I was in a flurry of excitement the last few weeks of 2019, choosing books to read in the upcoming year. I was already in the habit of choosing and committing to reading at least one book each month JUST FOR ME, and sharing each read with a friend. However the prospect of my 2020 reading year had me extra giddy with anticipation because of the Literary Life Podcast reading challenge. I carefully chose my books, well over the allotted 20 because I could not pick just one in many categories. I frequently chose my current reading the way I chose my day’s outfit- by mood- I wanted options in each category in the hope that I could complete at least one in each. Nice strategy, right?
In theory, yes! You know what they say about the best laid plans. What do they say? I can’t remember word for word, but I think the moral of that forgotten story is that those well laid plans probably won’t happen. The new year of 2020 ushered in heartbreak. I am broken by the loss of loved one. He was a part of my every day life, family and my best friend. The pandemic has been but a blur in the midst of my grief and sorrow. In January during his brief debilitating sickness, I shared a book with him, reading for hours and narrating each chapter by his hospital bedside. The funeral was in early February. Our entire family was in deep shock and mourning. I was devastated. For nearly three months I could not read. I could NOT READ. I imagined getting rid of all of my books. Yes. I was THAT sad. I was disconnected.
Yet, I saw my unreasonableness. I knew I was wallowing. I prayed and leaned hard on Grace. And I knew from experience that reading could be a help in my time of grief, if I would just begin somewhere. I started with poetry. Finding solace in words that echoed my deep and tragic emotions. I cried and cried, filled commonplace pages. Then I read a difficult biography, one of those hard real-life stories. Next I went for ease and comfort in reading, diving deep into classic children’s stories and fantasy. I reached out to friends and neighbors and shared stories, even started a book club. I listened to podcasts about the books and stories I was reading, and was pointed to new books and stories to read. And now, the very last week of 2020, I look back and see how connecting with the living ideas in books and stories, and consequently with people, has helped me to peer through the fog of grief, and I once again have found joy in reading. I have learned and grown so much, and connected with friends and family, even total strangers, through feasting on good, living books.
As the year passed, I stacked up books as I finished reading them instead of resolving them into our library, made lists in the back of two commonplace books, and see several ‘finished’ books on audible… but I did not do a fabulous job of documenting which month I read which books. Documenting my reading is a task I hope to improve, a practical goal for 2021! Looking over this list, I am pleased that my reading was varied and full in spite of the trials of 2020, however I did not read at least one book from each of the categories in the Literary Life 2020 challenge.
Hilda’s 2020 Book Stack
- The Giver/ Gathering Blue/ Messenger/ Son by Lowis Lowry
- Mrs. Appleyard and I by Louise Andrews Kent
- The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky (audible)
- Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
- Dead Wake by Erik Lawson
- I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
- Trojan Women translated by Edith Hamilton
- The Once and Future King by T.H. White
- The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
- Adventuring Together by Greta Eskridge
- Things Fall Apart by China Achebe
- Virgil Wander by Leif Enger
- Wolf by the Ears by Rinaldi
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- A Little Boy Lost by W. H. Hudson
- The Green Dwarf by Charlotte Bronte
- Heist Society by Ally Carter
- Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
- The Book of the Dun Cow by Wangerin
- Miss Marple Meets Murder by Agatha Christie
- Betsy Tacy/ Betsy Tacy and Tib/ Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill by Maud Hart Lovelace
- Beyond the Spring: Cordelia Stanwood of Birdscare by Chandler S. Richmond
- Goodbye Mr. Chips by James Hilton (audible)
- Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
- Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Cornell
- A Light So Lovely by Sarah Arthur
- The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
- The Wind Boy by Ethel Cook Eliot
- The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
- The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood (audible)
- The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood (audible)
- O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (audible)
- Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome (audible)
- The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry
- The Little Book Room by Eleanor Farjaeon
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff
- The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
- Hallelujah: Cultivating Advent Traditions with Handel’s Messiah by Cindy Rollins
- Tales from the Perilous Realm by J. R. R. Tolkien (audible)
- Love by Elizabeth von Arnim (audible)
- D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths (audible)
- Elizabeth and Her Garden by Elizabeth von Armin (audible)
- The Winter’s Tale by Shakespeare
- Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Armin (audible)
- Til We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis
A few notes on this list: I am not sure if it is complete. There are a few titles written in the back of my Commonplace that are not dated. The Idiot and The Art of the Commonplace were begun sometime in 2019, they each took almost the entire year to finish. My memory is foggy on when I started the Giver series, I have a feeling that I read most of them in 2019 but just happened to finish the last one the first week in January. A lot of the audible books were finished while driving. When you drive alone an audio book is a welcome passenger! Several of the titles are quick and easy reads.
Now, I can’t just pop up a list of books and not expound on my experience reading them! And not share more about the ones that excited me the most! I am already drafting my next post, where I will share a bit about several of these titles. And I am deep into planning my list for 2021. I like to plan, but I also like read spontaneously. Sometimes I prefer to read privately and keep it all to myself. Most of the time I have an unbridled desire to share what I am reading with someone. Anyone? Hello?
Here are some questions for you, my friend (if you have made it to the end of this post, I must count you as bookish friend!):
- Do you plan reading, loosely or in detail, or read more spontaneously?
- Are there any books on your to-be-read stack you are most excited about?
- Do you read for pleasure or purpose, or both?