My year in reading 2015

This year, Goodreads did all of the hard work of compiling what I read. I’m glad I faithfully added titles and dates read, even if I didn’t always add a full review.

Goodread’s Year in Books for 2015

I had set a goal to read 100 books and went slightly over at 105.  My average rating overall was 3.8, which means I was reading mostly good books with an occasional bomb.

17 nonfiction books (if I include Dante’s Divine Comedy and Shakespeare’s plays in with fiction).

The rest were fiction.  Not quite as many non-fiction as I had hoped, but I find it easier to work through a novel quickly than a nonfiction book.  Perhaps this year I will be able to read at least 25 nonfiction, which would be about 25%–not ideal, but a better percentage.

I have a couple of reading challenges I’m eyeing and a Bible reading plan I am starting, both of which I will discuss in my next post.

I hope all of you had good reading years, too.  If you’re comfortable, please share how your reading year went in the comments.  I’d love to hear your experiences with books this past year.

Blogs that I love – Modern Mrs. Darcy

Knitting

Several months ago, I discovered that I was reading articles from a new (to me) blog: Modern Mrs. Darcy (MMD).   First of all, those of us who are Jane Austen fans can’t possibly resist the name, Modern Mrs. Darcy!   Add to that, Anne, the owner of MMD, is an engaging writer who covers so many topics I’m interested in.  From book reviews to articles about Myers-Briggs personality tests** to organizing life the Kondo way  to introducing services like ePantry, there is always something of interest.  Add to that, a weekly round up of favorite links and lists and lists of good books to read, and I was hooked.

While I read some blogs for moral or theological edification and others to help me organize or learn things I need to know for work, school, or my home, there are a few blogs I read just for the sheer fun of it.  MMD is one of my fun blogs.  I hope you all enjoy it, too.

Here are just a few articles to get you started:

Books worth binge reading

3 time management rules I wish I’d learned 10 years ago

My accidental capsule wardrobe

The perfect summer reading for every Myers-Briggs personality type

Grown-ups shouldn’t finish books they’re not enjoying

 

**I adore taking Myers-Briggs personality tests.  Even though I rarely deviate from the expected result, I still can’t resist taking it again, just in case I’ve changed, and then reading all of the various personality quirks, perfect jobs, and people like me articles that go along with my personality type.  It’s fun.  Give it a try.

Book Review – The Splendour Falls

Chinon, France – with Château de Chinon on the hill

 

Emily Braden has been convinced to go on vacation with Harry, her charming but unreliable cousin.  Harry is going to the town of Chinon in France to look for the lost treasure of Isabelle, one of the Plantagenet queens, and he arranges to meet Emily in Chinon.  Unsurprisingly to Emily, Harry fails to show up on the agreed upon date.   So begins another of Suzanna Kearsley’s wonderful romantic historical mysteries.  

At first Emily thinks nothing of Harry’s absence, but as the days go by without hearing anything from him, Emily grows concerned that perhaps Harry’s failure to appear is more than just his usual forgetfulness.  As she gets to know the other guests in the hotel in which she is staying, she becomes entangled in not only the mystery of Queen Isabelle’s lost treasure, but also the more recent mystery of another Isabelle, who supposedly hid a treasure before taking her own life in World War II.

The cast of characters include a charming Frenchman and his delightful child, two Canadian brothers, an American couple, and an old retainer with secrets of his own, all of whom draw Emily further into the mysteries of Chinon.  Ms. Kearsley’s delightful descriptions of Chinon gave me the sense of being there, and I admit to spending an evening looking at photographs of the French town and reading more about this historical little gem of a city in the Loire Valley in France.  

I was alternatively entranced and dismayed by the unfolding events and kept reading “just one more chapter” until the wee hours of the morning.  The ending was eminently satisfying–the mystery of both of the Isabelles is resolved as is Harry’s disappearance.  My only disappointment is that I would have liked a bit more detail about the two Isabelles and their times.  However, all in all, it was a satisfying read for anyone who likes historical thrillers set in an exotic locale with a bit of romance thrown in, too.

 

Who wants to read Hamlet in January?

TLCOBC Bkmk

There is a new online book club, The Literary Classics Online Book Club, which plans to read a classic work of literature every other month.  The first month TLCOBC will post interesting facts and background information on their blog and social media sites while everyone reads (or listens to) the book.  Then the second month, the club will host discussions about the book for anyone to participate in.  The first book they have chosen to read is Hamlet by William Shakespeare, often considered one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.  Andrew Kern from The Circe Institute has spoken and written about this play many times and is he is in the middle of a podcast series on Hamlet (the first of which you can find here). Before listening to the podcasts I have been meaning to re-read the play and this seems like the perfect opportunity.  Besides, wouldn’t it be fun to read the play, listen to Andrew talk about it and then join in a discussion?  Who’s game?

Goals for my reading in 2015

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My reading life has improved in the last few years as far as number of books read, but this past year, I slacked off considerably in the number of non-fiction books I read, including theology and devotional books, which has always been a strong category for me.  Also, I never finished Trollope’s Barsetshire Chronicles, which I had meant to do and while I did stray a bit outside of my normal “comfort zone” of mysteries and middlebrow novels, I would have liked to have read in other genres a bit more.

While I do not like to be too tied down by strict reading plans, I have decided to create a few goals for this year in hopes of expanding my horizons a bit as well as read more non-fiction.

1.  Read at least two non-fiction books a month, especially devotional/theological books and biographies.

2.  Repeat last year’s goal to read more newish fiction (as opposed to my usual classics and 19th/early 20th century books).

3. Finish Trollope’s Barsetshire Chronicles.

4. Try books in a new genre and/or a genre I generally avoid.

5. Read through the Bible this year; it has been three years since I’ve read through the whole of Scripture.

6. A fun thing to try would be this plan to read the complete works of Shakespeare through in a year.  I don’t have time to do the whole thing in a year but perhaps over two-three years….

What are your reading goals for 2015?  More fiction?  More non-fiction?  Just more reading generally?

 

Favorite books in 2014

Thinking back over the past year, there are several books that stand out in my mind.  Some years it is difficult to pick favorites, but not this year.  Although I enjoyed many books, a few were “head and shoulders” above the rest.

17333223All the Light We Cannot See

New** fiction:  a tie between The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

I loved The Goldfinch so much that my children bought it for me in hardcover for Christmas. The prose is luminous, the story is gripping, and in the end, there is redemption.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  Now that I own the book, I can re-read it slowly and drink in all of Donna Tartt’s lovely descriptions and poignant,but never saccharine, moments.

Anthony Doerr writes about France in World War II and, amazingly, makes you care about both the French girl and the German boy about whom he centers his story.  In the end, you find yourself hoping that both of them will make it out alive and question whether they really are on opposite sides.

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Classics:  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

How I missed reading this book over the last thirty years, I will never know, but I loved every second of it when I finally opened it up this summer.  A coming of age story of a bookish, imaginative girl in early 20th century Brooklyn.

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Non-Fiction: The Magic Apple Tree: a County Year by Susan Hill

As soon as I read the first page, I knew it was going to be one of those books that you don’t want to end.  So I read it very slowly, savoring each page, like a fine wine, one tiny sip at a time, until at last, it was finished.  I will definitely read this one again and again.  Although I wish I had it in hardcover, the kindle edition was readily available and in my budget.  Perhaps one day, I will own this one in hardback, too.

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Series: The Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mysteries by Louise Penny

This was the only difficult choice this year.  I almost chose Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series instead but, in the end, Louise Penny’s books about Armand Gamache were my top choice because they are so much more than your typical mystery novel.  Ms. Penny has brought Armand Gamache, along with his wife Reine-Marie, his co-workers, and the delightfully eccentric residents of Three Pines, to life.  The books are complex character studies, amazingly well-written, and thoroughly satisfying mysteries.  I have only read the first six in the series but as each one is better than the last, I am looking forward to reading more of these in the coming year.

All in all, 2014 was an excellent year for reading.

**Written in the last few years as opposed to classics