C.S. Lewis, Children's Literature, Classic Literature, Fiction, G.K. Chesterton, Kat's Reading List, Neil Gaiman, Self-Improvement, The Great Books, Theology, Writing, Young Adult Literature

What I Read in a Year: 2021

This past year has involved a lot of transitions in my personal world, and even now I am just a few months away from getting married and starting a whole new chapter in life. It’s been a wonderfully blessed time, but also a bit chaotic, and more than ever I have been appreciative of the grounding nature that books have in my life. Books can provide an escape from day-to-day stress, but they can also help to give perspective and a deeper understanding of what’s really important in life.

I think the book that will have the most lasting impact on me from this past year is Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. I had not actually heard of it before it was assigned for my book club, but it’s one of the most moving books I’ve ever read. A leader in the Dutch underground efforts during World War II and survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, Corrie ten Boom’s story is heartbreaking but I also found it to be extremely uplifting and filled with hope and extreme examples of the truth of faith. There are many passages that have stuck with me and I’m sure it is a book I will return to often in life.

A few authors I have fallen particularly in love with this year: George MacDonald, Dorothy Sayers, and Joy Davidman. MacDonald’s work had a strong impact on C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and many others, and indeed I’ve found all of his writing to be quite delightful. Mostly what I’ve read have been his more fantastical children’s stories, but he also wrote contemporary novels during his life as well. He was a friend of Lewis Carrol, and was apparently one of the forces that convinced Carrol to write and publish Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (one of my all-time favorites). Dorothy Sayers was a friend and contemporary of C.S. Lewis and I am HOOKED on her Lord Peter Whimsey mystery series. I’ve never been one for mystery books, and I usually don’t have the attention span for series these days, but I love Sayers’ writing and they have been a delightful distraction when I just need a good treat and something lighthearted but engaging. And speaking of C.S. Lewis, I recently read a biography of his wife Joy Davidman and I’m entranced by her and the influence she had on Lewis and his writing. You can read more about that in the blog post I wrote previously.

In a lot of my reading lately, I’ve been working on what I think of as “foundations.” Not just the Classics, though I’m certainly reading a lot of those, but I’ve also been revisiting books that had a great impact on me when I was younger, or books that I’ve heard referenced a lot by the other authors I admire. I’ve been pleased that I love Neil Gaiman’s work as much now as when I first read him when I was a teenager. I’ve been re-reading a lot of Chesterton and Lewis and find endless sustenance there. And I’ve been absolutely delighted by my enjoyment of such daunting tomes as Dante’s Divine Comedy and Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. My advice for longer works like these is to read them on an e-reader (so your wrists don’t get tired holding them up) and to just enjoy them as good literature; don’t try to study them like you’re going to have to write a paper. Look up enough info to give context for what’s going on in them, but then just read them as you would any other story for enjoyment.

Curious about anything else on my list? Drop a comment and I’m happy to discuss!

Literature

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Beartown by Fredrik Backman
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Great Lion of God by Taylor Caldwell
Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan
The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton
The Ball and the Cross by G.K. Chesterton
The Divine Comedy by Dante
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (audio)
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (audio)
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (audio)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (audio)
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (audio)
The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
Dune by Frank Herbert
Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman
The Odyssey by Homer
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis (audio)
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
At The Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
Home by Marilynne Robinson
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Eupéry
Clouds of Witnesses by Dorothy Sayers
Unnatural Death by Dorothy Sayers
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers
Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

Non-Fiction

T. Rex and the Crater of Doom by Walter Alvarez
J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys: the Real Story Behind Peter Pan by Andrew Birkin
I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I am Enough” by Brené Brown
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Stephen Brusatte (audio)
The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon
The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good by Elizabeth L. Cline
The Art of Character: Creating Memorable Characters for Fiction, Film, and TV by David Corbett
Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford
A Hunter-Gather’s Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life by Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein
Working on a Song: the Lyrics of HADESTOWN by Anaïs Mitchell
Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson
The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker by Mike Rose
Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria
Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott
At Home with Madame Chic: Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life by Jennifer L. Scott
The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods by A.G. Sertillanges, O.P.
Eat Smarter by Shawn Stevenson
My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs by Brian Switek
The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800 by Jay Wink

Faith

Saint Thomas Aquinas by G.K. Chesterton
Mary Magdalene in the Visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich
Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding Catholic Culture by Anthony Esolen
7 Secrets of Confession by Vinny Flynn
Dominican Spirituality by William A. Hinnebusch
The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander
Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis
The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
With Glory and Honor You Crowned Them by Matthew Manint
True Devotion to Mary by Louis de Montfort
Saint Catherine of Siena and Her Times by Margaret Roberts
Wisdom from the Lives and Letters of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal
Three to Get Married by Fulton Sheen
The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God by Fulton Sheen
The Beer Option: Brewing a Catholic Culture, Yesterday & Today by R. Jared Staudt

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