Chronological 2015 Reading List


It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. — C.S. Lewis

The rewards of deep reading (reading several books on the same subject or by the same author) are plentiful: synthesis, comprehension, analysis. Or just the possibility of remembering the main point. Reading widely pays well, too. The stab of joy, the searing beauty of synchronicity! When I read Book G and it revisits something I read in Book B with no obvious connection between the two? Oh, man. It gets my voice in the high treble range and sets my fingers aflutter.

I thought it would be fun to classify my reading list for 2015 chronologically by publication date. I like old books, yes. But I also have been guilty of reverse-snobbery, where I lift my nose a few centimeters and declare that I’m not all that interested in modern writing. Blech! (autocorrect wanted to change that to belch; that works, too!) As you can see, I’ve overcome that weakness, haha!

2011-2015 (30 books)

Reclaiming Conversation     Sherry Turkle
Come Rain or Come Shine     Jan Karon
Bread and Wine     Shauna Niequist
Earthen Vessels     Matthew Lee Anderson
Being Mortal     Atul Gawande
Fierce Convictions     Karen Swallow Prior
As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust     Alan Bradley
Landfalls     Naomi Williams
The Wright Brothers     David McCullough
All the Light We Cannot See     Anthony Doerr
Gutenberg’s Apprentice   Alix Christie
Nigellissima     Nigella Lawson
Among the Janeites     Deborah Yaffe
Wheat Belly     William Davis
Every Good Endeavor     Timothy Keller
Coolidge    Amity Shlaes
The Book of Strange New Things     Michel Faber
The Green Ember     S.D. Smith
Food: A Love Story     Jim Gaffigan
Dad Is Fat     Jim Gaffigan
God Made All of Me    Justin Holcomb
No Higher Honour     Condoleezza Rice
The Forgotten Founding Father     Joshua Kendall
Delancey     Molly Wizenberg
Lit! The Christian Guide to Reading Books     Tony Reinke
The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse     Alan Bradley
The Every-Other-Day-Diet     Krista Varady
Tsura     Heather Anastasiu
House of Stone     Heather Anastasiu
One Good Dish     David Tanis

Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. — C.S. Lewis

2000-2010 (24 books)

In the Midst of Life     Jennifer Worth
The Midwife     Jennifer Worth
Waiting for Snow in Havana     Carlos Eire
The River of Doubt     Candice Millard
Mudhouse Sabbath     Lauren Winner
Complications     Atul Gawande
Unless It Moves the Human Heart     Roger Rosenblatt
The Importance of Being Seven     Alexander McCall Smith
The Best Day, The Worst Day     Donald Hall
A Personal Odyssey     Thomas Sowell
The Shoebox Bible     Alan Bradley
Sonata for Miriam     Linda Olsson
Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance     Atul Gawande
Shadows of the Workhouse     Jennifer Worth
Inkheart     Cornelia Funke
The Unbearable Lightness of Scones     Alexander McCall Smith
Old Filth     Jane Gardam
The Man in the Wooden Hat     Jane Gardam
How to Read Shakespeare     Nicholas Royle
In Thy Dark Streets Shineth       David McCullough
The House at Riverton     Kate Morton
Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs     Larry Smith
Widow of the South     Robert Hicks
A Separate Country     Robert Hicks

1990-1999 (7 books)

A Pianist’s Landscape     Carol Montparker
Down the Common     Ann Baer
Poems New and Collected     Wistawa Szymborska
Melodious Accord     Alice Parker
One Year Off     David Elliot Cohen
Girl in Hyacinth Blue     Susan Vreeland
Jeremy: The Tale of An Honest Bunny     Jan Karon

1980-1988 (2 books)

Godric     Frederick Buechner
To School Through the Fields     Alice Taylor

1970-1979  (1 book)

The Brendan Voyage    Tim Severin

1950-1969 (4 books)

A Grief Observed     C.S. Lewis
How Does a Poem Mean?     John Ciardi
On the Beach     Nevil Shute
The Schoolmasters     Leonard Everett Fisher

1900-1949 (7 books)

Orthodoxy     G.K. Chesterton
The Adventures of Sally     P.G. Wodehouse
Pied Piper   Nevil Shute
Anna and the King of Siam     Margaret Landon
I Capture the Castle     Dodie Smith
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres     Henry Adams
Jimmy at Gettysburg     Margaret Bigham Beitler

The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. — C.S. Lewis

1800-1899 (4 books)

Doctor Wortle’s School     Anthony Trollope
Sir Henry Hotspur     Anthony Trollope
Henry Heathcote of Gangoil     Anthony Trollope
Luck of the Roaring Camp     Bret Harte

1500-1599 (2 books)

Henry IV, Part I     William Shakespeare
Henry IV, Part 2     William Shakespeare

0- 500 AD (2 books)

On the Incarnation    Athanasius
Marcus Aurelius and his Times     Marcus Aurelius

Photograph is my granddaughter, reading Goodnight Moon to me.


Currently Reading

Before we drift to sleep, I read aloud (sometimes just a paragraph, other times a page or two) from Mark and Grace Driscoll’s Real Marriage; we wake up to The Last Battle (snicker about that combination).

When I drive the car, I listen to Kathleen Norris’ Acedia & Me. Acedia means lack of caring…sort of like depression, but different.

If I have an afternoon with my eight year old grandson, our real aloud is Where the Red Fern Grows. We are at the happy parts of a compelling story; Gavin begs for one more chapter.

I’m plowing through Colin Thubron’s book Shadow of the Silk Road, a travel memoir. I believe this is the loveliest book cover…ever! So much terrain is unfamiliar; it takes longer to assimilate this reading. I had read the first two chapters a while back and put it down. When I retunred to it a few months later I had to start at the beginning. With forty pages to finish, I’ve read Thubron through China, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and we’re entering Turkey.

Donna at Quiet Life started a book club reading Bonhoeffer. I listened to it in 2012, and immediately bought the print copy because I wanted to read it with my eyes. What a remarkable family! What a rare jewel of a man!

Cindy at Ordo Amoris started a book club reading Hidden Art , in honor of the late Edith Schaeffer. I just located my copy and am happy to be re-reading this gem.


So you could say I’m filling my mind with art, Asia, apes, apathy, Achtung!, amicability, and adventure. 

What’s on Your Nightstand?


I love’s feature What’s on Your Nightstand? It’s fun to get a snapshot of what people are reading. Clearly, I did not tidy up my stack of books on the nightstand. I can’t go into much detail, because of time constraints, but here is the stack I am working through. I ran out of my favorite Post-It Flags, as you can see by the pencils stuck in the books. Shame.

Real Marriage, by Mark and Grace Driscoll is on loan from my son and his wife. I want to read parts of it aloud with my husband…someday!

• Barely visible, the tiny sliver of blue, is Fit to Burst by Rachel Jankovic. This young mom has an abundance of wisdom that reaches far beyond homemade granola bar recipes and stars on chore charts. I like to consume it in small bites.

• The back cover showing, Shadow of the Silk Road, by Colin Thubron, is my current travel book. In this book Thubron travels from Xian, west of Shanghai, to Antioch in modern day Turkey. This is my third Thubron; I’m already inclined to like his writing. But I’m not sure he’ll be able to entrance me like Rob Gifford did in China Road.

• The generic black journal is my commonplace book. This is my fourth identical journal, purchased at WalMart, in which I write down quotes, phrases, words, book and DVD titles, and similar musings.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, a Flavia de Luce mystery by Alan Bradley, has been borrowed for far too long. I listened to the highly excellent audio version, but wanted to copy quotes from it. Which involves a re-reading with some skimming. So this title is the most guilt-inspiring one.

• Black bound Kindle rests on Flavia. I read the sample portion of Booked, Literature in the Soul of Me, by Karen Swallow Prior. An email reminded me that I had an unused gift card from Amazon, so I purchased the book today. Although I keep acquiring Kindle books, I haven’t read much except the Bible on it in February.

• The orange spine of Scrolling Forward, Making Sense of Documents in the Digital Age, by David Levy, is a book that simultaneously provokes groans and stubbornness in me. I was “Currently Reading” this on Goodreads on September 9th! The author, after finishing a Ph.D. in computer science, majoring in Artificial Intelligence, moved to London to study calligraphy for two years. That alone makes me like him. And the dedication in Hebrew. But, this book from 2001 is outdated. And for some reason I can’t ditch it. My persistence—foolish or not—was rewarded in chapter 10 with a great story about the 1989 San Francisco earthquake and the author’s assignment for a Hebrew class to translate Psalm 104:5. I have twenty pages left and I’m determined to finish. But the joy left a while back.

• Top of the pile is This Rich and Wondrous Earth, a Memoir of Sakeji School,  by Linda Moran Burklin. I’ve read Wes Stafford’s book Too Small to Ignore and several magazine articles revealing abuse and mistreatment at African boarding schools for missionary kids. This book is not about that. Linda’s book has a good-natured humor that acknowledges the hardships and difficulties, but also points out the benefits she received and the fun she experienced. I have to admit that the tight regimen and censored letters home has reminded me of prison. Last night we read a few pages aloud after dinner about a baptism that had us all laughing. It sounds sacrilegious, but it truly was a funny baptism story. I know of an MK who found Linda’s book very therapeutic. I’m eager to finish it and pass it on to my cousin who was at a different African boarding school.

• There is a secondary pile behind the towering one with two books: Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog and John Stott’s The Birds Our Teachers. You might call this the “Meaning To Get To” Pile.


 You are welcome to join the crew over at 5MfB or just write in the comments. What are you reading?



On My Nightstand

my disheveled, dis-shelved nightstand


Today is January 24th and I have not finished reading one book in 2012. Life has a way of interfering with reading schedules, don’t you know. [wry grin] In December when my head was clear but my body was convulsing I read through a book a day.  After reviewing my 2011 list of books read, I decided to start each month with one weightier title, working towards my goal of deep reading. I’m in the middle of…


Practicing History, essays from Pulitzer Prize winner Barbara Tuchman, yields as much about the craft of writing as it does about history. I’m taking my time with this book, sniffing the words, swirling them around in my mouth, enjoying the flavors and textures.

Distillation is selection, and selection, as I am hardly the first to affirm,
is the essence of writing history. It is the cardinal process of composition,
the most difficult, the most delicate, the most fraught with error as well as art.
Ability to distinguish what is significant from what is insignificant is sine qua non.
Failure to do so means that the point of the story, not to mention the reader’s
interest, becomes lost in a morass of undifferentiated matter. What it
requires is simply the courage and self-confidence to make choices and,
above all, to leave things out. 62



Many named Eric Metaxas’ biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, the best book of 2011. I was delighted to discover that our library had the audio version of this available. I’ve been listening primarily while I cook and clean the kitchen. Most sections I listen to twice before advancing to the next chapter. I expect I will get the print version of this book and re-read it with pencil at hand.




Alan Jacobs came into clear focus this past year. I watched symposiums, read reviews by and about him, and decided he’s a current writer I need to explore. I haven’t started reading The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction in a systematic way, but I’ve been dipping into it. Funny thing: one of Jacob’s strong messages is to read at whim. At the moment, I’m taking a whimsical approach to the book. In, out, over, back, here, there.


I collect books on how to write. Shelves of them. My favorites are the ones who urge me to read and read and read some more, with an occasional bit about writing. In Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life, Douglas Wilson piles on, with not only advice to read, but lists of recommended titles at the end of each chapter. One might not expect a manual on writing to keep you grinning like an idiot, but the humor in this book makes it impossible to read with a serious face. Short enough to read in one sitting, I’ve strung it out, savoring the flavors on each page. 

Wilson is the father to three remarkably accomplished children. Son, N.D. Wilson, is a best-selling author. Youngest daughter, Rachel Jancovic’s book, Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches is always in my basket of goodies for new moms. I yelped in delight to discover, tucked on page 48, that Wilson’s firstborn, Rebekah Merkle has a forthcoming book, England Swings. Here’s a hilarious sample of Bekah’s writing.

In the evenings, Nancy and I hang out with the kids and grandkids,
who come over frequently. I play the guitar, read, and so on.
It is a full and busy life, but we work hard at preventing it from
becoming frenetic. I hate frenetic, which returns us to the
previous point on the fruitfulness of plodding. Living this way,
we have found that it all adds up. 41


There are times when I just want to read a story, when I put my mind on cruise control—which, I feel compelled to point out, is not the same as turning it off—and pick up a novel. I am fully in the center of Trollope lovers; he’s one author whose complete works I would like to read.  To be honest, I’m still languishing in the introduction. Once I get to Chapter 1, this book will likely triumph on top of the pile of books.


Cindy at Ordo Amoris turned me on to Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It .  Even if you don’t agree with the premise of the book, it is a fascinating view at independent thinking. I’m smack in the middle and willing to give this way of eating a try.

If your goal in reading this book is simply to be told the answer to the question
“What do I do to remain lean or lose the excess fat I have?”
then this is it: stay away from carbohydrate-rich foods, and the
sweeter the food or the easier it is to consume and digest…the
more likely it is to make you fat and the more you should avoid it. 11



In addition to WWGF, I’m re-reading Alicia Stanton’s book, Hormone Harmony: How to Balance Insulin, Cortisol, Thyroid, Estrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone To Live Your Best Life. Whew! The title alone is daunting. I work part-time for a compounding pharmacy; we have 15 copies of this book that we lend to customers. I find it interesting that the message of this book dovetails quite nicely with Taubes’ book.

Insulin resistance promotes weight gain because it prompts fuel to be
preferentially delivered to fat cells, and it leads to elevated levels of
glucose in the blood. Both excess body fat and elevated blood
glucose contribute to hormone imbalance. 17


I’m linking, for the first time, to the 5 Minutes for Books site. On the fourth Tuesday, you can share a What’s on Your Nightstand post. Join us!

Reading through an Author’s Canon



Do you set goals to read the complete oeuvre of an author? Do you get a little buzz inside your cheek when you read “she’s read all of [fill in author’s name]?

I do.

And I tell myself little fictions about what I’m going to do.

I’m thinking aloud, trying to articulate a reading plan for the year to come. The last plan I made, for 2010, was to read around the world. I read 18 of the 71 titles listed. And reviewing the list makes me want to renew that quest. But when I listed the books read in 2011, I was disappointed in the absence of authors dear to my heart. So, without a formal reading challenge I’m planning to be more intentional with my reading.

In my last post I asked why do you read?  Thank you for your answers, which evoked many happy sighs. Thank you!

My next question is how do you decide what to read next? In my case, it often depends on which bookshelf I browse. The entry-way shelf has an eclectic collection of books just received. Since they are new to me they are the equivalent of shiny objects. The hall shelf holds favorite authors, the Penguin collection, and books which look pretty on the shelf. The guest room shelf is an unorganized hodge-podge of books that no longer fit on the entry-way shelf. The living room bookshelf has the heavy hitters: history, biography, poetry.

I love all the reading challenges that blow by me this time of the year: Ireland, L.M. Montgomery, WWI, North Africa. Part of me wants to join a half a dozen. But I hold back.

I’d love to hear how you decide which book you’ll pick up to read.

And one more question: who are the authors whose entire works you would like to read?

Key phrase: would like to. If you had time to read, if you had access to every book, if, if, if…who would it be?

I made the Wordle above just playing with this idea. I look at it five minutes later and realize that the one author I’ve been thinking about the most in this context—David McCullough—is absent. There is a category of authors—Mark Helprin comes to mind—that I’m not convinced that I will want to read everything. And the thought of actually reading through and finishing Tolkien’s Silmarillion makes me want to shout “I take it back!”

I’ve been reading Barbara Tuchman’s book of essays, Practicing History; she also needs to be added to the list. Reading her is the equivalent of holding Coldstone ice cream on your tongue until it melts. Or perhaps a better analogy would be homemade bread hot from the oven: there is some effort involved, but the end result is nourishing. A sample quote:

When it comes to language, nothing is more satisfying than to write a good sentence. It is no fun to write lumpishly, dully, in prose the reader must plod through like wet sand. But it is a pleasure to achieve, if one can, a clear running prose that is simple yet full of surprises.

My simple plan is this: Read one book from my list of high priority authors a month, before other reading. Then fill in with other books. Though I don’t write much about Bible reading, that tops my list. I’ve bounced between fast and slow Bible reading. I consider reading through the Bible in a year fast reading. But sometimes I catch myself zipping through just to put a checkmark in that box. Then I slow down.

So if on December 31, 2012, when I review my reading, I hope I will see a Chesterton, a Spurgeon, a L.M. Montgomery, a Tuchman, a McCullough, a Dickens and a Trollope on the list.  Yes, that would be lovely.

Who is on your list: Jan Karon? P.D. James? Amy Carmichael? John Milton? J.K. Rowling? N.D. Wilson? Elisabeth Elliot? Agatha Christie? Anna Quindlen? Sigrid Undset?


My Kindle Library


“If you are like me, you like to snoop through other people’s libraries to see what they are reading.”
Hope said it; I confess it.

One thing I’ve (re)learned about myself:
Acquisition is a thrill.
I have more books on my Kindle than I could read in…forever.
But I love knowing they are there.
A Gentle Madness.

1. A friend gave me his Kindle; I’ve kept his titles, marked with *. (* = not necessarily free)
2. I winnowed my Paperbackswap Wish List, erasing any titles I could get free on Kindle.
3. I’m reading my Bible on Kindle. Good for reading, not for studying.
4. My favorite is the underline feature. I can go to “My Clippings” for the underlined bits.
5. I don’t think I’ve spent more than $5 on Kindle books.
6. For the record, I still prefer reading print books.
7. But I like getting books I don’t have to store.
8. Why no Shakespeare? I ask myself.
9. Why no Trolllope? I can fix that.

My Kindle Library

1928 Book of Common Prayer
Adventures of Prickly Porky :: Thornton Burgess
Adventures of Reddy Fox :: Thornton Burgess
Alarms and Discursions :: G.K. Chesterton
All Things Considered :: G.K. Chesterton
An Altar in the World :: Barbara Brown Taylor *
American Lion: Andrew Jackson :: Jon Meacham *
Among the Tibetans :: Isabella Bird
The Art of the Commonplace :: Wendell Berry
Blind Hope: An Unwanted Dog :: Laurie Sacher *
Boundaries :: Henry Cloud & John Townsend *
Brothers Karamazov :: Fyodor Dostoyesvsky
Burgess Bird Book :: Thornton Burgess
Changes That Heal :: Henry Cloud *
Classic Westerns: 18 Novels by Zane Grey *
Creative Habit ::Twyla Tharp *
Crime and Punishment :: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Essays in the Art of Writing :: Robert Louis Stevenson
The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains :: Brevet Col. J.C. Fremont
Farthest North :: Dr. Fridtjof Nansen
The First Tycoon :: T. J. Stiles
French Women Don’t Get Fat :: Mireille Guiliano
Grace Notes :: Philip Yancey *
The Greatest Hits of G.K. Chesterton
  (Flying Inn, Innocence of Fr. Brown, Man Who was Thursday, Napoleon of Notting Hill, Wisdom of Fr. Brown, Heretics, Orthodoxy)
The Hawaiian Archipelago :: Isabella Bird
Her Fearful Symmetry :: Audrey Niffenegger *
Holy Bible, New Living Translation *
Holy Bible, New American Standard Bible
In Defense of Food :: Michael Pollan *
In Europe: Travels Through the Twentieth Century :: Geert Mak
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl :: Harriet Ann Jacobs
Jesus Wants to Save Christians :: Rob Bell and Don Golden *
The Journals of Lewis and Clark
Leaves of Grass :: Walt Whitman *
Love Wins :: Rob Bell *
Made to Stick :: Dan Heath *
Manalive :: G.K. Chesterton
Middlemarch :: George Eliot
The Mind at Work :: Mike Rose *
The Mountains of California :: John Muir
Notes on Old Edinburgh :: Isabella Bird
The Omnivore’s Dilemma :: Michael Pollan *
Orthodoxy :: G.K. Chesterton
Penrod and Sam :: Booth Tarkington
The Rainbow Trail :: Zane Grey *
Rumors of Another World :: Philip Yancey *
The Rustlers of Pecos County : Zane Grey *
Sense and Sensibility :: Jane Austen
The Spirit of the Border :: Zane Grey *
The Splendid Idle Forties :: Gertrude Atherton
Tales of Lonely Trails :: Zane Grey *
The Thirty-Nine Steps :: John Buchan
A Thousand Days in Tuscany :: Marlena De Blasi *
Through the Brazilian Wilderness :: Theodore Roosevelt
The Victorian Age in Literature :: G.K. Chesterton
Wide Awake :: Erwin Raphael McManus
The Wild Knight and Other Poems :: G.K. Chesterton
The Worst Journey in the World :: Apsley Cherry-Garrard


National Geographic 100 Greatest Adventure Books


What are the essential ingredients in a great adventure story? The Latin root of the word, oddly enough, means “an arrival,” but adventure almost always entails a going out, and not just any going out but a bold one: Sail the Pacific on a balsa raft; pit your skills against K2; sledge to the South Pole. It is a quest whose outcome is unknown but whose risks are tangible, a challenge someone meets with courage, brains, and effort—and then survives, we hope, to tell the tale.

Like a hot air balloon, book lists inflate and ignite me.  I just stumbled across this May 2004 list. They are all thrilling, true stories. The website has a short recap of each book. Here is an abridged list of the titles (and links to Amazon) and Kindle availability. 

1.   The Worst Journey in the World (Apsley Cherry-Garrard) Free Kindle
2.   The Journals of Lewis and Clark (Lewis & Clark Expedition) Free Kindle
3.   Wind, Sand and Stars (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
4.   The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons (John Wesley Powell) Kindle
5.   Arabian Sands (Wildfred Thesiger) Kindle
6.   Annapurna (Maurice Herzog)
7.   Desert Solitaire (Edward Abbey) Kindle
8.   West with the Night (Beryl Markham) [Used paperback $.01] Kindle
9.   Into Thin Air (Jon Krakauer) Kindle
10. Travels (Marco Polo) Free Kindle
11. Farthest North (Fridtiof Nansen) Free Kindle
12. The Snow Leopard (Peter Matthiessen) Kindle
13. Roughing It (Mark Twain) Free Kindle
14. Two Years Before the Mast (Richard Henry Dana) Free Kindle
15. South (Ernest Shackleton) Free Kindle
16. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (Eric Newby)
17. Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft (Thor Heyerdahl) Kindle
18. Travels in West Africa (Mary H. Kingsley) Free Kindle
19. The Spirit of St. Louis (Charles A. Lindberg)
20. Seven Years in Tibet (Heinrich Harrer) Kindle
21. The Journals (James R. Cook) Free Kindle
22. The Home of the Blizzard (Sir Douglas Mawson) Free Kindle
23. The Voyage of the Beagle (Charles Darwin) Free Kindle
24. Seven Pillars of Wisdom (T.E. Lawrence) Kindle
25. Travels in the Interior of Africa (Mungo Park) Free Kindle
26. The Right Stuff (Tom Wolfe) Kindle
27. Sailing Alone Around the World (Joshua Slocum) Free Kindle
28. The Mountain of My Fear/Deborah:A Wilderness Narrative (David Roberts)
29. First footsteps in East Africa (Richard Francis Burton) Free Kindle
30. The Perfect Storm (Sebastian Junger) Kindle
31. The Oregon Trail (Francis Parkman Jr.) Free Kindle
32. Through the Dark Continent (Henry M. Stanley)
33. A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains (Isabella Lucy Bird) Free Kindle
34. In the Land of White Death (Valerian Albanov) Kindle
35. Endurance (Frank Arthur Worsley)
36. Scrambles Amongst The Alps (Edward Whymper) Kindle
37. Out of Africa (Isak Dinesen) Kindle
38. Journals: Scott’s Last Expedition (Robert Falcon Scott) Free Kindle
39. Everest: The West Ridge (Thomas F. Hornbein) Kindle
40. Journey Without Maps (Graham Greene)
41. Starlight and Storm (Gaston Rebuffat)
42. My First Summer in the Sierra (John Muir) Kindle
43. My Life as an Explorer (Sven Hedin)
44. In Trouble Again (Redmond O’Hanlon)
45. The Man Who Walked Through Time (Colin Fletcher)
46. K2, The Savage Mountain (Charles Houston and Robert Bates)
47. Gipsy Moth Circles the World (Sir Francis Chichester)
48. Man-Eaters of Kumaon (Jim Corbett)
49. Alone: The Classic Polar Adventure (Richard E. Byrd) Kindle
50. Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo (Eric Hansen)

51. Travels in Arabia Deserta (Charles Doughty)
52. The Royal Road to Romance (Richard Halliburton)
53. The Long Walk (Slavomir Rawicz) Kindle
54. Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada (Clarence King) Kindle
55. My Journey to Lhasa (Alexandra David-Neel)
56. Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile (John Hanning Speke) Kindle
57. Running the Amazon (Joe Kane)
58. Alive (Piers Paul Read)
59. The Principall Navigations (Richard Hakluyt)
60. Incidents of Travel in Yucatan (John Lloyd Stephens)
61. The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex (Owen Chase)
62. Life in the Far West (George Frederick Augustus Ruxton)
63. My Life as an Explorer (Roald Amundsen)
64. News from Tartary (Peter Fleming)
65. Annapurna: A Woman’s Place (Arlene Blum)
66. Mutiny on the Bounty (William Bligh) Free Kindle
67. Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea (Steven Callahan)
68. Castaways: The Narrative of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca Kindle
69. Touching the Void (Joe Simpson) Kindle
70. Tracks (Robyn Davidson)
71. The Adventures Of Captain Bonneville (Washington Irving) Kindle
72. Cooper’s Creek: Tragedy and Adventure in the Australian Outback (Alan Moorehead)
73. The Fearful Void (Geoffrey Moorhouse)
74. No Picnic on Mount Kenya (Felice Benuzzi)
75. Through The Brazilian Wilderness (Theodore Roosevelt) Free Kindle
76. The Road to Oxiana (Robert Byron)
77. Minus 148 Degrees (Art Davidson) Kindle
78. The Travels of Ibn Battutah
79. Jaguars Ripped My Flesh (Tim Cahill) Kindle
80. Journal of a Trapper (Osborne Russell) Kindle
81. Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle (Derval Murphy)
82. Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica (Sara Wheeler)
83. We Die Alone (David Howarth) Kindle
84. Kabloona: Among the Inuit (Gontran De Poncins)
85. Conquistadors of the Useless (Lionel Terray)
86. Carrying the Fire (Michael Collins)
87. Adventures in the Wilderness (William H. H. Murray)
88. The Mountains of My Life (Walter Bonatti)
89. Great Heart: The History of a Labrador Adventure (James West Davidson)
90. Journal of the Voyage to the Pacific (Alexander MacKenzie)
91. The Valleys of the Assassins (Freya Stark)
92. Silent World (Jacques Cousteau)
93. Alaska Wilderness (Robert Marshall)
94. North American Indians (George Catlin)
95. I Married Adventure (Osa Johnson)
96. The Descent of Pierre Saint-Martin (Norbert Casteret)
97. The Crystal Horizon: Everest-The First Solo Ascent (Reinhold Messner)
98. Narrative of a Journey across the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River (John Kirk Townsend)
99. Grizzly Years (Doug Peacock)
100. One Man’s Mountains (Tom Patey)

I’m interested in your feedback.  Which books have you enjoyed? What areas would you like to vicariously explore? Which titles look intriguing? Are the books you would add to this list?

I found this list because of my interest in Beryl Markham’s West of the Night, which I’m listening to while I garden. (I love it.) Books on my shelf: 16, 17, 27, 33, 37, 53. Books on my Kindle: every Free title. It’s a knee-slapper that someone who rarely takes mild risks loves adventure books.

The Extravagant Frugal Reader


When I get a little money I buy books;
and if any is left I buy food and clothes.
~ Erasmus

Originally the title of this post was The Frugal Reader. It has a nice cadence, but, alas, I don’t have the chutzpah to carry it off.  My husband reads my blog.

Because I am extravagant when it comes to book acquisition. All the same I like to think of myself as frugal. There are ways to read without weeping over your budget.

The Best Price Is Free 
The library is, of course, the one place you can indulge in thrifty reading.  If you live in an urban setting, you have many libraries at your beck.  I am regularly delighted at titles available in our small town library. The fastest growing segment of our library is audio books.  Before we take a trip, we cruise through the library to see what we can hear.

Inter-library loans are another source of free reading.  At my library a small charge for postage keeps IL loans out of the free zone, but they are still a frugal option.

Make friends with book collectors who generously lend their collection.  If you do this, keep borrowed books segregated from your own books.  The best friend is one who returns a borrowed book in the same condition it was lent.

Check to see if your library has free downloads of audio books.  The Oregon Library System employs Library2Go enabling patrons to download thousands of titles from their home computers.

Open Library is a work in progress, with the goal of a web page for every book published.

Librivox provides free audiobooks from the public domain.  These books are narrated by volunteer readers. Some are better than others.

Amazon Kindle has free books available to download. 

Google Books (go to Google and click on the tab “more” for Books) has many ebooks available.  Check on each title.

Project Gutenberg has 33,000 books available to download.

Page by Page
has classics available for free, as does Forgotten Classics; JustFreeBooks is a search engine for free books.

Bloggers often have drawings for free books.  Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon and Books and Movies often keep track of book giveaways.

If you write a book blog and build a following, you can receive free advanced review copies of books from publishers to read.

This one sounds weird and manipulative…but! When you volunteer to help friends move, they often consider it a favor if you take some books off their hands.  This is not why you offer to help!  Same principle applies when helping at a garage sale.  Often books you receive are not books you are interested in reading.  They may be great for trading or swapping to get the books you want to read.  It is shameless of me to mention this.

Finally, build a reputation as a reader and people will approach you with books. “You read,” they mumble as they thrust a box in your arms, “so here are books!” 

Let’s discuss the down side of free. One drawback from borrowing books is that you can’t write in them.  No really, you can’t.  I hope you don’t dog ear any book, but you mustn’t do that to library books. You also have a fixed time to read the books, renewals notwithstanding.  Reading on a screen instead of from a page may or may not be your cuppa. Some Kindle readers have noticed that they read more mediocre books simply because they were free.  I have never pursued free review books from publishers because they would delay me from imbibing in my tottering stacks.  The books are free, but not free from obligation.  Nevertheless, there are endless possibilities for free books.

Less than $5

Library sales are the best place to find books on the cheap.  Book Sale Finder.

Garage sales, yard sales, tag sales often have books.  In our area hardbounds cost $0.50 and paperbacks $0.25.

Thrift stores are another source for bargain books.  Once a month a book scout friend of mine would drive a 350 mile loop, stopping at thrift stores – Salvation Army, Goodwill, etc. – looking for books.  For him it was a lucrative hobby to pick up books for 25¢ and sell them for between $10 and $100. But the thrill of the chase and the expectation of finding treasure was what propelled him.  Some of the best times we had in Great Britain were popping into thrift shops looking for books.  I got so I could snift an Oxfam from a mile away.  What confused me is that thrift shops are named for the charity they benefit.  The first time I saw a store called British Heart Foundation I couldn’t imagine what they sold.  

Used bookstores provide a living for their owner, so their prices are necessarily higher.  Still, they have their clearance racks.  The cleaner and better organized the store is, the more you will pay for the books.  If you are willing to dig through piles and stacks and dust bunnies, the slovenly, slightly smelly book shop may reward your efforts.  My favorite chain of used bookstores is Half Price Books, for its large inventory, excellent organization, and pure fun.

A public service announcement.
What is an ISBN?
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number.
Think of it as a social security number for books.
You can find the ISBN on the back cover of a book,
or near the bottom of the copyright page.

When searching online for a book, it is very helpful to have the book’s ISBN. You can put this 10- or 13-digit number in the search engine.  And where to look online?

At there are hundreds (and hundreds!) of used books selling for $0.01, which means that the books will cost you $4.00 after $3.99 is added for shipping.  Still.  I’ve done eye calisthenics that train my eye, whenever searching Amazon, to roam to the right column which says Used From, looking for a bargain price.  But here is another way to find the cheap books on Amazon. It’s a fun experiment! Click on  [Books, Advanced Search, Condition:Used, Format:Printed Books, Sort Results By: Price: Low to High] Click on Search and you will see pages of  $0.01 books. and have oodles of books for sale.  On the home page of there is a category for $0.99 or less books. sells books and shipping is always $2.95.  After you click on the category of books to browse, sort by Lowest Price.  If you are looking for a specific title or specific author you don’t need to browse; use the search button. 

The down side of browsing for cheap books is that it is very time-consuming. And you have to wade through pages of titles you are not interested in.  I prefer to keep a list of books I would like to read and look for specific titles. Like browsing in a bookstore, you may come across the occasional winner.


Search engines specifically for books can help you find the best bargain.  The first one I used (and thus know best) is fetchbook; others are BookFinder,, Usedbooksearch. When I homeschooled I always checked the availability of used books before I bought new.  One quarter I took my son’s college textbook list, plugged in ISBNs and bought used textbooks at a great savings.

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.

Another splendid source for books is swapping.  I am a huge fan of Paperbackswap.  It’s an easy concept: you post books you no longer want; when another member requests a book, you mail the book to that member; when that book lover receives the book, you get credit for one free book.  Thus the cost to you for your free book is the cost of the postage to mail the book you didn’t want, normally $2.41.  I’ve been singing PBS praises for years now.  [And it would be silly of me not to mention that if you decide to sign up for PBS, please click on the icon above.  I am Carol B. and my nickname is ilovetolearn.]  Paperbackswap (unfortunately, the name wrongly implies that we don’t swap hardbounds: we do) is only a good deal if you don’t have post office phobias or procrastination tendencies.  You can print out most of the postage and mail from your home.  Patience is a virtue; put a book on your wishlist and you may receive it in two weeks (if it is available) or perhaps in two years (if it is an obscure title, or one so popular that you are in line behind 514 other readers, like I am with the book Outliers).  Book Mooch runs along the same plan as PaperBackSwap. 

The down side of swapping is that you don’t get books as soon as you want them.  And you could post 20 books that others want and have to pay $50 in postage mailing out the books.  To be a successful member you need to be organized enough to get the books mailed when they are requested. 

So there you have it: several ways to score cheap books and satisfy your need to read.  I’m sure you have other ideas…I’d love to hear them.  Happy Reading!

The Joy of Listening


I just finished listening to Ruby Dee’s gripping reading of Zora Neale Hurston’s book Their Eyes Were Watching God.  This was the first experience I’ve had with Hurston and with Ruby Dee. 

I am shaken.

I am riveted. 

I am bruised.

I need to turn the pages, think about the phrases, but I can’t imagine the reading of this book ever being close to as good as listening to this book.  Dee’s cadences were slow and sonorous. Just hearing her voice gave me pictures of the characters. During the narrative of the flood Dee was shouting and I wanted to stand up and shout, “De lake is coming!”  This book seems designed to be received through the ears instead of through the eyes.  Phonics get in the way of reading it.

I need to collect my thoughts before I respond to the book.

But I am compelled to tell you, dear reader, that some books are better in the audio version than in print.  Off my cuff, allow me to recommend:

Michel Chevalier’s reading captures the tones of a native of France.
Listening to this memoir is the audio equivalent to Crème brûlée.

At the time I posted this, six used CD sets of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
are available at Amazon (click on link) for under $1.62 (+ 3.99 shipping).
For less than it costs to see a movie you could have 8+ hours of
Lisette Lecat’s luscious African accents.

If an Irish brogue is your cuppa, you can’t go wrong with
Frank Delaney’s reading of Simple Courage.
I’m puzzled that so few know about this rip-roaring, harrowing adventure story.

Sissy Spacek’s languorous reading of To Kill a Mockingbird
remains my very favorite audio book.
Sissy is Scout Finch.
Her voice remains in my mind years after I first heard this performance.

There are drawbacks to audio books.
It’s hard to bookmark a sentence you want to remember.
It’s awkward to transcribe portions in your journal.

But if the book come from a part of the world
where words are pronounced differently,
where dialects lift words out of their common clothing,
where idioms are employed,
where hearing the voice of the narrator enriches the words,
go to audio.

A Near Miss

To the company that deducted money from my bank account with the helpful description BILLPAYING: Thank you.  Because if it weren’t for the delay unraveling that sweet bowl of spaghetti, I wouldn’t have heard a distant bank teller ask, “What’s this book sale where you buy books for a dollar an inch?” 

Excuse me?  How did one of the High Holy Days–the opening hours of the book sale–so quickly become Passover?  When did I get so busy that I missed the first sixteen hours of the annual university book sale? 

Glumly, I considered not going.  Surely all the good stuff was gone and I would have to root around in Judy Blume and Danielle Steel looking for a morsel.  But lo! I remembered that my literary tastes are so far out of the mainstream that they are completely dry.  Perhaps there were some unplucked treasures waiting for me.

Here, my friend, are my top five finds, books I snatched up as I breathed a prayer of thanksgiving.

Ever since watching Wit, I have wanted to get this book.
No man is an island…in this book.
Prayers, meditations, expostulations…in this book.
A sermon on the verse: And unto God the Lord belong the issues of death,
said to be Donne’s own funeral oration…in this book.

The Church Hymnal (1892) Episcopal
679 hymns + 211 canticles and Amens!!
I will spend hours at the piano, mining for gold.

The New Oxford Book of Christian Verse
Withdrawn from library with
completely blank Date Due sticker in back!
Poems from William Langland to Wendell Berry.

This book looks like gangs of fun.

The subtitle explains why I couldn’t resist.
Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany

Well, well, well.
I can’t wipe the grin off my face.

…happy, contented sigh…