— C.S. Lewis
The world's approach to New Year's is much like Cogsworth's approach to love: "Flowers, chocolates, promises you don't intend to keep . . ." Though the talking French timepiece was speaking of what to give one's beloved, I believe the principle still applies here. Something in the idea of a fresh, untouched new year right at our fingertips pushes us into a mode of frantic nostalgia. We reminisce about the old year, lingering over memories that bring tears to our eyes when recollected, we drink bubbly apple cider and play games until midnight, and we make our paper resolutions for the next year. All this is well and good, of course, until we wake up sometime in January's second week and realize our dispositions are still the same. We cannot perfect ourselves by virtue of simply promising to do so. Real change, to bring Churchill into the matter, takes blood, toil, tears, and sweat. And far beyond all that, it takes the recognition that we alone cannot change ourselves. Only the Holy Spirit can truly meld and reshape our hearts.
But I digress. The true purpose of this post was to share the titles I've read this year, as well as to give a passing glance to those I hope to devour in the new year. As anyone who's anyone would tell you, the books a person reads and the pages among which he hides his nose say a lot about said person. I have seen my reading choices mature with the passing years, the passing months even, for that matter. I could not give proper time and attention to every tome, so I'll be selecting a few of my favorites, those that truly changed and melded me in these past twelve months.
In required reading, I began the year off by diving into Chaim Potok's The Chosen, a title I was predisposed to dislike. It was actually quite an interesting read, full of details on the various sects of Judaism. It was also a heartbreaking book about the friendship of two young boys and their respective relationships with their fathers. I read Night by Elie Wiesel, a graphic account of the author's experiences in Auchwitz, and though I was not scarred for life, it was a terribly horrific read that I won't be picking up again. In the spring I was first exposed to To Kill a Mockingbird, which to this day remains one of the best books I've ever read. I also re-read The Old Man and the Sea, which filled me with a great sense of admiration for Hemingway's ability to convey emotion through his brief, simple sentences. Rebecca was stunningly written, the sort of book that puts you in the mind of rich velvet and smooth dark chocolate, and it would have been my favorite book of the school year, were it not for its shameful ending and its heroine's surprising lack of morality.
What with the rest of the world going positively mad over the famous Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, I devoted some of my free time in the spring to reading them, primarily to reassure myself that the hype was all for nothing. On the contrary, I found the books intriguing and certainly gripping, despite the complaints I could raise with Collins' writing abilities. They were rather depressing at moments, as would be expected, but I still enjoyed the trilogy reasonably well.
Over the course of the summer, I spent my time among the pages of Alan Paton's social novel, Cry, the Beloved Country. I had hardly expected to love it as much as I did, and it certainly left a mark upon my heart. As the year progressed, I delved into Greek classics when I rediscovered The Iliad and read Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and Antigone. In November I was marked forever by the dark background and literary brilliance of Shakespeare's tragedy, Macbeth.
My favorite read of this year was undeniably Jenny Freitag's The Shadow Things, followed in close second by her sister's novel, The Soldier's Cross. Both books were beautifully penned, compelling tales that drew my soul to them. Something about The Shadow Things in particular was so magnificent that it can hardly be drawn out in words, and several scenes gave my heart such a terribly lonesome ache that I can only describe as sehnsucht. I am eagerly awaiting future titles from these brilliant authoresses.
My to-read shelf for 2013 is so extensive that it could practically make a book all on its own. After a time, however, I must make some sort of deference between them all and form lists of those most important to me. The titles I've included below will, Lord willing, be completed in this coming year.
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (started, but haven't finished)
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper (started, but haven't finished)
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (started, but haven't finished)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers
Saratoga and Victory at Yorktown by Richard M. Ketchum
The Eagle of the Ninth, The Shield Ring, and many other titles by Rosemary Sutcliff
It's by no means a paltry list, and the master document from which it stems is nearly five times its size. Hardly a day passes that someone does not recommend a book to me; and while they are not all titles from which I would profit, those that are still tend to add up. Sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by the weight of them all, and it pushes me to such feats as attempting to read three or four books all at once (which, in the end, never works out well). There are so many titles, and I want to read every last one . . . !
There are, of course, worse problems to have.