Reading Goals 2021 Recap

It took a hard push from November on, but I was able to successfully complete a title in every category of my list, although it took me until Christmas Day to do it! While I would be 100% fine to not get to every title, it does feel good to set a challenging, but realistic goal and achieve it. 

Here is my original post where I laid out my plans to complete the Back to the Classics Challenge 2021 and the Schole Sisters 5x5 challenge which I also completed in 2020. And while I read fewer books overall this year over last, my reading in 2021 was much more focused and challenging in a good way.

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For the Back to the Classics Challenge 2021 hosted by Books and Chocolate, I read the following titles:

1. A 19th-century classic: any book first published from 1800 to 1899. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818). I reread this to see when it would be appropriate to assign in a homeschool setting. Verdict: not yet, but maybe in a few years.

2. A 20th-century classic: any book first published from 1900 to 1971. All books must have been published at least 50 years ago; the only exceptions are books that were written by 1971 and posthumously published. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (1970). Wow! I knew nothing about this book. I had read Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison 20-odd years ago, but nothing else by the author. It was a disturbing but extremely compelling and well-written book. 

3. A classic by a woman authorUncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852). I was surprised by how much this book drew me. Books like this keep me setting reading goals because I would not have read this historically important book without the extra push that assigning it gives me. 

4. A classic in translation, meaning any book first published in a language that is not your primary language. You may read it in translation or in its original language if you prefer. The Illiad by Homer (Lattimore Fagles Translation) I spent way too much time agonizing over what translation of the Illiad to assign to my son this year! Ambleside Online suggested Fagles, but then when I googled around about what edition was best, I read people absolutely bashing that translation and recommending Lattimore, and I was leaning toward that advice when I made my goals. 

Thanks to I was able to preview the Lattimore and read some more online opinions and went with Fagles after all. My conclusion: Fagles was perfect for us. This was my second time reading the Illiad. The first time was mainly a slog for me, and this time I enjoyed myself even though I had to spend a few weeks really focusing on reading an entire section a night.  

5. A classic by BIPOC author; that is, a non-white author. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou I read this title for the first time in high school and so I wanted to reread it to see what I would think about assigning it to my homeschool students. Reading it as an adult was a very different experience than reading it as a teen!

6. A classic by a new-to-you author, i.e., an author whose work you have never read. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (1855). A few years back, I watched the BBC version of this story and really loved it, so I jumped at the chance to put this on my reading goals. I certainly didn't dislike it, but it would never make it onto my favorites list.

7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author -- a new book by an author whose works you have already read. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot. It was only a couple of years ago that I read my first George Eliot book--Silas Marner. Then, last year, I read Middlemarch and I was positively blown away by it . . . couldn't put it down and obsessed! So I decided to read another George Eliot. I loved this book! And in an interesting twist, I read Ivanhoe immediately before beginning Daniel Deronda and was so happy I did when a character in Daniel Deronda was described as being like a character from Ivanhoe. I love it when my books talk to each other ;-)

8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title. The animal can be real or metaphorical. (i.e., To Kill a Mockingbird). Animal Farm by George Orwell. This was the second or third time I read this book and it will be my last. I will not be assigning this one to my homeschool students either. I think it is dated, poorly written, and lacking in value. Feel free to disagree, but this doesn't seem worthy of its place in school literature in my opinion.

9. A children's classicThe Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth (1930). My husband studies and teaches about Asian religion, so he took some issues with this book's portrayal of Buddhism at some points. The kids and I enjoyed it as a lunchtime read, but I wouldn't make a point of reading it again.

10. A humorous or satirical classic. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920) [First novel by a woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature]. Not my favorite Edith Wharton, but she does really suck you into the social lives of her characters. It is so hard to imagine living under high society's strict social constraints. 

11. A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction). It can be a travelogue or a classic in which the main character travels or has an adventure. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. I am so glad I decided to give Sir Walter Scott another try, thanks to Charlotte Mason's over-the-top praise of the Waverly novels. While I didn't go wild over Rob Roy, I loved Ivanhoe! I could not put it down.

12. A classic play. Plays will only count in this category. The Tempest by William Shakespeare. Reading Shakespeare aloud with the people you love best and not worrying at all about analyzing it or understanding every word is a great way to fall in love with it. We all enjoyed this kooky play. 

For Schole Sisters 5x5 Challenge, you pick five categories and read five books from each, rereads encouraged. I selected the following categories and books, but ended up making several substitutions to make it work for me:

Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek by Annie Dillard
All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot (reread)

Reading this category over the last 2 years has been very meaningful to me. This year, I purposely chose to read more from women writing about nature and that made this category personally richer this year. All of these books will stay with me, but I'm most changed and thankful for reading Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I also had the chance to virtually attend a talk she gave (virtually) which was icing on the cake. I highly recommend it.

Social Studies (Geography, History, Travelogues)
Unworthy Republic by Claudio Saunt 
Loving vs. Virginia Patricia Hruby Powell

Three of these titles were homeschool prereads. My personal favorite was A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Lucy Bird (available free here) which is a collection of letters the author wrote to her sister while she traveled alone throughout Colorado in 1873. What an adventure!

Self-Awareness Reading List
The Introverted Mom by Jamie Martin
The Nature Principle by Richard Louv
Ourselves by Charlotte Mason (free here)
The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

I enjoyed all of these. The last two were my favorites. I'm a sucker for glimpses into the way different countries/cultures live. And I was so surprised to enjoy Ourselves so much. I would never have pushed so hard to finish it without this challenge, but I'm so glad I did. 

Science Fiction & Fantasy
Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
Rhythms of War by Brandon Sanderson
Binti (entire trilogy) by Nnedi Okorafor 
Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
Watership Down by Richard Adams

I knew I wanted to read the first two books, being sequels to other books I loved, and I did enjoy them both although I felt very discouraged trying to get through 1200+ page Rhythms of War at some points. Eventually, I got into it and the going got easier. 

I read Binti at first because it was short, but enjoyed it enough to read all 3 novellas. Watership Down was a reread for me and I read it at the same time as my son, which was fun. Finally, considering that I count myself fairly well-read in the sci-fi/fantasy category, it was a bit of an oversight on my part that I had never read a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, so I added that to the list in order to round out that category.

Parents and Children by Charlotte Mason (free here) and doing a voxer discussion with a friend :-)
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham
Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings by Dr. Laura Markham
Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff
The Gift of ADHD by Lara Honos-Webb

I never get tired of reading parenting or homeschooling books because I always feel like I have a lot to learn ;-) I swapped the book about anxiety with a different one because I couldn't remember which one of the two my library owned was the one I liked years ago. It was The Opposite of Worry and I enjoyed Cohen's perspective and advice very much.

But the real standout on the list was Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff which was the right book at the right time for me. It helped me see some blind spots I had and has inspired me to make some little tweaks that have made a world of difference in our home. Oddly enough, reading this book helped me understand some of the concepts from Charlotte Mason's books in a new light. It has given me a lot to think about. 

But really I could say that about so many of the books I read this year. They have fed my mind a rich feast of ideas that continue to nourish me. Stay tuned for next year's reading challenge goals soon.

Please share your favorite reads this year below. I love discovering new titles for my TBR list!