January Books

Last January, I started a reading challenge that took me from Sigrid Undset’s disappointing Kristen Lavrensdatter to Jean-Claude Schmitt’s fascinatingly dismissive “Ghosts in the Middle Ages” before the insanity of Spring: 2020 had me curled up by the fire with Tolstoy, Rilke, and the letters of Dostoyevsky.

It took me a few months crawl out of my cozy cocoon of favorite authors and comfort books. There’s nothing like an old friend in uncertain times.

But 2020 is over. I’m moving on to knew collections of books-that-might-become-favorites! Grazing my way through some exciting compilations and only occasionally dipping back into the books of beloved friends.

Late 2020 was the time to reread again and again Camus’ Rebellion, Resistance, and Death; Kierkegaard’s The Present Age; and the soothing challenges of Desert Fathers like Macarius. But it’s 2021 now, and my pile of books is a little less revolutionary.

Medieval Russia’s Epics, Chronicles, and Tales

This book by Serge Zenovsky is a delight. The collection of tales is rich and varied. It paints such a delicious picture of medieval Russia. I’ve been slowly picking my way through Zenovsky’s book through the fall and winter – taking time to compare the actual texts of various early epics with my books about folklore in early Christian Russia. It’s a gradual process, full of happy little discoveries.

One of my favorite accounts so far in the Russian Epics book is the tale of the martyrdom of Boris and Gleb. The brothers are so full of conviction and gentle faith. They walk enthusiastically toward martyrdom rather that fight their usurping brother. I’m also loving the tales from the Crypt Monastery. Full of reclusive saints, the Crypt Monastery was a famous place of prayer and wisdom in early Russia.

The Forest in Mythology and Folklore

“It is recorded that a monk .. doubting how with God a thousand years could be as a day, listened to the melody of a bird in the green wood during three minutes, and found that in those three minutes 300 years had gone by.”

I’ve only read selections from The Forest in Mythology and Folklore, but I’m already in love with it. This book focuses on the myths and legends that grow up in the woods. From animals and trees to forest spirits and witches of the wood, this book is thrilling.

It’s a thoughtfully written book, without the pithy, “just-fulfilling-my-book-contract” feel of so much contemporary nonfiction. This book takes it’s subject seriously and works through it slowly. But this January, as I’m spending a lot of extra time tucked away in my own forest, it’s the perfect companion for me!

The Little White Horse

The Little White Horse is a delightful, children’s book by Elizabeth Goudge. I’d never read any of Goudge’s books until late 2020, when I discovered The White Witch (read it, it is amazing!). After reading The White Witch, I bought The Little White Horse as a Christmas gift for my daughter. She loved it, and now my husband is reading it aloud to all of us in the evenings.

The descriptions are delightful, the characters are loveable, and the morals of the story are clear and noticeable but not pushy.

So what are you reading this month, friends? I’d love to hear about your January books!

9 Comments Add yours

  1. tat2willa says:

    For some reason I have decided to re-read or sometimes read books from my mother’s favorite author; Willa Cather. I just finished “Song of The Lark” and realized that the protagonist really reminds me of my eldest granddaughter!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Masha says:

      Oh how fun! That’s such a cool connection!


  2. Chiara says:

    My January books have been very reflective of my oblate novitiate… rooted in St. Benedict with supplementary guidance from the Carmelite saints. I have daily readings from the Rule with a commentary for oblates, and my husband reads to us from Dom Gueranger’s books on the Liturgical Year every evening at the dinner table. I’ve also been reading Conversations with Christ by Fr. Rohrbach about St. Teresa’s method of mental prayer.

    I’m working my way through Home Education by Charlotte Mason, and while there’s a lot I appreciate about it, I’m surprised to find that I don’t love it the way I thought I would. So it’s slower going than expected.

    I don’t have anything much “for fun” going on right now, but after re-reading War and Peace last summer I was reminded of how I vastly prefer Dostoyevsky to Tolstoy, and re-reads of many of his books are in order. Many re-reads of Shakespeare are on the list too. Last year I almost accomplished by goal of reading his entire body of plays… I still haven’t done Henry VIII, The Merry Wives of Windsor, or TItus Andronicus!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lavendre&Tyme says:

    I disliked Kirsten as well. Could never get into her.
    I love Anya Seaton’s Katherine more.

    The others on this list sound amazing.
    We’ve been quarantining and I’m so not looking forward to it ending. I really have missed being curled at home with Lucca and the simple domesticity of life at home.
    My van is probably dead too, and I wish I was able to just haul it away and not need it.
    I’m praying for that return in my life, to just be home, though I suppose living in a city makes it hard to just disappear.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Masha says:

      I am so glad I’m not the only one hating on Kristen!!! And I know the feeling of wishing I could just Never Need A Car Again. They’re such exhausting things to own. I am praying for your van issues though. Hopefully you either find and easy fix or an affordable replacement!


  4. Samantha says:

    January feels so unusual this year… I find myself re-addressing Story of a Soul as I brace for the addition of our babe in a few short weeks. My children have become enchanted by Jan Brett’s lovely stories, so often my evenings are spent hand stitching a quilt and listening to the children recount the stories to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Masha says:

      Oh that sounds like an ideal way to find quiet in This January! Prayers for you and your new baby in the new year!


  5. Maria says:

    What disappointed you in Kristin? Maybe try The Master of Hestviken. Decent to my mind but not wonderful. Though a friend claims it’s way better than Kristin. Agree to disagree ;] (also hi! I’m Maria up in AK // formerly etomariya on ig)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Masha says:

      Hi Maria! It’s so good to see you here!

      I think with Kristin, I just didn’t like the writing overall. The characters seemed pretty flat to me, and I felt consistently like the author was trying to tell me about a character she didn’t actually know. Maybe I should give Sigrid another try with the Master of Hestviken?!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s