I’ve been thinking about books. There are a few (very few) I want to re-read–slowly–and then write about while re-reading. Or after I’ve re-read them. Or something like that.
In December, with a sense of cozied excitement, I wrote for myself a little list of the books I’ve been thinking about since I read them the first time. My tiny list of what I hoped to read this year.
Then, of course, just as I started writing the draft for this post, New Years came, and all of the bookish and educational social media accounts I follow posted their goals for the year. Reading challenges. Twenty-five books! Fifty books! One even said her to-read list was 140 books total.
Well. It may be disappointing, but this is a very small list. And I think I will keep it small. It is tempting to rack up the number of titles to make my reading more impressive (and I don’t think they’re doing that–I think they just really like to read) but these are books I want to read and think about intently, or re-read and think about, as the case may be. So, small it is. And I don’t plan on reading anything beyond this for myself. I may pick up something extra here or there, but for the most part, this is It.
Descent Into Hell (Charles Williams)
From what I understand, Williams had a very interesting way of understanding how the spiritual and physical realms interact with one another, and this is reflected in his writings. Descent Into Hell is a glimpse of the inhabitants of Battle Hill and how their choices bring them closer or further from Hell, even while they live.
Reading this book was a surreal experience. I had this distinct feeling that everything he was talking about was way over my head, but I was still following along and understanding it. I have always thought that C S Lewis was the most concise of the Inklings, able to explain complex things very simply, but Williams seemed to surpass him in the sense that he wasn’t being concise, yet managed to convey his strange story all the same. Reading Descent Into Hell felt something like an out of body experience, which is somewhat fitting given the nature of the tale. Major questions to consider: Can something be “terribly good”? What does it mean to “bear another’s burden”? How easy is it to lie to yourself so completely that you actually forget you’ve done it? How closely do the movements of the spiritual realm touch our lives?
The Plague (Albert Camus)
I read this one while nursing Beatrice, often in the middle of the night with my phone light illuminating the pages. Camus is an Absurdist, finding no meaning in life but carrying on nonetheless. The book tells the story of a town stricken with a plague, and how it first brings horror and fear but then becomes almost boring as it becomes part of the everyday landscape; the narrator, a doctor who is trapped alongside the rest of the townspeople in a mandatory quarantine, labors to provide care to the suffering while giving kind of detached observations of the physical, emotional, and mental climate of the villagers. The problems of evil and seemingly senseless suffering as well as how moral duty is stripped of virtue and heroism in a meaningless world are two topics that garner much thought; the former I believe the author deals with purposefully, but I am not sure if the same can be said of the latter. That is partially why I want to re-read it.
How To Read A Book (Mortimer Adler)
This was our chosen read-aloud for the year of 2019, and we read maybe 1/3 of it. This is partly because of babies and renovations and things, and partly because we would read a little bit and then get to discussing it and forget to keep reading. So I don’t need to re-read this one so much as just keep going and finish it. I am anxious to continue to develop our homeschool curriculum based on his different levels of reading, as well as applying the principles to my own reading life.
The Neverending Story (Michael Ende)
I hope to re-read this to the older boys, but if I can’t find the time for that, I’ll re-read it for myself. It’s been almost four years since we read Bastian’s story for the first time. Some parts have really stuck out in my head and I have been mulling over them for the past few years. If you’re only familiar with the movie based on this book, you’re only aware of half the story: Bastian is the (somewhat pathetic) human boy sought to save the world of Fantastica, which is disappearing because the humanity it depends on for survival has stopped believing, creating, hoping, and dreaming. When Bastian is allowed to recreate Fantastica, he recreates himself as well, and descends into a quagmire of forgetfulness, hubris and betrayal where he should have had humility and loyalty. How he finds repentance and redemption from the devastating effects of his pride is incredibly moving. I am looking forward to reading this again and being able to discuss more of it with Clive and Ephraim especially. The character Gmork (probably a nihilist) will especially require some conversation.
The Mother’s Book (Mrs. Lydia Child)
Admittedly this is only half a re-read, as I have only read parts of this book. Published in 1830, Mrs. Child’s book of advice for mothers is an interesting trove of true, gleaming nuggets of wisdom, anecdotal science, old wives’ tales, and very high expectations. Every now and then I see someone lament how much easier it was to be a mother back in the nebulous “then”–this book shows that being a mother has probably never been a simple endeavor.
Tales From Moominvalley by Tove Jansson
I have a very small collection, somewhere in a corner of my mind, of books I wish I had had the imagination to write myself. This is one of those books. When I first read this collection of short stories aloud to the boys, there were one or two that really struck me, and one or two that really struck them and that they asked to read over the moment we were through with them. Jansson’s world of make-believe creatures are sometimes bewilderingly rather like ourselves. Four stories in this collection I am especially looking forward to re-reading are The Spring Tune, The Hemulen Who Loved Silence, The Fillyjonk Who Believed In Disasters, and The Invisible Child. But since they are short stories, I won’t summarize them here.
That is it–my meager little list. Now that January is almost over, I haven’t really even started on it–but since we are traveling for the month, I will probably give it a good go once February begins and we are home again.