So, I’m always inspired by Katherine‘s end-of-the-year reading list. Katherine is my childhood friend John’s high school sweetheart wife and now a very dear friend as well. If I had my way, John and Katherine would be our next door neighbors and Katherine’s sister Beca would live on the other side. Unfortunately, they all currently live in the freezing tundra of the Northeast and I have to pine away in between their visits home.
I know my reading list isn’t impressive but since all but two weeks of the year I had pregnant-brain and then newborn-brain, I don’t think it’s completely embarrassing.
1. Kristin Lavransdatter: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset
2. Kristin Lavransdatter: The Wife by Sigrid Undset
3. Kristin Lavransdatter: The Cross by Sigrid Undset
I absolutely loved these books. I read the first one years ago but never finished the series and they were all a delight. Including some of my favorite things: 11th century Scandanavia, Catholicism, and a strong female protagonist, I was completely drawn in. Undset won the Nobel prize for literature for these books and she’s considered one of the finest Norwegian authors of all time. She’s also a Catholic convert, so I feel like we have something in common. The books are medieval historical fiction but so well-researched and legit. I really think they’re some of the best 20th literature out there. Read ’em.
4. Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset
Ok, so I was a little bit of a Sigrid nut this year, but this one was great, too. It’s a biography, or I suppose, a hagiography of St. Catherine of Siena drawn from primary sources. I’m not usually one for biographies but this one was so good and included a lot of Italian political and religious history that I didn’t know anything about. If you’re looking for a good Saints Life book to read, check this one out.
5. The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
Norris is a good writer and I enjoyed sections of this book but all-in-all it was a little too self-indulgent for me. I couldn’t help being bothered by a subtle smugness that permeated the book. Maybe I’m crazy, but it wasn’t my favorite.
6. Great with Child by Beth Ann Fennelly
My sweet friend Helen (one of our fellow collaborators at Feast!) gave this one to me when I was pregnant with Lucy. It is a collection of letters that Fennelly, a poetry professor, wrote to a pregnant former student who had become a dear friend. It is simply beautiful. I lent it to two friends this year who were also pregnant and they loved it, too. Gorgeous.
7. The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding by Sheila Kippley
Obviously not very interesting to those without babies, but a really interesting book about the benefits and practice of exclusive and extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, etc. Benefits include reducing your risk of breast and ovarian cancer and naturally spacing your pregnancies (in addition to the well-known and obvious benefits of breastmilk for babies).
8. Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood by Sheila Kippley
This one is less about the practical side of breastfeeding and focuses instead on the theological facets of motherhood and nourishment. There are some great thoughts by various popes and clergy. Made me so glad to be part of faith that supports and values motherhood.
9. The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
Merton’s autobiography. It’s a bit lengthy, but overall I really enjoyed it. One of the themes that jumped out at me was the grace of God that is every pursuing and guiding us, something I have been learning in my own life.
10. 10 Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen
If you are a parent, hope to be a parent someday, or would like to revive or develop a love of learning, this is a MUST READ. I can’t say enough about it. It is so good. Esolen is a genius and you will take a long, hard look at modern thought and education. I will probably read this one again next year as I get more serious about developing curriculum for Benjamin’s education. Please read it, whoever you are. It is delightfully funny and enlightening.
11. Glittering Vices by Rebecca DeYoung
We read this one as part of a book group at my folks house with some grad students at FSU. It’s a wonderful introduction to the seven deadly sins. It’s very accessible and readable but full of ancient sources that are woven in perfectly. I might read it again next year as part of my lenten preparation.
12. The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry
These agrarian essays are amazing. Some are better than others but this collection is worth reading for anyone who wants to consider how to live well. I will probably look back on this book as one of the most formative of my life.
13. The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke
I LOVED her novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and was thrilled when my bestie Eleanor gifted it to me. It is a collection of Clarke’s short stories set in England during the Napoleonic wars. It’s full of fairies. I adored it. But, if you haven’t read Jonathan Strange, yet, start with that one because it’s grand.
14. Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery
This was a re-read. Actually, a re-re-re-re-read. If you know me at all, you know that I love the Anne books. I consider this one part of my “bathtub reading” that doesn’t require too many brain cells to complete. I love to brew a cup of tea and curl up with a book in a hot bath after the babies have gone to sleep. What could be better?
15. The Grey King by Susan Cooper
Just some good old YA fantasy fiction. My first Susan Cooper book and I think I’ll complete the series. Another bathtub book, for sure.
16. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Like everybody else, I read The Help this year. Haven’t seen the movie yet because I don’t usually feel like leaving my nursing little one behind and taking her to the movies sounds stressful. I liked it. Definitely a fluffy bathtub book.
17. Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales
A re-read. So good. I will probably be re-reading this for the rest of my life.
18. Watch for the Light
A collection of Advent and Christmas readings by various authors. I always intend to read it all and never do because I always get sick during Advent. Maybe next year, right? Some of the selections are not so great but some are fantastic.
19. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
I have the one read by Jim Dale who is my favorite reader ever. I listen to this one every Christmastide.
20-26. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
As you know, I’m a little obsessed. I fall asleep to these audiobooks, also read by Jim Dale. I don’t think I need to say anything else about this.
27. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Another re-re-re-re-re-read. Obviously one of the best novels in the English language. Philosopher Alasdair McIntyre once said he didn’t trust people who didn’t like Jane Austen. I feel exactly the same way.
28. Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Yet another re-read. I listened to this one on our drive to North Carolina in June. It’s another one of the “Anne” books. So good.
29. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Listened to this to help me fall asleep during my pregnancy when I always have a little bit of insomnia. It’s a re-read. If you have a hankering for Jane Austen and Magicians at the same time, this would be a good bet.
And now for books I plan to finish or read in 2012:
1. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
I love the miniseries and so far the book is just as charming. My in-laws bought me a copy in the clothbound Penguin edition and I adore it. It’s too beautiful to read in the bathtub which might be why it’s taking me so long to get through it.
2. Arthur by Stephen Lawhead
Well, if you’re going to read Arthurian legend fiction, this is the series to delve into. I’ve read Taliesen and Merlin in the series but haven’t ever gotten to Arthur. It’s my current bathtub book.
3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I want to re-read this one before the new film adaption comes out. And I have the clothbound Penguin edition so…what’s not to love?
4. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
Gifted to me by Katherine this Christmas, I can’t wait to start it. I watched the miniseries with Toby Stephens in it and liked it immensely.
5. Redwall by Brian Jacques
I keep meaning to finish this one and haven’t yet. I read it years and years ago and want to read it again to Benjamin in a couple of years but thought I should preview it to see if it’s as good as I remember.
6. The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Baeur
This isn’t really the kind of book that you finish since it’s full of reading lists that would take a life time to complete.
7. Anne’s House of Dreams (audiobook) by Lucy Maud Montgomery
One of Daniel’s Christmas gifts to me. Can’t wait to listen to this one which I remember being one of my favorites of the series. He also promised to watch the Anne miniseries with me and drink raspberry cordial. Be still my heart!
8. Praying with Icons by Jim Forest
Another Daniel gift. Can’t wait to start it.
What books did you read this year? I’d love to know what your favorites were. What do you plan to read next year? If you wrote an end-of-the-year book post, please leave the link in the comments. I’d love to read it!