For 2022, I made a nice, meaty list of great books to read. And in a year when so many things I had hoped or planned for did not get done, it felt amazing to finish my last book on the list on December 30th!
I never read as widely as I have these past three years since I began setting reading goals (2021 recap, 2020 recap) and I am loving it. I feel like a more interesting person to myself and I feel better able to home educate my kids as well as be a good example to them of a lifelong learner. To me, it has nothing to do with the number of books read, but rather that I'm feeding myself a rich feast of ideas.
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Below are the books I read as part of my plans for the year and a few comments about them.
I read this to see if it might be an interesting read for my son, but it wasn't as exciting as I had hoped. I still enjoyed it. It is about two recent high school graduates on a long, difficult canoe trip.
The Man Who Walked Through Time: The Story of the First Trip Afoot Through the Grand Canyon by Colin Fletcher
My mom had read this for a local book club and passed it along to me which is why it ended up on my list. I don't recommend it. Too many stories about peeing and hiking naked (yes, naked!).
The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry (And discussing via voxer with a friend)
I had heard so much about these essays over the years. My husband even wrote an academic paper about them. So when a friend suggested we discuss them together, I was game. However, I really don't like reading essays and I'm not a huge Wendell Berry fan, so it was hard for me to get through it. It made me think and I'm grateful for having read them.
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate―Discoveries from A Secret World by Peter Wohlleben
This is not my favorite genre, but it was a very interesting book. I've found myself thinking repeatedly about many of the things I learned from it. It has also made me more interested in noticing trees when I'm out in nature.
The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson (homeschool preread)
My son is using this book with a Sabbath Mood Homeschool guide for his science this year so I was glad to preread it.
The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow
This book was long but amazing! In a nutshell, it examines archeological evidence about how civilizations, agriculture, economies, and government have interacted and developed to modern times. It upends many conventional views about why things are the way they are today. So worth every one of its 700+ pages.
The Book of the Ancient Greeks by Dorothy Mills (homeschool preread)
I bought this book for homeschooling. It was a little dry at times and a few chapters I would not assign, but we still may use it at some point.
American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm (Young Readers Edition) by Gail Lumet Buckley
This was the young reader's edition of this book and I think it affected its readability. The content was amazing but it didn't flow well. So I think it would be a more challenging book for a younger child to read all at once. I plan to assign this over the next 3 years of our history rotation.
The Young Oxford History of Britain and Ireland by Mike Corbishley, et. al. (homeschool preread)
I thought this book would be the reason I didn't complete my reading challenge this year. However, when I finally started reading it I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging it was and how much I learned from it. I will be giving this to my son at some point--probably next year.
Breaking Ground, Breaking Silence: The Story of New York's African Burial Ground by Joyce Hansen & Gary McGowan
I preread this before giving it to my son to read this year. I love books like this which detail archeological finds and what they tell us about how people lived and this one was no exception. My son and I continue to make connections with this book and the other books we are reading this year as we study colonial America.
Great Tales from English History by Robert Lacey
Originally I bought this because I thought it might make a good history spine. After flipping through it, I didn't think it would work well for that but I decided to read it for fun. Some of the stories were a slog for me but overall I really enjoyed it and after reading The Young Oxford History of Britain and Ireland also, I feel like I have a much better grasp of the chronology of British history.
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
This was a reread from many years ago but I wanted to see if it were suitable for my kids. What an amazing story! I'm choosing more adventure narratives for next year because they are inspiring, educational, and exciting to read.
The French and Indian Wars: 1660-1763 by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier (homeschool preread)
We read this during morning time to get a brief overview of this time period. It wasn't that special, but I liked that it was short, but detailed.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Long, but I loved it! Some parts were slow but I got totally into it as I read on. I loved how the novel was teaching the wider world about whaling and I was fascinated by what was known and unknown at the time about whales.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
This was a very compelling read for me. I didn't love it but I am still thinking about it months later. I enjoyed sharing the movie with my husband (and explaining all the backstory that the movie leaves out, of course!)
The Odyssey by Homer (
I planned this to be a reread of the Fagles Translation, which I own, but because I read so much better with an ebook I borrowed the Emily Wilson translation and I adored it! It was really enjoyable for me to read. I enjoy her straightforward style which she explains is more true to the way it was originally recorded.
Poetic Edda translated by Lee M. Hollander
My husband bought me this book years ago because I am interested in Scandinavian folklore. I am so glad I was finally able to read this. However, I didn't enjoy the translator's pedantic comments and found the book difficult to get through. But I did learn about some other legends and will continue to learn more about this subject.
Persuasion by Jane Austen
There is a lot of Jane Austen I've never read so I'm working on it now. Two other friends also read Persuasion this year and we all loved it. It is so stressful how no one is able to tell their love interests how they feel. I would go crazy in that society!
Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
I was interested in learning more about this revolt and I knew that the book had won a Pulitzer Prize. I was shocked at how much I disliked it. After reading so much amazing fiction centering around characters who were enslaved, I thought Styron's portrayal of Nat Turner was awful, one-dimensional, and racist. I had no idea that this book was so controversial for the same reasons I disliked it. And I learned very, very little of historical value.
Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
Several people raved about how delightful this book was. WOW! It was the most enjoyable little romp imaginable. Definitely cheesy, but so fun. Read this when you need a pick-me-up.
The Return of the Native Thomas Hardy
I think I still love Far from the Madding Crowd a little more than this one, but I was hooked from page one. I loved watching the movie adaptation with a young Catherine Zeta-Jones too!
Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
The only way I could get this book for free was as an audiobook, which isn't my preferred method of reading. It was ok for me.
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
I read this because Charlotte Mason mentioned it a few times in Ourselves. I am not a big Dickens fan and this seemed to have all the elements that make me not love Dickens. However, I don't hate Dickens, it just isn't my favorite. I got very invested in the story and enjoyed how all the characters and relationships came together at the end.
Redgauntlet by Sir Walter Scott (or another Waverly novel)
This is no Ivanhoe, but I did enjoy it. This was another title I picked because Charlotte Mason mentioned it in Ourselves because the main character's best friend was a great example of friendship.
This I Believe edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman
Self Improvement / Parenting / Homeschooling
Short read. It was ok but not very memorable to me.
For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer-Macaulay
This is the book that has brought so many to the Charlotte Mason method but I had never read it. This was another one that I could only get as an audiobook but it was a great way to start out the year.
Formation of Character by Charlotte Mason
Finally, I have finished the Charlotte Mason homeschool series. And just in time for me to become more of an unschooler. Hahaha! Regardless of how I choose to homeschool, Mason's writings have deeply affected me and my ideas about the purpose of education and the best methods to practically give my children a wide and liberal education.
New-to-Me Fiction WritersThe Bat by Jo Nesbo
I read this book to see if I liked nordic noir and became a huge Jo Nesbo fan. I read 7 more in this series this year. I could have read them all but I need to pace myself. They are dark but very exciting detective fiction.
Ok, just to clarify, I didn't actually complete my list to the letter. I opted not to read this book because I realized I couldn't borrow it from anywhere and I didn't want to buy it. I would still love to read this one someday because it looks good. However, I did read another new-to-me writer:
Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Someone recommended this on Reddit and I was intrigued. It was not my normal genre but it was a creepy, exciting read. Not amazing, but fun for a change.
Sunstorm by Asa Larrson
This was very average for me. It was another foray into nordic noir but it was blah.
The Witch Hunter by Max Seeck
My third nordic noir choice for this year and while it was a page-turner, the ending fell flat for me and the main character was not compelling.
The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada
This was a novella that I think I read about in the Washington Post. It wasn't bad. I didn't love it but I enjoyed it.
State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny
As a Louise Penny fan, I was interested to try out this collaboration but the genre of political thriller is not my favorite. It was only ok.
The Artists of Wyeth County: Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth and Andrew Wyeth by W. Barksdale Maynard
I bought this book because I wanted to learn more about Howard Pyle this year. Unfortunately, it was mostly about Andrew Wyeth. I did learn about the Brandywine school and how Howard Pyle's influence trickled down to students of his students.
Howard Pyle: Writer, Illustrator, Founder of the Brandywine School by Henry C. Pitz
This was another purchase and it taught me so much about Howard Pyle's life and legacy. Now I really want to go to the Deleware Art Museum and see his art in real life. I think I may plan a personal retreat there sometime this year.
The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff
This was a reader recommendation and it was a very thought-provoking read. Living in a college town with a professor for a husband it was super relevant to me and I'm glad that I read it. At times, it felt like it didn't need to be a whole book (as it was based on an Atlantic article) but it was fairly easy to read.
The more I read, the more I want to read. No matter what is going on with my life, I am still finding time to read. I keep wanting to challenge myself more and more! I know eventually, I'm not going to hit my goal, but I'm just enjoying my self-education so much. And it keeps me from wasting time mindlessly consuming rubbish online. Reading has become my favorite hobby.