Books

Becoming a Book Girl Again: A Journey Back into the Reading Life

I was a voracious reader when I was little. I remember once instance where, after I’d been naughty, my mom disciplined me by forbidding me to read anything for an hour or so. It was a very effective punishment. I also remember coming home from the library with a stack of books one afternoon, then crying my eyes out that evening because I’d read them all over the span of a few hours. Obviously, I needed to learn how to pace myself.

I continued to read a lot as a teen. Although I didn’t care much for Dante or The Pilgrim’s Progress (sorry, Bunyan fans), I did enjoy my assigned readings of Mere Christianity, Shakespeare, and The Odyssey in school. As far as pleasure reading was concerned, I gobbled up all of Jane Austen’s novels, Jane EyreThe Lord of the Rings, Gene Stratton-Porter’s marvelous The Keeper of the Bees and The Girl of the Limberlost, and several of The Scarlet Pimpernel novels.

And then…I got an iPhone.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad I have an iPhone and I’m so, so thankful for all the wonderful friendships I’ve made through social media! I wouldn’t have friends in Poland, Australia, Brazil, and Canada if it weren’t for social media–and I never would’ve met one of my very dearest real-life friends if my grandmother hadn’t given her my email address several years ago. But I highly doubt I’m the first to admit that social media has had a negative impact on my reading habits. It’s far easier to reach for a phone than a book, and it takes less mental energy to scroll through a Twitter feed than it does to focus on a world of words.

Maybe this wouldn’t be as big a problem for some people, but it is very bad for my profession. I’m a writer, and writers are supposed to be readers, right?! To put it bluntly, I’ve been shooting myself in the foot. As I step into 2019–a year that, hopefully, will be full of brand-new writing adventures–I really want to change that. I want to be passionate about reading again.

I’m not leaving social media. In fact, in a slight twist of irony, I’ve even set up a Goodreads account in the hopes that it’ll keep me accountable in my new reading goals. But I am going to try to spend less time on social media, and more time burying myself in books that’ll edify and encourage me spiritually and creatively.

A few of my 2018 reads!

Last year I read thirteen books:

  1. Victoria: The Heart and Mind of a Young Queen* by Helen Rappaport
  2. Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire* by Julia Baird
  3. Middlemarch* by George Eliot
  4. Victoria & Albert: A Royal Love Affair* by Daisy Goodwin & Sara Sheridan
  5. Dollbaby: A Novel* by Laura Lane McNeal
  6. Mrs. Kennedy and Me: An Intimate Memoir* by Clint Hill
  7. Doctor Who: Deep Time* by Trevor Baxendale
  8. North and South* by Elizabeth Gaskell
  9. The Borrowed House* by Hilda van Stockum
  10. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel* by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
  11. All Creatures Great and Small* by James Herriot
  12. The Real James Herriot: A Memoir of My Father* by Jim Wight
  13. Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch* by Sally Bedell Smith

Some of these were re-reads, like Guernsey and The Borrowed House; with the sole exception of Dollbaby, I enjoyed/would recommend them all, and I’m so glad I was able to read them.

THIS year, however, I have a much longer and more ambitious list of books I want to read. I’m starting with these four:

But it’s not simply that I want to beat last year’s number of books. That’s not why I want to read more in 2019. Instead, I want to spend more time nurturing and investing in myself. Sarah Clarkson, the author of Book Girl: A Journey through the Treasures and Transforming Power of a Reading Life*, says this about the power of a well-read woman:

A woman who reads is a woman who taps into the fundamental reality that she was created to learn, made to question, primed to grow by her interaction with words. A book girl is one who has grasped the wondrous fact that she has a mind of her own, a gift from her Creator, meant to be filled and stretched, challenged and satisfied by learning for all the days of her life. A woman who reads is one who takes ownership of herself, aware that words give her the holy power to seek, to grow, to question, and to discern. She knows that to read is to begin an adventure of self-formation in partnership with the Holy Spirit that will shape the choices she makes, the dreams she bears, the legacy she leaves in the great tale of the world.” [emphasis mine]

So whether I’m delving for the first time into the insightful wit of G.K. Chesterton, immersing myself yet again in the inspiring story of Queen Elizabeth II, returning to old favorites like C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, or taking on Leo Tolstoy’s rather intimidating Anna Karenina or Charles Dickens’ (only slightly less intimidating) David Copperfield–I think it’s going to be a very wonder-full adventure.

What are some books in your reading pile? Let me know in the comments!

9 thoughts on “Becoming a Book Girl Again: A Journey Back into the Reading Life”

  1. Great post! I never liked Pilgrims Progress either lol. You will LOVE Anna Karenina and Chesterton. Since having Elanor I hardly ever read physical books anymore but I get so much reading in through audiobooks! The Anna Karenina audiobook is great btw

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    1. So glad you enjoyed it, Friend! And rather glad, too, that I’m not the only one who’s not quite a fan of Pilgrim’s Progress either, haha. I realize it’s been a very influential book and I appreciate that, but as a story…eh. The allegory was definitely the “slam-it-down-your-throat” type.

      That said, I am SO EXCITED about getting into Chesterton! So many people whom I love and respect deeply appreciate his works. And while Anna Karenina intimidates me a bit, I reckon that if I can get through Les Miserables and love it, I can get through Anna Karenina 😉

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  2. For once I’m super grateful for an iPhone update–I love the freedom of setting time limits on certain apps. It’s helped me “unplug” in a healthy way, without losing the connection I love from social media. Book Girl is THE BEST and I got so many great recommendations from it (I highly recommend Parnassus on Wheels in particular, but don’t bother with its sequel). Looking forward to seeing where reading takes you this year!

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    1. Ooh, I think I’d heard of that iPhone update, but I had completely forgotten about until you mentioned it. If I find it difficult to keep away from Twitter and Instagram, I may put it to good use 🙂

      Isn’t Book Girl amazing? I’m so inspired. I’m keeping a list in the back of the book of all the books I want to read that I don’t actually have in the house (L.M. Montgomery’s Emily series, for example, and Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love). Parnassus on Wheels wasn’t a title that jumped out at me initially, but on your recommendation, I’ll give it a second look. Thank you so much for commenting!

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      1. Parnassus is a sweet, quick story of a woman learning to love books–I hope you enjoy it! 🙂 I never made it all the way through the Emily series either, and I may pick it up again soon!

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  3. I LOVED Book Girl, and immediately lent it out to one of my sisters and my sister-in-law. I think I’ll probably at least be re-perusing this year for ideas if not re-reading.

    I listened to All Creatures Great and Small and then to All Things Bright and Beautiful because after hearing Christopher Timothy bring the first one to LIFE, I couldn’t read the physical book, I had to listen. At first I thought there were three, but it looks like there are 5 in the series, so I definitely want to listen to those. And I just added the bio to the list a couple days ago.

    Some of the other books on your list last year look interesting, I’ll have to add them to my TBR.

    I want to read Anna Karenina too, but right now I’m working through War and Peace on the Serial Reader app (breaks down books into bite-sized pieces).

    I, um, didn’t love Til We Had Faces when I read it years ago. Maybe in another few years I can try it again. I love Narnia, his space trilogy was okay, weird, freaky (books 1,2,3), Abolition of Man was a bit beyond me, I read Screwtape Letters so long ago, yeah, Lewis is an odd mix.

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    1. Oh yes, it’s definitely a book I’ll be referencing for many years to come! Right now I’m putting together a list of books she’s recommended that I don’t actually own but still want to read–and then a second list of books that I do own and want to re-read (or read for the first time)! I’m very excited and inspired.

      OH MY GOODNESS, Christopher Timothy does an audiobook of All Creatures Great and Small?! That must be wonderful! I can’t recommend the biography highly enough; the real James Herriot (Alf Wight) was just as dear and honorable as he was in the books.

      I had to chuckle over your comment about Till We Have Faces, because I’m about 2/3 through it and loving it XD Different strokes for different folks, haha! On the other hand, I tried to read the Space Trilogy years ago and didn’t like it all. Buuuuuuut I was also about 12–probably too young. I’d like to try them again at some point.

      Thank you so much for commenting! It’s been wonderful hearing from other book girls! 😀

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  4. Your reading journey sounds very familiar, LOL. The same thing happened to me–voracious reader when I was a kid, then other stuff got in the way. I’m trying to remedy that this year as well, and to expand my reading list beyond just fantasy and sci-fi (not that there’s anything wrong with those, of course). I’ve got biographies of Napoleon and Mary, Queen of Scots on the list. The Napoleon one is fascinating so far. Doctor Who: Deep Time is on there somewhere as well; haven’t started it yet but it sounds very cool. And All Creatures Great and Small is such a delightful book. Herriot’s works actually inspired my mom to become a veterinarian.

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    1. Oooh, Napoleon and Mary, Queen of Scots–I’m intrigued! I’ve read about them, of course, but I’ve never actually delved into any biographies about them. I think you’ll really like Deep Time. I read the Kindle version in one day (in my defense, I was in the car on my way home from vacation–nothing else to do but read) and it was far more compelling than I expected. I wouldn’t mind having a hard copy of it. (Also, there’s one scene where we find out that the Doctor was personal friends with C.S. Lewis and thinks “Narnia is a beautiful place.” Iconic.)

      Oh wow, that’s so neat about your mom! I enjoy Herriot for so many reasons: the setting of rural Yorkshire, the time period, the humor (that dry British wit is my favorite kind of humor), and of course the animals. We had goats for six years, so I like to think I got a small taste of amateur veterinary experience during that time.

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