“She is too fond of books..."

Saturday, 5 January 2013

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
C.S. Lewis

the quote has become intolerably cliche, but since I've never used it before I feel like a goldfish in a pond

Some things have a way of worming their way into your very heart and soul, whether you planned  them to or not. Things like a cup of herbal tea and a good book by the crackling fireside (though the cup of herbal tea can be dispensed with personally). And there are some things that have a way of going about the world in a whirlwind of ideas and magical words and inspiration and come right back at you, demanding that you take up the challenge. 

It started out with Abigail in her post on the books she consumed during 2012, then Jenny wrote out her own list and then she was followed closely by Elizabeth Rose. That kind of leaves me at the tail end of the band-wagon! Yet, because it was such fun to read everyone else's reading lists, I find myself unable to resist writing one of my own. And seeing my introduction to some of the 'Greats' in the land of stories and literature during the past year, and how my reading material has matured a bit as I discovered a love for new books and found myself awed and heart-wrenchingly inspired and changed by some of 'the Great Stories', I feel I have something to share with you through this post. By way of starters, I shall give you a report of the pieces of literature I read during two-thousand and twelve, and then I hope to give you a bit of a fleeting glimpse of some of the books I should like to consume this new year. Considering my purpose to concentrate especially on my schoolwork in 2013 however, I am not giving myself too weighty a challenge with my reading list; and yet, you know for me, it is hardly what one would call a challenge to read a book on most occasions! What I find a challenge is not to read a book when I have something more vital to be done... something like schoolwork *ducks head and runs for cover*. Nevertheless, this as the case may be, I shall get down to business and not prevaricate needlessly. Now on to it!

2012 Readings of the Year 
Because to read a good book is pure delight

One of the first books I read in 2012 (a Christmas gift I received the year before), was an inspiring Christian biography written by Harvey Yoder 'Elena, Strengthened Through Trials'. Written in a captivating and novel-like style, the biographer Yoder brings to life the story of a young woman named Elena who suffered persecution, loneliness and ridicule for her faith in Christ in communist Romania. It was at times painful reading about the horrible persecutions faced by Christians like Elena but it was also challenging and inspiring to my faith, seeing how God strengthened them through their trials and gave them a steadfastness and perseverance in living out the godly Christian life in a place bent on destroying them and their faith. A definite good read, I am currently reading another biography by Yoder, 'God Knows My Size' and I look forward to reading some of his other biographical titles about the persecution of Christians during the Soviet Union for young adults.

In required reading for school, I reread Ethel Daniels Hubbard's beautiful biographical account of the life of Ann Judson in the book, Ann of Ava (this story is so touching and beautiful! I highly recommend it to anyone!) and In His Steps by Charles M. Sheldon, which though was not a favourite read, got me thinking over the call in the Scriptures to follow in Christ steps in a radical way. One of the few other biographies I read this year was 'Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata' by Simonetta Carr from a young-adult's fictionalized biography series titled, 'Chosen Daughters'. Though well-written, the main theme and thrust of that particular story is removed from my memory, but I do recall that I enjoyed the book relatively well. It is somewhat muddled in my brain whether I read A. J. Cronin's 'The Keys of the Kingdom' in 2011 or 2012, but anyway, I am sure I reread great parts of it last year so I can include it in my list. Goodness, I can't praise this novel enough! It left a permanent mark upon me, inspiring me in so many areas of my life....

Perhaps the biggest literary highlight of the last year for me was the the discovery of J.R.R. Tolkien and his epic fantasy series, 'The Lord of the Rings'! As my family and I watched and loved the three movies, my sister Sarah and I also listened to an unedited audio book dramatization of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers and after purchasing my own copy I got to read (and sob) over 'The Return of the King' as an epic and heart-breakingly beautiful finale to the tale. The Lord of the Rings has really been a great inspiration to me and my family during 2012; it drew my soul to it and marked itself on me with an ache of magnificent heart-stirrings. The themes presented itself in the books (and thus in the films) were so beautiful, epic and spiritually edifying and inspiring (forgive me for the overuse of this word, but I cannot help it... not with Lord of the Rings, I can't)! Undoubtedly, it has become one of my favourite works of fiction ever, both as stories and as movies. Naturally, having come to love Tolkien's writings so, I could not just stop with The Lord of the Rings, now could I? Early on in the year, I read 'The Hobbit' which I dearly love(d); even in this simpler children's story, I found inspirational themes of courage and mercy and contentment in the simple things of life. And watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movie last week has made me love the story of Bilbo even more. During the year, I also managed to read 'The Children of Hurin'-- a beautiful but tragic legend-like tale that wrung my heart to bits; over the course of last spring, I spent my time delving into the first few chapters of 'The Silmarillion' which I am still in the uphill process of reading. And a few weeks ago I borrowed 'Tales from the Perilous Realm' from the library and started 'Roverandom', but have not finished it yet. Also, I relished reading a couple of letters by Tolkien himself from, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, which was truly fascinating. So, you see, Tolkien got the biggest portion of the cake for 2012!

The only novels written by contemporary authors I read during twenty-twelve were, surprisingly, works by young writers. It was in the summer holidays of last year that I discovered two lovely young authoresses (that's a mouthful of a word, isn't it?) who have since then greatly inspired, helped and challenged me in my writing journey and in the increase of my personal library! After stumbling across an intriguing review of it and falling in love with her blog, I traveled with bated-breath through my reading of 'The Soldier's Cross' by Abigail J. Hartman, a book which I thoroughly enjoyed for so many reasons! Abigail's book is a brilliant and touching novel with a well-written story-line and writing style and gripping characters that kept me riveted to the novel till the end, leaving me with a feeling of quiet peace as I drank in the last few words. It was a beautifully crafted story, one that really affected me in more ways than one. Besides evoking in me through her writing a love for the tale itself and the beautiful theme that there's no salvation or peace outside of Christ, Abigail's writing influenced something else in me as well; she made me realize that one can never be too young to write, and write well, and write from the heart the things of our soul and the  deep convictions of our hearts. Her sister, Jennifer Freitag's novel, 'The Shadow Things' inspired me in a different way. Set in even a darker, more pagan world, filled with the superstitious belief in the gods of thunder and horses and lightning and in human sacrifices and demons, the conversion of young Indi and his life as a Christian subsequent to it, stood in stark and painfully-heartbreaking contrast to that dark and painful backdrop of Ancient Britain. There were times when I felt the story was just so dark and violent, but Indi would not let me leave the tale, and his whole-hearted love for Christ and the persecution that he faced boldly and meekly touched me deeply. Perhaps what I loved best about Jenny's relatively short novel was the beauty of her writing style, and the blood red flare of description and emotion she has a blazing talent for, that and for the godly perspective in which she and her sister write in. I, like many others, are eagerly looking forward to future titles by these two talented writers!

Courtesy of Jenny and subsequently Dakota (a friend of mine), I was introduced to Rosemary Sutcliff in the form of her historical fiction novels, 'The Eagle of the Ninth' (and a bonny fine book it was too!) and 'The Silver Branch' (this one was just so good). Sutcliff was a great writer, and I love the spice she put in describing the little things that have almost a sentimental link to the overall theme of each of her books, which when hearkened to will transfer you into the instinctive understanding of the characters you read, and see with their eyes the land of Britain as they see it, and the scenes before your eyes of burning huts, flaming orange sunsets etc, etc. I am definitely glad I got introduced to her during the past year!

For over two years, I had been eagerly keeping up with Elizabeth Rose's updates on her lovely blog as she wrote her debut novel, Violets are Blue. Around last March she had it self-published and many months later, I finally purchased my own copy! While I'll concede that the story and plot-line were at times less than perfect and perhaps the writing a tad repetitive in some bits (No blaming her here, for my writing at thirteen/fourteen was far worse!), I truly enjoyed reading 'Violets are Blue', if nothing else, for the way Elizabeth captured the essence of faith and family life and siblings so accurately and beautifully! I found it fascinating to read a story set during the time of 'Titanic', and because she really got the historical/social info right, it made the reading very satisfying. Also I loved the main character and Violet's close relationship with her friend, Lilian. Overall, a really lovely story!

Until last year, I had only read the seven titles in 'The Chronicles of Narnia' for C.S. Lewis. In 2012, I went about changing that, by embarking on reading his Space Trilogy, a fascinating/thought-provoking series and an extraordinary introduction to the genre of science-fiction, which after some getting used to, I found I rather enjoyed, which was strange considering I had expected to dislike it. Seeing that my Dad had only a copy of the second book in the trilogy, I first read Perelandra; it was very different, beautiful, imaginative, a bit strange and philosophical in some bits and overall it made me think a lot, which is always a good thing! I thought the theme of the Fall and Redemption were quite beautifully handled. Next, I got my hand on the first title in the series, Out of the Silent Planet, which I gobbled up hook and sinker, and I found very enjoyable and fascinating indeed--I sympathized and loved Ransom best in this book probably because I was as bemused as he when he was transported onto that space ship thing, and it seemed to me more in line with a fantasy/science-fiction novel, than his two other books in the trilogy. That Hideous Strength came naturally last, and to be honest, for a long while I did not understand a lot of it but I got pulled along by the captivating story-line and my sympathy for Jane and Mark and Mr. and Mrs. Dimble kept me hooked right through the 500 something pages, and it made me realize more than ever what a capital novelist Mr. C.S. Lewis really was! That Hideous Strength overall was very intriguing and again, thought-provoking, but I think I'll have to reread it to grasp more of its full meaning and depth. It was last year as well that I purchased my own copy of 'The Chronicles of Narnia' series, so in the process I reread a few of the titles in the books (or at least parts of them): The Horse and His Boy, The Silver Chair and The Last Battle. One other title I got to read for C.S. Lewis was 'The Screwtape Letters', a book I had been meaning to read for a long while but never got around doing. Now... now that is a really good book (highly recommended!), and I came out of the reading of it convicted and challenged in my walk with God.

If you've read so far, than hurrah for you, seeing how detailed I've gone in recording my thoughts on each of these books! A few other titles I got through reading in 2012 was Ben Hur by Lew Wallace (I had read the book some years ago when I was about eleven or twelve, but never really grasped or appreciated the full depth of it until now), I also read the few selected stories from 'Sherlock Holmes' which I had not read yet, though the particular titles escape my memory now; I do recall I read 'The Valley of Fear' which was one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's longer stories. For pleasure I reread 'The Bronze Bow' by Elizabeth George Speare, as well as 'Pollyanna' and 'Pollyanna Grows Up' by Eleanor H. Porter. I read a lot of fiction written by authors of the early to mid twentieth century, and the hallmark of course has been Tolkien's sagas. So overall, it was a good reading year! I do regret that I did not apply myself to reading more works of Christian apologetics/theology/philosophy etc, or devotionals (though I did read 'Jesus: A Dialogue With The Saviour' written by a monk of the Eastern Church which I found to be a great blessing). This new year, I hope to improve on that point. I did start a couple of other titles, but having not yet finished them, they hopefully will land in the 2013 pile of reading material I hope to consume. Want to know some of the titles I have in mind?
Books For 2013
*those books in astrieks will be read only if I can access them and if schoolwork is not too pressing

'With Christ in the School of Prayer' - Andrew Murray (started, but not yet finished)
God Knows My Size! Silvia Tarniceriu - Harvey Yoder (started, but not yet finished)
Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien (started, but not yet finished)
Les Misrables - Victor Hugo*
The Great Divorce - C.S. Lewis
Tales of the Perilous Realm - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Shield Ring - Rosemary Sutcliff (started, but not yet finished)
The Shining Company - Rosemary Sutcliff
The Lantern Bearers - Rosemary Sutcliff
Man in the Iron Mask - Alexandre Dumas
Beowulf
The Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman Empire - T.R. Glover
The Best of Father Brown - G. K. Chesterton (started, but not finished)
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
Let Me Be A Woman - Elizabeth Elliot
Recapture the Wonder - Ravi Zacharias
The Everlasting Man - G. K. Chesterton*
The Mind of the Maker - Dorothy L. Sayers*
The Ballad of the White Horse - G. K. Chesterton*

But who knows what this year's readings might bring? I bet we'll all be surprised!
What books do you plan on reading this new year?