Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The joy of "assigned" reading and book talk

Sometimes I find myself reading a lot of books I didn't intend, faster than I meant to, and it's all because they were chosen by people for discussion ... or, in other words, "assigned." There's nothing like interesting book talk to pull me into a book. Even if I don't love the book, I always get something from the conversation.

Sometimes these are real life discussions. Sometimes they are favorite podcasts that are diving deep. Either way, I usually can't wait to go from one to another.

Here's the latest batch I'm juggling — which is a ton of fun, I must say.


Assigned by: A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast

To be fair, this is my selection so I'm not complaining.

Like a lot of us, I first read it in high school where I had the common dislike for the boring book. Then when my high school age daughters both loved it, I took another run at it and fell in love myself. Both with the book and with Nathaniel Hawthorne's incredible writing style.

I'm always struck by how modern it feels toward toward the end when Hester and her lover are in the woods. She has this moment of "I've never felt so alive!" that just knocks me out. The last few chapters almost turn into a thriller as we are pulling for them while worrying about what their enemy is going to do.


Assigned by: my Catholic women's book club

I'm reading twenty-five pages a day (roughly 3 short chapters) and will get done the day before. Of course, this isn't my first time through and that helps with quick reading. Which I'm naturally good at anyway.

I always enjoy this immensely as an extremely logical and understandable explanation to which anyone can relate. One need not agree with the author about Christianity or God, but one gets an excellent description of how a Christian understands the world. And that is a valuable thing these days, it seems to me. It is also a good devotional as I was reminded of many of the basics upon which my life is based and to which I aspire.


Assigned by: the Close Reads podcast

I've had a sneaking attraction to this book for over a year. Which really surprised me since I hated The Brothers Karamazov (please, no comments about that - let's just move on). But I'd been told that this was a very different book, a very modern feeling book, and numerous people had urged it on me.

When I saw Close Reads was covering this as part of their Patreon extra book I signed right up. I can't quit reading - except to listen to the episode covering the chapters I just read. I've been loving it more all the time! Finally, a Russian novel I can love (so far anyway - I'm not promising anything until I've finished).

I listen to Close Reads off and on in their regular podcast, depending on what they're reading. They are working from a classical education perspective, which feeds into a homeschooling, Christian audience. That is reflected in their Facebook page which has varied and lively discussions and I regularly check in there too.


Assigned by: The Literary Life podcast

This is a bit of a cheat since I'm not reading the book along with them. I know it really well so listening to the conversation is enough. But I wanted to let anyone reading this know about the podcast, especially in covering this book. So I slipped it in here — and I really am juggling it with the others!

As with Close Reads, I listen  off and on to The Literary Life, depending on what they're discussing. They also are working from a classical education perspective, which feeds into a homeschooling, Christian audience. That is reflected in their Facebook page which has varied and lively discussions and I regularly check in there too.


Assigned by:  Mythgard Academy as I relisten to their free classes

I admit it. I'm addicted to Corey Olsen's classes. Of all the book talk-ers on this page, I think he is the best because he focuses on what the text is telling us, not on what we know will happen later in the book or getting sidetracked into tangential ideas.

I usually have something of his on my iPod. I'm not as interested in the lesser known Tolkien writings as he is, so I am often relistening to a class while waiting for him to finish up obscure Tolkien-iana and begin a book I'm interested in. I only read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell once (while listening to the Mythgard classes) and find it is the perfect fantasy to reread during a pandemic quarantine. That makes these classes my perfect "assignment."

Coming Soon

Assigned by: the CraftLit podcast

I'll begin this as soon as I finish either Crime and Punishment or Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

You know, it's that book by the other Bronte sister. The one whose name no one can ever remember. I did sample the first chapter. Heather Ordover has gotten two excellent readers to do the audiobook and, as always, her commentary is great. It can be a bit "women's issues" oriented which isn't really my cup of tea but it's not so much that it is overly intrusive.


  1. Well, if you want to join another book club, I'm a moderator at Catholic Thought book club over at Goodreads. We'd love to have you. We're currently reading Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson.

    But I know what you mean. Ever since joining a book club, it becomes thy will, not my will.

    1. Thanks! Though I really just like in person book clubs. The podcasts are like listening to classes, as you probably know. :-)

    2. I'll give the podcast a try. I just used your recent book for the first time. I've been reading Ezekiel and I remembered I have your book in my kindle. So I went to see what you wrote about it. It helped. I still have trouble with some of those OT passages where God says He's going to destroy people. I know how I'm supposed to take those passages, but it still doesn't add up for me.