We do a lot of reading.
We read aloud to the kids at breakfast during schooling-times, at lunch throughout the year, at tea whenever we sit down to it (about 3 times a week on average), and at bedtime. We also pepper the day with shorter read-alouds and Yarrow is now confident enough in her reading that she can sit and read to Ilya as well. Which is amazing. I deep-cleaned the house today while Yarrow read her brother book after book in the sunlight.
Right now, the lunch and tea book is The Hobbit, for the billionth time; but after tomorrow, we’ll be picking something new. I’m hoping to pick out something truly new (never before read!) from the library…but if not, Yarrow is angling to hear the Tales of King Arthur again. Ilya just wants to hear Gyo Fujikawa’s Baby Animals book over and over and over again, which is fun too.
But despite the excitement I do feel for hobbits, knights, and tiny mouse babies..sometimes I do want to read something else. Something more grown-up and challenging..or grown up and purely indulgent. I used to have huge piles of books going all the time, I used to get lost in them and forget to do things like dress myself or eat lunch – I don’t have that luxury anymore, it’s been replaced by other, more tender luxuries, like watching my daughter read aloud to her brother and feeling the love between them grow. So I don’t miss my days devoted to Kierkegaard too much..instead, I take a cue from Charlotte Mason and pick just three at a time: one indulgently easy, one moderately thought-provoking, and one deeply challenging book.
The system works out well! I can indulge in easy entertainment while Ilya pretends I’m a ‘horse-y’ or read something exciting while Seth and I are sitting out under the moon, and at naptime, or late at night – when all is quiet and my brain is fully awake, I can remind it how to think deeply and give it meaty bones of wisdom to gnaw upon.
This month I’m revisiting old friends: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is one of my favorite books. It is everything I want in a novel: interesting, magical, well-written, clever, funny, and slightly unnerving. I adore it. I’ve read it before years ago, and actually kept it to read again, which is rare for me and novels-not-written-by-Russians. It’s my easy book this month because it is so easy, you just fall right into a fantastic versions of early 19th century England and stay there.
Untamed Hospitality is a book I began years ago, enjoyed, and then misplaced for a few years while I forgot about it and went about having babies and building a few extra gardens. It is a very good book. I like it especially because it responds to, and rejects the modern ‘myths of hospitality’ – primary in my experience being the sentimentalism, lying sort of hospitality that demands to feel welcomed at the expense of an honest meeting of persons. The author defines true hospitality as an extension of our interactions with God and builds up a holistic sense of welcoming within the book. It’s lovely, challenging in that it reminds me of my failures to be truly (and not merely conventionally) hospitable, and comfortable because she is an easy author to read and understand – and because she uses so many familiar examples (Flannery O Connor for one!).
Meditations on the Tarot will be my ‘Challenging’ book for years to come, I think. I’ve read it, and begun it again. The book is not in any way a how to manual on Tarot-reading. It is, very much as described, “a journey into Christian Hermeticism.” The book examines the cards of the Tarot’s Major Arcana and meditates on the symbolism of the cards from a Catholic perspective. It is a beautiful, reflective book. A book that, far from luring one into the occult, makes the cards it studies so intimately linked to a Catholic worldview that (for myself anyway) it is no longer even temptation to view the tarot as a divination tool. I adore this book. The ‘Unknown Friend’ is truly a friend, who thinks in beautiful (and sometimes erroneous) ways. It’s a joy to read. But it does require focus and reflection. A lot of focus and reflection. This is not a book to read with small children bouncing on your back saying “neigh! neigh!”
Tonight, while Yarrow and Ilya are falling asleep, Seth will read aloud from the Bible (we’re in Revelation right now) and from Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Series (The Castle of Llyr). While he does I’ll nurse Ilya and read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell to myself, or just listen, because both God and Lloyd Alexander are enjoyable authors; and after that, who knows where the night will take me – to my Unknown Friend discussing the hanged man card, to Christ the Stranger, or to a different version of the hanged man in Mr. Norrell. It’s exciting not knowing, having all sorts of variety, and still having just enough structure around it all to keep balanced.
What are you reading these days, friends?