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!