January Examen: A Break for Books!


I don’t know about all of you, but all of this “examen-ing” has got me feeling a little...overwhelmed.  Only “overwhelmed” isn’t exactly the right word.  I feel energized and exhausted, repentant and hopeful, burdened and blessed...all at the same time.  I think this has something to do with the idea of living in the “tension” of the truth.  It would be easy to just let it all go, give up the goals and the plans, and be “happy” to spend my spare time watching TV and reading fashion magazines.  Not that I never do those things, but I know that a steady diet of them wouldn’t really make me happy.  I would go crazy.  But on the other end of the spectrum, I could easily get so hung up on achieving all my goals that I lose sight of why I made them in the first place.  My well-intentioned habits and prayerfully made plans could turn into an idol unto themselves, exchanging grace for law and mercy for condemnation.

This would be an excellent time to take a good look back through the habits and goals you have prioritized so far and continue to pray through them.  You might need to pull out a calendar or daily planner and start penciling some things in.  Maybe you need to start adjusting your bedtime or waking time so have a little extra time for your morning devotions, or perhaps you need to get your hands on a workout program or restock your kitchen with nutritious foods.  Use these couple of days to put something into action!

In the meantime, since a few people have asked, I thought I would share my reading plan for 2017 as well as my favorite books from 2016.  This is an ambitious list...more challenging I think even than most of my college courses.  But I am finding that this is what I LOVE, and what fulfills me more than just about anything else.  I have never made a yearly reading plan before, but as I started listing out all the things I wanted to read this year, I realized that I had to make some sort of more organized plan!  

Before I show you my list, I must tell you...PLEASE don’t feel discouraged if something like this is not possible for you.  Let me tell you, two years ago, this would have been absolutely impossible.  I had a small baby, wasn’t getting any sleep, and was barely functioning at a high enough level to keep my children fed, clothed, and doing something that resembled “learning” at home.  But now, my youngest is two and a half, and my oldest is 14.  I am in a different season of life.  I have the luxury (and I do consider it that!) of getting up early and having several hours to read and write before everybody else is needing my attention.  So please, if you are not there yet, don’t worry.  The time will come.  

This list is *very* tentative and *very* open to change.  I’m sure I’ll have to drop some books along the way, and will most likely pick up a few others.  But first, here are my top favorites from 2016:

The Brendan Voyage: chock full of delicious imagery of the British Isles and North Atlantic and such wonderfully detailed narrative that you feel like you were actually there with Tim Severin on his attempt to recreate St. Brendan’s medieval voyage across the ocean!  I never knew a book in the “geography” category could be so fascinating!


Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: I don’t think a single chapter of this book went by where I didn’t turn to whoever was sitting nearby and say, “Did you know…”, or “This is such a great analogy!”  The juxtaposition of physical health and spiritual health is perfect...and not what I was expecting from this book!

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
By Philip Yancey, Paul Brand


Much Ado About Nothing: This was definitely our favorite Shakespeare selection this year!  So funny and playful...and (spoiler alert!!) nobody dies in the end!  Unfortunately we also went to a live performance of the play with great expectations, and...it was terrible.  But that’s ok, we had a hoot reading it ourselves!


Consider This: Karen Glass does a phenomenal job putting a Charlotte Mason education into the greater context of educational philosophy throughout history and showing how it is the ideal model of a truly “classical” education, rather than being at odds with the classical model.  A must-read for any home educator in my opinion, along with For the Children’s Sake and Teaching From Rest.


Best read-aloud: Little House in the Big Woods.  I think this is the third time I’ve read it out loud to my kids (it’s one of those that we repeat every few years because I don’t want anyone to miss it!), and it just gets better every time.

Little House in the Big Woods
By Laura Ingalls Wilder


Other highlights:

Reading Pride and Prejudice for the third time (this time following along with the Close Reads Podcast from the CiRCE Institute!)


Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?

The Liberal Arts Tradition

And now...on to my tentative 2017 plan!  I’ve broken it up into different categories for certain days, plus some “extras” that I’ll be trying to read along the way as I have time.  

Ambleside Online selections:

Theology: The Case for Christ, Mere Christianity, Desiring God

History: The New World by Winston Churchill

Biography: A Man For All Seasons, A Coffin for King Charles, Galileo’s Daughter

Government/Economics/Citizenship: Whatever Happened to Justice, Utopia

Literature: Westward Ho!, I Promessi Sposi, The Holy War

Poetry/Science/Logic: Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves, Paradise Lost, Chemical History of a Candle, Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science, A Briefer History of Time, How to Read a Book


Nicomachean Ethics (just a little bit every day), A Handbook for Morning Time, Murder Must Advertise (with the Close Reads podcast discussion!)

Business/development: Miracle Morning, How to Blog For Profit, I Hate Books on Christian Dating (by my college friend Katrina Blank!)

Read together with my husband in the evenings: C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy

Shakespeare Read-Alouds: Henry V, The Merchant of Venice (if we get to it!)

Politics and Culture: Notes Toward the Definition of Culture - TS Eliot, Eliot and His Age - Russel Kirk

Ambleside Online book discussions: Norms and Nobility, Charlotte Mason in 2 years survey, Manalive, The Great Divorce

And how it all fits into my schedule; Ambleside categories are in italics, “others” are in regular type:

Monday: Theology, Devotional, Norms and Nobility

Tuesday: History

Wednesday: Biography, Politics and Culture

Thursday: Government/economics, Citizenship, Charlotte Mason reading

Friday: Literature, Business/personal development

Weekend: Poetry/Science/Logic, Education

Daily: just a little bit of Nicomachean Ethics

Before bed: fun reads (Close Reads, read with Dan)

Obviously I won’t be reading all of these all at once.  When I finish a book in a particular category, I’ll move on to the next.  I also don’t expect to finish every book on the list, but it’s a goal at least!  

So, what’s on your list this year?  I’d love to hear what you’re reading, so leave a comment below!  

In other news...I’m hoping to publish the next post in the January Examen series on Thursday this week instead of Friday because...my husband and I are traveling down to Louisville for the CiRCE Institute Winter Regional Conference!  So excited to meet some of the folks who have been such an inspiration to me, as well as other like-minded educators!  Plus I get to see none other than Wendell Berry himself in an evening of storytelling, and stay at the Seelbach Hotel, which looks pretty fabulous!