Mystie’s Reading Nook

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored.”

Anne Lamott

What I’m Currently Reading

Updated March 2021.

I generally have a pile of books I am reading through very slowly (as in, over the course of years), an audio book or two, and a shorter stack of books I’m reading at a “normal” pace.

I participate in an annual reading challenge that I helped design: The Scholé Sisters 5×5 Challenge. This challenge encourages us to dig in deeply to significant topics while also reading broad and eclectic in our reading.

Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer: Spiritual Reality in the Personal Christian Life
Plato’s Republic
Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples
The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What It Means to Be an Educated Human Being

The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What It Means to Be an Educated Human Being

I've been reading this book since 2014. It has sparked Scholé Sisters episodes, articles, and many intramural conversations about the nature of education.

Even though I'm not finished with this anthology yet, I highly recommend it.

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Institutes of the Christian Religion

Institutes of the Christian Religion

Begun August 2019.

I'm reading this with my high schoolers and my friend and her high schoolers over 2 years. When we finish, we'll start over again with our next set of teens. Do be sure to get the Ford Lewis Battles translation, not Beveridge.

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Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture Volume I: Archaic Greece

Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture Volume I: Archaic Greece

Begun in 2017 after recording a Scholé Sisters episode with Eric Hall ("Philosophy for Mommies"), where he mentioned them. It wasn't the first time I'd heard Jaeger's books mentioned, so I hit "buy" on Amazon mid-recording. Brandy ordered them shortly thereafter and we have done an intermittent recorded book club on it for the last 2 years. In two years, we've discussed 7 chapters.

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The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

For the last 3 years I've used the Bible Reading Challenge to read the Bible in 9 months, plus the New Testament again in the summer.

Be in the Word! Make it the first thing you read.

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The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov

Begun in November 2020 with a Scholé Sistership book club.

Read via audio in 2013 and wrote: "I listened to it on audio and feel my appetite was merely whetted; I need to actually read it now."

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Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged

Begun August 2018. My life goal is to finish this before I'm 50 (in 2032).

Recommended to me by Nancy Wilson. Nancy mentioned in a talk that she loved to read "Puritans like Matthew Henry." I had seen Matthew Henry's commentary, and had no idea what time period he belonged to. Within a few months, I purchased this copy and began plugging away.

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Nicomachean Ethics

Nicomachean Ethics

Begun October 2019.

I had read bits and pieces for various projects and podcast episodes and wanted to read it cover-to-cover to get the flow of the whole argument.

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God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics

God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics

Begun in February 2021.

Recommended by the fact that it's C.S. Lewis after all, but Brandy Vencel read it in 2020 and so I added it to my 2021 list.

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Books Finished in 2021

The Great Didactic of John Amos Comenius
The Road to Serfdom

The Road to Serfdom

Begun January 2021. Finished February 2021.

Hayek warns that it is not only socialism but also any central planning that will lead to the serfdom of all whom the planners attempt to control. The risks and troubles of an individualistic society are materially and morally superior to a collectivist society. Power must be distributed among a wide and free mass of individuals, not centralized among a few, for such power will always create tyrants, no matter the intentions with which the project is begun. We must guard against believing that we can create a perfect society if only everyone did things our way - no matter who sets such a program and what their goals are, the result will be oppression and the ideal, because it is utopian, will never be realized while the centralized power will be difficult to undo.

Recommended by Brandy Vencel; a Hayek work seemed like an essential to include in an economics category.

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Humanist Educational Treatises

Humanist Educational Treatises

Begun February 2021.

Reading for my NSA grad class on the history of classical Christian education.

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The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

For the last 3 years I've used the Bible Reading Challenge to read the Bible in 9 months, plus the New Testament again in the summer.

Be in the Word! Make it the first thing you read.

More info →
Buy from Amazon
The Death of Christian Culture

The Death of Christian Culture

Purchased in 2013 and finally reading it in 2021.

Recommended by numerous classical educators and authors over the years.

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Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

Begun in February 2021.

Reading with Pam Barnhill as part of our mastermind group.

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The King at the Edge of the World: A Novel

The King at the Edge of the World: A Novel

Begun in January 2021. Finished February 2021. Listened via Audible.

A story of the human condition, from many angles and the intrigue of Elizabethan England from an unusual perspective: a Muslim from the court at Constantinople, to whom the glory of England is like muddy play-acting. Working in the background, mostly unwillingly, at 4 different courts, our hero comes to see that court politics and secrets are the same, the world and religion around. This book is a well-told, enjoyable story.

Recommended by Susan Wise Bauer when we were recording a Scholé Sisters episode with her. I love a good historical fiction about Elizabethan England, so I nabbed it.

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Ploductivity: A Practical Theology of Work & Wealth

Ploductivity: A Practical Theology of Work & Wealth

More theology than productivity advice, this book aptly defends the use of technology and the expansion of personal capacity that it affords us. When the topic turns to actual ploductivity, however, the only example used for how the technique works is reading and writing - a little bit every day adds up.

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How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds

How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds

It was really more of a book about the need for thinking than a how-to manual, but the checklist in the back was a good one and the examples in the book did highlight those principles without really drawing out particular applications. Jacobs is an excellent practitioner of writing as a craft; his words and examples were all carefully chosen to achieve his effect and reach his audience.

Even if I would have preferred he came out more boldly throughout, still it was evident that he was masterfully choosing his words. Noticing and thinking about how and why he expressed himself throughout was of more benefit to me as a writer than his actual words.

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Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning

Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning

2021: The idea of planning curriculum from the portrait of the graduate you want backward to where you then need to begin is wise and in alignment with ancient educators. However, fitting all subjects we want to teach today into the 7 liberal arts structure seems like shoehorning and inappropriate appropriation of terms. It seems the authors wanted to set themselves apart from other contemporary classical education books, but roots in history and philosophy are not evident, nor is the fact that in practice they are much different from those they'd like to differentiate from. Given another 10 years, I think this will be a forgettable title of the movement.

2009: "The authors promote a "trivium refers to subjects only" perspective, but not a classicist's classical education. Their emphasis was on raising activists who can speak well in order to persuade."

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

A sweet, well-told "flashback" novel of a boy in the 40s and the widower he became in the 80s.

Begun and finished in February 2021. Audio.

Recommended by my friend Elly; we read it together to talk about.

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Mini Habits for Weight Loss

Mini Habits for Weight Loss

It is a wordy book that does go on repetitively for too long, but I listened to it as a podcast replacement at 1.8 speed and it provided 15-30 minute pep talks that I needed in order to recognize how I tend to make the process of changing my own habits and making progress on my goals harder and more complicated than it needs to be. It convinced me that "too easy to ignore" is a better route to go than working toward implementing the perfect plan. It's not the greatest writing ever, but it was a helpful mindset shift and I will likely be listening to it again when I need a motivation boost to stick with baby steps.

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The Laid Back Guide to Intermittent Fasting: How I Lost over 80 Pounds and Kept It off Eating Whatever I Wanted

The Laid Back Guide to Intermittent Fasting: How I Lost over 80 Pounds and Kept It off Eating Whatever I Wanted

I have listened to this book twice now, and it provides a good, realistic set of reminders about the slow-and-steady, iterative process needed to lose weight.

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The Didascalicon of Hugh of Saint Victor: A Guide to the Arts

Books Finished in 2020

These are grouped by my 5×5 Challenge categories. Visit Scholé Sisters to learn more about the 5×5 Reading Challenge, get the printable reading guide, and find accountability for broad reading.

Star ratings are on a 5-star scale and awarded based on how well I thought the book achieved its intentions and lived up to its potential.

“History, too, can be misunderstood – even misrepresented – and disaster can follow from that. Bad history is a dangerous master. But we have never needed sound history more.”

p. 513

A Short History of the World, by J.M. Roberts

published in 1993
History. 5×5 pick.
started in January 2020; finished May 2020.

A comprehensive, liberal summary of world history from evolutionary fictions to the end of the Cold War.

It was good to read a secular, liberal history of the world. His dogma wasn’t too overpowering, but it was very evident in his presentation of imagination as prehistory, skepticism of biblical accounts, and fear of overpopulation.

The first 40 pages are pure speculation and hard to stomach while not being bored. You wouldn’t miss much to skip them and start when history actually starts with written documentation.

His overview is a good set of selections that gives the broad sweep of the main movements without getting bogged down in details.

His writing style is clear and lucid, though he very rarely shows deep insight or startling expression. It’s not a book for the commonplace, but it will be handy for referring to again in the future for a sketch of historical context.

There’s great reference material at the beginning and end that will keep this edition a handy source in the future.

“”

p. x

Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties, by Paul Johnson

read by Nadia May
published in 2006
History. 5×5 Pick.
started in March 2020 . Finished in October 2020.

A Little History of Philosophy, by Nigel Warburton

Published in 2012
Philosophy. 5×5 pick.
Started in April 2020, finished in June 2020.

An engaging romp through the history of philosophical thought, with even-handed though secular treatment of 40 major contributors to philosophy, from Plato to Singer.

Each summary includes a narrative look at the philosopher as a man as well as what he thought and how others responded to him. The summaries were better written than those in Sophie’s World, and I would recommend this as a philosophical overview for students or adults over that novel any day of the week.

This difficult man [Socrates], who kept asking questions and would rather die than stop thinking about how things really are, has been an inspiration for philosophers ever since.” (p. 8)

“God may be incomprehensible, but he is not unknowable. Any doubt is removed the moment God opens his mouth.” (p. 25)

None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God, by Matthew Barrett

published 2019
Theology. 5×5 pick. Recommended by Brandy Vencel.
started in April 2020; finished July 2020

The more we know and understand God, the more informed and sincere will be our praise.

Barrett does an excellent job explaining the attributes of God in the classical sense and terminology for a modern lay reader. Better still, he does so without straying into abstraction and theory, but grounds it all in doxology.

Many of his personal anecdotes seemed to be an interruption to the flow of thought, and the predictability with which they came and the sometimes tenuous connection made me lament once more modern nonfiction style, but the clarity of the meat of his writing made the dashes of personal sauce tolerable.

This would make a good read with a high schooler for theology, especially when paired with Packer’s Knowing God.

Mere Discipleship: Growing in Wisdom & Hope, by Alistair McGrath

published 2019
Whim. Christian Living & Thinking.
started in February 2020, finished August 2020

Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger

published 2002
Fiction. 5×5 pick.
started in March 2020; finished in March 2020

One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

translated by Max Hayward
published in 1962
Fiction. 5×5 pick.
started in February 2020; finished in February 2020

Kenilworth, by Sir Walter Scott

written in 1821
Fiction. 5×5 pick.
started in January 2020; finished in February 2020

The Golf Omnibus, by PG Wodehouse

published in 1973
Fiction. Date-night read-aloud.
started in March 2020; finished in August 2020.

Olive, by Barbara Braendlein

Published in 2020
Fiction. Started in June 2020; finished June 2020

Read this. Give it to your kids to read. It’s a delightful story of a special needs girl who doesn’t want your pity, but to show you how to love life, fight for it, and be happy. Mothers will find it a convicting reminder of how we are the atmosphere of our homes and children will be shown the world from a different set of eyes.

I can’t quite place my finger on why, but it reminded me of Little House in the Big Woods. Perhaps it was how the family came together and provided a loving, healthy, warm environment despite hard things. Perhaps it was how the childlike joy of life was pervasive, even though we might assume life was hard and therefore always sad.