Audiobook Challenge Check-In

The Audiobook Challenge, hosted by Caffeinated Reader and That’s What I’m Talking About, is having its mid-year checkpoint today. Here are the audiobooks I have listened to so far this year (titles link to my reviews):

  1. The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow. The events of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and beyond from the viewpoint of Mary, the quiet, bookish middle sister. Excellent.
  2. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope, the fourth of his Barsetshire Chronicles. A young vicar trying to get in with society’s elite gets into trouble. The village matron’s son falls in love with the vicar’s sister rather than the beautiful but cold society maiden his mother had picked out for him.
  3. The Path Through the Trees by the “real” Christopher Robin of the Winnie-the-Pooh books, Christopher Milne. This book is the sequel to his first, The Enchanted Places (both are reviewed at the ink.
  4. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope, the fifth in his Barsetshire Chronicles, had numerous threads, but the main plot focuses on a widow and her two daughters who live in a small house on the property of her brother-in-law, who owns the manor house and never liked his sister-in-law.
  5. The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope, the final book in his Chronicles of Barsetshire series. A stern vicar is accused of stealing and resistant to the community’s attempts to help him. All the threads from the previous books in the series are satisfyingly tied up.
  6. To Sir, With Love, an autobiographical novel by E. R. Braithwaite about a Black teacher in a London school of rowdy students in the 60s.
  7. The Winnie the Pooh books by A. A. Milne (When We Were Very Young, Winnie-the-Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, and Now We Are Six). All four reviewed together. I’ll just count them as one entry since they are so short.
  8. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell. Part helping rich and poor understand each other, part coming-of-age, part unraveling a crime.
  9. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin. Russian classic about a bored young rich man who turns away the naive girl who loves him only to find he does lover her when it’s too late.
  10. The Confessions of St. Augustine. Challenging to listen to, but I am glad I did.
  11. Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan. Novel about a college girl asking C. S. Lewis about Narnia for her dying younger brother.
  12. Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott, just finished, not reviewed yet. Stories about her brief time as a Civil War nurse.

I had chosen to aim for the Binge Listener level at 20-30 audiobooks this year, and I am well on my way to that goal.

Be Successful: 1 Samuel

The book of 1 Samuel in the Bible is something of a bridge between eras in Israel’s history. Samuel himself is something of a bridge. He’s the last of the judges. He’s a prophet. He anoints two different kings. He oversaw the transition between Israel as a group of tribes in which everyone “did that which was right in his own eyes” (the theme of Judges) to Israel as a unified nation under a king.

But the transition was not a smooth one. In desiring a king, Israel had rejected the Lord’s leadership. The first king, Saul, had much to recommend him, but he failed spectacularly. David was anointed king, but didn’t come to the throne for several years, and he was on the run from Saul much of that time.

Perhaps the contrast between David and Saul is why Warren W. Wiersbe titled his commentary on 1 Samuel Be Successful: Attaining the Wealth that Money Can’t Buy. But other characters in 1 Samuel have varying degrees of success in following and serving the Lord as well.

The book begins with a childless woman with a longing. Hannah had no children, and she pleaded with the Lord to grant her a son. She promised that she would give the child back to the Lord.

There’s so much treachery, bloodshed, and confusion recorded in 1 Samuel that it’s refreshing to meet at the very beginning of the book a woman who represents the very best that God has to give. The leaders of Israel had failed, so God sought out a woman He could use to help bring truth, peace, and order to His people. She served God simply by being a woman and doing what only a woman could do—give birth to a baby and dedicate that child to the Lord (p. 194).

It’s an awesome fact that, humanly speaking, the future of the nation rested with this godly woman’s prayers, and yet, how much in history has depended on the prayers of suffering and sacrificing people, especially mothers (p. 20).

Eli was a priest whose sons committed awful atrocities in their offices as priests. Eli knew what they were doing and rebuked them, but didn’t restrain them. When Hannah weaned Samuel, the child the Lord had given her, she brought him to Eli’s care in the tabernacle.Somehow Eli protected Samuel from the corruption of Eli’s sons.

The Bible says that during this time, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days” (1 Samuel 3:1). Wiersbe comments, “It was a tragic day in the nation of Israel when the living God no longer sent His people signs and prophetic messages (Ps. 74: 9; Ezek. 7: 26; Amos 8: 11–12; Mic. 3: 6). The silence of God was the judgment of God” (p. 32).

Yet at this time, God spoke to Samuel, and Eli taught Samuel to listen and respond, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:4-18). And “the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:21).

Blessed are those older saints who help the new generation know God and live for Him! However Eli may have failed with his own sons, he helped to point Samuel in the right direction, and the whole nation benefited from it. . . . Eli hadn’t been a great spiritual leader, but he was one small link in the chain that led to the anointing of David and eventually the birth of the Redeemer (pp. 195-196).

Samuel became a godly man who followed the Lord all his life and led the people faithfully. The one spot on his record is that his sons also abused their ministry. We don’t know the circumstances, but Samuel isn’t blamed for his sons’ behavior as Eli had been. Wiersbe offers some possibilities as to what could have gone wrong with Samuel’s sons, but ultimately we just don’t know. Samuel repeatedly pointed the people to the Lord.

Samuel is an example to all older believers who are prone to glorify the past, resist change in the present, and lose hope in the future. Without abandoning the past, Samuel accepted change, did all he could to make things work, and when they didn’t work, trusted God for a brighter future. God didn’t abandon the kingdom; He just chose a better man to be in charge, and Samuel helped to mentor that man. Every leader needs a Samuel, a person in touch with God, appreciative of the past (p. 197).

Saul started out well. He seemed humble in the beginning. But there doesn’t seem to have been much of a personal relationship between him and the Lord. Wiesrbe says, “His was the shallow heart of our Lord’s parable of the sower. There was no depth, the tears were temporary, and no lasting fruit ever appeared” (p. 195). Saul began taking matters into his own hands instead of waiting on God and following His directions. “Serving God acceptably involves doing the will of God in the right way, at the right time, and for the right motive” (p. 92). “To know God’s will and deliberately disobey it is to put ourselves above God and therefore become our own god. This is the vilest form of idolatry” (p. 95). Then Saul began to be jealous of David’s fame, then became murderous and unstable. His decline is one of the saddest parts of Scripture.

When Saul was chosen king, he was given authority from God and from the nation, but when he won this great victory, he gained stature before the people. It takes both to be an effective leader. The difficulties began later when Saul’s pride inflated his authority and began to destroy his character and his stature. David was humbled by his success, but Saul became more and more proud and abusive (p. 65).

Jonathan was Saul’s son and heir to the throne, yet Jonathan recognized his own father’s instability and David’s call. He was a true friend to David.

Jonathan leaves behind a beautiful example of what true friendship should be: honest, loving, sacrificing, seeking the welfare of others, and always bringing hope and encouragement when the situation is difficult. Jonathan never achieved a crown on earth, but he certainly received one in heaven. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life” (Rev. 2: 10) (p. 200).

David was a “man after God’s own heart.” As I mentioned in an earlier post, pastor Stephen Davey says this doesn’t mean David was perfect, but his priority was God and His will and his relationship with God. Much could be said about David. He’s one of my favorite Bible characters, though I’ve grieved over the fall to come in the next book.

David was a unique blending of soldier and shepherd, musician and military tactician, commander and commoner. In spite of his sins and failures—and we all have them—he was Israel’s greatest king, and always will be until King Jesus reigns on David’s throne as Prince of Peace. The next time we’re tempted to emphasize the negative things in David’s life, let’s remember that Jesus wasn’t ashamed to be called “the son of David” (p. 200).

Finally, 1 Samuel isn’t just a book of exciting stories, downfalls and successes, battles and failures. “The Lord is mentioned over sixty times in 1 Samuel 1—3, for He is the chief actor in this drama” (p. 17). Throughout the book, God orchestrated His will to be done and His coming Messiah’s preparation.

Laudable Linkage

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Once again, I’m behind on my blog-reading due to a busy week. But here are a few noteworthy reads:

A Special Valentine Invitation: Will You Be Mine? “Many of us have experienced both highs and lows when it comes to love and special valentine invitations.But the most lavish, epic, and monumental Valentine’s Day to ever take place in history, celebrates the best kind of love—God’s extravagant love.”

All This Wasted Worry, HT to Challies. “A few months ago, I was about to begin onto one of my nighttime worry rituals. There was a flight the next day, and I pictured myself gripping the armrest tightly throughout the flight like I always do—as though holding the armrest with all my might somehow keeps the plane in the air. And I laughed because there isn’t anything as ludicrous as believing that one’s white-knuckled grip on a piece of plastic in economy seating has anything to do with keeping an airplane in the sky.”

The Education of Whoopi Goldberg and Race in Christian Culture. “Whoopi Goldberg was suspended two weeks from The View for stating on air that the holocaust was not about race. . . Personally, I am not sure she should have been suspended. What she said was ignorant and insensitive, but such statements do foster discussion, education, and eventually enlightenment. If we constantly penalize one another for saying stupid things, we will eventually stop talking with one another altogether.”

How Did the Apostle Paul Stand for His Rights? “As we’ve discussed religious liberty in recent months, several people said something along these lines to me, ‘Didn’t Paul stand up for his rights when the Romans threatened him?’ This is a fair question since Paul did use his Roman citizenship on two occasions when interacting with representatives of the government. Let’s look at both incidents and think about how Paul went about this.”

On Christians Reading Fiction: Stealing Past the Watchful Dragons. This is the first in a series about the value to Christians of reading quality fiction. I especially like the last reason given here, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

An 8-year-old slid his handwritten book onto a library shelf—and now it has a yearslong waitlist, HT to Linda. I love that the library staff’s reaction.

Do you remember Irene Ryan, who played “Granny” on The Beverly Hillbillies? It’s hard not to think of her as perpetually Granny, because that’s the only way we ever saw her. I’m not sure why, but a couple of videos of her were in my YouTube suggestions. This was from one of her early films. The other was a pre-Granny episode of Password against fellow actor Bob Crane of Hogan’s Heroes. I also just recently learned that she was only five years older than co-star Buddy Ebsen, who played her son-on-law, Jed.

Happy Saturday!

Reading Plans for 2022

One of my favorite activities is setting my reading plans for the year.

For many years I just read whatever came to hand, whatever I was in the mood for. I like to allow for that and for reading new books and unplanned discoveries. But making plans for the year helps me be more intentional, work in the books I plan to “get to someday,” and broaden my horizons.

Reading challenges also help with those purposes, plus they are fun. And some offer prizes!

The reading challenges I plan to participate in this year are:

The Back to the Classics Challenge hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate. This is one of my favorites. Through this challenge, I’ve been introduced to classics I never knew about before and authors I had never tried. My usual classics taste tend toward 19th century Britain: Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Anthony Trollope, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Elliot. These are the cozy classics to me, and I try to read from them every year. But it’s good to branch out, and Karen’s categories help me do that. The categories this year are:

  • A 19th century classic.
  • A 20th century classic.
  • A classic by a woman author.
  • A classic in translation.  Any book first published in a language that is not your primary language.
  • A classic by BIPOC author. Any book published by a non-white author.
  • Mystery/Detective/Crime Classic. It can be fiction or non-fiction.
  • A Classic Short Story Collection.
  • Pre-1800 Classic.
  • A Nonfiction Classic.
  • Classic That’s Been on Your TBR List the Longest.
  • Classic Set in a Place You’d Like to Visit.
  • Wild Card Classic. Any classic you like, any category, as long as it’s at least 50 years old!

Since the categories were just posted, I haven’t had time to think about them and decide what to read. But I’ll enjoy contemplating them! I’m sure I’ll continue with the next in Trollope’s Barsetshire series for the 19th century classic. I might delve into The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis for the nonfiction: I’ve been wanting to read that for a while.

Shelly Rae at Book’d Out hosts the Nonfiction Reader Challenge. She provided 12 categories of nonfiction, and participants choose which level they want to aim for. Thankfully, this year she has included a Nonfiction Grazer category where we set our own goals for how many and what kind of nonfiction to read. That will work best for me this year.

I’m going to plan on at least 12 nonfiction books. I usually read more than that, but many are in the same categories. This year I want to read:

  • At least one biography, autobiography, or memoir.
  • One writing book
  • One book of humor
  • One Bible study book
  • One Christian living book
  • One book of letters or journals
  • One book by C. S. Lewis that I have not read yet
  • One book on organization or productivity (I have 13 on my shelf! Some read, some dipped into, some unread.)
  • One book pertaining to a holiday (probably Christmas)
  • One book related to midlife or aging

Bev at My Reader’s Block hosts the Mount TBR Reading Challenge. The idea is to read books you already owned before the start of this year. Bev has made levels in increments of twelve, each named after a mountain, and we’re to choose a level to shoot for. Even though I’ve reached Mt. Ararat (48 books) the last couple of years, I think I will play it safe and stick with Mt. Vancouver (36 books).

There are a couple of other TBR challenges I have participated in for previous years, but the rules of each are slightly different. So, to keep it simple, I think I’ll just stick with this one. It’s such a feeling of accomplishment to get to those books!

These next to are new to me. They focus on books I usually read anyway, so they won’t require extra effort except for the record keeping.

The Audiobook Challenge is hosted by Caffeinated Reader. Last year I listened to 25 audiobooks, so I’ll aim for that again with the Binge Listener level at 20-30.

The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge is hosted by The Intrepid Reader. I read 15 in this genre last year, so I will aim for that again with the Medieval level.

I’ve seen some other interesting-looking challenges with various categories, like this one. But I don’t want to get involved in too many to keep up with. I may have already! We’ll see how it goes.

Do you participate in reading challenges? Which ones?

Books Read in 2021

This was another good reading year. I’ll finish with 85 books, if I counted right–one more than last year. I included a few that I will complete by the end of the year. I had a good mix of old and hot off the press, fiction and nonfiction, historical and contemporary.

I’ll publish my top twelve of the year shortly, and I have a couple of reading challenge wrap-ups to post which will overlap with this. But I wanted to have a record of everything read this year. The titles link back to my reviews.

Nonfiction:

  1. Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Her Story by Susan Hertog
  2. Be Available: Accepting the Challenge to Confront the Enemy by Warren W. Wiersbe
  3. Be Confident (Hebrews): Live by Faith, Not by Sight by Warren W. Wiersbe
  4. Be Counted (Numbers): Living a Life That Counts for God by Warren W. Wiersbe
  5. Be Daring (Acts 13-28): Put Your Faith Where the Action Is by Warren Wiersbe
  6. Be Delivered (Exodus): Finding Freedom by Following God by Warren Wiersbe
  7. Be Diligent (Mark): Serving Others as you Walk with the Master Servant by Warren Wiersbe
  8. Be Dynamic (Acts 1-12): Experience the Power of God’s People by Warren Wiersbe
  9. Be Equipped (Deuteronomy): Acquiring the Tools for Spiritual Success by Warren Wiersbe
  10. Be Holy (Leviticus): Becoming “Set Apart” for God by Warren W. Wiersbe
  11. Be Loyal (Matthew): Following the King of Kings by Warren W. Wiersbe
  12. Be Right (Romans): How to Be Right with God, Yourself, and Others by Warren W. Wiersbe
  13. Be Strong (Joshua): Putting God’s Power to Work in Your Life by Warren W. Wiersbe
  14. Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn
  15. Call of a Coward: The God of Moses and the Middle-Class Housewife by Marcia Moston
  16. Christian Reflections by C. S. Lewis
  17. The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo
  18. Devotedly, the Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot by Valerie Elliot Shephard
  19. Do More Better by Tim Challies
  20. Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life by Anne Bogel.
  21. EPIC: An Around-the-World Journey Through Christian History by Tim Challies
  22. Expecting Christmas by multiple authors
  23. Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves by Trillia J. Newbell
  24. Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund
  25. Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  26. The Good Portion: Scripture: The Doctrine of Scripture for Every Woman by Keri Folmar
  27. How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren
  28. Hudson Taylor and Maria by John Pollock
  29. Hungry for God, Starving for Time by Lori Hatcher
  30. Influence: Building a Platform that Elevates Jesus (Not Me) by Kate Motaung and Shannon Popkin.
  31. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion by Annette Whipple
  32. The Man Who Was Q: the True Story of Charles Fraser-Smith, the ‘Q’ Wizard of World War II by David Porter
  33. The Narrative of Sojourner Truth by Sojourner Truth and Olive Gilbert
  34. Preparing for Easter with C. S. Lewis.
  35. The Secret War of Charles Fraser-Smith, the “Q” Gadget Wizard of World War II by Charles Fraser-Smith
  36. Woman Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue by Kathryn J. Atwood
  37. Ten Words to Live By: Delighting In and Doing What God Commands by Jen Wilkin
  38. Write Better: A Lifelong Editor on Craft, Art, and Spirituality by Andrew T. Le Peau

Classics:

  1. The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
  2. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  3. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
  4. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  5. Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster
  6. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
  7. Our Town by Thornton Wilder
  8. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
  9. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
  10. Silas Marner by George Elliot
  11. The Warden by Anthony Trollope

Christian Fiction:

  1. Catching the Wind by Melanie Dobson
  2. Chapel Springs Revival by Ane Mulligan
  3. A Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson
  4. Daughters of Northern Shores by Joanne Bischof
  5. Dogwood by Chris Fabry
  6. The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth Jones
  7. Heaven Sent Rain by Lauraine Snelling
  8. Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson
  9. The House at the End of the Moor by Michelle Griep
  10. In Between by Jenny B. Jones
  11. The Invitation by Nancy Moser
  12. The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
  13. Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson
  14. Mistletoe and Murder, a collection of ten novellas by Christian mystery and suspense writers
  15. The Nature of a Lady by Roseanna M. White
  16. Of Literature and Lattes by Katherine Reay
  17. The Old Lace Shop by Michelle Griep, the last in the Once Upon a Dickens Christmas trilogy of novellas.
  18. Only Glory Awaits: The Story of Anne Askew, Reformation Martyr by Leslie S. Nuernberg
  19. The Ornament Keeper by Eva Marie Everson (not reviewed yet)
  20. Out of the Shadows by Sigmund Brouwer
  21. Rosemary Cottage (Hope Beach Book 2) by Colleen Coble
  22. Saving Alice by David Lewis
  23. Seagrass Pier (Hope Beach Book 3) by Colleen Coble
  24. The Sign Painter by Davis Bunn
  25. Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof
  26. A Southern Season: Stories from a Front Porch Swing, four stories set in the South by Eva Marie Everson, Linda W. Yezak, Claire Fullerton, and Ane Mulligan
  27. The Summer Kitchen by Lisa Wingate
  28. Tidewater Inn (Hope Beach Book 1) by Collen Coble
  29. Three Shall Be One by Francena Arnold
  30. Unconditional by Eva Marie Everson
  31. The Yuletide Angel by Sandra Ardoin

Other Fiction:

  1. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
  2. Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
  3. Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien (not reviewed yet)
  4. The Orchard House by Heidi Chiavaroli
  5. A Quilt for Christmas by Sandra Dallas

How was your reading this year?

How to Read Books and Support Authors Inexpensively

I’ve always been a little amazed that people will plunk down good money to see a movie or concert or ball game that will last two to three hours, but then balk at paying $15 for a book that will give them 10-15 hours of enjoyment. Or they’ll shell out several dollars a week for expensive coffees which will give them a few moments of pleasure, rather than pay for a book that will feed the mind, imagination, even the soul for years to come.

I believe books are a worthy investment.

However, if we read a lot, $10-15 per book adds up quickly. I read 84 books last year and 76 the year before. That would be quite an outlay if I paid full price for each book.

I want to pay full price as much as possible to support authors. They work months or even years to produce one book. I’ve learned from the multiple writing blogs I follow that most authors do not make a living on their writing. “The labourer is worthy of his hire,” Jesus said. They can’t keep producing books if they don’t make enough to live on. And it’s not sin to pay full price for something.

But it’s true many of us could not read nearly as much if we paid full price for every book.

So how can we read inexpensively?

Public libraries. What a treasure trove! Print, audio, and ebooks are all available just for the trouble of registering for a library card.

Library sales. Many libraries will purge their shelves or sell donated books they can’t use, usually in a big sale once or twice a year.

Little free libraries. Some neighborhoods have mini boxes where people can leave books they are done with and choose others to take home.

Church libraries. Some churches will have a library of donated books, or may have a budget to stock new books.

Discount stores. Costco, WalMart, and other stores have books for lesser prices. Some online sites do as well. Feel free to share in the comments your favorite place for discount books.

Book exchange stores. There’s a big store here in Knoxville where you can trade in your used books for credits for more used books.

Project Gutenberg has many ebooks online for free. I thought they mostly did classics, but they have newer titles as well.

Kindle sales. Books for the Kindle app go on sale every day, anywhere from free to a few dollars. You don’t have to have a Kindle device: you can get the Kindle app and read on a tablet or even your phone. (It would be hard to read an entire book on a phone, but it can be done. It’s handy if you find yourself waiting somewhere unexpectedly.) Some sites online curate Kindle sales almost every day. Tim Challies lists a few most days, usually Christian nonfiction and some classics. Inspired Reads lists half a dozen or so and Gospel eBooks lists several, but you need discernment with these two: I wouldn’t recommend everything they list.

Audiobooks. Audible.com has a few different plans for audiobooks. The one I’m on charges $14.95 a month, which gives me one credit, resulting in one audiobook per month. But they often have two-books-for-one-credit sales, and many of their classics are free or only a dollar or two. And some books are included free with membership. Librivox has audiobooks for free, but they have ads. Plus, they are read by volunteers who may or may not use any kind of inflection. And different readers might read different chapters in the same book. But . . . they’re free.

Free books for a review. Some sites or publishers will give readers free books in exchange for an honest review. The only one of these I tried was for a Christian publisher, but I quit early on. They sent a box of six books for one month. Not only was I not interested in all of them, but I didn’t want my “read for review” reading to take over all of my reading time. I understand there are some now where you can choose which books you’re willing to read and review. I know some of you do this: would you share what sites or publishers you work with in the comments?

Author’s launch teams. Publishers expect authors to do most of their own marketing and publicity these days. One way authors do this is to have a small group of people they’ll send a free copy (usually ebook these days) of an upcoming book before it is published. That way they can get reviews in right away. People are more willing to take a chance on a book that has some reviews. If there are no reviews, people are wary. I would recommend only doing this for authors you know and enjoy and want to support. It’s probably not fair to a new-to-you author to volunteer for his or her launch team if you have no idea about their style and whether they’ll appeal to you.

Gifts. Our family does “wish lists” for gift-giving occasions, and a few books are always on mine.

If your book budget is limited, there are still ways you can support your favorite authors. Word of mouth goes a long way. A review on Amazon or GoodReads or your blog helps more than you know. Even listing a book on GoodReads as one you want to read helps bring attention to it. So does posting a book cover on Instagram with the hashtag #bookstagram and hashtags for the genre, author’s name, and anything else you can think of.

These measures still help even if you get most of your books from a library. Also, a library is more willing to keep an author’s books if they’re being checked out. And asking your library to stock a particular book helps, too. Many have a form on their web sites where you can submit book requests.

Agents and publishers look at the number of a new or hopeful author’s followers on social media or in a newsletter list (one reason you see so many offering newsletters). So following an author’s social media accounts or signing up for their newsletters can aid them. If you’re like me, you can only do this for a few of your most favorite authors (or bloggers hoping to be authors), lest social media following takes up more time than you have. But if you’re active on social media, or want to give a boost to someone whose writing you like, these measures are helpful.

Do you have any other ideas for reading inexpensively? Do you have other ways of supporting authors?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

How to Read a Book

Why would an avid reader for decades pick up How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren?

I had three reasons:

  1. I’d like to retain more from my reading. Though I flag pages, underline or note important points, sometimes even outline chapters, I forget much of what I’ve read in a short while.
  2. Reading better in general should enhance one’s ability to read the Bible.
  3. I see so many people online talking past each other. I’ve wondered if that has anything to do with a lack of reading comprehension.

This book was originally written by Adler in 1940. Adler revised and updated it with Charles Van Doren in 1972. Even though 1972 doesn’t seem all that long ago to me, as far as literature is concerned, I found this book very tedious. I read a lot of old classics, so I don’t think older language is the problem here. I think it’s just Adler’s style.

It would take up too much time and space to go into Adler’s method here. But this Goodreads review goes into more detail.

Adler’s first step would be what we call pre-reading, and most of us do this to some degree, depending on the book, the author, and our familiarity with both. Many of us would look at the front cover, the back cover, look over the table of contents, read the first paragraph or two, maybe leaf through the whole thing briefly. But Adler’s method goes into much more detail and study. One of his first steps is to read the whole book once and then come back and apply these other steps.

Adler’s stages of reading are: elementary, inspectional, analytical, and syntopical. He discusses the first three in great detail and then applies his principles to various types of books. Then he has a chapter on syntopical reading, which goes beyond the reading of one book to reading several books on a given topic. He ends with a list of recommended reading and an appendix of exercises and tests for the various levels (I just glanced through the last appendix without trying any of the tests).

Honestly, I can’t see someone going through all Adler’s steps unless they’re incredibly academically minded or unless they need to know the book extremely well for a class.

Does that mean my time in the book was a waste?

No. Even though I have no desire to follow Adler’s advice for all my reading, I agreed with many points. I especially appreciated the urge to read actively, not passively. I gleaned numerous nuggets I liked. I can’t share them all here, but here are a few:

I think his evaluation of the average high school student is probably true even of many adults today:

He can follow a simple piece of fiction and enjoy it. But put him up against a closely written exposition, a carefully and economically stated argument, or a passage requiring critical consideration, and he is at a loss. It has been shown for instance, that the average high-school student is amazingly inept at indicating the central thought of a passage, or the levels of emphasis and subordination in an argument or exposition. To all intents and purposes he remains a sixth-grade reader till well along in college (p. xi.).

This was written before personal computers, much less iPhones and ebooks, but this is even more true now:

There is a sense in which we moderns are inundated with facts to the detriment of understanding. One of the reasons for this situation is that the very media we have mentioned are so designed as to make thinking seem unnecessary (though this is only an appearance). The packaging of intellectual positions and views is one of the most active enterprises of some of the best minds of our day. The viewer of television, the listener to radio, the reader of magazines, is presented with a whole complex of elements—all the way from ingenious rhetoric to carefully selected data and statistics—to make it easy for him to “make up his own mind” with the minimum of difficulty and effort. But the packaging is often done so effectively that the viewer, listener, or reader does not make up his own mind at all. Instead, he inserts a packaged opinion into his mind, somewhat like inserting a cassette into a cassette player. He then pushes a button and “plays back” the opinion whenever it seems appropriate to do so. He has performed acceptably without having had to think (p. 4).

Even though I don’t know many people who would read a whole book at an elementary level before coming back to read it analytically, I can see Adler’s point here:

We were told to consult footnotes, scholarly commentaries, or other secondary sources to get help. But when these things are done prematurely, they only impede our reading, instead of helping it.

The tremendous pleasure that can come from reading Shakespeare, for instance, was spoiled for generations of high school students who were forced to go through Julius Caesar, As You Like It, or Hamlet, scene by scene, looking up all the strange words in a glossary and studying all the scholarly footnotes. As a result, they never really read a Shakespearean play. By the time they reached the end, they had forgotten the beginning and lost sight of the whole. Instead of being forced to take this pedantic approach, they should have been encouraged to read the play at one sitting and discuss what they got out of that first quick reading. Only then would they have been ready to study the play carefully and closely, because then they would have understood enough of it to learn more (p. 37).

I thought this about propaganda was especially good:

The best protection against propaganda of any sort is the recognition of it for what it is. Only hidden and undetected oratory is really insidious. What reaches the heart without going through the mind is likely to bounce back and put the mind out of business. Propaganda taken in that way is like a drug you do not know you are swallowing. The effect is mysterious; you do not know afterwards why you feel or think the way you do (p. 198).

What about my three purposes for reading the book?

First, I did not get any information specifically about retaining more from reading, but that was not this book’s purpose. Probably one would retain more, at least for a time. Even if I did use Adler’s methods, I would still probably forget much without reviewing either the book or my notes from time to time. But I did get some ideas for improved note-taking.

Secondly, I did think that Adler’s methods would be good for Bible study. I’m an advocate of reading a book of the Bible at a time rather than cherry-picking random verses here and there.

As to my third purpose, I thought he brought up some very good points. One of his steps is ascertaining whether or not you agree with the author, and if not, why not. But you have to support your views from what the book actually said. So one can’t take things out of context, infer one’s own views, etc. Of course, our era of sound bytes and no context at all on Facebook and Twitter doesn’t really support good, meaningful communication.

Have you read Adler’s and Van Doren’s book? What do you think about any of his points mentioned here?

I counting this book for the Hobby category of the Nonfiction Reader Challenge since reading is my main hobby.

Do You Read More than One Genre?

Reading different genres

Do you read primarily one main genre? Or do you read several?

My favorite is contemporary Christian fiction along the lines of the Mitford series by Jan Karon. I love to hear about everyday people, their encounters with problems and neighbors and loved ones, and how God works in and through them. I have learned from and been deeply affected by Christian fiction..

But I also read a lot of historical fiction and a fair amount of suspense. I am not a big fan of romance. Most fiction has a love story, but I like books that have more to them than that. I don’t care for westerns or Amish fiction, but I have read some of each. I enjoyed some fantasy or speculative fiction. I wouldn’t read horror or erotica.

I love biographies and memoirs. Some biographies have had a profound influence on my life.

I read a lot of Christian nonfiction and enjoy it, but I have to make myself start and keep going with most of it. I gravitate more to stories.

I also like many classics. Someone once said “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” Classics still speak to us today even though writing styles and society customs have changed.

I read a little from non-Christian sources. Unfortunately, much secular fiction has a lot of language, sexuality, or gratuitous violence problems, which I don’t want to read. And you have to keep on guard against wrong philosophies. But some of it is still beneficial.

One reason I ask is just because I am interested. I love to talk books and reading interests.

But I am also curious. I’ve heard and read that authors should write primarily one genre so readers know what to expect from them. If they write in another genre, they’re told they’ll need to search for another audience. Some go so far to say that authors should use pen names if they write in two different genres.

That makes sense. If a writer is known for Amish fiction, it would be jarring to her readers to get that author’s latest work and discover it’s a gruesome murder mystery.

On the other hand, I have followed authors over to a different genre from what I have read from them before. In fact, I am more likely to try a different genre if an author I like has written in it, if only to see how they handle it. I wouldn’t want a favorite author to use a pen name for a different genre, unless they make it known that they’re doing so, because that makes it harder for fans to follow their work.

So I can see the wisdom of not disappointing readers who come to expect a certain kind of story from an author. And it’s probably wise for those just getting started to stay with one genre until they get established.

But I think sometimes a genre crossover can work.

What do you think? Would you follow an author from one genre to another? And what’s your favorite genre? Do you read more than one?

(Sharing with Grace and Truth, Hearth and Soul, Senior Salon,
InstaEncouragements, Booknificent)

Reading Plans for 2020

There are some books you don’t get around to reading unless you plan to. Participating in some book challenges has helped be more purposeful in my reading. But I have found I also need flexibility. I don’t want to feel pressured and tied down by a reading list. I want the freedom to pick up books discovered during the year, new releases, etc. But I also want to read more classics and more books from my own shelves or list of recommendations. There are two main reading challenges I participate in every year, and sometimes I try a few others as well. Thankfully the books can overlap several challenges: otherwise I could probably only do one or two.

So this year, I’ll participate in these challenges:

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge begins here February 1-29. This will be my last year to host it. I have one book in mind for it this year, which I’ll share Feb. 1.

Tarissa at In the Bookcase hosts the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge in June.

Tarissa also hosts the Literary Christmas Reading Challenge November through December.

Karen at Books and Chocolate is hosting the Back to the Classics challenge again this year. Books have to be 50 years old for this challenge and fit into the following categories. We don’t have to determine them all at this point, but I’ll list a few I have in mind.

1. 19th Century Classic: Hard Times by Charles Dickens
2. 20th Century Classic
3. Classic by a Woman Author: Eight Cousins by Louisa My Alcott
4. Classic in Translation (originally written in something other than your native language): Possibly Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. I read it a long time ago but can’t remember much about it.
5. Classic by a Person of Color
6. A Genre Classic
7. Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title: The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens.
8. Classic with a Place in the Title: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire by Howard Pyle
9. Classic with Nature in the Title: Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott
10. Classic About a Family (multiple members of the same family as principal characters)
11. Abandoned Classic (one you started but never finished). Possibly Billy Budd by Herman Melville. I was supposed to read that for a college class but never finished.
12: Classic Adaptation (Any classic that’s been adapted as a movie or TV series): I might try Larkrise to Candleford by Flora Thompson. It’s long, but I’ve been wanting to read it and see the series.

Most of these books would fit in many of the categories, so I might change them around as I decide on the rest of the titles.

Karen draws a name from participants at the end of the year to receive a $30 gift card towards books, and the number of categories you finish determines how many entries you get.

mount-tbr-2017Bev at My Reader’s Block hosts the Mount TBR Challenge to encourage us to read the books we already own.. Every 12 books read is another level or “mountain” climbed. We don’t have to list the books yet, but we do have to commit to a level. I am committing to Mt. Vancouver (36 books). I’ve been able to reach that pretty easily the last couple of years. The one main rule here is that the books have to have been owned by us before January 1, 2020.

Bev is also hosting the Virtual TBR Reading Challenge, like the Mount TBR except that the first one requires you to own the books you’re reading. The virtual one can include borrowed books or books on your to-be-read list that you don’t own yet. I haven’t done this one before, but I think I can commit to Mount Rum Doodle, 12 books.

The Backlist Reader Challenge sign-up link

The Backlist Reader Challenge is new to me this year. It encourages reading books on our want-to-read list, whether we already own them or not. The only caveat is they have to have been published before 2018 and be a book you’ve already been considering. Lark will give away a $15 Amazon or Book Depository gift certificate at the end of the year. Since most of the Mount TBR and Virtual Mount TBR books will qualify for this challenge, I’m going to aim for 30.

The Audiobook Challenge is new to me, too. But since I listen to several a year (usually classics), it should be easy. I’m aiming for the Stenographer level (10-15 audiobooks). there will be a couple of giveaways with this challenge, on June 30 and December 15.

Yet another new one to me is the For the Love of Ebooks Challenge, which, as the name implies, involves reading ebooks. A good chunk of my TBR books are in my Kindle app, so I think I could do the Semi-Pro status (10-19).

Finally, I am going to try the Nonfiction Reading Challenge since I read several a year anyway. I’m only going to aim for the Nonfiction Nibbler (6 books), though, since I am not interested in all the categories for the next level.

Thanks to Tarissa and Lisa for introducing me to a few that I hadn’t heard of before.

I would never do all these except that they can overlap, and many involve types of reading I already do. There are still several other interesting challenges out there that I decided against!

Do you participate in any reading challenges or make reading plans for the year?

Back to the Classics Challenge Wrap-up 2019

btcc reading challenge 2019

Karen at Books and Chocolate hosts the Back to the Classics Challenge. She came up with categories and we come up with a classic at least 50 years old to fit each category. She also gives away a prize – a $30 gift card to Amazon.com or The Book Depository. You get one entry for the prize drawing for six categories completed, two entries for nine categories completed, and three entries if you complete all twelve.

The classics I read this year were (titles link back to my reviews):

A.19th Century ClassicThe Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (1860)(Finished 7/15/19)

B. 20th Century Classic (published between 1900 to 1969): How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (1939) (Finished 3/20/19)

C. Classic by a Woman AuthorA Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905)(Finished 2/14/19)

D. Classic in Translation (written originally in a language different from your own): Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (Finished 11/23/19)

E. Classic Comic Novel. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens (1836)(Finished 5/20/19)

F. Classic Tragic Novel. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1847)(Finished 6/12/19)

G. Very Long Classic (500 or more pages): Anna Karenina by Tolstoy (Finished 9/11/19)

H. Classic Novella (250 or fewer pages): The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott, 150 pages. (1849)(Finished 6/23/19)

I. Classic From the Americas (includes the Caribbean). The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington. (1918)(Finished 9/24/19)

J. Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia). Moby Dick by Herman Melville. (Finished 10/28/19)

K. Classic From a Place You’ve Lived. The Gilded Age by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner (Finished 12/16/19)

L. Classic Play. King Lear by William Shakespeare. (Finished 12/28/19)

Karen likes for us to compute how many entries we earned: I read all twelve, so I have three entries.

I enjoy this challenge because it broadens my horizons. I would not have read some of these books if not for this challenge. I have not seen anything yet about this challenge for next year, and I’m sorry that it looks like it won’t continue. But I’ll keep reading classics. Someone has said that a classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say. These books still speak today.

Do you like to read classics? Have you read any of these?