As we begin 2019, I’d like to do as I did last year and share with you the top 5 books I read this past year. 2018 was a good year for reading books. As in previous years, much of my reading list was taken from my children’s school lists on Ambleside Online. There isn’t much time for other reading if I am to keep up with the Year 7 booklist alongside my daughter, as well as the Charlotte Mason 20 Principles Study that I am still in the middle of and will get back to, Lord willing, this month.
Also, for the first time, I kept a log of all the books that I finished during the year. It was fun to look back on books that I’d forgotten I’d read. And, yes, audiobooks count. (The copious picture books read aloud are not included.)
Top 5 Books of 2018
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.
Since reading Oliver Twist a few years ago, Charles Dickens has become one of my favorite authors. This year, I had the delight of enjoying another of his novels, David Copperfield. A-Age-12 and I listened (separately) to it on audiobook performed by Richard Armitage. I say performed because it really was a performance. Armitage is a master at capturing the personality of the characters, complete with their accents and dialects. He brought this book to life more than any other audiobook I have heard. His portrayal of the aunt and Mr. Micawber were superb. Mr. Murdstone was chillingly cold and my daughter and I find ourselves impersonating the voice Armitage gave him whenever we discuss the book.
The audiobook performance aside, the story itself is so good. As with all Dickens novels that I have read (and I have only read a few), Dickens highlights societal problems that he saw in his day. David’s mistreatment is frustrating and upsetting, yet this book feels more hopeful than Oliver Twist, as David experiences success despite a miserable upbringing. There are characters that are endearing despite their obvious flaws and there are characters that you despise. There is the folly of youth and it’s consequences, friendship, and the overcoming of difficulties with forgiveness and grace. But what surprised me most was the conversations that this book prompted between my daughter and me about the women in the story. This topic was by far our most discussed subject. The women that I felt sorry for because I saw them as oppressed, she disdained because she saw them as weak. This is the power of a living book. That two people can read the same book and have completely different reactions to it says a lot about the reader as well as the skill of the author. It is the conversation that the reader has with the author when the book is well written. The discussions that we had were about the role of women. What is a virtuous woman? How did our view or Dickens’ view of women line up with Scripture? What traits, both weaknesses and strengths, did we each share with the various women in the story? Why did David’s mother particularly, respond the way she did? How should she have responded? How should a godly woman conduct herself? Some of our answers to these questions were VERY different from one another. But by discussing our points of view we learned to see the issue from a wider perspective and, hopefully, grow in thoughtfulness and compassion. If you and your daughter like Dickens, I highly recommend reading and discussing David Copperfield together. It has been very rewarding for us.
Know and Tell by Karen Glass
“It is our part to see that every child knows and can tell, whether by way of oral narrative or written essay” —Charlotte Mason.
An integral part of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education is the child narrating what they have read. In this book, Karen Glass explains what narration is and why we should use it, how to encourage and develop it, how and when to move from oral to written narration, and how to develop written narrations into the art of writing. This book is what the Charlotte Mason community had been waiting for and I know it is one I’ll continue to come back to again and again as I educate my children.
Learning to Love The Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey
This book was my companion for the better part of the year. I read it slowly, 1-2 pages a day with plenty of time for reflection. I have gained a deeper understanding of the structure of the Psalms (Did you know that the order is not random?), it’s connection to historical narratives in the Bible, and have learned to see how the Psalms speak of Christ. I feel like this is a book I need to read over and over because I know that I have already forgotten half of what I had learned.
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DeFoe
Robinson Crusoe has made it to my top 5 list again this year. It was my third time reading it and the first time reading it aloud to G-Age-9. She loved it. It is interesting, in last years post I talked about how this book discussed “rebellion against God, feeling sorrow for our sin, the continual need for repentance, the joy and lightness we feel when we ask for forgiveness, [and] God’s providence in our circumstances.” What stood out to me this year was the importance of gratitude to God in your circumstances. Because God is sovereign, whatever circumstance we are in He means it for our good. Life could have been worse. [SPOILER ALERT] As Crusoe comes to realize, God was actually gracious to him by stranding him on an island for 24 years. Because the alternative was that he could have died with the rest of the ship’s crew. He realized that all his complaining about his circumstances displayed a lack of gratitude for God’s preservation of his life. He not only found himself on an island after being shipwrecked, but that island was filled to abundance with all he needed to survive. This is a lesson we can all do with remembering.
Beowulf translated by Burton Raffel
This was my first introduction to epic poetry and it did not disappoint. In many ways, this story points to Christ. A hero who slays the monster. Sound familiar? Yet it also points to Christ in another way. In the end, there was an end for Beowulf. A mere man, no matter how brave and heroic, cannot be the Savior. Man needs a Savior who will always slay the monster. With lots of battles and chest beating speeches, if you have never read epic poetry, this is a good one to begin with.
Books I read 2018
1. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
2. Know and Tell by Karen Glass
3. How To Be Your Own Selfish Pig by Susan Schaeffer Macauley
4. Learning to Love The Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey
5. Are My Kids On Track by Sissy Goff, David Thomas, and Melissa Trevathan
6. Augustus Caesar’s World by Genevieve Foster
7. The Story of the Greeks by H. Guerber
8. The Story Of The Romans by H.A. Guerber
9. The Mystery of The Periodic Table by Benjamin Wiker and Jeanne Bendick
10. Archimedes and the Door to Science by Jeanne Bendick
11. It Couldn’t Just Happen by Lawrence Richards
12. Galileo and the Magic Numbers by Sidney Rosen
13. The Story of David Livingstone by Vautier Golding
14. The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin
15. Whatever Happened to Penny Candy by Richard Maybury
16. The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge
17. Animal Farm by George Orwell
18. The Road to Gundagai by Jackie French
19. The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay
20. Beowulf translated by Burton Raffel
21. Watership Down by Richard Adams
22. The Life And Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum
School book re-reads to younger kids
23. Poor Richard by James Daugherty
24. Of Courage Undaunted by James Daugherty
25. The Landing of The Pilgrims by James Daugherty
26. Secrets of The Woods by William J. Long
27. Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober
28. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DeFoe
29. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
30. Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving
31. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
32. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
33. Jack and Jill by Louisa May Alcott
34. Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
35. Ben Hur by Lew Wallace
36. The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
37. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
38. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
39. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
40. Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings by Joel Chandler Harris
41. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
42. In Freedom’s Cause by G.A. Henty
43. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott