Isolation’s got us all living that introvert life, and while I know it’s incredibly hard for some, I’m not too bothered by it (yet). Of course I miss being able to see friends and family, go to my church, shop in actual stores, and eat out at my favorite restaurants. But overall, I’m kind of okay with having this time to catch up on all the introvert things I love to do that there’s not always time for during normal, busy life.
I’m baking and cooking all of the things, which is mostly fun although I’m desperately feeling the need for a date night out. I’m doing (some) cleaning and organizing. We’re taking the dog for walks almost every day. I took the time to blog again (voila!). And I’ve been reading – a tried and true favorite pastime.
Last year was actually the best reading year I’ve had in a long, long time. I read 33 books in 2019, which was huge for me! One of the things that made a difference for me was reading more audiobooks. My now husband and I lived 45 minutes apart last year, so there was a lot of drive time going back and forth between our houses to listen. I’ve really come to love and enjoy audiobooks as a regular form of reading. I still listen quite a bit on commutes to and from work, while I’m cooking/baking/doing dishes/taking a walk, etc. It’s a fun way to enjoy a book while I’m still occupied with other tasks.
The other thing that made a difference was that I started listening to the “What Should I Read Next?” podcast by Anne Bogel. I love the format of the podcast, and learning about so many different books is exhilarating to me. I plowed through all 200+ episodes of the podcast last year (again, lots of car time), and it really gave me a new fervor and excitement for my reading life. It may seem counter-intuitive to listen to a podcast about books instead of just reading the books, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air that made me increasingly excited to read and read more broadly.
This year, I decided to take on the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2020 Reading Challenge, also from Anne Bogel’s website. The challenge provides 10 different categories of books to read, and you will have read a total of 12 books when you complete the challenge. My personal goal for the year is to read 40 books, but I thought also participating in this challenge would help me choose new and different books that may be a little out of my comfort zone or books that have been waiting to be read on my shelf for quite some time.
I decided to complete one book from the challenge per month. This allows me to space out the reading challenge experience while I can also read other books outside of the challenge in between. I also pre-picked my books for the challenge at the beginning of the year, so I know what’s coming and I can make decisions about what I want to read when. So far, all of the books that I’ve read for the challenge have been the good, old print versions, but I’m definitely open to trying some of them via audiobook.
I thought I’d give you a little update on what I’ve read so far this year:
- Category: Three books by the same author.
- Book: Crazy Love by Francis Chan
For this category, I chose Francis Chan as the author because a) I love what I’ve read or heard of his work and b) I already had one book on my shelf by him that I haven’t read yet and one book on my wish list that I’ve been wanting to read.
I started by reading Crazy Love. This was a re-read. I’ve read it at least twice before this year. But there’s something so good and so challenging about it that I think no matter how many times I read it, I will get many, many things out of it. It’s worth reading annually. I thought this would be a great book to start the year off.
If you want to be inspired and challenged to full out live your life for Jesus and you want to search your heart for ways you can make a difference for Him, then this is your book. I have so many underlines and stars and brackets in the margins of this book. I’ve had so many moments of shame and embarrassment and humility when reading this book. I’ve enjoyed a lot of sweet times of prayer and endured a lot of moments of stubbornness, knowing I’m not living the way Christ has called me to live and selfishly not wanting to change.
It’s not an easy read. It’s hard. But I would highly recommend it. And hopefully this becomes a good annual practice for me to start my year off right by reviewing this book and it’s principles.
- Category: A book in translation.
- Book: The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
My junior high self is squealing with glee. I fangirled real hard over The Phantom of the Opera back in the day. I think I saw the movie with Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler first and quickly became obsessed. (I may have even written a parody of sorts – if you can call it that – in the ninth grade….but no one needs to hear about that. Trust me.) I’ve seen the theater production several times over the years and still dearly love both the movie and the soundtrack. But I’d never read the book, even though I’ve owned it for some time.
The book was written in French in 1910 by a journalist/suspense writer, which is important to note because the book takes on a journalistic nature in certain parts which had me asking, “Wait. Is this real???” After reading the book, I did a little research, and it seems that the book is mainly fictional but perhaps inspired by some true events and maybe also the author’s belief that the Phantom was real. Weird stuff. Regardless, I really enjoyed the book. The main story line had just enough similarity to what I was familiar with to make it easy enough to follow, but also valuable differences between the two, allowing for some plot gaps in the musical to be better explained and creating a few more characters to round out the list.
I found this to be really engaging and enjoyable. Plus points – I finished this book while we were on our Valentine’s weekend getaway to snowy Lake Geneva, so it was kind of fun and eerie and romantic to finish this odd love story while looking out on an abandoned frozen lake. Setting is everything. 😉
- Category: A book recommended by a source you trust.
- Book: Persuasion by Jane Austen
So not that I really needed this book to be recommended to me because it’s by Jane Austen and I already owned it, but shockingly enough, I hadn’t read it yet, and after listening to Anne Bogel’s podcast and hearing her say multiple times that Persuasion is her favorite Jane Austen novel, I knew I had to finally give it a read. Oh, Jane. I’m so sorry it took me so long to read this slim, little book of yours because it’s incredibly endearing.
I think this is the third book by Jane Austen that I’ve read even though I’m pretty sure I own every book she’s ever written. (I adore Pride & Prejudice, like all good people should, and I’m pretty certain I’ve read Sense & Sensibility, although I have a hard time remembering that one and should obviously go back and read it again….) Persuasion was lovely. As most of Austen’s novels seem to go, it’s a love story of sorts with a man and woman at odds against each other and very colorful characters who add to the dysfunction.
I think what made this book a little different for me was that it featured a slightly “older” main character. I say this tongue in cheek because she’s like 28, but in that day in age, unmarried women approaching 30 were basically written off as spinsters. As someone who’s right in that age range and who got married at 28, I liked the slightly later in life love story. I also liked that Anne, the main character, mainly knew what she wanted throughout the entire story; she was merely waiting to see if it was possible for her to have. I liked her certainty and decisiveness in this because you are led to believe that this is not a quality that she always possessed, so while she continues to listen to and take into account the counsel given by others, she also trusts her own instincts and uses that wisdom and judgement to ultimately make her decisions. I appreciated this very much.
Fun pairing – I read The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn on audiobook just a couple of weeks before reading Persuasion. This was a wonderful book about Jane Austen and time travel (what?!?) that would be so fun to read alongside or before or after any of Jane Austen’s novels. I loved reading these books in such close proximity to each other, and I think it made me appreciate Jane Austen all the more.
In general, I’ve read 13 books so far this year. Here are a few of my favorites thus far:
- Crazy Love by Francis Chan – as previously mentioned
- Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer by Priscilla Shirer – great book that kept my attention the entire time and helped me evaluate my prayer life
- The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – I love me a good unreliable narrator, and this book is so twisty!
- The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn – as previously mentioned
- Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery – no description needed 🙂
- Persuasion by Jane Austen – as previously mentioned
If you’re still trying to find ways to live out your quarantine life, hopefully you’ll find this post to be a little inspiring and you’ll want to grab one of those “to be read” books off of your own shelf. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here trying to kick my cat out of my favorite reading chair.