Friday, December 28, 2018

Stacy Leigh's 2018 Book List!

40 books!! I can’t tell you how excited I am to actually have a list of 40 books that I read this year! (If Josh's dissertation counts, then 41, because I read and edited that whole 200+ page beast this year, too.) I was a voracious reader as a kid, but as I got older school and life kind of killed my love of reading. I do remember getting absorbed in a great book here and there over the years, but it wasn’t in any way consistent.

Last fall, I attended a Wild + Free homeschool conference (which I HIGHLY recommend to my homeschooling friends), and was challenged there to read classic literature for myself. It’s been amazing. I mean, of course they're going to be good--classics are classics for a reason, right? (One BIG exception being my least favorite book of the year, which I discuss below.) My reading picked up even more when we moved to Malawi in July, because here we have limited internet and a house helper who does all of my cleaning (so I actually have some down time).

Moving to Africa this year, I also wanted to intentionally read more African and African-American literature. Homegoing, The Woman Next Door, Swing, A Mighty Long Way, and Born a Crime all fit into this category. King Leopold’s Ghost, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Daring Heart of David Livingstone, and Fear on Every Side, although not written by black authors, also deal with the history of Africans and African-Americans. I’m eager to continue learning more about this great continent where I am a guest, and the people from here, in 2019.

Josh and I have for several years read at night to the kids before bed. We take turns reading to the boys and girls every other night, so we both always have a different book going with each room. We’ve been intentional about reading mostly classic children’s literature to them, and it has been fun for me to experience these books with them, especially since I didn’t read most of them as a kid myself.

I’ve read the suggestion several times that one should always have at least 3 books that you are reading at the same time, but that just doesn’t work well for me… at least not in the conventional sense of having 3+ physical books stacked up on my nightstand or end table. 

I have, however, realized that I generally do have 5 books going at the same time, but they are all in different ways. I always have an Audible audiobook that I listen to as I drive, fold laundry, or do other things where my hands are occupied but my mind is less so. I was generously given a gently used Kindle just before we moved here, and I like to always have a book going on it, generally out in the living room. I keep a physical book by the bed for reading in the evenings, and, as I said earlier, I always have a book that I’m reading with the boys and one with the girls. I hope that helps someone who may be struggling with how to read multiple books at a time.

I debated for a long time how to share the books I’ve read this year. Should I just do a top 5? Should I say something about each of them? Should I categorize them by genre, in order of how much I liked them, or some other way? I decided I would share a bit about my top 5, and then give a list of books categorized by how I read them. I hope you enjoy.

#1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Hands-down my favorite book of the year. If you’ve never read it, it isn’t anything like you expect. It was a gripping warning about taking science too far in our own arrogance, which is perhaps even more applicable today than ever.

#2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
I listened to this one on Audible, and could NOT stop. It was incredible. I’ve heard that the way the characters’ accents are written can make reading it difficult, but listening to it was fantastic.

#3. Are My Kids on Track by Sissy Goff
It is impossible for me to exaggerate how helpful this book was for parenting. It walks parents through the emotional, social, and spiritual milestones that all kids need to reach in order to be healthy, well-functioning adults, and how to help them reach them. This is a book I will turn to again and again as the kids grow, and one I highly recommend having a physical copy of for easy reference.

I picked this up on a whim at the gift shop of Little Rock Central High School when we stopped there this summer, and I am so glad I did. I think many of us who grew up in predominately white communities have a lot of gaps in our education and understanding of the civil rights movement. I had never heard of what happened at Little Rock Central High School, but I’m so thankful that Josh insisted we stop when passing through Little Rock. The book is not only educational and eye-opening, but it is well-written and hard to put down.

Come on, it’s Harry Potter. The girls and I spent 2 years reading through the whole series at bedtime, and loved every minute of it. We really, really struggled to pick a new book when we finished this, and halfway considered just starting the series over from the beginning again.

And here are a few I didn’t care for:

#3. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I’m sorry to all of the LIW fans, but I read this book to the boys and could hardly stand it (although JJ seemed to enjoy it, so it was worth it). The lengthy descriptions of how things were done or made dragged on forever and were so boring. We persevered with the series into Farmer Boy, and thankfully it was much more enjoyable.

#2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This is a WWII story that has a lot of interesting elements, but it was just sloooowww. It doesn’t help that I accidentally had my Audible set to half speed for the first half of the book. Even so, the plot moved slowly and resolved unsatisfactorily.

#1. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
I blame Josh for this one. He said he read it in high school, but didn’t remember much about it except that a plane full of boys crashes on a deserted island and they have adventures. I knew it was a classic, and thought it sounded like a fun read with the girls. I have never hated a book so much in my life, and probably wouldn’t have finished it if I hadn’t been reading it aloud to the girls. I get that it was an illustration of the darkness of human nature, but it was horrifying to read. And it bothered me that it never told where the boys were originally coming from or going to or how it was possible that ALL the adults were killed in the crash but none of the kids.

Here’s the whole list:

(I specify the reader on these because sometimes there are multiple versions, and the reader can really make or break a book.)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, read by Anne Hathaway
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, read by Rosamund Pike
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, read by Simon Prebble
Give Them Grace by Elise Fitzpatrick, read by Tavia Gilbert
Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford, read by Jaimee Draper
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, read by Dominic Hoffman
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, read by Zach Appelman
King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild, read by Geoffrey Howard
The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch, read by the author
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, read by Mary Sarah
Crossing the Borders of Time by Leslie Maitland, read by the author

(A great resource for finding good deals on kindle books is's daily deals emails. You tell it which literary categories you are interested in, and it only sends you suggestions from your categories.)
The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas
Swing by Alexander Kwame

Physical Book
Fear on Every Side by Jonathan Newell (bought here in Malawi and isn't on Amazon)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Are My Kids on Track? by Sissy Goff
The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick
The Autism Revolution by Martha Herbert

Read to Kids
Peter Pan by JM Barrie
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Long Story Short by Marty Machowski
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The BFG by Roald Dahl

No comments:

Post a Comment