2017 will forever be remembered as the year Brian decided we should get rid of Netflix and Amazon Prime video for good. He certainly succeeded in meeting his reading goals, but it was only towards the end of my year (like…a month ago maybe?) that I decided to challenge myself with my goals. Reading is not hard for me. Not reading is more of a discipline. That being said, I enrolled in Classical U a few months ago to pursue becoming certified as a Master Classical Teacher. This meant saying bye-bye to two hours of reading a day, but it’s been a great exchange. Through my studies at CU I saw a great deficiency in my reading. I’ve read almost zero of the great books! Since this realization, I’ve resolved to follow C.S. Lewis’ suggestions with what kind of books to read:
“It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.”
Right now I’m still becoming acquainted with what the great books even are, in addition to which ones would be most profitable for me. That being said, I’m reading about one classic for every two modern books, in addition to disciplining myself to read the books that will be most helpful in my newest hobby of figuring out how to get a Classical Christian school open in Ogden, Utah. 😉
Like always, my goal in writing this list is to help other readers get ideas for books and goals in their reading pursuits. Enjoy!
P.S. As usual, if you don’t know where you begin, I’ve * the books that are must reads. And pictured is the only book you should read if you only pick one from this list of for the entire year. Start there!
*Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine
I read this book the first of the year because I had a feeling it would set the mood for 2017. My suspicions were correct. I needed this book to correct some major pride in my life in regards to living beyond the human limitations God created me with. These limitations are indeed good and noble and not something I need to scheme up a way to overcome with efficient means. I needed to hear that God chooses to leave things undone and he does NOT call Lexy to tie up all the loose ends. This is the book that caused me to write my New Year’s resolution: “Lexy will start nothing new in 2016.”
In reading this I was also challenge to learn how to love the locals under my roof and make my home a more beautiful place for their lives to flourish. I also loved his look at the times of days in the Psalms and what feelings those times of day were associated with. It was good to see that by dinner time the Psalmist got tired too and called on the grace of God for help. 😉
China Court by Rumer Godden
Reading more fiction was another goal of mine this year. I believe I found this suggested on some Charlotte Mason reading group. She writes many books for children, but this was more of an adult reading. The form of how it was written would maybe be too complicated for a child. I actually wasn’t a huge, huge fan of this book, but there were some beautiful descriptions of how large families function in day in and day out mundanity.
My Life For Yours by Doug Wilson
This book walks through the home and talks about how each room relates to living out the gospel. Great book to give you ideas on how to evaluate wether or not your home is functioning to it’s largest capacities.
*Confessions of a Food Catholic by Doug Wilson
Brian has been one of the biggest instruments of grace in my life in regards to disordered thoughts about food. He suggested I read this book early in the year and I’m so glad I did. The ability to laugh my way through a book discussing food idols showed me how silly my fears often are. Many of my friends have not enjoyed his frankness on this topic, but it’s what my heart needs over and over again when I get caught up in my old foolish ways of food idolatry.
The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis
My all time favorite C.S. Lewis quote comes from this short book of essays.
Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
This book was just wow! I so related to Lewis’ spiritual journey as he found himself pursuing the feelings of joy in places like miniature gardens and literature. This book takes a deep dive into the pursuits of the soul as we fretfully search for Christ. Also, as a mother pursuing non-conventional methods of education, I found it so reassuring learning about Lewis’ education.
Charlotte Mason Volume 2
Another goal of mine this year was reading straight through Mason’s personal writings. These books are a treasure trove of wisdom. I truly think every parent should read through these books, as Mason has a grip on working out a Christian anthropology through methods of education, or, more accurately, methods of living in ways that develop all our human capacities.
For the Children’s Sake by Susan Macaulay
The first time I read this book was in 2015. It changed my life and family forever. This book revealed my idol of efficiency most clearly to me and, by the grace of God, challenged me to live in new ways. While this book is about education, again, I think it’s so important for pretty much everyone to read this book since living a *real* life, outside of laptop and phone screens and movies and television binges, is what we should all be doing at every age and stage of life. And it’s this kind of living that it true education.
For this who may be interested, this book was written by Francis Schaeffer’s daughter. I like to reread regularly because of what an impact these ideas have on me.
Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree
Affirmation does not come naturally to me, so this book was something I read by discipline. I am so glad I did! I loved reading about the verses that undergird the practice of pointing to evidence of God’s grace in the life of others.
“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” Proverbs 11:25
Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson
This book was along the same lines as Sensing Jesus.
When Children Love to Learn
This book is a series of essays by various Charlotte Mason educators. I loved the section in here that talked about the Old Testament and Hebrew understanding of childhood. We simply don’t talk about these things enough (ok, maybe I do…and you’re thinking, “Shut up about it already!”).
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
I read this book as encouragement to get my kids outside after having another baby! We greatly value being outdoors in our family. Louv coins the term which he calls Nature Deficiency Disorder. He believes a lot of cases of ADD, ADHD, and autism would disappear if children spent so much more time in nature than they do. I loved reading about various great thinkers childhood’s outdoors and how he debunked common myths in regards to the outdoors (ex: we will get murdered if we wander too far).
“Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it.” pg. 7
“Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualization and the full use of the senses.” pg. 7
“Hands-on experience at the critical time, not systematic knowledge, is what counts in the making of a naturalist.” pg. 150
Did you know that medical school professors are having a hard time teaching their students about the heart? Why? Because they try to compare the heart, something most people never lay their eyes on, to a flower, something most people should lay their eyes on. Professors are finding their students unequipped for the studies before them because they have such little hands on experience with the created world. More and more children are not interacting with nature, and it’s severely damaging academic pursuits. Get your kids in the mountains.
Martin Luther Had a Wife by William Petersen
This book helped me see that the emotional turmoil that often accompanies having babies is a real thing. I know that’s an odd response to have to a book like this, but it helped me have more grace for those around me as I learned about the many troubles of women and marriages of the great saints of the Christian faith. Seeing how they handled their emotions with faith was a great encouragement to me.
Harriet Beecher Stowe Had a Husband by William Petersen
If you want to be challenged in your life, read about all the work these saints accomplished. I loved reading about the writing wives/moms because I can easily relate to that.
*Death by Living by ND Wilson
I was so, so sad when this book ended. I literally was getting up extra early just to read this book! Wilson is one of my best creative Christian writers alive. His own words capture the heart behind his words better than I could.
“May my living be grace to those behind me.”
“Grabbing will always fail. Giving will always succeed. Bestow.” (Oh, these words hurt my heart!)
A Severe Mercy
I don’t think I’ve cried so much in reading a book since I read crappy Nicholas Sparks novels in early high school years. This is an autobiography of sorts of a young husband and wife in their early marriage. They get saved after becoming married. I believe this is a book every engaged couple should read. It shows the many idols and struggles young couples may struggle with. A good portion of the book includes personal letters between C.S. Lewis and the author.
Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
Oh my! This book was a hoot! I loved knowing my little boys are normal, maybe even normal than most boys being pumped out these days. This is like the male version of Little Women, as Jo undertakes the education of a whole group of boys. Also, great read for more unconventional education ideas.
Silence by Shusaku Endo
A literature loving friend suggested I read this. I hated it when I read it, but when I discussed it with him afterwards, I loved it. It’s a book I should have read in a reading group. (Hmmm…should I start one of those since my 2017 resolution of “not starting anything new” is almost up? 😉 )
Charlotte Mason Vol 3
The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry
We are divided on our Berry love in this home, for good reason. I will always be thankful for the ways Berry has challenged me to find joy and thankfulness in humble, quiet places. Also, this was the most I have ever read on agricultural practices! haha Seriously! This thing could be a textbook in colleges of agriculture. I actually think some of the essays were speeches given at colleges. I enjoyed reading about feminism and the economy and work of marriage. This was another book I had to discipline myself to read due to the heavy farming content.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I feel like this book got a bit more hype than it deserved, although it was a good read. Very sad.
Keeping Place by Jen Michel
I loved this book! It’s like a systematic theology of homemaking. My biggest takeaway was how Michel pointed to the fact that we are contingent on housekeeping. That made me feel less frustrated that laundry is always there, food always needs to be cooked, toilets will always need to be cleaned. We are dependent on these things for our life and God actually created us that way and called it good!
The Harry Potter Series
Everyone who knows us knows Brian rereads this series two or three times a year. After I had Daphne I was up most nights nursing and my mind simply couldn’t track through the non-fiction I was reading, so I took up Harry Potter through the night time nursings. It kept me off my phone and I could easily track a narrative. I’m so glad I reread this series as an adult! I highly recommend you read these books yourself, and when your kids are of age, they read them too. The redemption story is simply so rich in the last few chapters.
Sabbath by Heschel
This was a very interesting book to read. It’s written by a Jew, and although I wish the author saw the fullness of his “religion” in Christ, I found some practical tips on how to practice Sabbath a little better. As a type A, everything must be cleaned/organized personality, I need to grow in the discipline of Sabbath often. Others may not, but if you’re like me, you’d enjoy this book!
Fruit of Her Hands by Nancy Wilson
This is the only book I’ve read by Nancy, and so far, I won’t lie…I find her writing somewhat boring. Although, I’ve studied a lot on gender roles, so others may find this information new and helpful.
*10 Ways to Destroy Your Child’s Imagination by Anthony Esolen
A friend who read this book at my recommend told me it was harsh. Written as a satire, it shows how foolish we’ve been with our stewardship of education. I sometimes think we need the stark contrast with these topics to reveal where we’ve gone about pursuing things in wrong ways. I loved, loved this book.
*The Case for Classical Christian Education by Doug Wilson
This is a must read for any parent in our stage of life (littles about to enter in to the formal education years). My two biggest takeaways: Ephesians 6 leaves education in the hands of the father. Learning to hear and act on my husband’s thoughts in this realm has been a game changer for me this year. It’s much different from what I initially imagined for our family, but, Lord willing, it’s going to be so, so much better.
Also, the Greek word Paul uses for instruct, paideia, is a loaded concept. The early church practiced this essentially be creating schools in their church. I thought for so long that the regular pattern for educating kids was at home, but it wasn’t. It was in a local church community content. Even in Old Testament times the young kids were sent to the synagogue to be truly educated in all their God-given human capacities. This is the initial purpose of a liberal education: an education that frees you to be truly human, not just a machine being prepped to make more money than the person sitting in the cubicle beside you.
Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson
This book is along the same lines as his book Death by Living. I prefer the later more.
Standing on the Promises Doug Wilson
I wanted to learn more about the Covenant Family concept, so I read this book. While I don’t agree with everything that term encompasses, I do find quite a bit of hope in the biblical promises Wilson covers in this book. This book, along with the Why Children Matter series has drastically changed parenting in our home. A big takeaway: We are called to restore those who have fallen into sin with a spirit of gentleness. When approaching discipling our kids this way, if we can’t do it in a spirit of gentleness, we are’t qualified to discipline. If I don’t want to discipline, if I’m feeling lazy and want to let the disrespectful remark go, I’m probably actually qualified to discipline.
The Odyssey by Homer
I had read this book twice before, once when I was homeschooled in high school and once in college, but reading it for myself was a different experience. It was way more readable than I remember. I think my biggest takeaway was just how courageous and different from most teenage men Telemachus is. He went out on a search for his father in order to preserve his legacy. Most young men today would never leave the comfort of their parents home for the preservation and long term desire of protecting one’s legacy and future generations. I was impressed by the honorable example he was in this book.
Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Doug Wilson
This book was more of an elaboration on what has gone wrong in public, Progressive education over the last 100 years. He also talked more specifics of Classical Christian education. This is a great follow up to A Case for Classical Christian Education, but I don’t believe it’s a must read.
Jabber Crow by Wendell Berry
I love Berry, but I didn’t like this book. I think I would’ve liked it better had I read this in a group.
Flannery O’Connor’s Anthology of Short Stories
Ugh. Never again. I really don’t like O’Connor. Again, maybe I need to read her pieces in a group setting. I probably definitely need to read them more than once to mine out the dark grace.
On Christian Teaching by St. Augustine
This was my first introduction to reading a full length piece of Augustine’s. I was struck by his humility and how much I learned from this. I was also shocked at how much he covered topics that seem to be common and universal to Christians of all ages. For example, he talked about the abomination of becoming caught up in food/health idolatry issues. So applicable today!
I also found this fabulous gem:
“A scandalous accusation was leveled by readers and admirers of Plato, who had the nerve to say that our Lord Jesus Christ learnt all his ideas – which they cannot but marvel at and proclaim – from the works of Plato since, undeniably he lived long before our Lord’s coming in the flesh. After examining secular history the aforementioned bishop [Ambrose] discovered that Plato went to Egypt (where the prophet was then) at the time of Jeremiah, an demonstrated that it was surely more likely that Plato had been introduced to our literature of the Hebrew race, in which monotheism first made its appearance, and from which our Lord came according to the flesh, was not preceded even by Pythagoras, from whose followers they claim that Plato learnt his theology. So as a result of studying the chronology it is much easier to believe that the pagans took everything that is good and true in their writings from our literature than that the Lord Jesus Christ took his from Plato – a quite crazy idea.”
Why does this matter? It matters because the underpinnings of all of Greek and Roman philosophy about what is true, good, and beauty seemed to find it’s origin in Christian truth: the hope in Christ Himself as was proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah! Jeremiah and Plato having a coffee date? Apparently! This shows just how little I know about my historical timelines. Yikes!
Therefore, this makes me more confident in school according to a classical tradition. Christian truth helped shape this tradition way of cultivating human beings.
The Abolition of Man C.S. Lewis
These are Lewis’ essays on education and an extended evaluation of modern textbooks.
The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch
Since Brian has done a lot of thinking, teaching, and talking about becoming more low tech this year I kind of thought this was a pointless book to read, but it really wasn’t! It continued to challenge me in news ways on why and how to pursue the use of technology in it’s proper place in our family. I specifically loved the author’s distinction between rest and leisure. Leisure is often a fretful and unfruitful waste of time that doesn’t allow us to return to work in a more productive fashion. Rest, on the other hand, is productive in it’s nature, as it turns our gaze upwards towards Christ and allows us to turn back to our work in a more fruitful fashion. He also talked about how the law of Sabbath was originally given not to bind us unto death, but as a means of God’s good intentions in creating healthy patterns for our life. He went in to the history of why we are so terrible at resting in our homes, which I think is why less and less Christians fall in to the Sabbatarian group these days. Up until the Industrial revolution most people’s work was accomplished in the home. This made it so people simply had to cultivate healthy patterns of work and rest. They had to put down the pen before dinner, refuse to take up the dishtowels in the evening, for more work was coming with the new sunrise. Today, work has mostly been moved to outside the home, which means the home is mostly looked at as a place of leisure. But, as I already said, leisure is not the same as rest.
Well, there ya go! Happy reading in your new year!