Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Our Summer Reading

Or “Harry Potter—The Gateway Drug Books”
Or “The Spell of Words”

Weave a Spell 

This post has been percolating for some time. I’ve been meaning to finish it, but I always end up reading instead! So today is the day.

Must. Finish. Book. Post.

Because each day I procrastinate it becomes more overwhelming to tackle.

Let’s just get to it.

We’ve been reading.

Let’s start with Harry Potter. This series really deserves a post of its own, but perfect is the enemy of good. Or half done is better than not at all.

Levi finished all 4,100 pages in four days. Luke took a little longer. I took longer still. But we’ve all finished. (Leif read four books and is begging to continue, but I’m trying to hold him off a little while since he’s only seven.)

I won’t go on and on (though I could), but let me just say something about the end: Rowling really sets you up for it. Sheesh. I even had an idea about what happens at the end, but I was still an emotional mess. I think I held off the tears until Mrs. Weasley went at Bellatrix. Then there was no hope for self-control.

"It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well."

(P.S. That’s why I hate politics. One really has to want leadership, as in will do anything including sell their soul to get it, don’t they? I think this is why I love George Washington. And Prince Albert (known to me only through the movie The King's Speech).)

After finishing the series, I read How Harry Cast His Spell, which I mentioned in this post, and Harry Potter's Bookshelf. I’d be hard-pressed to choose a favorite between the two. How Harry Cast His Spell covers the Christian symbolism in the books and Bookshelf is like the English Lit Major’s Guide to Harry Potter—or maybe a Western Lit Survey Course taught by a Christian Latin and Great Books professor. I loved the analysis of many of my favorite books and authors (A Tale of Two Cities, Jane Eyre, Jane Austen, Wilkie Collins, and so many more), and I’ve added a few more to my (endless) to-read list.

The day after Luke finished the series, he was sitting on the couch with a dazed look on his face. I asked him what was up. He said, “I need a new series to read.”

Luke is a good reader, but he hasn’t been particularly tenacious in his reading of longer books or series. But Harry Potter. Since then? He’s read all five of the Gregor The Overlander books by Suzanne Collins (author of Hunger Games), all five of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books, four of the Heroes of Olympus books, and the last book of the The City of Ember series (we’d been waiting for it at the library). And he has started the Seven Wonders series. This was after he read a bunch of Edith Nesbit books earlier in the summer, not to mention the various shorter books he has picked up here and there. Whew!

Levi (re)read most of the above as well as the Earthsea Quartet and I have no idea what else. [Oh, I forgot he also read Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, the first two books of The Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis.]

Leif has discovered the Treasure Chest books by Ann Hood. He loves the time travel, historical fiction sort of books such as Magic Tree House and Imagination Station, so these are right up his alley.


Now for my book stack…

For ChocLit Guild (my decade-long book club), I finished Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain. Don’t let the title of this one put you off. It is a murder mystery, a classically hilarious Mark Twain, and a fascinating look at both human nature and the culture of antebellum South. This would be an excellent book for discussion with a group of middle or high school students!

This month we’re reading Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold (fiction) and The Weight of Glory (non-fiction), both by C. S. Lewis. I enjoyed the following articles when I had finished Till We Have Faces:

::  Why Does Nothing End Well? @ CiRCE

“The class of two was captivated by the book, although, as we entered the two final chapters, their interest strayed and I worried. I worried that a sad suspicion which had originally struck me on my second read of the novel, many years ago, would finally be proved true on this reading. The ending of this book is not very good.”

::  Till We Have Faces @ The Well at the World’s End

“We are like a block of marble, unformed, and our life becomes the means by which the marble takes form, slowly, chip after painful chip. God works in us and through us by his love, wanting to turn us into those people we are meant to be: to grow up, to love and be loved. Until we are, our experience of the world is imperfect and we go stumbling about life as if we were blind. We cannot truly see until we have faces – until our eyes are fully formed, capable of seeing things beyond the cataracts of our daily existence.”

(The author of this blog post mentions Theosophy, which I had not heard of until it was mentioned in Harry Potter’s Bookshelf. Bit by bit I’m learning, and I love the interweaving of ideas when I’m deep in reading.)

Next up for ChocLit Guild is The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne. Did you know that the author of Winnie the Pooh wrote a mystery?

I also belong to a book club for local Classical Conversations moms, and this year we are deep-reading through Hamlet. I first watched these videos:


We then met in my studio (15 of us that evening) for a movie night. We only made it through the first 2.5 hours of Branagh's version, so we’ll meet again next month for the final 1.5 hours and the beginning of our discussion.

Speaking of book clubs, our Book Detectives met up again this month (also in my studio) for a lovely reading and discussion of one of my all-time favorite picture books, Corgiville Fair—a perfect choice for summer reading.


Oh, and one more book club. Local CC moms also gathered to discuss The Question by Leigh Bortins. (We’ve just finished going through The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education over the past year, and we’ll be taking The Question a chapter at a time as well.)

If you’ve been counting, yes, this equals four book clubs. Luckily The Question meets at a local coffee shop each month, and I host ChocLit Guild only once a year or so.

Other than book club selections, I read a review of The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and snagged a copy at the library. It was tough for me to get into the story, oddly, but I was delighted when the book was unexpectedly also mentioned in Harry Potter’s Bookshelf. Everything is intertwined, people.

A friend recommended The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, and I’m hooked just a few chapters in.

I’ve been meaning to read some Chesterton for years now, and I bit the bullet with In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton. Oh, how I wish I had not wasted so much time! Every essay is delightful, hilarious, accessible, and profound. Most are only a few pages long, so they are perfect for reading one at a time each evening or in between other books.

Chesterton is immensely quotable, and my book is already filled with pencil marks. I should not make this post ridiculously long by sharing all my favorites, but I think it is apropos, considering the opening quote by C. S. Lewis, to end on a few choice bits from Chesterton’s essay “Magic and Fantasy in Fiction.”

“There runs through the whole tradition the idea that black magic is that which blots out or disguises the true form of a thing; while white magic, in the good sense, restores it to its own form and not another.”

“…In short, in so far as humanity became once more heathen, it believed more and more in the old dehumanizing spell, the freezing of the will by trance or terror, and less in the other legend of the hero or the helper who can break the spell.”

“…The Magician is the Man when he seeks to become a God, and, being a usurper, can hardly fail to be a tyrant. Not being the maker, but only the distorter, he twists all things out of their intended shape, and imprisons natural things in unnatural forms. But the Mass is exactly the opposite of a Man seeking to be a God. It is a God seeking to be a Man; it is God giving His creative life to mankind as such, and restoring the original pattern of their manhood; making not gods, nor beasts, nor angels; but, by the original blast and miracle that makes all things new, turning men into men.”


While we are on the subject of books, let me share a few links before closing.

::  The Virtue of Unread Books @ Story Warren. Yes. Yes. And Yes. This is our house.

“I’m not a poser; I’m prepared.”

::  Guilt Piling Up on the Nightstand @ Story Warren


Just for fun. [grin]


What are you reading this summer?


Unknown said...

Kate Morton is one of my faves! Also, I'm the first to snag the Alan Bradley books when they hit our library shelves. Both Granger books are on my nightstand as well as Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst, The Question, and Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray. There are untold number of YA fiction books I'm prereading for my 11- and 10-year-olds. But my absolute favorite of this year - Unbroken by Lauren Hillebrand. Humbling, riveting - got it from the library and bought it on Amazon as soon as I finished so I could share it with others.

Misha said...

You know I love your lists. : ) I've been reading so much YA and I also read Lost Lake. BUt I'm off to find that Mark Twain book. (Thank you!) Would love to ask you some more questions about HP, too.

Julia C. said...

Thank you so much for compiling lists like these. Whenever I need new books for my son, I always check out your blog. Thanks so much for all your ideas!

Meghan said...

I just finished *The Core*, *Ruthless Trust* by Brennan Manning and *The Lost Princess* by George Macdonald and loved all three. I've now moved onto *Kristin Lavransdatter* by Sigrid Undset which I had noticed kind of blowing up on Pinterest. I ended up with a library copy from the 60's. It's a long novel about medieval Norway written in the 1920s. Pretty fascinating! There was definitely a lot of grammar to learn about that setting--there's even a glossary in the back.

Kate O. said...

You really should read Jerram Barrs' "Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts" His chapter on Harry Potter is wonderful.

Unknown said...

Trying to tend to the responsibilities of daily life and read "The Forgotten Garden" is proving a nearly impossible task. I feel like shutting out the world for two days and reading cover to cover!

Heidi said...

Lori~ We've talked about putting Unbroken on our book club list. I'm scared to read it.

And thanks to you ladies, I've added a few more titles to my to-read list. :)

Jennifer~ I had a hard time getting anything else done, as well. But I really enjoyed The Forgotten Garden!

Anonymous said...

I see you're reading _Till We Have Faces_. In my graduate program, I was required to read _The Golden Ass_ (an ancient Latin novel, which I read in translation). Embedded in that story is (one) version of the Tale of Cupid and Psyche. It might be interesting for your book group to compare an original version with Lewis' retelling of the myth. Just a thought...