Friday, December 28, 2007

Books Read in 2007--An Annotated List

Even though we had a busy year fixing up our house to sell and trying to keep it that way, in addition to homeschooling, children's theater and all the rest, I managed to get in much more reading than I would have guessed if I weren't keeping a list. Much of it was on tape or CD, and a significant number of titles were homeschool read-alouds. But it all counts! (Try it!)

Under Orders, by Dick Francis
I love Dick Francis. His mysteries are a step above your basic macho, American, action-packed fare, probably because he's British. His heroes have gentility, subtle British wit, and nerves of steel (a la "Bond, James Bond"). And if you ever had a thing for horses, like I did when I was a girl, then you'll love the fact that this former jockey's mysteries all relate in some way to horse racing.
Best read aloud by a British reader.

Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
At A Hen's Pace review here. One of my favorite books EVER.

Moccasin Trail, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
At A Hen's Pace review here. A Sonlight selection the boys and I really enjoyed. (Sonlight is the homeschool curriculum we use for history, literature and writing.)

The Wedding, by Nicholas Sparks
A satisfyingly sentimental story of a marriage.

Beyond the Sacred Page: The Tyndale Translation, by Jack Cavanaugh
I read somewhere--probably on the book jacket--that some Christian high schools assign this book, which is too bad. All the most simplistic reasons for the Reformation are put in the mouths of the main characters, with no regard for the complexities of the era or anything that could have been worth preserving in the Catholic Church.

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield
At A Hen's Pace review here. Mesmerizing.

Across Five Aprils, by Irene Hunt
Often children's literature is the best way to get the big picture historically, and this book is a fine example. I learned so much about the Civil War from this story--"firsthand," as it were--through the eyes of a young boy whose brothers are off fighting, on both sides, the war that spanned five Aprils. Beautiful writing. (A Sonlight Read-Aloud.)

Growing Girls, by Jeanne Marie Laskas
At A Hen's Pace review here. A favorite author.

Little Britches, by Ralph Moody
A delight. Every family should read this memoir of the author's first years on a ranch in the West. As the oldest child, the responsibility he was given at age EIGHT blew my boys' minds! His loving, firm, wise father is a man you want your children to know, and he's a great example for parents; too. You will cry when he dies at the end and our 12-year-old hero is left as the "man of the family" (the title of the next book in the series). A Sonlight Read-Aloud.

Nothing to Fear, by Jackie French Koller
My daughter urged me to read this Depression-era story because she loved it--and I enjoyed it. It really captures the flavor of an era. (A Sonlight selection.)

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
At A Hen's Pace review here. Gripping.

Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris
I listened to this collection of essays on tape, read by the author, whose name you may recognize from NPR. I can't recommend it from a moral point of view--some of the essays are about the author and his boyfriend--but he's an entertaining essayist.

The Small House at Allington, by Anthony Trollope
I must read more Trollope. He reminds me of Jane Austen, only with more amusing narrator/author commentary. I enjoyed this one tremendously.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
Though this book is set in pre-World War One, it reminded me of the Depression-era Nothing to Fear. Both describe children growing up in great poverty. This novel is much better though: better-written, longer and more expansive in its description. The details are captivating--like how the kids collect junk and take it to the junk man, who pays a few pennies for scraps of metal and string, or how they barter for a piano and lessons--and the characters are vivid and memorable.
I had a vague idea that there was some controversy surrounding this book but was clueless, after finishing it, as to what it could be. Turns out it's been accused of being overly sentimental, "sordid"(overly descriptive of poverty), and questioning of the Catholic faith as Francie, the main character, perceives it in childhood.
I don't agree. I thought the tone was candid, warm and optimistic in the face of great difficulty.

A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson
Not really my cup of tea. It's the story of the author's trek over most of the Appalachian Trail, with a few educational and environmental-type rants thrown in. I'm not fond of rants, and the humor was pretty low-brow...but it was informative and entertaining overall.

Fame, Forgiven, Found, Family, and Forever--the Firstborn series by Karen Kingsbury
At A Hen's Pace review here. Light, inspirational reading which features children's theater!

The Fairy Chronicles: Marigold and the Feather of Hope, Dragonfly and the Web of Dreams,
by J. H. Sweet
I was sent review copies of these books. It was a little hard for me to assess them, since they're way too young for Blondechick15 and beyond Chicklet5. The series was definitely imaginative and encouraged good character qualities--I think Chicklet will enjoy them when she starts reading. My biggest complaint: I think the artwork looks amaterish.

44 Scotland Street, by Alexander McCall Smith
An art dealer mystery by the author of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Not as good as that series, but better than...

The Sunday Afternoon Philosophy Club, by the same author
...which I didn't enjoy much. Unmemorable, in fact.

Pants on Fire, by Meg Cabot
Princess Diaries: Princess in Training, by Meg Cabot
At A Hen's Pace review here. Not recommendable.

Thimble Summer, by Elizabeth Enright
Kind of disappointing. One of our least favorite Sonlight selections.
I listened to it on tape to find out why my kids disliked it. The writing is good (it was the 1939 Newbery Award winner) but the story is pretty light on plot--more like a series of little anecdotes, and the main character seems younger than her 9 1/2 years. It didn't hold my interest either.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J. K. Rowling
A rich and satisfying conclusion to the series. It was great to see its Christian basis made explicit in this final novel.

girl meets god, by Lauren Winner
At A Hen's Pace review here. Loved it.

The Penderwicks
At A Hen's Pace review here. Light and sweet.

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
How did I ever miss this classic? Probably because the movie didn't make me want to read the book. If you're in that camp, wipe the movie out of your mind and read. the. book.

The Cereal Murders, by Diane Mott Davidson
I needed a light mystery on tape (not CD, for listening to in my CD player-less '94 Plymouth Grand Voyager), and this one was narrated by the inimitable Barbara Rosenblatt. The heroine is a divorced caterer with a junior-high age son. It was okay.

The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
One of our all-time favorite Sonlight read-alouds. I've never heard such begging to please please PLEASE read one more chapter! A fabulous foray into ancient Egypt that really captured my kids' imaginations.

The Trojan War, by Olivia E. Coolidge
A fine retelling, in nicely sized chapters. The boys loved it and Blondechick never complained. (A Sonlight selection.)

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
At A Hen's Pace review here. Intriguing and prophetic.

A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana, by Haven Kimmel
I listened to the book on CD, read by the author. I really enjoyed her hilarious, poignant, witty memoirs of her childhood in a small town not unlike the small Ohio town I grew up in; we were born in the same year too! She writes more irreverently of religion than I was comfortable with at first, not knowing where she was going with it, but Christian readers will appreciate knowing that the trajectory of that theme goes in a good direction, at least. Wonderful anecdotes of a simpler time and place.

Dying for Chocolate, by Diane Mott Davidson
In the same series as The Cereal Murders. A little more immorality in this one. Just okay. I probably won't read another.

Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff
We all enjoyed this story, set in the wilds of England beyond the Roman border, of a Roman soldier's quest for the lost Ninth Legion's eagle standard. A Sonlight Read-Aloud.

Augustus Caesar's World, by Genevieve Foster
Another Sonlight selection. A world-wide overview of religion, politics and history during the lifetime of Augustus Caesar. Not enough plot for the kids, though the author uses the rise of the title character and the stories of his children and grandchildren as a loose plot structure. I was especially fascinated by the political milieu into which Christ was born, and the sketches of the rising of the pagan and Eastern religions. Another great children's book for adults.

Banner in the Sky, by James Ramsey Ullman
A Sonlight Read-Aloud about a young boy on the team which is the first to climb to the summit of a fictional mountain in Switzerland. The story is loosely based on the conquest of the Matterhorn, by an author who is an experienced mountain climber, and the realistic descriptions made my stomach turn. I don't like heights!

I notice that there was precious little nonfiction on my list this year.... My devotional reading was re-reading chapters from favorite books and dipping into this and that, and I read the Bible nearly every day, either alone or with my kids.

For more reviews and year-end wrap-ups, visit Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.


Carrie K. said...

Of course read-alouds and audiobooks count! We read some of the same books this year - I listened to Sissy Spacek read To Kill a Mockingbird on audio. She was perfect as the voice of Scout.

I read The Warden by Trollope, and plan to read more of his as well.

I also read Fahrenheit 451 for the first time - listened to it, too, actually. As a long-time fan of sci-fi and futuristic fiction, I don't know how I missed this one for so long!

Krakovianka said...

Your review of Gilead was one of the ones that made me seek it out, and it was one of my favorites for 2007, too.

About A Tree Grows in Brooklyn--it is not depression era, but pre-WWI (you'll find references to Woodrow Wilson toward the end). The earlier part of the book (about the parents) is more turn-of-the-century. But the big "WAR" headline is definitely WWI.

At A Hen's Pace said...


You're absolutely right. I made the correction.



Carrie said...

Loved your run-down. I loved The Thirteenth Tale as well -- very imaginative. I have Gilead on my reading stack for this coming year and I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on Girl Meets God.

My reading list for this past year is here:

Kate said...

I've just spotted your review of Gilead. Our church book group is reading that for January, and it is beautiful. I'm savouring every word of it.

Enjoy reading in 2008, and I'll look forward to more book reviews!

Dominion Family said...

One of my pet peeves is that people always refer to the To Kill a Mockingbird movie as a classic. While it is a good movie, it is not nearly as rich and deep as the book. I deeply regret that a couple of my boys saw the movie with their grandfather before they read the book. I usually assign the book in 12 th grade because of the mature themes but I do assign it. I don't want them to miss the chance of reading it.

Amy said...

If you've not read anything else by Bryson, please don't let A Walk in the Woods turn you off completely. It was probably my least favorite of his. My favorite has to be The Mother Tongue: English & How It Got that Way, but I also liked Notes from a Small Island and I'm a Stranger Here Myself.