Books and Reading 2017

I did a post like this in 2016, so I took a quick look at that. I am sad that I read fewer books in 2017 (29) than I did in 2016 (33). I actually did a lot of reading this year, but I didn’t read a lot of books. A few of my picks were quite substantial, plus I always think I’ll get more reading done than I actually do. My eyes aren’t getting any younger. If you look at my 2016 post, you’ll see that I shared some of my plans for 2017 reading. I read my top three non-fiction picks, but didn’t get to the others mentioned there. I only read two of my top three fiction choices for 2017, but I did get that Pulitzer winner in.

Since I read so few books, I may just comment on all of them (briefly)

Contemporary Fiction–I always read a few contemporary books each year because I need to reach my yearly quota of weeping and gnashing of teeth, and this is the quickest way.

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey.

When I said I had a taste for dystopia and and post-apocalyptic fiction (not the same thing!), this book was recommended to me. In future, I must add a qualifier to everything: no zombie books. I don’t do zombies. This is a zombie book, and also a take on the Pandora myth, with some interesting perspectives on the value of education. Proceed at your own risk.

Sleep Tight by Rachel Abbot

A psychological crime novel—a once-in-a-while indulgence for me.

The Maze Runner (Book 1) by James Dashner

See “penchant for post-apocalyptic literature.” But why must everything be a trilogy or a series? The hints at the end about the sequel set off my zombie alarms, and I doubt I’ll be reading more in the series. I have theories about zombies as a relentlessly recurring motif in modern fiction, but I promised to be brief.

All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel by Anthony Doerr

Ah. That’s more like it. I don’t read all the Pulitzer Prize winners, but I do try to pick one up every couple of years. A book like this restores one’s faith in modern writers. I really enjoy stories that play with time a bit, or are told in a non-linear way, and this book ticks that box for me, too.


The Circle by David Eggers

See “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” I kept waiting for the “heroine” to develop some wisdom, or at least come to her senses, but this is a postmodern book, so she didn’t.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This and the previous book were read because yes, I saw the movie previews, then discovered they were based on books. I chose the books. This was a hard book to read, because of the subject matter, but I’m glad I did. Modern fiction that doesn’t lead to weeping and gnashing of teeth is good. But come to think of it, I may have shed a few tears over this one for other reasons. (In case it isn’t obvious from this list, I also dip into YA fiction.)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

A reread. I probably read it the first time over ten years ago, but this year I watched the TV series, prompting the reread. Remember my taste for dystopia?

The Birdwatcher by Kathryn Judson

Modern Christian post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction. Not every day, but yes.

Classic (or at least vintage) Fiction

Re-Creations by Grace Livingston Hill

The kind of book I read when my mind is, to use Charlotte Mason’s phrase, in need of an elbow-chair.

The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer

Ditto the elbow-chair thing. Also a reread.

Somehow Good by William de Morgan

I cannot remember who recommended this author to me, but this was my first time to read him. It was a more modern take on the kind of thing Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Lady Audley’s Secret) would write. I’d definitely read another of his books.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

This was my first Dostoyevsky. Tolstoy is still my favorite Russian author. I found the first 1/4 to 1/3 of the book hard going—I just wasn’t enjoying the book. At one point, I even switched translators (Constance Garner will be my go-to in future), and finally I did begin to get immersed in the story. There will be more Dostoyevsky in my future, too, but I doubt he’s going to shake Tolstoy from my #1 spot.


Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

A reread (I lost count a long time ago). Jane Austen is a life-time favorite of mine. There was a season of my life when I reread all six of her books every year. Now it’s usually only one or two.

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery

A reread. See “elbow-chair.”

False Colours by Georgette Heyer

Two Heyers and one Austen this year. I must rectify that imbalance.

The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty

My first Eudora Welty, recommended by a friend. This is just the kind of book I like—absolutely nothing happens (well, not nothing, but the action/plot is minimal); however, the characters are deep and sharply drawn. Character-driven fiction for the win.


Our Friend Manso by Benito Perez Galdos

Translated from the Spanish. Recommended to me by a Spanish-speaking friend who read the original.  I enjoyed the story, but I think the translation really let the book down. I had to ask for help understanding some things, and when I did, I realized that in the original language the book is quite nuanced and humorous, but it all comes off rather flat in translation. Reading the original is not possible for me, though, so I must be content.


Essays on Educational Reformers by Herbert Robert Quick

One of the books on the history of education used in Charlotte Mason’s “education course” for parents (and teachers). It runs from the Renaissance to Froebel and Pestalozzi. I found this a fascinating read–I am convinced that CM must have enjoyed Quick’s sense of humor, plus he was involved in the founding of the PNEU, though he died not long after. This book also introduced me to some historical educators I was previously unacquainted with. And there’s a whole chapter on Comenius. 500+ pages of educational history and philosophy—what’s not to like?

A Touch of the Infinite by Megan Hoyt

Megan’s (I call her that because she is a friend) new book is outstanding. If you are a Charlotte Mason educator or  just want more music in your homeschool, Megan has opened the door wide. Music is a weak area for me, so I really appreciated her enthusiasm and love for music that just bubbles from every page, combined with a keen understanding of CM’s philosophy of education and appreciation for the synthetic nature of it all. Highly recommended for improving your “science of relations” with music.

Ourselves by Charlotte Mason

A reread for me, but I have not read this book as frequently as her others, so it was nice to have it fresh in my mind this year. As always, every reading of one of CM’s volumes offers new insight. I never get tired of reading her.

Minds More Awake by Anne White

This was another reread. I really enjoy Anne’s (she’s a friend, too!) down-to-earth style. She grapples with Charlotte Mason and pulls metaphors out of the most unlikely places (crockpots and buried telephone cables?), but the title is so apt. Reading this book is like putting on a pair of new glasses—everything is so much sharper and clearer than you’d realized.

On the Art of Writing by Arthur Quiller-Couch

I’ve worked my way slowly through the “Q” books because of Helene Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road book. I discovered, too, within the last year or two, that they were included in some PNEU programs for older students.

The Girl Without a Voice by Casey Watson

One of my very earliest forays into education was reading about special education teachers who helped traumatized children. (Remember Lovey? If you don’t because you’re that much younger than I am, don’t tell me.) I’ve been reading books like this since I was a teen, although it’s just an occasional thing now.

School Education by Charlotte Mason

My second volume of 2017—obviously, a reread.

The Story of Charlotte Mason by Essex Cholmondeley

Part biography/part educational treatise. A reread, but also—probably only the second time I’ve read it. My primary interest in Charlotte Mason is in her ideas about education, not her life or biography. In fact, there’s a new biography out, and I’m not much tempted to read it, as a biography written from historical research must be much less personal than this one, based upon interviews (in part) with people who actually knew her. In the end, I just don’t care as much about her life as I do about her ideas. So this book is really a win, because it’s about both. (Also extremely hard to find and expensive now. Sorry.)

In Memoriam by the PNEU

A collection of Charlotte Mason testimonials, mostly. I blogged about this a good bit after I read it.

An Introduction to the History of Educational Theories by Oscar Browning

A second major book on the history of education in the same year is a bit much, even for me. This book was also part of CM’s education course, but this one starts with Plato and Aristotle and ends with a chapter on “The English Public School”—ie, the “classical” schools as CM would have known them. If you were going to choose one, I think the Quick book is more readable, but this one is more comprehensive. Also, I’ve always wondered if CM was acquainted with Quintilian (my English translation is too recent for her to have read it), and now I know that she was at least acquainted with him through this book, because he features largely in the chapter about the Romans, and some of the specific things in Quintilian that remind me of Mason are mentioned, so maybe that’s not a coincidence.

Norms and Nobility by David Hicks

A reread, but an intensive one, as I was leading a book study on the AmblesideOnline forum. You can access all my study posts here (forum membership needed, but it’s free and easy). This is a modern classic, and a really great foundation for shaping an understanding of classical education that is much more than superficial.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Treatise on Method, edited by Alice D. Snyder

I’m going to have a lot to say about this book in 2018, so for now, I’ll just say that I devoured it the first time, I’m reading it for a second time more slowly, and I plan to read it a third time, quickly again, before I begin to formulate my thoughts.


I’m in the middle of several things that won’t be finished in 2017.

A Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason

I read this so many times in 2015, when I was preparing Mind to Mind, I thought I’d never want to read it again. But of course, that’s not true. I’m about halfway through it.

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

I’m just reading this one slowly and taking time to think about. I had hoped to finish it, but my Kindle says I’m about halfway through this one, too. (Wish I had a physical copy—I prefer real books for nonfiction.)

The Extraordinary Visit of Benjamin True by Jack Pelham.

I just started this one because I know the author’s wife. It’s not my usual fare (politics!), but I’m a pretty eclectic reader and intend to read to the end. I suspect it will be laced with philosophy, and fiction laced with philosophy is my jam.

I think there are two or three other books that I read partially this year, but I’m not still reading them, so they aren’t “in progress,” and who knows if I’ll get back to them?

Statistics: Grand Total: 29

Fiction: 17

Nonfiction: 12

Rereads: 11 (This might be too many. Hmm.)

In translation: 2

In the end, this is so long —a whole year’s reading condensed into one post!—I’m going to have to do a separate post about what I’m planning for 2018. Look for that in a day or two, and feel free to make recommendations. Congratulations for reading through the list! If it’s not obvious from my comments above, I’m happy to follow recommendations from friends, but please remember—no zombies!





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One thought on “Books and Reading 2017

  1. It’s such a delight to read your year in books, Karen. I will be coming back for ideas.
    You are such a scholar, yet you manage to be fun, ( not one of those stiff scholars that live in my subconscious, lol.)This is funny,

    I need to reach my yearly quota of weeping and gnashing of teeth, and this is the quickest way. Hahaha

    I think we all show our personality in our reads. You are tenacious and God has gifted you with a sharp intellect that you cultivate for others benefit.

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