The cold rainy days of January have settled in. Christmas is packed away for another 11 months and the glitter and tree needles are vacuumed and dusted from the parlor. The happy memories linger and I now indulge in a new delight—reviewing the books I read last year. My 2022 reading goal was 4 books a month, either listening or reading. In order to keep track of this goal I decided to have a basket in the corner of the library to hold my finished books and I could always go back to my Kindle and Audible to tally up the year’s treasures. As the year progressed my stack passed the top of the basket and spilled onto the floor in a precarious pile. I’m happy to say that I surpassed my goal and read/listened to over 50 books. I like to read around 50 pages a day usually in several different books. Sometimes I read nothing, sometimes I read over 100; it just depends.
This last week I sorted the books out and put them in three piles: to share, to sell and to keep. Some of the books at the bottom of the pile I had completely forgotten about but I was glad to see some old friends. There were books I was happy to part with, some I was on the fence about and a few that will never leave my library and have become treasured companions. So here are my favorites across several different categories.
First thing in the morning I like to read something spiritual. Those early hours when the house is dark and I’m warmed by my first cup of coffee is the time that I like to read something to warm my soul. My favorite was A Journey of Sea and Stone: How Holy Places Guide and Renew Us by Tracy Balzer. This beautifully written book took me back to my perfect day on earth on the holy isle of Iona. I want to read it again already. I also love, Thrive: Living a Self-Healing Life by Valarie Budayr, my dear friend and fellow pilgrim. A guide to healing trauma, Valarie sets out loving and actionable steps to help anyone find a more vibrant life.
This year Egypt was once again on the reading list. After a trip to see NYC to see the Egyptian opera Akhnaten not just once but twice in the same week, I wanted to continue reading more about that magical land. Hieroglyphic Words of Power: Symbols for Magic, Divination and Dreamwork by Normandi Ellis, is a full immersion into an ancient language that still hold important wisdom. I read about one hieroglyph a day for several weeks as a daily meditation. I also recommend Embodying Osiris: The Secrets of Alchemical Transformation by Thom Cavalli. This book combines the ancient wisdom of the Egyptian gods and alchemy with the modern work of Jung—not easy to do but Thom does it masterfully. I also liked Songlines of the Soul by Veronica Goodchild and The Living Labyrinth by Jeremy Taylor.
In the non-fiction category I loved The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home by George Howe Colt. For those of us who have loved and lost homes, this beautifully written book helps bring words to the memory and loss of a beloved place. Amanda Montell’s book Cultish, was an enlightening read about how deeply influenced we are by the language of persuasion. I also liked Uprooted by Page Dicky and A Pilgrimage to Eternity by Timothy Egan.
I love to read about writing, secretly hoping to find the key to making writing easy, no luck yet. But I did find Pat Schneider’s gorgeous books, How the Light Gets In and Writing Alone and With Others. Writing hasn’t become blissful for me quite yet, but Pat has definitely helped me let go of some of the pain and reluctance. She is a remarkable writer worth reading even if you aren’t interested in writing. She left a writing education legacy that is being carried on by the Amherst Writers and Artists.
For my neighborhood book club we usually read fiction—well, I usually listen to the fiction. So, this year I enjoyed The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. Wonderful writing and a compelling story kept me going through this 23-hour audio book—it was that good. In October I had a lot of wood siding to paint so I kept entertained by The Midnight Library by Matt Haig—it made me want to go paint so I could continue the story. I also put up my Christmas trees to The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Yes, it takes an entire audio book to put up my Christmas and take it down and that is how much I love Christmas.
I love the arts and have spent a lot of my life learning about great music, dance, and fine art but I have almost no experience with great literature outside of one good year of English in high school. I’ve wanted to read more classic literature but in January my attempt at George Elliot’s Middlemarch came to a rather quick end on page 29. But luckily my YouTube addiction came to the rescue and I came across Ben McEvoy’s Hard Core Literature Book Club—thank you book lovers algorithms. I signed up for his Patreon book club for the lecture series and like magic I have read four great books in just three months. I have cracked the code: good lectures, a reasonable pace, the combination of reading a physical book and listening to the audio at the same time, and an on-line community of other people who also read multiple books at once. I read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens and my absolute favorite Persuasion by Jane Austin. I proudly have my new reading accomplishments lined up on their own shelf awaiting many more to come. January/Feburary’s ambition– Ulysses by James Joyce—wish me luck.
How was your reading/listening year? What books are awaiting you in 2023? I came across this great quote on Facebook “Think not of the books you’ve bought as a “to be read” pile. Instead, think of your bookcase as a wine cellar. You collect books to be read at the right time, the right place, and the right mood.” Luc Van Donkergoed.
Please visit my other blog www.thetimelesstarot.com