“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?

7 sweet note(s):

  1. So many familiar titles here! :)
    I too, read "The Screwtape Letters" for the first time this year, as well as seeing them performed live by Max McLean. In my opionion, every Christian should read them at least once a year, and the Focus on the Family drama is excellent, though the opening scene is a bit mature in nature. ;)
    My sister loves the Chosen Daughters series, especially "Against the Tide", about Margaret Wilson, set in 17th century Scotland.
    I'm aiming for The Silmarillion this next year! :) And Sutcliff as well, I've never read one of her works before.
    You'll enjoy "Treasure Island", if you haven't read it before, and "Great Expectations" is the epitome of 1800s literature, I think. If you like that, then be sure to add "Little Dorrit" to your reading list for the future, as that too is excellent. :)

    Thanks for sharing your list! I love to read such things. :)

    Love,
    Schuyler

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  2. I really enjoyed this post, Joy! :) I'm exactly the same as you with reading when I should be doing something else.. 'tis so hard not to!! I find it helpful to read a book while I'm eating my lunch. :)

    I should read "Elena, Strengthened Through Trials". It sounds very sad but also very inspiring.
    I didn't realize you discovered LOTR so recently! I did also, I read all the books for the first time in 2011. I sobbed over "The Return of the King" as well. Mum is reading it to Ramona and Jacq right now and I have a feeling they'll all be weeping together. :) You described the beauty and heart-throbbing quality of The Lord of the Rings so well, Joy. :)

    I'm intrigued by the Rosemary Sutcliff books you mentioned! I should check them out.*makes a note to self* I would like to read "The Screwtape Letters' as well although I don't know if I'll be able to.
    I just read "The Valley of Fear" in 2012 also! What did you think of it? Have you read The Hound of Baskervilles? And what did you think of "Pollyanna Grows Up"? I want to read that this year too.

    I had fun reading this post, my dear, and its length only added to the enjoyment. I hope you get a chance to read the books you want to this year! :)

    Have a blessed day, my friend! <3

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  3. Wow! You *did* have a good year of reading! I did too, though far more disjointed and less purposeful than yours. Delightful blog, by the way! Oh-and *you* were introduced to Sutcliff too? Wasn't she amazing. Sheesh.

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  4. At last I can to answering your lovely comments, everybody :D. Sorry about the delay!!

    Schuyler, I am so glad we have so many books in common *smiles happily*. Being an avid lover of the Focus on the Family dramas, I am awfully curious on how 'The Screwtape Letters' is like. I should like to check it out sometime... I do believe that Andy Serkis who played Gollum in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy in-acted the voice of Screwtape, right?

    'Against the Tide' from the Chosen Daughters series is one of my favourites in the series as well! 'A Cup of Cold Water' was another favourite of mine :).

    I am glad that you're aiming to read 'The Silmarillion' this year with me, Schuyler. I concur, I feel slightly daunted by all those elvish names!! However, it, so far, has been a very beautiful and interesting deep look into the history of Middle-Earth... I can't wait to get into the stories of Beren and Luthian and those other tales :D.

    Do try out Sutcliff, I am sure you'll enjoy her stories! I'd recommend you'd try out 'The Eagle of the Ninth' for starters, just because it is one of her most popular books and the start of the Dolphin Ring Cycle series which encompasses several of her books. Despite not being a Christian, I appreciated how the author was respectful in regards to the Christian faith whenever it was mentioned (i.e. The Silver Branch) and tastefully wrote the romance (if any at times!) in her stories, and on the whole most of her stories are very clean :D.

    Thanks for your encouragement in regards to those particular titles. I shall have to look up about 'Little Dorrit' sometime :)

    Glad you enjoyed the post! God bless.

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  5. I am delighted you enjoyed this post, Annie dear :). Ah, that's a good idea to read during lunch-time. Good idea =).

    I am sure you'll be very much inspired by reading 'Elena, Strengthened Through Trials'!

    Yes, we discovered LOTR in the beginning of 2012, and as a family have fiercly loved it ever since (awkward how we're such fans--we basically have watched the Lotr movies once a month or so for the past thirteen months!!)I give you permission to laugh and call me a lovable goose ;) Aww, 'The Return of the King' makes me sob, I agree. I cry just about every time i see certain parts of the movies too *sniff sniff*. Reminds me! I positively must introduce you to the LOTR audio drama books I've found on the internet last year *makes note to self to talk about it in my next e-mail*!

    Oh yes, please do, do check out Rosemary Sutcliff's books. As I mentioned to Schuyler, they're great and I've really enjoyed her books so far, and I think you will too!

    Hmm, I can't recall much of 'The Valley of Fear' save that it was intriuging and I think a little grim? My memory must have been rather dulled though. Yes, I read 'The Hound of Baskervilles'... I think. I most definitely have watched Jeremy Brett edition of the story (BBC 1980s) and that was a really interesting story!

    'Pollyanna Grows Up' is really nice, I think you'll like it, Annie. It has a lot more romance in it, and Pollyanna grows up some and is a little more self-conscience than when she was younger, natrually, but just as sweet and naive and innocent and friendly!! There is that funny repetition of people misunderstanding who fancies who, and how it all becomes quite complicated, but it ends sweetly :).

    Thank you, my dear friend, I am so happy you liked this post, despite its length *blushes*... so far, my reading has been going at an ant's pace. Perhaps slower.

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  6. Thanks for stopping by, Rachel! Your comment put a smile to my face :). I honestly did not plan before hand on my reading list, it just came as I got introduced to the differing titles. I noted through Jenny's blog, that you and I were introduced to Sutcliff about the same time. Oh yes, she is!!

    Have you by chance read 'The Shield Ring' yet? That's what I'm digging my teeth into currently!
    God bless.

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  7. My family and I have watched LOTR (extended editions) countless times since discovering it as well. =D We are all huge fans of Tolkien. Ramona and Jacq have been watching the movies when they finish with the corresponding book. They are going see 'Return of the King' soon. We are also watching the trilogy with a friend of ours who had never even heard of Tolkien before! He's thoroughly enjoying it. :) So, I think you and I could BOTH be called 'loveable gooses'. ;) We've probably both memorized all of the movies by now! ;)
    LOTR audio drama books!!! This I must know more about. *is eagerly anticipating hearing more about them* I'll have to see if our library has any of Sutcliff's titles. I'll look for 'The Eagle of the Ninth'. :)
    I'm looking forward to reading 'Pollyanna Grows Up' sometime. It sounds quite amusing from your description. :) I also want to root out 'Pollyanna' from the library shelves and read it again since I haven't done so in years.

    You're most welcome, dear! :D My reading has been gliding along smoothly, I think I read about six books last month? Something like that. :)

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