Winter Reading: Something Old, Something New
I love long, cosy winter evenings spent with a good book and a cat. This is when I whittle down the reading pile I’ve accumulated by my chair during the convention season and travel months. While some of my winter reading involves new and untried authors, there are a few old favorites I return to over and over (like C. S. Lewis, I’m even old enough to admit to enjoying children’s fiction). I believe that children need to see their parents reading, but I also know how limited time and attention can be when you are in the early years of homeschooling. Light reading can help you model healthy reading habits during those challenging years.
These don’t include my favorite classics, of course, nor anything homeschool related, because sometimes you just need a change of pace. Whether you’re looking for a gift, or just something new for your own reading pile, here are a few of my time-tested winter reading favorites, plus a couple new finds.
The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon
I like books that approach a familiar topic from a creative angle. In The Supper of the Lamb the subject is supper, but it’s about a lot more than food. It is described as a “surprising and thought-provoking treatise on everything from prayer to poetry to puff pastry,” and it’s one of the books that spends more time by my chair than on the shelf. I don’t usually read books about food, though I enjoy a few, but somehow, the wit and wisdom in this book continually entices me back for another taste.
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
This unforgettable book will make you cry, but it’s worth it. Described as “the spiritual autobiography of a love,” it is the story of a young couple, friends with C. S. Lewis, and their great love and loss. Beautifully told, and well worth reading at any stage of life.
The Crosswicks Journal: A Circle of Quiet, The Summer of the Great-grandmother, The Irrational Season, and Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle
Four books; one life. I have enjoyed each of these volumes at different times of my life, because each has a different focus. More than just a simple memoir, L’Engle writes intimately about her life, caregiving for a parent with dementia, blending a writing career with family life, and her long marriage. Whatever the topic, I found comfort and wisdom in these pages.
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
The first time I read this story of two boys, one Modern Orthodox and one a traditional Hasidic Jew, and their fathers, I made the entire family read it. Another unforgettable story, this is an excellent family read-aloud or even a book group choice, though it’s another one that may make you cry.
A Sacrifice of Praise: An Anthology of Christian Poetry in English from Caedmon to the Mid-Twentieth Century
Beautiful poetry makes my heart sing, and this anthology is full of poetic riches. It was just recommended to me by my friend, Kathy of Learn Differently, and I have already found in it a number of unfamiliar works, as well as many old favorites. Make no mistake—this is beautiful, classic poetry, not a collection of Hallmark sentiments, and as such, it’s a worthy addition to any library. It’s the kind of book I would like to own in hardcover, and that’s rare.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
After responding to a newspaper ad which asked “Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” a motley group of children are given a dangerous secret mission. This book is a recent addition to my shelf, recommended by a friend, but the story is timeless.
David and the Phoenix by Edward Ormondroyd
I’ve read this childhood favorite countless times, and not just in childhood. There’s just something magical about this story of a boy and a phoenix, and I keep both a hardcover copy and a Kindle version always on my shelf. (I’ve also written a whole post on David and the Phoenix.)
The Dragon of Cripple Creek by Troy Howell
I enjoy stories in which a character stumbles upon a hidden passageway or steps through a wardrobe or mirror or ordinary door, and finds adventure. In The Dragon of Cripple Creek, adventure comes in the form of a dragon, found in a most unexpected place. With beautifully crafted prose, well-drawn characters, and a thought-provoking storyline, this relatively recent book is suitable for all ages.
The Peleg Chronicles: Foundlings (1), Paladins (2), and Loresman (3) by Matthew Christian Harding
If you’re looking for a book that boys will love, it would be hard to top The Peleg Chronicles, especially if your boys enjoy feudal epics with knights, princesses, dragons (dinosaurs), giants, and more. Harding is a master of the cliffhanger ending—I find it hard not to read his books in a single setting, but it’s not as easy to burn the midnight oil as it used to be.
I really enjoy Sherlock Holmes, but Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle didn’t write nearly enough. I am wary of most books written as sequels to a classic series, because they are usually just plain awful. This was recommended by a friend, though, and I throughly enjoyed it. I especially loved the cameo appearance of a little deacon named Brown (from G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, which you must read, if you haven’t already). I’m hoping for more from this author.
Beyond these selections, there are other old favorites I turn to when I’m extra tired or not feeling well. Some of these are among my 1001 Good Books, but others are what I call fluffy books—light and untaxing, and just good clean fun. These include:
- Father Brown mysteries by G. K. Chesterton
- Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
- Agatha Christie mysteries
- The Indifference of Juliet by Grace S. Richmond
- Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
- Mitford series by Jan Karon
- Mrs. Pollifax books or anything else by Dorothy Gilman
- Brother Caedfel mysteries by Ellis Peters
- Dame Frevisse mysteries by Margaret Frazer
- Anything by Mary Roberts Rinehart
- Spy stories by E. Phillips Oppenheim
- A few of the early Tarzan books, especially Tarzan of the Apes
- Anything by Louis L’Amour
There are countless other books from the first half of the 20th century that I’ve enjoyed, but this is probably enough for now. I’ll try the first 30 pages or three chapters of almost any book, but if I’m not interested by that point, I set it aside. Life is too short, and my reading pile is too tall to be stuck with a book I don’t find engaging. I hope you feel free to exercise that same privilege. May you have time to enjoy some winter reading!
Note: As always, if a link takes you to Amazon, it’s an affiliate link, and I receive a few cents from your purchase, if you make one. Thank you!
Need more winter reading suggestions? I’ve written about reading quite a few times here, so you can find more suggestions in the articles listed from the Reading index page.