Reading for the New Year

It’s become a tradition for me to select a stack of books I propose to read in the new year. I adjust the list as the year progresses. New titles find a place there. Others fall away.

Last year’s list altered when, in the spring, I committed to teaching middle school classrooms in the fall of 2020. I sought out versions of The Iliad and The Odyssey for that age group.

So far, I’ve found Rosemary Sutcliff’s versions to be accessible and complete, including much of the back story and details from The Aeneid to round out her version of The Iliad. The Wanderings of Odysseus is proving to be just as satisfying. Sutcliff’s books form a fine foundation for middle-schoolers and for adults wanting to brush up on classical literature.

The image above is of a book I’ve read twice already–first in my teen years, later as a thirty-something. It becomes more profound each time I pick it up.

Taylor Caldwell’s novel about the Roman Senator Marcus Tullius Cicero, A Pillar of Iron, depicts the dismantling of Rome’s republic on the cusp of Christ’s birth. (Cicero died in 43 BC, and according to Caldwell, was awaiting the Messiah’s birth.)

Caldwell saw parallels between Rome’s fall and the state of America circa 1965. So far, my reading indicates that the parallels have only deepened.

Caldwell dedicated the book to the late President John F. Kennedy (D), Senator Barry Goldwater (R), and Senator Thomas Dodd (D)–whose philosophies were probably more in line with each other’s than their party affiliations might lead us to assume.

I’m finding much history and wisdom within the pages.

History and wisdom–themes I’ll pursue this year.

The Power of the Powerless is a paperback (but the link takes you to a pdf version) containing an essay by Vaclav Havel, who, in 1989, became the first democratically elected president of Czechoslavakia, and later the Czech Republic.

I expect a big difference between Cicero and Havel–one whose culture is descending into totalitarianism, and the other whose culture is escaping it.

A novel I may propose for my older students in the next school year is A Canticle for Leibowitz. From what I gather, it’s post-apocalyptic satire. And according to Goodreads, it’s an account of “the relentless progression of a human race damned by its inherent humanness to recelebrate its grand foibles and repeat its grievous mistakes.”

History repeating itself, another emerging theme.

I’ve thrown an eclectic collection into this year’s stack: The Ickabog–by J.K. Rowling. I’m one of the few on the planet who hasn’t delved into Harry Potter. In this new book, Rowling weaves a mythical tale–a morality play. I’m eager to see where it goes.

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien–because I haven’t already read it. And I’m eager to see where Bilbo Baggins goes.

Rescued: The Unexpected and Extraordinary News of the Gospel, by Fr. John Riccardo. Riccardo is a breath of fresh Gospel air.

If You Give a Girl a Giant: Fighting for Your Life, by Karen Porter, spiritually edifying treatise on successfully defeating the giants life brings our way.

Abba Isn’t Daddy and Other Biblical Surprises, by William L. Burton, OFM, an invitation to delve into Bible study.

And another by Caldwell–Testimony of Two Men (1968) is set at the turn of the twentieth century. It tells the story of a controversial doctor pushing medicine into a modern era–beginning with the concept of handwashing. I’ve read this one before too. It’s worth another go too.

And I’m planning to do Dannah Gresh’s Bible study, Habakkuk: Remembering God’s Faithfulness When He Seems Silent. Habakkuk is a three-chapter, Old Testament book of prophesy. And the circumstances swirling around us today make this study an appropriate way to remember that God is with us–even when He seems silent.

So happy reading. Please let me know what you plan to read this year, and if you’ve read anything on my list, what you think about it.

Photo Credit: openroadmedia.com

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

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20 Replies to “Reading for the New Year”

  1. You have great choices in your list. One of my favorite things to do is to read. I’m always on the lookout for new suggestions of books to read. Thank you. 🙂

  2. This book looks SO good! I’m still compiling my list, but I’m trying to read about survivors of sexual trauma right now for a book I’m writing.

  3. My choices are the Bible or military history. Recently I have invested my reading time in the Sunday comics, coupon searches in the same Sunday paper, food store ads, Fox News app stories, and cereal boxes. Hmm. I wonder where I went wrong? If you like well written, analytical military history, pick up a book written by Victor Davis Hansen. With the release last year of the movie Midway, a much improved remake of the 1976 movie, I dove back into a great book, Shattered Sword. If you are not familiar with the WWII battle see the movie or read this book. This battle was the turning point of the pacific war. I am convinced you can easily see God’s hand determining the outcome of this strategic battle. Thanks!

    1. I’m showing Darkest Hour to a class. God’s hand at Dunkirk was so apparent. Hope we see that hand soon in the US. He’s here; I know. Thanks, Jeff, and God bless!

  4. Wow, sounds like some deep reading. The only one on your list I read is the Hobbit which I loved. We just rewatched all the movies too (but reading is better). I wii certainly check out some on your list. Thanks so much for sharing. Happy reading and God bless.

  5. An interesting and challenging list of authors. Many I recognized (I read some Taylor Caldwell many years ago) and some new ones that piqued my interest. Hope you can meet your goal in 2021–looks like we are going to have another unusual year. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Unusual year? I think so too. And Caldwell’s A Pillar is just the ticket for this kind of year–whatever it turns out to be. Thanks, Katherine. Happy reading and God bless!

  6. You’ve got a great list there! My reading plan is not something I plot at the beginning of a year, like I used to do at the beginning of every school year, but your list certainly looks amazing!

  7. Never read this, Nancy! But I agree how great books only get better with each reading. And I infer from your article how the parallels must deepened!

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