The days are crisp, the leaves are changing... Wait, this is Texas. But it is about 20 degrees cooler today than it has been! Maybe it's not going to be blazing hot for another month after all. One can always hope.
I came up with the idea for this post as I looked at the growing stack of books on my nightstand. I used to be the type of person who finished one book before starting another. Lately, though, I've started a habit of having a few books going at a time- usually each is in a different genre- but I have so little time to read, that I don't like waiting for weeks to start a book I'm interested in. So I rotate and when I have a free minute, I grab whatever book I'm in the mood for and read that one. I'm a very fast reader, and that's a good thing considering my limited time.
I kicked off my reading with Rumsfeld's Rules on Memorial Day weekend. Here's what I read the rest of the summer.
Books to the Kids
I try really, really hard- but not always successfully- to read to the kids before bed. I have fond recollections of my dad reading to me and I want my kids to look back with the same warm memories. I have found that it is extremely important that I enjoy the book we're reading. If I don't, I seem to find a million excuses- too late, too tired, too wild- to skip our evening reading. Here are a few of that we enjoyed:
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle- This book is hilarious. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle comes up with all sorts of "cures" for childhood ailments. Like the Radish Seed Cure for the little girl who refused to bathe. When she started sprouting seeds, she hopped in the tub with no complaining. We all laughed and exchanged many a knowing glance as we read.
Raiders from the Sea- This Viking adventure was just a touch slow. We read a lot about what the characters were thinking and feeling, and the moments of action were few and far between. I probably wouldn't have noticed that if I had been reading it to myself, but reading aloud is so much slower, that some of the introspection got to be a little tedious. Justin, though, really loved it and made sure we read every night.
Journey to the Blue Moon- We've read other things by this author (The Dragon of Lonely Island) and we knew we'd love this one. In this fantasy, people are transported to the Blue Moon (which only happens once in a... well, you get the idea) to find things that they've lost. Thanks to some creative villains, the Blue Moon is a pretty treacherous place, and we had a hard time putting this one down at night.
Black Ships Before Troy- This is a beautiful adaptation of the myth surrounding the Trojan War for children. Once again, Justin is entranced. We have a nicely illustrated copy and he stares at the pictures throughout the day. "Mom, I think I like the Greeks better. The Trojans never should have stolen that woman. But why does Achilles have such a bad temper?"
Books for the Kids
I don't read everything before my kids read it, but certain things require a little extra research before I hand them over to them.
39 Clues- Very addictive, in a "I can't stop reading this even though I know it's not necessarily the best literature available" kind of way. I did stop after the first book (okay, maybe the second) because life is too short for me to read endless kids' fiction. Nathan and Megan like them, though.
The Hunger Games- Because Everyone has read it. I haven't met Everyone, but apparently, he gets around. He's the same Everyone who eats McDonald's, drinks soda at school and plays video games all day. "Can I read it, Mom, puhleease??" Answer: No. Just because something has been written- even written engagingly- and Everyone has read it doesn't mean it's worth reading. From a worldview perspective, this was confused and disturbing. I'm a little worried about Everyone.
Books to Make Me Think
I went to the Society for Classical Learning conference this summer and there were so many great speakers! I left with a long list of books to read, and I've made varying progress, in between lesson planning and other life craziness, through these three:
All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes- Ken Myers, of Mars Hill Audio, spoke at the conference, and I got an opportunity to speak to him briefly in between sessions. His insight on culture and how a Christian ought to engage it is filled with wisdom. I was especially fascinated by the way he distinguishes between pop culture (which is inherently wedded to the throwing off of a community's values) and folk culture (which is firmly rooted in a community's beliefs and standards.) I'd call this a must read. I wasn't just encouraged and challenged by this, I actually enjoyed reading it.
From Achilles to Christ- Louis Markos was another conference speaker, and if I had to pick a favorite (a tough call, to be sure) is would be Professor Markos. He spoke on CS Lewis and other topics, and I went right to the book table to buy something he had written. They were sold out. That's okay! There's always Amazon. This particular book is subtitled Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics. He makes some interesting arguments and points to a faint glimmer of God's truth- imperfect, of course- in the pagan literature. Fascinating.
The Devil Knows Latin- Professor Christian Kopff led a couple of the sessions I went to at the conference, and he was a close runner up for my favorite. He made a convincing case for the need for classical, Latin-based education in America today. (So maybe he was preaching to the choir, but it's always nice to have someone brilliant back up one's convictions.) His book, after hearing him speak, is delightful. Some of it seems a bit rabbit-trailish, but his writing comes across just as he does in person. I liked the book, but it might seem a little like inside baseball to many. It's got a great title, though! (The title, since I know you're just dying for me to tell you, comes from a story. "Ronald Knox, a wise and witty Catholic priest, when asked to perform a baptism in the vernacular, refused...'The baby does not understand English and the Devil knows Latin.'" from the book, pg. xv)
Books for Fun
I admit it. I am a fan of the thriller. I do not read romance novels, I do not read books about vampires, but I DO love a good CIA tale. I was a big fan of Vince Flynn and was saddened to hear of his premature passing. I tried a few new authors this summer to fill the void.
The Kill Artist- an Israeli undercover operative who restores great works of art. You can't really go wrong with that. I enjoyed this, but I still missed Flynn's Mitch Rapp. Maybe, though, once I get better acquainted with the series, I'll make friends with Gabriel Allon too.
The Faithful Spy- This one was a bit of a twist on the more typical spy novel. It was interesting. I haven't decided whether or not I'm a fan of Berenson's John Wells yet. I was able to take a couple of weeks on this book- not something I can say for Vince Flynn. I usually read those in a day or two. The book was engaging, but just not of the "I can barely keep my eyes open but I still can't put this book down" variety. I plan to read more in this series as well, though.
A Book from the List
I've had a list of books that I've wanted to read for a long time. Every once in awhile, I finally get around to reading one. Some of them I've hated (Moby Dick) others I wondered why I took so long to discover such a great read (Oliver Twist.) This one was in the second category.
The Iliad- I read the Lattimore translation, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had thought, for some reason, that it was going to be hard to read, but I found it entertaining and beautiful, and the language really wasn't difficult. (Thanks, Dad, for having me memorize verses in the King James Version when I was three.) I was delighted that reading it didn't feel like a chore, and I could, in fact, see myself reading this again.
So that's what I read this summer! I'm always open to book recommendations (although my list is long and getting longer.) Have any favorites I should try?