Monday, March 21, 2016

// what i've been reading //

My real-life bestie, Shandi(who blogs @ Beyond the Ordinary) asked me to do a post on what I've been reading lately. I've actually been reading quite a lot(as per my new years resolution) so I'm happy to oblige!

I feel vaguely bad, severely un-hipster, and (this is the plus side of the thing), motivated to buy some new books, because nearly all of these are on my kindle. I'm a firm supporter of e-reading, (it's the same content, and often in a price(free) that you can try before you buy, so to speak). But, it's just not quite as satisfying, AND you can't take nice aesthetic pictures of the lovely books. (or have your sister take the picture). Anyways, here's a list, sans photo, and then I'll elaborate a little(don't I always?;)

To Kill a Mockingbird
Some Emily Dickinson biographies
I really feel like I read something in between this but I cannot for the life of me remember if I did, and if so, what??
 THE MOONSTONE, that's it. Yas. Yay brain.
Picking away at Wuthering Heights, again.... I don't know why I just can't seem to get into it.
Assorted poetry(Walt Whitman, Lord Byron, Yeats)
I re-read 'What Men Live By', one of Tolstoy's short stories
I've been slowly reading, and just recently finished, 'Of Miracles' by C.S. Lewis, and then just last night read 'A Grief Observed'

To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee
This book fully deserves its reputation. I can't tell you whether it's more social/racial commentary, coming of age novel, small town sketch or mystery. It's all those things, and more. Without re-reading it I can't give you a real breakdown, I have to read a book several times to have that. But I recommend it. The characters are so finely written, even the obvious hard parts are handled with a wonderful tact. Every last one is delicately drawn so that you feel you really know them, and enter into their world. Language in books is a fine line for me- if it's realistic, good. But there's no need to be excessive. This book shone in this regard. The people talked as they would talk, but there is never a point where it just feels like crudeness for it's own sake. And then there's Atticus. Oh, Atticus, Atticus. This was one of those books I couldn't put down; I read it in an afternoon which is something I've not done for a long time. I can't wait to buy my own copy, and also read the sequel. The film with Gregory Peck is very good too.

Emily Dickinson- I'm not sure why I'm so enthralled by her. The mystery that still really shrouds her true self, despite the attempted dogmatism by authors who want to prove their own point by pretending it had to have been hers? Her incredible poise with words and connection with emotion(something I wish I had, but lack)? Or is it just that I, too, 'am small, like the Wren, and my Hair is bold, like the Chestnut Bur – and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves.”  As she described herself. Either way, I've been enjoying learning what I can about her, and drawing my own conclusions about her life and beliefs. To be honest, I don't even love all her poems as much as I'm captivated by her. But some of them are just beautiful, even if perhaps no-one but herself could really understand them.

The Moonstone- Wilkie Collins
A classic(the classic?) mystery with a pretty unexpected ending. It's long, convoluted, rather maudlin at times in true Victorian fashion(were there any high-bred ladies back then that didn't suffer from some sort of nervous complaint? It was as forced on them as 'confidence' is today). But it was a good, very enjoyable book. It didn't take me long at all to read, considering. It kept me in suspense the whole time. And I was very pleased with the ending.

Villette- Emily Bronte
I've not read Jane Eyre, yet, so I can make no comparison between the two. But I absolutely loved Villette. Lucy Snow, the protagonist, was someone I could sympathize with in many ways(although she actually cried a lot, and also suffered from nervous complaints. But she at least had legitimate excuse, other than boredom). She goes through a few circumstances in the begining which eventually lead to her moving to Europe from England and finding a job at a school. It deals with her relationships with others, and herself, and God. Something I really liked was her outlook on God. She never loses sight of Him and the fact that He has a plan, despite all her feelings and fallings. Her life, while hard, is not as unhappy as it feels to her, and it has a great love story. And another good man.

'But if I feel, may I never express?' 'Never!' declared Reason.- Chapter xxi

Wuthering Heights- Charlotte Bronte
It's one of those books I think I could like if I could just get into it. However both times I've tried it's been very slow going. I recognize the great writing- it just doesn't particularly captivate me. Oh well, I'll keep trying.

Poetry- I've been trying to read more of it(and not just Erin Hanson).
Walt Whitman- I love his style, actually. And a few of his poems I adore. He himself- the little I've learned about him, and the philosophy expressed in his work render him someone I don't line up with at all. But a good writer, a great writer, nonetheless.
Selected Poems- 
'Salut Au Monde!',
'The Dark Side'
'Wherefore' and "Answer", 
'Other Lands', 
and 'Tears'.
I think one of the nice things about poetry is that it is somewhat subjective. You can derive your own meaning, insert your own truth, into their lines so that they speak to you in a way they never did their author. It's scary, really.
Byron- I haven't gotten very far yet. Far enough to think the man a sap, but he writes beautifully.  Two of his so far I have liked(or at least have struck me)-
On the Death of a Young Lady, cousin to The Author and Very Dear to Him.
To Caroline(one of many I think, it starts with 'You say you love, and yet your eye...' This one I didn't like per se, but I connected with it very much. He complains that this girl is like a statue, unfeeling and doesn't love like he does. Foolish man. Perhaps she just loves differently than him.)
Yeats- I've read literally one poem of his so far. I liked it well enough. I need to get biographies of all these men before I can really read their poetry, I like to know what I'm getting into, not just read willy-nilly. I certainly am not recommending them as I know little about them and have read little of their work. I'm just listing them because I've been reading them a little.

What Men Live By- Tolstoy
Oh, this story. I like all his short stories, but this was the one that introduced me and anyways, it's just such a good story with a great message.

Of Miracles- C.S. Lewis
I love C.S. Lewis. So much. I only wish I had a fraction of the mind he had. I'm going to need to re-read this one, because sadly I'm not astute enough to absorb it in one reading. It's so well reasoned and written. I've read Mere Christianity and The Screwtape letters, as well as the Narnia series, also. I like his non-fiction works better still, but I've developed a new appreciation for Narnia as I've gotten older. His arguments have strengthened my faith, for sure, and they're just enjoyable to read.

A Grief Observed- C.S. Lewis
It's only four chapters, but four of the most authentic chapters I've ever read. Far from the conversational, vaguely arrogant and very confident tone of his other books, this one is raw emotion trying to be reasoned out by a philosopher in pain. His doubts, his fears, his anger- it's all chronicled as he wrestles through the loss of his wife and come to grips with his faith in God. And yet he doesn't lose his touch- it's written in such exquisite, agonized language that you can practically touch his tears and feel the nausea of his grief. I can't wait to re-read it(and probably use it when I ever get back to writing my own fictional tragedy.)

So there you go, what I've been reading. It's a longer post than I kind of thought it would be. I don't know that I can pick a favorite, although Moonstone and the poets would fall a little lower on a list of that nature. But I have to say, I really just enjoy reading C.S. Lewis. Even when I don't quite grasp a concept, or follow his argument, I can feel it expanding my brain, and I just have such a high level of respect(awe, actually) for thinkers like that. To be honest, it's something I need to work on- I tend to have a little too much respect. They're only human, I know, of course, but it's a weakness I have. I set too much stock in their writings at times, and forget a little that they are still fallible, and that inspired Scripture must be my highest guide.

 However, that being said, philosophy is a tool like anything else that God can and does use. I can only hope to ever even approach the greatness of people like C.S. Lewis, but thanks to him in particular, I can at least aspire to it. A new dream I have is to visit the locales of his life, in England.

I feel there was something else I was about to write but now I don't remember it. I'm so tired.

  Also, can you tell that I like scholarly men by my selection above? Atticus, the Professor in Villete(who I didn't actually mention but if you've read it you'll know him) and of course, C.S. Lewis. You can keep Mr. Darcy or any sort of dashing/swashbuckling/dreamy hero. I like them of course, but the scholars have my heart. Atticus and his glasses though.

Well, that's enough for tonight I think. Have you ever read any of these? Liked or disliked? Going to try them? Do you have any recommendations for me?

(one last thing- I use too many parenthesis, don't I? Oh well)


  1. I love To Kill a Mockingbird too! I actually just finished Go Set a Watchman and if you end up reading it is I'd love to hear what you think. I'm still collecting my thoughts-it's really different from TKM, to say the least.
    And I love A Grief Observed too. It's really visceral and tough to read in places, but I come away from it with new thoughts and feelings every time I read it. :) Great post!

    1. I'll definitely be posting when I read it... I'm excited, but also feel a slight bit of trepidation.
      Yes. That book, I just.... Thanks:)

  2. OH! I almost forgot. But I'm so glad you read Vilette and liked it, because I've been trying to get my hands on a copy for a while since I love Jane Eyre and I was starting to wonder if I should bother about reading it at all. I'll have to get the Kindle app and look on there for it!

    1. Yes!! Yes, yes, read it. It is so worth it. I want to get a hard copy very much. I've not yet read Jane Eyre but since reading Villette I want to.


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