this one deserves a repeat. I still have to read the sequel but I own it so I'll get there soon. 

Top Nonfiction

Welcome to the Orthodox Church - I'm not Orthodox so I'm hardly qualified to say if this actually a good overview or not but I enjoyed learning about the different perspectives in areas of theology and I spent a lot of time thinking about and talking this over with basically anyone who would listen. 

Freedom's Daughters - Started this last year and worked slowly on it but I'm glad I did. It's dense and can be a bit dry at times. But not an area I was well versed in before and I learned a lot. 

The Narnian - Biographies aren't my top genre but this one was good. I did this on audio and it was one of the first audiobooks I successfully finished by myself (we do lots of audiobooks in the car with kids and they do a ton but I often struggle but I only had (free) access to this as an audiobook so I made it work and I'm glad I did). I'm doing the Lit Life Podcast reading challenge this year so I need more biography recommendations, both living and dead, so share ideas please!

Range - This is the type of non-fiction I can just devour. I found it fascinating. 

Live Not By Lies - Another one that got my thinking and talking. Very relevant to our times. 

I also read a lot of non-fiction related to parenting but I won't get into details with how I found/did not find those helpful for child privacy reasons but there are a few books that I wish existed (or maybe they do and I just wish I knew what they were!). About parenting, and specifically homeschooling 2e kids and balancing family/parenting/self-care when you have special needs in your family. I think probably because the moms who are really qualified to write it are too busy living that life to write a book!  I plan to re-read Different by Sally Clarkson because that seems to be the closest I can get to the ideas I'm looking for.  I really got a lot from it a few years ago but I'm in a new stage now and might get different things from it. 

Top Middle Grade Books

 I read quite a bit of middle grade fiction this year, some pre-reading, some reading along with kids so we could discuss and some... just because I wanted to. 

The Giver Quartet. I had read the Giver as a tween/teen but this time I read the whole series. There are some issues with the series as a series and her world building isn't perfect but it is well written, sucks you in and gives you quite a bit to ponder for a middle grade series. I read this very quickly when I was sick in bed one week but I'm sure I'll re-read with the kids in the future. 

The War that Saved My Life/The War I finally Won - I had to pre-read these as I'd heard conflicting things but I enjoyed them and Lucy loved them. 

Sweet Home Alaska - Cute story. Would make a good short read-aloud. 

Top Read-alouds

Astrid the Unstoppable - Someone needs to translate more of Maria Parr's books because we have loved her. I liked Adventures with Waffles slightly more but this one was still really good. When you need a really funny, laugh out loud book, but one that still had a lot of heart and sweetness, look no farther. Both are in my mental "to read aloud AGAIN in a few years pile"

A Year of Miss Agnes - Sweet. Shorter than I expected but would go well with Sweet Home Alaska (I'd say this one is a bit deeper). The friends that lived with us this summer had been living in Alaska for a while so my kids were interested in learning more after hearing about their experiences so these two filled that need a bit). 

The Christmas Camera/Eric's Christmas Camera - I went ahead and linked to this because its probably harder to find. So good! Alta Halverson Seymour has a whole set of Christmas Around the World books I will be getting them all and rotating through them because we all really liked reading this throught out December. 

A Place to Hang the Moon - This one is technically cheating because I still have one chapter left to read to the kids but I'm confident the book is not going to go off the rails at this point. Very sweet. My kids are getting a bit tired of "war kids shipped off to the country" books at this point but they got over that quickly. I loved how much personality she gave each of the three kids. 


2021 Classics Challenge Wrap-up

I did it! My 7th year doing the Back to the Classics challenge is done. I really wasn't sure I was going to get all 12 categories done this year. I actually read more books this year than I have since 2014 but surprisingly a lot of that was more modern and non-fiction (and not as surprising, a lot of of that was children's and middle grade, both pre-reading and read-aloud/along). 

But the Classics I did read, I overwhelmingly enjoyed. I can't think of any of them that I look back and think "well, that was a waste of time" although I am also much more willing to abandon books part way through than I used to be. I think I realizing I'm running out of time to read all the things that are worth reading. Now I get to rest on my laurels for approximately 2 second before thinking about what I am going to read next year!

19th Century Classic: Silas Marner

20th Century Classic: The Chosen

Classic by a Woman: My Cousin Rachel

Classic in Translation: The Daughter of the Commandant

Classic by a BIPOC: Their Eyes Were Watching God

Classic by a New-to-You Author: Ngaio Marsh's Death in a White Tie

Classic by a Favorite Author: Celia's House

Classic about an Animal: Lassie Come-Home

Humor or Satire: That Hideous Strength

Children's Classic: The Little Prince
Travel/Adventure Classic: Phantastes

Classic Play:  Antigone

(If I need to be reached, please do so at Limesand AT gmail.com)

Classics Challenge: The Daughter of the Commandant.

Yet again I turn to a Russian author for my Classic in Translation selection. These Russians, they grow on you. I was going to go with Eugene Onegin and was enjoying it at first but I got sick and found my brain couldn't handle the verse so I switched to the next one on my goodreads list. Sometimes translated, as The Captain's daughter, The Daughter of the Commandant was just delightful. 

Petr' is a great main character. Despite being kind of "a mess" at the beginning of the story, you still find yourself on his side as he grows up. Now there are an improbably number of coincidences but I don't even care, it was just fun with an interesting plot that keeps you guessing while not being too stressful (This was a thanksgiving read - I didn't want to be (and wasn't!) worried that anyone was going to jump in front of a train). And its not too long so if you haven't ventured into the world of Russian lit, I think it would be a good choice.