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In past years I have shared the books I’ve read based on an academic calendar, because when I started recording what I was reading I was using a planner that followed that format. I’ve since decided it makes more sense to post my micro book reviews as a round up of all the books I’ve read in a calendar year.
Which brings me to this post. The transition had to happen sometime, and it’s happening now. So, without further adieu, I give you the books I’ve read in the latter half of 2016. If you’d like to see the eight other books I read in 2016, they are at the bottom of my 2015-2016 post.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin I made the mistake, dare I say, of picking up this novel around 4 o’clock one afternoon when I heard that it would soon be discussed on the Circe Institute’s Close Reads podcast; and, since my husband was traveling and would not be home that evening, had the opportunity (and by compulsion took it) to read the entire thing in one night. Once upon a time five or more years ago I had tried to read Pride and Prejudice, but found it to be nothing more than the screenplay of the A&E film version of the story, so I didn’t make it more than a few chapters before I felt there was no need of reading it. Having not seen the movie adaptation in several years, when I picked it up this time the banter and character development of the film which was even more prevalent in the book drew me in at once. As Miss Elizabeth Bennet learned, so have I: some things, upon second evaluation, are found to have much more merit than we may judge them to have at the first. Plainly stated: I very much enjoyed this book and regretted having not read it in its entirety much sooner. (The article that provoked my reading was “Don’t Follow Your Heart”. I highly recommend it and the podcast discussion of the novel. It was great fun!)
Courtesy in Christ: An Ettiquette Handbook for Christian Teens by Diane Pickup I found this on our shelf one day and my curiosity got the best of me. I have little boys, so training them in courtesy is on my bucket list for them. I enjoyed how the author tied acts of courtesy and consideration to scriptural attitudes and commands to put the needs of others before our own.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame Listening to the Close Reads podcast also led me to this interesting read. It’s a children’s story, but not just a children’s story. Some of the vocabulary is very challenging for a children’s book (or for the adult reader, if I’m honest). But I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out new words as I followed the wanderings of Mole and Ratty and the mischievous escapades of their foolish friend Toad. The discussion on Close Reads explored similarities between The Wind in the Willows and The Hobbit, The Illiad, and even Shakespeare. Grahame’s skill in writing and thematic depth make this a thoughtful book for adults, and maybe especially young adults ready to leave home for the first time but who find themselves longing for it once they’re gone. I do have a major caveat, however: chapter seven “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” involves Mole and Rat finding a lost little friend with the pagan deity Pan—and they worship him. While I think some generalized lessons can be drawn from this chapter with its wonder and awe, and while I think that it’s placement by Grahame in the center of the book is perhaps significant, the rest of the story line can be enjoyed without it. My husband and I agree that there is so much wealth of children’s literature out there that we don’t feel any urgent need for our children to read The Wind in the Willows. If we do read it out loud as a family while our children are young, we will skip chapter seven. Most likely, however, we may save this as a fun return to childish anthropomorphism when our boys are in their late teens, where the themes may be particularly meaningful and when our boys could take on chapter seven as an exercise in practicing discernment.
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi On a much lighter note, we listened to the audio version of this classic on a road trip this year. Our boys, 4 and 6 at the time, gobbled it up! What does it mean to be a real boy? What are the consequences of having your own way and ignoring those who give you wise counsel? These questions are addressed in a very outrageously funny, though sometimes violent story. I highly recommend this story, though parents should consider the age-appropriateness of some of the darker elements (Pinocchio kills the cricket, a cat’s paw is bitten off, Pinocchio is hung by his neck from a tree, etc). For our kids, these were effectively shocking—they grabbed the attention—without causing any bad dreams or inspiring violent play.
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder We read Little House in the Big Woods in the first half of 2016, so naturally we moved on to the next in the series. We enjoyed following Laura’s family as they traveled to Kansas and set up their home and everything they needed from scratch. We all gained some perspective from imagining a life in which all of your family’s belongings fit on a simple covered wagon. And since we live in the country, there have been ample connections for us to make—they set up a garden, and we started our first garden last year; they had to dig a trench in order to protect their home from a prairie fire, and we have discussed fire safety measures like that as well. All in all, this is a series that no child should miss.
What was your favorite read from 2016? What’s on your list for this year?