Monday, January 28, 2013

Willa: Some Books Read in 2012

As I mentioned I didn't keep a complete list of books I read in 2012.     But here are some of the ones I tracked down.   I kept a bit of a list on Goodreads (mostly paper books) and since Kindle has a feature where you can tweet a book when you've finished it, I logged some of my kindle reads on Twitter.  

Library Books

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business 
Fascinating book, I read it after my husband did; I may have to read it again.   Especially useful was the idea of a keystone habit, a little thing that can make a big snowballing difference in all sorts of areas.   For instance, one lady turned her whole professional and personal life around just by stopping smoking.   

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference 
Good book by the author of  Outliers and Blink, both of which I also read a couple of years ago.      Sort of the same idea as the keystone habit, except in the wider social context.   For instance, he posits that New York solved the subway crime problem simply by making an effective effort to get rid of graffiti. 
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking 
I don't remember much about this book, but I did enjoy reading it.  

Ten Books That Screwed Up the World: And Five Others That Didn't Help 
This book was interesting, but a little too snarky and superficial for my preference.  The author, Benjamin Wiker, wrote that excellent book for younger readers called The Mystery of the Periodic Table.  But in this one he seems so much in a hurry to point out the flaws of various significant great books and their authors that he doesn't mention what is good about them, what makes them durable (as by definition most of them are).    The "Five Others That Didn't Help" was more interesting because it was about less great books like Margaret Sangers'.  

A Mathematician's Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form 
I don't remember much about this book except that it was about how badly school teaches mathematics (which you could figure out from the subtitle).   IT's an expansion of a key essay available online.  I really recommend the essay.  

How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at An Answer 
I got this book because I was reading some of Montaigne's essays in my Great Books effort.   What fun reading this book alongside or after reading some of the writings of Montaigne.  I could never have read this book any time but in the summer when I could meander through all kinds of thoughts on death, education, etc.

Liar & Spy 
This is YA fiction.  I requested it because it had a homeschooled family in it.   Fun read but not really about homeschooling.

The Beck Diet Solution 
I read this trying to improve my eating habits (again).  It's about Cognitive Behavior Training and laid out in daily changes of habits which build up over time.   I intend to read it again soon.  It connects a bit to the Power of Habit book mentioned above.

The Scalpel and the Soul: Encounters with Surgery, the Supernatural, and the Healing Power of Hope 
This was at my in-law's summer cabin where I was looking for something to read.  I don't remember it that well, but it was one of those inspiring medical/spiritual books.    Funny how I can usually remember the general thesis of a book better than a bunch of anecdotes.  

Writing Your Life: A Journey of Discovery 
Good book!  Written by an Australian.  Though the book was a practicum (based on the author's workshops) on how to write your life story, it would be a good read even if you had no real intention of writing out your story, because it is a planned reflection on your life and influences and etc, and that is good for anyone in their second half of life, as I am.

The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling 
The homeschooling book by actress Quinn Cummings.   This is not a "how to".  It is a journalistic type account of one woman's explorations into the homeschooling world, after she pulls her daughter out of middle school.   IT's an outsider's view of various homeschooling "styles" as represented mostly by conferences, from Gotthard's ATI to a radical unschooling convention.  Quinn Cummings is an extremely funny and clever writer.   I like her blog better than her book, but that doesn't mean I didn't like the book.    I did.  One highlight is that she visits Lissa and some others at their Catholic unschooling get-together, and she actually enjoys herself and represents them very sympathetically.  I don't think you would like this book if you were a very serious fundamentalist or RU homeschooler, unless you enjoy irreverence. 

The Reader's Odyssey: An Individualized Literature Program for Homeschooling Middle and High School Students 
I reviewed this book here.     Well worth reading if you are (1) a spontaneous literary type homeschooler like me who wants some organizational guidance as your child reaches middle/high school (2) a newer homeschooler who doesn't like the way public schools teach literature, but aren't sure how to do it differently (3) someone whose child is in school, but wants to supplement/enrich the child's literature experience in the home environment.   You will find in here an excoriating critique of public school literature-teaching methods (I agree with her take on this, though some schools are better than others practically speaking) and some inspiration and practical guidance for making something better.  Plus really nice worksheets/printables in the back, and book recommendations!  One of my favorite memories is of getting together with the author, some other literary minded homeschoolers, and my ailing mom; my mom poring through the book and exclaiming at all the good book choices.    Then we had a nice soup and bread dinner and watched Twelfth Night.

Strange Gods Before Me 
By Mother Mary Francis.   I read a recommendation of her other book, A Right to Be Merry, about life as a Poor Clare Sister, but my library didn't have that one, so I got this one.   Mother Mary Francis is funny and intelligent and devout and imaginative.    She makes life as a Poor Clare sound happier than almost any alternative, which is probably true.   This book is also a really profound look into some subtler social/spiritual temptations. 

The Making and the Unmaking of a Dullard (1909)
This wasn't a library book.   It's a Google public domain book by a notable priest and educator.  It tells about his own life, in dialogue form (the format is kind of like Charlotte Mason's Character Formation or like a modern Socratic dialogue).     He was a typical boy who somehow got traumatized by school education and actually went backwards academically.  His family pulled him out of school altogether and set him to work in the farm environment.  The physical experience was a remedy and he explains how, and his thoughts on education.  He went on to become an impressive scholar (and priest) who was very influential in educational circles of his time, steering a sensible course between progressivism and reactionism (not a word) in education.  Much like Charlotte Mason or Montessori, but of course, less well known today.

Kindle Public Domain Fiction

Chari recommended this.  Much different from the movie version.    Quite scary in parts.   A middle or older teenager might really enjoy this. 

H Beam Piper
I read a whole bunch of his free books while traveling this summer.   He is a rationalist type, who thinks religion is a psychological and social phenomenon, and seems to think the polis should be run by elites who make tough decisions for the unwashed masses.  I am just warning you about the implied world view in case you want to let your teenagers read these.  However, the stories are very good reading. World-building, thought provoking.

Edgar Rice Burroughs
Another traveling-time author binge.  I am not sure why John Senior recommends these books in his 1000 Good Books.   While Piper above seems like an early 20th century type, ERB seems like a late 19th century type, with his conviction that the British male can easily conquer all, including extraterrestrial worlds.   Still, fun reading; not really good literature.  

PG Wodehouse  
We did lots of traveling.    I mostly read his "school stories.  I got fascinated with the inns and outs of cricket.  Though I still don't understand the game at all. I started with  Mike and Psmithand went from there. 

Tom Brown at Oxford
I read these because I had read all the Wodehouse school stories and still wanted more.   A bit more serious in intention than Wodehouse's.  


Great Books of the Western World -- Ten Year Plan
I am in the first three or four months of this.  Though I did not read Rabelais.  (See below for what type of reading I don't like -- Rabelais just does not suit my later junior high fictional sensibility).

Seven Year Plan -- January 2011 
Fun, fun, fun.  I got to read a Mark Twain short story, a Tolstoy story, Epictetus the Stoic, and many others I wouldn't have picked up otherwise.  

I am slowly working through these.  I did get all the way throughGalen:  On the Natural Faculties. and really liked it!  

Lots of Free Kindle Promotionals

You can look here I especially go for cozy mysteries and YA paranormals.  I feel slightly uneasy about the paranormals.   But the YAs are usually cleaner than the adult ones.   Basically I like fantasy and mystery and some battles, and the less romance the better.  I don't like foul stuff, or violence above the PG level, or pages spent gazing into each other's eyes, or more explicit stuff.   I am a junior high level in fiction.   And I can't stand more than mild typos.  I can stand some lack of editing (typos slipping by, etc) but not horrible syntax or plain dumb English.   Generally, picking up free Kindle fiction is somewhat like going through the second or third run of a publisher's slush pile, or so I imagine.    It can be really interesting, and sometimes the stories are close to publishable, and sometimes they are equal to publishable but simply too much of a niche "type" to actually warrant a paper edition.  And sometimes they are horrible dreck, and I stop reading.

Spiritual Reading

As far as spiritual reading goes, I mostly read Scripture and the Catechism.  I am trying to read the Catechism in a Year (you can get it sent to your inbox) and I also try to read the Divine Office or at least the daily mass readings with a meditation.  I use the Laudete app for the Office and Evangelizo
for the daily readings; they email too.  I also read the daily message from Opus Dei; Jose Maria Escriva has pretty much become my spiritual director, though I am sure he shakes his head often :-) .Other than that, I tend to pick up this and that old favorite and read a few pages here and there.  I forgot, I did several Bible studies in a group and read Edward Sri's A Biblical Walk through the Mass, but I better close this post now, it is getting long...


  1. Willa,

    I thought "Writing our Life: a Journey of Discovery" sounded familiar. I borrowed it from our local library! I enjoyed it too.

    So far, I'm keeping up with the Year of Faith readings for the Catechism. I'm not doing so well on the 90 day Bible reading challenge though. I think I'm several days behind.

    So many good books to read! You put me to shame. You seem to actually finish a lot more books than me. I get distracted and go off to write something and forget to return. I shall have to make more of an effort to complete what I begin.

    God bless!

  2. I totally ditched the Year of Faith readings. I realized that I can not learn the Catechism in that format. Too broken up and abstract for it be meaningful for me.

    I really want to read The Year of Learning Dangerously and also The Making and Unmaking of a Dullard. I have the book Quiet which is also on my tbr pile.

    I did not take to The Power of Habit at all. I think he lost me when he used doctors revising the DSM to take homosexuality out of their list of disorders that really left me cold about his theory of habits. It seemed like he thought everything was a habit, morals and all, and our brains are just computers that can get reprogrammed. It really bothered me and I couldn't finish reading it.

    Anyway, really interesting list of books, Willa. I love when you write about books!

  3. I enjoy your writing about books too! I've been keeping up with the Catechism readings and really enjoying it. When I was first coming into the Church I read the Catechism each day, narrated it to myself, and wrote a summary of the section I read. Can you tell I only had two children at that point? It was a fantastic experience for me (although I didn't get more than about halfway through the Creed before we moved and life got a lot crazier) and someday I'd like to go back to that. But for now, this daily format is working well for me.

    I'm going to have to add the Dullard book to my list - I love public domain books like this. I enjoy reading older works so much more than newer books because the language is generally so much more complex and interesting. And I don't get why Edgar Rice Burroughs is on that list either. Somewhat entertaining, yes, but good literature? No, not at all. It does have more literary merit than its modern day equivalent though, I suppose...

    I think I'll have to check out both of those reading plans too. They are always so tempting for me, but I've never gotten going on one.


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