I actually did three reading challenges this year, The Back to the Classics Challenge, The Schole Sisters 5x5 and the Literary Life Podcast 22 Challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed each one.
I wasn't sure if I'd actually finish the Literary Life Podcast in time but I managed to wrap up Julius Caesar two days ago (finished the last 2 acts without the kids. It was fine but I'm still happy with my decision to let it go for them and start afresh next term with A Winter's Tale)
My standouts from the Literary Life were...
Both Biographies. For "Someone Dead" I did 24 days of Queen Victoria as an audio and really enjoyed it. I'd like to read a few more of her to get a more complete picture but it was a good start to complement what I know from history books and BBC shows. My "Someone Living" was really hard to choose but I also did that as an audio, The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family, which I really liked. I didn't really know much about either Howard other than Ron was on Andy Griffith and directed now. It was just really interesting and the way they talked about their parents and owned up to their own decisions and experiences was quite refreshing. I want to read more biographies this year as well.
Also the essays. Essays and short stories are not my normal thing and I don't think they ever will be but I really enjoyed a couple of EB White's a lot. I might continue to put my toe in the world of Essays water so feel free to offer ideas for essays to read.
I also really liked the Favorite Author of a Favorite Author catagory. Not because either of my picks will be etched in my heart forever but both were books I had wanted to read for a while and needed a push for. Lilith I already blogged about was the first and for the second I picked Romance of the Forest - it was not great. Sorta ridiculous but really does give a great sense of what a Gothic novel was like so you can truly appreciate Northanger Abbey all the more! Which is why I picked it and I don't regret it.
For the Schole Sister 5x5 challenge, you get to pick your own catagories. I chose
Inklings (by or about)
Literary Life Podcast
Now, you might notice that's 6 categories. I wasn't sure I'd be able to finish all of them so I added the pre-reads but I ended up reading at least 6 in each category. So technically I did a 6x6 challenge!
Of coures all my re-reads were great or I wouldn't have re-read them and you can't go wrong with the inklings. Beyond finishing the Fellowship of the Rings, re-reading Lewis' Space Trilogy and several Chronicles of Narnia (along with Lucy in her House of Humane Letters class), I also read a A Hobbit, A Wardrobe and a Great War which was good but maybe not quite what I expected or wanted. I do hope to get my hands on The Medieval Mind of C.S. Lewis this year.
For parenting/education, I really liked Habits of the Household by Justin Earley although I'd recommend The Common Rule by the same author first as I think they build on each other. I read both this year and probably will re-read at least The Common Rule this year but honestly probably both! His children are still a bit on the younger side so I really hope he updates this book in 10-15 years! (For future generations of course, in 15 years, I won't have anybody under 18 in my house anymore unless something changes...keep moving before I start to cry!)
Now Theology was just my standout category. Everything was just so good. I put The Common Rule which I talked about above in this category. The Way of the Pilgrim was really different than anything I've read before but really good. As was The Jesus Prayer. Continuing my mini Orthodox reading kick I went with Hank Hanegraaff's Truth Matters, Life Matters More which I really enjoyed.
Now Simply Trinity, this was hard to rate. I only gave this 3 stars but that was really the average of parts of the book which were 5 stars and incredible and other parts that not. A lot of calling out of people who he insisted were way off base with their theology and posing a huge danger to the Christian community but I have never heard of and didn't really care to hear rants about. That part got old pretty fast. But the first part where he lays out what he DOES believe about he Trinity was really good.
But probably my top book for Theology this year was Radiant Midnight: Depression, Grace and the Gifts of a Dark Place...so so good! If you struggle with your mental health at all, you should read this. It presents such a solid biblical understanding of struggle and darkness and who we are and who God and his role in getting us through hard times. The World does such a horrible job at understanding suffering which is to be expected but and sadly a lot of Christian resources make different but equally damaging mistakes as well. Even if you don't struggle with mental health (yay for you!). you should still read this. I really need to get a hard copy so I can sufficiently mark it up next time I read it.
Of coures, I read a lot of books that weren't in a challenge of any kind. In fact, I'm finishing up the year with 142 reads (several titles were left off my privacy, mostly my children's) which is my best year in a decade. So I thought I'd just list a few more of my favorites from this year. Now these top lists aren't in order or super planned out. I literally just went chronologically through my Goodreads list and when my first response to seeing a title was "Oh, that was a good one!" and I hadn't already mentioned it, then I wrote it down here.
Visual Thinking by Temple Grandin...I'm the exact opposite of a Visual Thinker in the fact that I can barely visualize anything. But it was so interesting to here her point of view and her way of writing and organizing information is so attention-keeping. I felt like every chapter was almost its own book which meant it always felt fresh.
Summa Domestic Vol 1 - I gave this whole three volume set to my (recently converted to Catholicism) brother and his wife for a wedding present without even having read it because I knew it would be good. I'm savoring it so I'm about to finish Vol 2 but its great.
The Nocturnal Brain - Not what I expected at first, it's case studies of patience where things have gone wrong in the sleep department and the lessons we learn about the brain and sleep from them. Very interesting. I did it as an audiobook as I cleaned our old house for move out inspection so those things are oddly linked in my brain. So hours of cleaning later (did I mentioned our old house was 4000+ square feet with beautiful (read - dusty holding) moldings and trim, spindled railings and 4.5 bathrooms), I have to fight not to hold it against this book because it really is good and shouldn't be blamed for my post-cleaning backpain.
The Art of the English Murder - I always really like Lucy Worsley, on tv or in book form. I actually had tickets for Craig and I to go see her give a lecture on Agatha Christie this fall but 2 days before then both my ear drums burst causing some other medical issues which landed me on bedrest for several days. I optimist told the babysitter to keep us penciled for about a day before I gave up and admitted defeat. I'm still bitter at my body. Perhaps I should sooth the ache by buying her book about Christie instead.
Dracula - read it with the Lit Life and loved it.
Beauty - Short re-telling of Beauty and the Beast but my first taste of Robin McKinley. And now I know why her name shows up in my circles.
Troubled Blood - well, the whole Strike series. I'd tried twice to get into this series but a third time is a charm. The first is not the best so plod through it if need be because they are only getting better and the last few were amazing. I actually bought this one (in HARDBACK no less!) and I rarely buy non-school books but I heard the formatting (for actually story reasons) really needed a physical copy to be appreciated and I don't even regret it taking up room on my bedroom bookcase.
Wingfeather Series - They aren't the easiest to read-aloud (so many fun made up words which trip my up to no end!) and we read the first last year and took a break then restarted but about half way through the second book, there was no break-taking aloud. Three big kids and I all really got into it although my kids actually are big visualizers and the youtube show is causing drama because things aren't how they pictured so verdict is still out whether we will be able to finish that! (It's good quality so far so that's not to say you shouldn't try it! Just that my kids are easily offended when their book visions get messed with if they truly love the books. Watching Harry Potter with them is a lesson in fortitude and longsuffering - for me!)
Bess Street Aldrich books - Both a Lantarn in Her Hand and the lighter but still sweet The Cutters were top favorites of the year so I'm mentioning them again even thought I've already blogged about them.
What's next? I plan to do most if not all of these Challenges again this year but I haven't let myself pick books until I typed this up. I've got a couple books in progress but I'm super excited about starting a new year of books. I may or may not beat this years record but I can at least try!