joys of reading, nonfiction, novels

Celebrate the Classics!

Celebrate the Classics: Why You Can and Should Read the Great Books (Xist Classics) by [Lee, Calee M.]

Celebrate the Classics: Why You Can and Should Read the Great Books, by Calee M. Lee. Free on Kindle.

I realize this isn’t on my list of books in the queue. What can I say? Old habits die hard. In any event, it isn’t really a book. It’s more accurately categorized as an essay, as I was able to read the whole thing in about 45 minutes last night. The lion’s share of its remaining pages are composed of book lists and potential book club discussion pages, most of which I skipped. The author begins with a funny quote attributed to Mark Twain:

“Classic” is a book which people praise but don’t read.

With that in mind, Calee Lee sets out to make the case that the praise of  certain books, which has lasted for generations, is exactly the reason why we need to consider picking one up. The essay lists several reasons why we should read (or in many cases re-read) classic books. Among them:

Classics are those books which constitute a treasured experience for those who have read and loved them; but they remain just as rich an experience for those who reserve the chance to read them for when they are in the best condition to enjoy them.

Anyone who has re-read a classic and loved it despite having found it a drudgery and a torture in high school can attest to the validiy of this.

Classic books give the sense of re-reading something we have read before even if we are reading it for the first time.

This was my experience when I recently read the excellent J.M. Barrie classic, Peter Pan. This happens of course because one of the marks of a classic is that it’s imprinted indelibly in the narrative of a people and culture, being remade and referenced so often that we already know the story. Or at least, we think we do.

Classic books never exahust all that they has to say to their readers.

The Bible, of course, is the ultimate illustration of this truism. It is also true of classic novels as well, albeit to a lesser degree. The nuances, quirks, and familiar foibles of human nature spring anew from the pages of Persuasion or Sense and Sensibility every time I read them.

Those are just a few of the points made in the e-book, Celebrate the Classics. I also think it’s wonderful that the author’s independent publishing company has an entire promotional push to encourage and invite readers to recapture, or in some cases discover, the beauty of classic literature.

I appreciate the fact that she kept it succinct and to the point rather than filling hundreded of pages with exemporaneous words when a short exposition would do.

Grade: B+

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Els' Rabbit Trails, joys of reading, just for fun, Uncategorized

Deciding when to purchase hard copy vs. digital books

Image result for book vs kindle images

Not all books are created equally, and by extension, we make judgements about how we want to invest our time and treasure into the books we consider reading.

I recently found myself making the decision to forgo purchasing a Kindle download of a book that I want to read when it is released on May 8th. The temptation to do so was strong, because acquiring it via Kindle means I could read it during our fast approaching vacation.

However, upon further thought, I decided that this particular book was one I preferred to own in hard copy so that it would be around for years to come. Digital, despite our heavy cultural and occupational dependence on it, is quite fragile.Ask anyone who has lost a treasure trove of digitally stored photgraphs!

Despite the ease of being able to carry thousands of books around with us in one digital device, hard copy books are sometimes worth the expense and the attendant sacrificing of real estate on the book shelf.

It often seems implausible to us in this technological age of easy access to information, but there have been many books written about, movies filmed depicting, and periods in history when unapproved books or literature were sought out for destruction as dangerous to possess. The book I am purchasing doesn’t appear to be remotely at risk of ever being such a book. Nevertheless, it is one that I believe is worth having in hard copy rather than digital. So, I’ll have to wait an extra week before I can order it.

Other books, such as Miss Maitland Private Secretary, are definitely for my reading purposes, best purchased in digital format or borrowed from the library. As enjoyable as it was, it didn’t rise to the level of a book to build a library with in the way novels such as Jane Eyre, Peter Pan, or If Beale Street Could Talk might.

As I considered these questions I thought of the number of books I’ve read as part of Christian mommy book clubs or must read magazine lists that I later wished I had borrowed from the library or purchased in a cheaper, less cluttery format. There are still several of them on my bookshelves, just waiting to be donated.

This thought exploration made me curious how many readers here make similar disticntions when purchasing books. How do you decide which ones are worth buying in hard copy form for your personal  library,which ones are worth buying the digital downloads, and which are best borrowed from the library?

Picture credit, Tim Challies, whose linked article dovetails with this one.

joys of reading

Organizing the reading queue.

As of May 3, our official school year will be over. Years of homeschooling have taught us, however, the value of year round learning peppered by strategically structured breaks. Although things are slowing down around here considerably, organization, planning, and substantial bits of leisure are occupying most of our time.  With my increased focus on reading and reviewing books, I decided to fly less by the seat of my pants when deciding what to read. I’m going to…plan my reading.

Rather than simply wandering the library, picking up a dozen books which look interesting, and choosing what to read as if I were throwing darts at a map, I have a list of books I plan to read in May and June and a particular order in which I plan to read them. In the interest of -perhaps- finding someone who has read or wants to read one of the books, here’s the list:

  • Miss Maitland Private Secretary, by Geraldine Bonner. Yes. I am currently reading, and thoroughly enjoying,  a novel! You can get this one for free on Kindle. I’m about a third way through it, and it’s exciting without being depressing.
  • Florida: A Short History, by Michael Gannon.
  • His Image…My Image, by Josh McDowell
  • Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations, by Amy Chua
  • The Bostonians, by Henry James.  .99 on Kindle. The review at Marginalia Bookstore piqued my interest in this one.
  • Hippies of the Religious Right, by Preston Shires. The reviews at The Practical Conservative piqued my curiosity about this one.

Let the season of summer reading begin!

 

children's books, fiction, homeschool, joys of reading, just for fun, tales from the local library

Picture Book Bonanza!

Our 9-year-old is one of the sharpest tools in the shed. Mother wit is not her strongest suit (we’re working on that), but she was blessed with a hefty bit of cognitive fire power.

I don’t just say that about all of my children. We tend to be very open and honest about gifts, talents, abilities, and how the Giver of all gifts does things the way He does for a reason. There’s a point to this particular line of thought, and it is wholly centered around books.

During our recent trip to the library, the kid surprised me by making a beeline for the picture book section. Since she has read chapter books alongside picture books from the time she was 6 or 7,  I figured she might find picture books less worthy of her time and attention. It turns out that a full school year of reading great literature, even though enjoying it,  gave her a craving for some light-hearted, brightly colored picture books.

After readng them to herself, and reading them with her 11-year-old sister, she wasn’t quite read to return them to the library until she’d had the pleasure of my voice reading them to her. I am very glad we took the time to do that, because these were all very enjoyable books:

 

phobe sounds it out

The fun thing about these books is that they were books I would never would have chosen on my own, since none of them meet the standard guidelines I tend to use when picking out children’s books.

The other interesting thing I noted was how often she gravitated towards boks with characters who looked like her. Although only two of the books listed here met that criteria, she looked at quite a few.

The lesson I took away from this excursion was that no matter how “advanced” kids are, they’re still kids, and they like kid things. Such as brightly colored picture books!

educational, joys of reading, Uncategorized

8 Habits of Every Great Reader

Circe Institute is a great place to look for educational ideas and inspiration. It is generally held in high regard by Classical homeschoolers but I think it’s a great resource for anyone interested in learning and education no matter what venue you choose for the education of your children. Here are some excerpts taken from this post at Circe Institute.

From David Hicks, author of Norms and Nobility:

“Habit” is the key word. There are some things a man should do every day: pray, repent, eat, sleep, hug his children and kiss his wife and tell them he loves them, work with his mind and back, and read. My typical day begins, as did my father’s, with a pot of coffee, the day’s Prologue and Lexionary readings. If there are no chores to perform on the farm or ranch (more likely in winter than in summer), I spend the afternoon in my library reading. At night, I take a book to bed. I cannot fall asleep without reading, and the test of the book is how late into the night it keeps me awake. I’m a slow reader, without apology, and one who looks up frequently from the page.

From Adam Andrews, Director of the Center for Lit:

Since I’m not a very good reader myself, this one is easy: good readers don’t read like me. I tend to see a book as a reading assignment that will be finished when I reach the last page. My reading life tends to look like a series of discrete accomplishments, or worse, a list of To-Do’s. As a result, I look at each book as a drop in the bucket compared to all the others I still need to read. There’s no finishing this task, so a task-oriented reader is always in the process of failing. This makes it almost impossible to start a new book when I have completed one. Who wants to be reminded that he will never finish, no matter how long he works?

The good readers that I know have a different view. Books are not assignments for them, and finishing is never their primary goal. They read for the pleasure, stimulation, and comfort of reading, and since you get these things throughout the reading process, not just at the end, they always succeed. They rarely count the books they have completed, or mark their progress in any systematic way. They take notes so they can remember the experience, but this activity is secondary to the experience itself. And most importantly, they tend to start new books right away, since each one is a new opportunity for pleasure, stimulation, and comfort.

I wish I were a reader like that. I would certainly read more, and be the better for it.

Using Mr. Andrews’ metric, I would qualify as a very good reader. I rarely know how many books I’ve read, or even how many I am reading at a given moment. And I always have a notebook with me to jot down page number, reference, or some thought that jumped out at me. Even in a children’s book, such as I am currently doing with Peter Pan.

I find reading goals alluring. However, I always lose count while never quite sure when I lost count.  These things make me feel as if I am a very bad reader.

From Matt Bianco, Head Mentor in the Circe Apprenticeship:

A great number of things are the marks of a good reader, but chief among those—and often the most overlooked—is the willingness to re-read books. A good reader is not the person who can read through books the fastest. A good reader is not the one who can read many books simultaneously. A good reader is not the one who can see the “deepest” stuff or tell you the plot line. A good reader is one who knows that in order to read well, he or she must read the book again. And again. And maybe again. Perhaps my point would be made clearer by allowing CS Lewis to say it in his words: “An unliterary man may be defined as one who reads books once only… We do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading. Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust, has been given its sop and laid asleep, are we at leisure to savour the real beauties. Till then, it is like wasting great wine on a ravenous natural thirst which merely wants cold wetness.”

I like this. Sometimes I’m good at, other times not so much, but I am more than willing to re-read a book to get its gist if I think I missed it the first time.

Currently, I am reading three books. This is not my ideal strategy, but because our two youngest kids have books they are reading for their classes, I am reading each of those, and am also reading a book which showcases one man’s take on how we should approach Scripture. I am almost finished with two of the three books, so expect a review of both of those over the next week.

At this juncture, I consider great reading/writing in three ways: Am I being challenged, learning things, or stretched in positive ways? Is it enjoyable? Does the author express its ideas- regardless of whether I agree- in a coherent and thoughtful manner?

What do you consider the marks of effective reading?

 

 

 

Culture, fiction, joys of reading

Reading through a biased lens.

It occurs to me, although I certainly intuitively knew it before today, that when we approach any piece of literature, our experience and interpretation of that literary work is highly influenced by our pasts, politics, and personal psychology.

However, when someone else’s experience of a piece of literature is so far removed from mine that I am incredulous that we even read the same piece, it gets my attention. This happened to me quite recently and although my initial conclusions about the story in question didn’t change, I appreciated the opportunity to hear another point of view.

Fortunately, the story I am referring to can be read in as little as 20 minutes, so if any one reading here is interested in the context for what follows, you can click over and read Guy de Maupassant’s The Necklace.

As I read this story, what happens in my mind is what often happens. In response to the obvious vain ingratitude by the female protagonist, various proverbs sprang to mind: “Pride goeth before a fall”. “A wise woman builds her house but a foolish one tears it down with her hands”. From the story’s opening line, I saw a protagonist who set herself and her husband up for misery of some sort or other down the road.

In contrast, I listened to a discussion where other well-read, educated readers found the protagonist extremely sympathetic, and her husband overly indulgent. To be fair, the discussion certainly included discussion of the importance of contentment, but overall my interpretation of this story was distinctly in the minority.

Rather than rage on with my particular views which were irrelevant to the story, I took a moment to examine which of my inherent biases made it hard for me to see this character in a sympathetic light. One such bias is based on the fact that I spent my formative years being raised by one parent, my father. Because of that, I am instinctively more sympathetic to the sacrifices and hard work of men who provide for their families. It has helped me tremendously in my “career” as a wife, but all biases have a potential to wall us off from other perspectives that are worthy of consideration.

I am happy to stand back enough to acknowledge this about myself, although I wonder how many of us are aware that our understanding of the world, history, and literature is largely hindered by the fact that our educational institutions treat all topics as if the world sprang into existence in 1920.

joys of reading, Uncategorized

Counter-Intuitive

The whole idea behind reading The life changing magic of tidying up, then purging our book collection by roughly 80 books, was to cut down on the number of things in the house, including books. In fact, that was the thought behind my trip to our local Goodwill store today: to donate items.

Against my better judgement, after dropping off our delivery, I parked the car and along with our two youngest children ventured inside, and straight back to our local store’s rather large book section. Alas, I returned home with more stuff:

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Because the apples don’t fall far from the tree, the kids found something that caught their eyes as well:

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Grand total for the 6 books?  $3.77.

Old habits truly do die hard…