Tag Archives: Reading to Know Bookclub

Classics for 2014

I’m slowly making my way through some self-selected classics for the Classics Club, a challenge which I started working on last year and that runs for five years.  I updated my list last night, so I thought it worthwhile to share here in my post on classics I’d like to read in 2014.  The asterisks denote specific titles I’m going to try to read this year.



Alcott, Louisa May.  Little Men.

Alexander, Lloyd.  The Book of Three.*

Austen, Jane.  Emma.

Blyton, Enid.  Anything I can get my hands on by her. Read aloud–The Magic Faraway Tree October/November 2012

Brontë, Anne.  Agnes Grey.

Brontë, Charlotte.   Jane Eyre. *  This will be a re-read of my favorite required novel from high school.

—.  Villette.

Brontë, Emily.  Wuthering Heights.    I remember not caring for this much when I read it as a teen.  I want to see if my opinions or tastes have changed.

Burnett, Frances Hodgson.  A Little Princess. Read aloud February/March 2013.

Cather, Willa.  O Pioneers!  I think this is a re-read, but maybe I’m mistaking reading the novel for watching the movie.

Cooper, Susan.  The Dark Is Rising.

Dickens, Charles.  Great Expectations.  I was required to read it in the ninth grade, a task which I did rather joylessly (and took a daily quiz over five chapters!), and I’m sure I missed a lot.

—.   A Christmas Carol.Read aloud November/December 2012

Enright, Elizabeth.  The Saturdays.*

Estes, Eleanor.  The Moffats.  Read aloud January 2013.

Forbes, Esther.  Johnny Tremain.

Gaskell, Elizabeth.  Cranford.

George, Jean Craighead.  Julie of the Wolves.

Goudge, Elizabeth.  The Little White Horse.  Read aloud October/November 2012.

Hugo, Victor.  Les Miserables.  I tried to read it a few years ago, but I failed.  This time I think I’ll go with an abridgement.  Finished (unabridged!) January 6,  2013.

Jewett, Sarah Orne.  The Country of the Pointed Firs.  I read something by Jewett in a graduate English class I took several years ago (maybe A Country Doctor), and I liked it.  I enjoy Regionalism, so I’m going to read what some consider to be her best work.

Juster, Norton.  The Phantom Tollbooth Read aloud June 2012.

Keller, Helen.  The Story of My Life.

L’Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time.  Re-read, but it has been about 25 years since the first time I read it.

Lindbergh, Anne Morrow.  Gift from the Sea.

MacDonald, George.  The Light Princess.  We listened to the audiobook of this several years ago, and I really enjoyed it.  I want to read it myself.

—.  The Princess and the GoblinRead aloud February/March 2013.

Meigs, Cornelia.  Invincible Louisa. 

Norton, Mary.  The BorrowersRead aloud August 2013.

O’Brien, Robert C.  Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMHRead aloud May 2013.

O’Dell, Scott.  Island of the Blue DolphinsRead May 2013. 

Orczy, Baroness.  The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Porter, Gene Stratton.  Freckles.  Read May/June 2012.

Ransome, Arthur.  Swallows and Amazons.*

Richter, Conrad.  The Light in the Forest.

Rowling, J.K.  Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

de Saint-Exupéry, Antoine.  The Little Prince.

Sayers, Dorothy.  One of her mysteriesRead Whose Body? June 2012.

Smith, Betty.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Smith, Dodie.  I Capture the Castle.*

—.  Smith, Dodie.  The One Hundred and One Dalmatians.*

Streatfeild, Noel.  Ballet Shoes.

Taylor, Sydney.  All-of-a-Kind Family.*

Twain, Mark.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.*

—.  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  It’s May’s Reading to Know Bookclub pick, and I’m the hostess.  Read May 2012.

—. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.*

—.  The Prince and the Pauper.

Wharton, Edith.  The Age of Innocence.  Re-read.

—.  The House of Mirth.

Wodehouse, P.G.  A Jeeves and Wooster novel. Jeeves and the Tie That Binds.  (April 2012)

Wyss, Johann David.  The Swiss Family Robinson.*


This year I’m doing something new: I’m hosting an in-real-life classics bookclub!  There’s not much I enjoy more than talking about books, so I was inspired this past November to ask around on Facebook if any of my IRL friends were interested in starting a classics bookclub in 2014, and more than a dozen said yes!  We’ll be meeting every other month starting in February, and these are the books we’ll be discussing:

February–Pride and Prejudice
April–Gone with the Wind
June–Their Eyes Were Watching God
August–Moby Dick
October–Jane Eyre
December–The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
There’s an overlap of only two books between my Classics Club list and my IRL bookclub list because I took suggestions from the bookclub members, of course.  Roughly half of these books are re-reads for me.  (I say roughly because I think I read most of Gone with the Wind as a teen, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t finish it.)

Reading to Know - Book Club

This year I also plan to participate when possible in the 2014 Reading to Know Bookclub, which will, for the second year in a row, be made up exclusively of classics.  Many of the months I won’t participate because I’ve read quite a few of the selections in the past few years, but I am hosting the discussion in July, and the book comes straight off my Classics Club list–101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith.
Reading through this many denser works will require discipline on my part, but I’m ready for the challenge!

L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge 2014

L. M. Montgomery Reading ChallengeOne reason I LOVE January is because it brings Carrie’s annual L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge!  This is Carrie’s fifth year to host the challenge and my fifth year to participate.  (You might say Carrie and I bonded over all things LMM.  ;-) )  Most of my long-time friends know how much I love Anne Shirley and her world, and that love includes most of L.M. Montgomery’s other books.  This year I’m jumping into the challenge with the second and possibly the third of the Emily books, Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest.

Reading to Know - Book ClubThis month’s selection for Carrie’s Reading to Know Bookclub just happens to be Montgomery’s The Blue Castle, which I will re-read if time and opportunity presents itself.
If you’re looking for more L.M. Montgomery inspiration, here’s a list of links to all my book reviews and LMM ruminations, including one of my favorite posts ever, Prince Edward Island Reminiscences, which is about mine and Steady Eddie’s honeymoon on PEI.

Emily of New Moon review

Jane of Lantern Hill review

The Blue Castle review

Pat of Silver Bush review

Mistress Pat review

Magic for Marigold review

Kilmeny of the Orchard review

A Tangled Web review

L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, adapted by M.C. Helldorfer review (also thoughts on what makes a good adaptation)

PEI Reminscences, a post in which I share pictures and memories of mine and Steady Eddie’s honeymoon on the Island

L.M. Montgomery Meanderings, a post in which I reminisce about how I became such a fan

Are you joining in this year’s challenge?  What are you reading?

Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot

Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot is one of those books I’ve meant to read for a long, long time.  In fact, it is one I almost can’t believe I haven’t already read!  I’m really glad that Barbara gave me the virtual nudge to read it through this month’s Reading to Know Bookclub!  Rather than write a cohesive book review, I’m going to share my thoughts on this one in bullet points:

  • The tone of this story somehow caught me off guard.  I haven’t read a whole lot by Elliot–Passion and Purity as a young adult, and miscellaneous devotionals here and there are pretty much it, to my recollection.  I somehow expected this one to be much more heart-wrenching from a personal standpoint.  Perhaps it is because Elliot was telling the story of all the missionaries, not just the story of her little family.  I always looked at these women with such awe, as well as a little bit of dread–to be widowed at such a young age?  Unthinkable!  Elliot’s tone is very reserved, almost distant.  I never got much of a glimpse of the real impact Jim’s martyrdom had on her life.  Although I think this probably says more about me than it does about the Elliots or any of their workfellows, I just cannot imagine how devastating this would’ve personally been.  Instead, what we get from them is their devotion to the cause of Christ, with very little emotion at all.   This paragraph sums up the impact according to Elliot:
The other wives and I talked together one night about the possibility of becoming widows.  What would we do?  God gave us peace of heart, and confidence that whatever might happen, His Word would hold.  We knew that “when He putteth forth His sheep, He goeth before them.”  God’s leading was unmistakable up to this point.  Each of us knew when we married our husbands that there would never be any question about who came first–God and His work held first place in each life.  It was the question of true discipleship; it became devastatingly meaningful now.
  • I was struck somehow how mundane and even boring (or at least terribly unspiritual)  much of their work in Ecuador was.  This bit reminds me a lot of homeschooling.  (I’m not in any way equating my life with theirs, but the fact is that no matter where our place of ministry, there’s a whole bunch of “maintenance” that goes into it.  It’s definitely not all mountaintop experiences!)  So much of what I do here at home is my work–”the only person who can cope with all this is the [mother] herself.”  
Although Roger had come to preach the Gospel there is much a missionary must accomplish and learn before he can expect to make successful contact with a primitive tribe.  And even after he had mastered the language, built himself a home, gained the confidence of the Indian, he still has to spend a large amount of time in what is best described as maintenance.  The jungle grows with incredible speed and therefore has to be kept at bay by the constant use of the machete.  The generators that are used for current at the bigger stations break down with irritating frequency, roofs leak in the hard tropical rain, and the only person who can cope with all this is the missionary himself.
  • I was struck by the devotion that the missionaries were taught as children–all of the ones for whom Elliot gives childhood details were brought up in very upright, consecrated households.  They understood the drive to share the Gospel from a very young age.  It really made me think about how I’m raising my own children.  
  • I really understood the importance of Nate Saint’s ministry.  Without him, really none of the ministry of the other missionaries could’ve happened.  
  • Like Kisses from Katie, this book makes me question my own passion for Christ and devotion to Him.  Could I do what any of them did?  I know I haven’t been called to do what any of them did (or, in the case of Katie Davis, is doing), but would I have what it takes?  Certainly not in my own strength.  
I really enjoyed reading this book, and I was always eager to read just one more chapter.  I have seen the movie The End of the Spear (Barbara’s review here), but I’d like to go back and rewatch it now that I’ve read Through Gates of Splendor.  I’d also like to read more of these missionaries’ stories and watch more of the documentaries that have been made about them.  Barbara offers quite a few resources in this post.
Thank you, Barbara and Carrie, for the push to read this book.  I’m so glad I did!

Reading to Know - Book Club

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

When Carrie contacted me about being a host for the Reading to Know Bookclub one month, I suggested that she look at my Classics Club booklist and just pick something. She picked Scott O’Dell’s 1960 Newbery Award winning Island of the Blue Dolphins, and at the time I had little interest in it. (Confession: it made my TBR list because I want to read all the Newbery winners and because I felt like I should read it.) Now that I’ve read it, I am so glad she did! This work of juvenile historical fiction is exactly what historical fiction should be, in my opinion: based on historical fact, but detailed and imaginative enough to flesh out what might’ve happened.
Island of the Blue Dolphins is the story of twelve year old Karana, a Native American girl who lives on a small island off the coast of California in the 1800s with her people. Shortly after the beginning of the story, a band of Aleut fishermen under the leadership of a Russian named Captain Orlov land on their island to hunt sea otters. Captain Orlov strikes a deal with Karana’s father, the head of their tribe, to pay for the otters they kill. However, the hunters make moves to leave before completely fulfilling their end of the bargain, and the result is an altercation that leaves twenty-seven of the forty-two Island men dead, including Karana’s father. The Aleuts leave, and the surviving Islanders continue to live on the island, with the women taking over many of the jobs traditionally done by the men. The tribe is deep in mourning, though, so Kimki, the new chief of the tribe, decides to sail east to a land he had visited as a child and make a home for the Islanders. When a ship finally comes to rescue them to take them back to be with Kimki, it looks like this story will take a very interesting turn, with Karana and her people encountering a more “modern” civilization. However, this is not to be, for Karana’s younger brother gets left behind, and Karana jumps ship in order to rescue him. What follows, then, is a young woman’s lifetime of living alone (her brother meets an early demise) on an island: the friends she makes among the animals, how she survives (a tidal wave, an earthquake, loneliness)—a picture of life with no modern conveniences, in an amazing but desolate place.
This is a book that I would not hesitate to hand over to my young daughters, ages nine and seven, and I expect that they would enjoy it greatly. However, it’s a book that also raises questions that are interesting enough for even an adult to contemplate. For example, Karana is very hesitant to make her own weapons because this had been forbidden by their tribal beliefs. This struggle over shrugging off expectations comes up several times early in the story. Another element of the story that I found particularly fascinating is just the descriptions of life on a small island in the Pacific Ocean: the plants, the animals, and how a human being survives dependent on these for food. O’Dell describes the male sea elephants’ fight and Karana’s hunting of the devilfish (the octopus) masterfully. This story reminds me so much of other survivalist/adventure stories I’ve read: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, The Cay by Theodore Taylor, and the Gary Paulsen stories.
Perhaps the most interesting this to me of all about this story is what I learned about a week before I started reading it. I was cruising around on Facebook when I noticed that one of the homeschooling websites I subscribe to via Facebook had posted a link to this article from the LA Times from October 2012. It seems that archaeologists believe they have found the cave of the Lone Woman of San Nicolas, the real woman who inspired Scott O’Dell’s wonderful story. Amazing! This is why historical fiction is perhaps my favorite genre of all.
Many thanks to Carrie for the push to read Island of the Blue Dolphins! I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did!

Reading to Know - Book Club

Read Aloud Thursday–Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace

Our latest chapter book read-aloud has a funny back story.  Remember a few weeks ago when I was contemplating reading this to my girls and wondered if the content might be too mature for them?  Well, that very day I noticed a book lying on the table in the school room (which, if you could only see our school room most rooms in our house on most days, you would wonder how I’d even notice) and lo and behold, it was Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown.  When I asked the girls about it, Lulu informed me that she had already read it several times.  :-)  So you see, my concern was for naught.  What could I do then but read it aloud, at least for my own enjoyment (and Louise’s)?  Really, though, Lulu enjoyed it as much as we did, possibly even more since she knew how it was all going to work out, and she liked teasing us with the possibility of spoiling the ending for us.  ;-)

I have to say that we haven’t met a Betsy-Tacy book we don’t like, and I think this one might be my personal favorite.  I say this for several reasons.  First, I love that Betsy is coming into her own as a writer and her parents recognize this and send her to the library in support of this desire and talent.   I also love how the librarian finds her the best, most appropriate classics for her to read.  (The whole sequence with the book Betsy was given by Rena being thrown into the fire by her father is perfect for us twaddle-free homeschoolers.  ;-) )  Second, I love the interplay of characters that are peripheral to this story, especially Winona Root.  While Winona might be considered a “bratty, spoiled, and manipulative” child (and I agree, by the way), I still like her, for some reason.  I think this book (and also her appearance in Carney’s House Party as a young adult) helped me see her as someone with potential to be something more than just a brat; she definitely has her faults, but she’s also full of spirit and moxie and a very strong sense of self. I also love the character of Mrs. Poppy in this story.  I like how Maud Hart Lovelace reveals Mrs. Ray’s prejudice against Mrs. Poppy because of her wealth and perceived status, and how that is redeemed in the end through Mrs. Poppy’s actions.  Third, I love the whole business with Mrs. Ray’s brother.  It’s a nice little mystery with a wonderfully heartwarming resolution.  Really, there isn’t an element of this story I found unappealing or boring, and judging from the smiles on my girls’ faces, they agree.

This is the second Maud Hart Lovelace book I’ve read this month thanks to Carrie’s Reading to Know Bookclub for March.  I’m really glad March’s Bookclub host, Annette, chose Maud Hart Lovelace since I always mean to get back to her (and many, many other authors) but rarely make the time to do so without some sort of incentive.  Thanks, friends!

Reading to Know - Book Club

This is the eighth book I’ve read by Maud Hart Lovelace and reviewed here at Hope Is the Word. Here are the others with links to my reviews:

Maybe I’ll get to the next Betsy-Tacy book before my girls do!  :-)

What are you reading aloud at your house these days?  Tell us about it in the comments, or leave a link to your own Read Aloud Thursday blog post!