Friday, June 12, 2020

Returning to an old love...

When we were homeschooling reading was an every day event, a pastime, a pleasure, indeed an anticipated hour or two each afternoon where my children (even in to late teens) would grab pillows and snacks, secure a comfy place on the couch and sit avidly captivated by the stories I would read out loud.

Through the many, many classics which lined our heavily laden book shelves, we travelled across uncharted seas, forged through uninhabited lands, learned to be self sufficient on a deserted island, walked the roads of olde England telling stories, worked in the halls of lofty palaces and ate raw onions with ancient Egyptians.  For eleven years we escaped into history through books, the characters becoming so real that many a deep discussion about their bravery or lack of wisdom ensued over a second pot of tea or hot chocolate until I firmly sent the children off to do their chores whilst I began dinner.

Those years stand out for me as the best 'educational' time of my life because I wasn't just teaching my kids, I was learning right along with them, learning all the things that traditional schooling never taught me. I'd loved books since I could first read, but this was different - it was like a historical book club meeting every day of the week that never got boring and always offered enthusiastic conversation afterwards.

When I became a designer at age 50, we were in the tail end of our homeschooling years. I never planned to start a career once the kids graduated but I was praying each day that the Lord would bless me with a vision for the future and a measure of His own creativity. He answered in a way that still surprises me - such generosity of a gift which I never take for granted.

Once the homeschool years drew to a close and the children went their ways into the workforce our read-aloud hours drifted away into memory, and then one day came the realisation I'd barely opened a good fictional cover in years. In my heart there was a sorrow, a strange kind of loss, from no longer reading to, and with, my family...and then an understanding that this was why I no longer desired to read fiction unless it had a purpose., 
For example, during recovery from a serious bout of pneumonia in 2016 I couldn't get out of bed so I binged on four Lisa Genova novels because they all dealt with neurological issues and as that has a long history in my family the subject matter kept my mind occupied whilst my body recovered. 
Another book (suggested in Jane Brocket's 'Gentle Art of Domesticity' which we studied through 2019) I read in 2014 was "The Home Maker" by Dorothy Canfield Fisher simply to discern what I thought of Jane's reading list - and I thoroughly enjoyed that book, even lending it out to friends.
But these small interludes with good books this past decade still didn't stir a desire to return to reading as a pastime.

The joy of reading had become a family affair in my heart of hearts, and somewhere in those long homeschool years I'd lost the solitary delight from my childhood years when I read just for me. 

I do still read non-fiction (religious, health, gardening and homemaker themed), but embarking on a new fictional book that takes me on a journey and introduces me to new characters - that's just not happened for years, so when I shared with you recently of my hollow days with depression, the overwhelm of being a sole trader/designer with a home based online business and all that entails, and generally not having enough hours in a day anymore with the garden and homemaking and family, I knew the only person who could change things was me.

I didn't rush in to any changes, but offered my concerns to the Lord and asked Him to show me how to bring balance, peace, time and opportunity for personal and delightful pursuits in my everyday life. There was no quick response, but as I sat each day with my Bible and some very good devotionals (Spurgeon is always good), gradually the fog which had clouded my mind began to clear and I decided it was time to simplify more than just meals or budgets...I needed to simplify my own expectations of self.

Self imposed responsibilities had accumulated in my life and because I'm naturally someone who 'goes the extra mile' saying no to requests is quite a challenge, plus I also have way more ideas tumbling forth from my imagination than I could ever possibly hope to see through to fruition. Taking all this in, letting it simmer in my thoughts and prayers for a while, waking in the night to ponder what truly matters, listening for that still small voice, took time. And discipline. Because you can't make positive changes without self discipline. 

So I decided that for the next month I'd slow down at home, not extend myself more than is needed, and I'd give myself a relaxed hour or so each afternoon to reacquaint myself with solitary reading. Being a Jane Austen fan for decades I gathered some of my favourites to one side (Persuasion is my absolute favourite Austen) ...





....but purchased a new fiction to read first. Naturally the title drew me in!




Three chapters along and I'm really enjoying this book. 
And you know, it reminded me to check my Kindle for any titles I may have purchased 'back in the day' and did not read. You have to laugh because I had purchased about eight fiction books but not read a single one. 

So I decided to start with the first title in my Kindle library (because having two books on the go at once seems rather exciting to me at the moment) and read the first chapter this morning.
Aunt Jane of Kentucky (1907) is marvellous!! At 4 am this morning when I could not sleep and needed to sit quietly without lights so as not to disturb my husband I put the kindle on night-light mode and began this book. 




Well, my laughter woke Mr E even though I tried to hold it in. I think this will now be an evening book for me to read as we rarely watch television these days and hubby reads at night or marks his student's papers while I knit or stitch. But the joy of reading is returning and I believe it will be good for my soul. 

The Aunt Jane book is a free Kindle download in the US but around $5 in Australia. Back when I got it there was no Amazon Kindle in Australia and I remember getting it for free. 
When I was looking for a cover photo to show you the actual book (because that's hard with only a Kindle copy) my google search led me to Quilt Fiction (Aunt Jane quilts by hand - marvellous) where someone READS this book in a podcast. So if you're interested pop over HERE where I imagine links to all chapters can be found. The video below is just chapter one.




I did purchase the full set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books at the beginning of the year to read to Cully May and Rafaella one day, and I did actually finish "Little House in the Big Woods"...funny how I'd forgotten that but it just came to mind. But I should confess that after the first two chapters I opted for the audio version and listened to that while I stitched. So I still 'worked' while listening to the story. 
Audio books may well be in my future for some stitching times or while I cook and bake in the kitchen, but a return to holding a book and reading it without distraction or employment within the home or sewing room is something I choose now to embrace.

So let me ask you, what books have you enjoyed in the past?
What books are you reading now?

I don't like crime novels or anything unsavoury in a story, and I don't like science fiction either. But I have always enjoyed the kind of historical fiction that educates and brings joy.

If you have suggestions for me with this in mind, let me know in the comments. 

 Bless you lovely friends, and I pray that if you too have let the bustle and hum of life fill every hour and forgotten the simple things you once enjoyed, that the Lord shows His perfect grace and leads you into a clear vision of how you can enjoy those things again and find balance in the wonderful everyday life of homemaking. 





Loving hugs



49 comments:

  1. I totally lack self discipline when it comes to reading. I cannot just read a chapter. I tend to devour books once I actually start reading them. Especially fiction. Now I have been doing post graduate studies and that has spoiled me for reading a book from cover to cover. I only read until I find the info I need for the course I am reading it for. But fiction? Especially historical romance? Jane Austin? I have all her books. I bought the Anne of Green Gables series for my granddaughters. Either for them to read or me to read out loud to them. I don't read out loud to them. Why? I wonder. When I pick up a book to read for pleasure not academics, I cannot put it down. Even if I had read if before a dozen times. I too like the feel of a book in my hand. A cup of tea by my side. Soft instrumental worship music in the background. Thank you Jenny for reminding us that it is good to slow down and enjoy a good read.

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    1. I bought the Anne of Green Gables book set for my granddaughters, but I sat down and devoured all 8 of them myself without sharing. I also bought the Little House set and we have all the Chronicles of Narnia. Perhaps we should make an effort to read aloud this summer instead of planting ourselves on our respective devices and ignoring each other.

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    2. Chris your story is my story. My house could burn down around me and I wouldn't notice with a good piece of fiction in my hands. I love to read and it's always a bit sad when I come to the end of the book....unless there is another one in the series!
      Jenny I live 2 hours from Pepin and The Little House Books are a big deal around here. We also love Anne of Green Gables.
      I haven't tried audio books yet but would like to.

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    3. Audiobooks will change.your.life. I put one on my phone and garden or clean for hours. My husband threatens to send out a search party. Jan Karon’s Mitford series are wonderful. Beverly Lewis Amish stories. Debbie Macomber and Marie Bostwick also write wonderful stories, all contemporary fiction. For the girls don’t forget A.A. Milne and the (original) Winnie the Pooh stories. 🙂

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    4. Another Debby (in Kansas USA) seconds this opinion and loves audiobooks. I started them when I commuted hours in Los Angeles. A friend loaned me The Firm by John Grisham and it sure made for a better commute. When I began crafting, I always had one. It combined two of my favorite activities.

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  2. I purchased the Aunt Jane book and read it first. Now I am listening to the podcasts and find that I am enjoying them even more than reading myself. That is rare for me! I am an avid reader and manage at least one , if not two books a week, but my tastes in fiction lean toward mysteries.

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  3. I'm a total bookworrm! Have been since before I was a year old. I even work in a school library.
    Have you ever read the Sisterchick series by Robin Jones Gunn? Fiction, but I always learn something about God and myself through the fun (and challenging) times the women in these stories have.

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  4. I had always been a reader until about five years ago. For no reason just didn't read. So about a year ago I started going to Starbucks in the middle of the morning and read nonfiction for about 25-35 minutes. When home to many things call my name. Then the virus came. Looking forward to returning.

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  5. Jenny, we homeschooled also, and read many wonderful historically accurate fiction books ( I used Sonlight curriculum). Now that I'm thru with homeschool, I miss reading in the afternoon also! But every night we read aloud as a family...a chapter from the Bible and a chapter from a well written novel, usually a Lamplighter book. My favorite is Hidden Hand by Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth. We love all the lamplighter books, and look forward to always getting a few more for Christmas each year. We have no TV, so we have to entertain ourselves! I love reading your blog; you're a true kindred spirit:) Linn

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    1. Whilst we did not use Sonlight for curriculum (I put together my own) we did use much of their book list (along with Ambleside Online)...so many brilliant novels, and many quite inspiring.

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  6. Believe it or not, I'm listening to Moby Dick right now as I work or stitch! Not really recommended, but interesting in that it details a lot of whaling history.

    I love listening to the Bible and stories on audio. Have a wonderful weekend. I'm going to look at some more of your blog over the next few days.
    Be blessed,
    Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage

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  7. I, too, love reading. There are soooo many good books! I have just finished re-reading the Anne of Green Gables series (we Canadians are proud of our Anne!). Another really good series is the Home in Mitford series by Jan Karon. They aren't historical fiction, but are about small-town life and all the characters who live there. When I read these, I just want to go and live in Mitford. Enjoy your afternoon reading hours!

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    1. I remember friends recommending the Mitford books many years ago but I have never read one. Yet.

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  8. You've convinced me to begin the Aunt Jane book! Thank you for the lovely post and the terrific book recommendations. When I was a young mother (I'm now in my 50's) the Janette Oke (When Calls the Heart) series were some of my favorite reads. Yes, the show is on Hallmark channel, but I've never watched it. I do love me some good Hallmark movies and mysteries, mind you. But I have as of yet to watch the When Calls the Heart series. Wonder why? Pam

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    1. Probably because movies never live up to the book. ;-)

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    2. We enjoyed When Calls the Heart series for the short time we had Hallmark. I would love to see it all.
      Another Hallmark series that was my favorite is the Love Comes Softly. No idea who wrote those.
      Last summer a friend pointed me to to Janette Oke's season series. I can't remember the titles, but they included all 4 seasons. They were about a boy living with his uncle, grandpa, & aunt, I believe. I plan to read them again next summer because I enjoyed them so much!
      One of my faves in The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas. Depression era KS about a group of quilting women and their lives...with a tiny mystery thrown in for fun. The Darling Dahlias is another great series about a group of friends in the South (USA) and their gardening and mystery adventures.

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  9. The Homemaker is published by Persephone books and I have enjoyed every one I've read, particularly The Fortnight in September and Miss Buncle books. If you like Anne of Green Gables you will probably enjoy the Emily books by the same author. I am enjoying a trilogy of books by Tim Pears starting with The Horseman. So many books, so little time!

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    1. Actually, I'm not a fan of the Anne of Green Gables books...no idea why, but I read a couple and then did not go further. And you know, that's fine. We're all different. :-)

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  10. I have two books going right now too.

    I'm reading 'When I don't desire God' by John Piper. I'm reading it slowly to really think about it. I'm not very far in yet so can't give an opinion though it already has my attention & given me a lot to think about. I struggle with faith & am hoping this will help me.

    For fun I'm reading 'Tomorrow About this Time' by Grace Livingston Hill. My grandmother loved GL Hill & we used to trade her books when I was a teenager. They are very dated, with long descriptions of home life...very sweet & innocent to read. I still enjoy reading them occasionally because it makes me feel close to my grandmother again. She passed away when I was in college.

    My husband just bought a Kindle Paperwhite for me this past week. It's on back order so it will be a few weeks before I get to use it. I've always read on my smartphone but I'm having trouble with my hands & he thinks this will be easier for me to use.

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  11. I’ve read Aunt Jane before and remember sharing it with my mom to read. I’ll need to read it again, but do remember it was a good one!

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  12. I read the Little House on the Prairie book to my older daughter, and then loved it so much that I bought all the other books and read them. My daughter wasn't interested in them, so it was a solitary thing for me, but I loved them. I can't sit down to read a fiction book: I can't stop with one chapter and end up staying up way too late, or not doing something productive all day! So I save fiction for vacation time. :-)

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  13. I will have to lookup "The Home Maker" by Dorothy Canfield Fisher! I loved her gradeschool novel, "Understood Betsy." I, too have enjoyed the family life and "finding God" details in Grace Livingston Hill books. I gave away many of them years ago, when trying to cut back on the number of books I owned, but kept about 12 or 13 of the best ones. The Enchanted Barn, The Honor Girl, Happiness Hill, The Patch of Blue, Head of the House, The Chance of a Lifetime, Maris, Marigold, Job's Niece, Miss Lavinia's Call, The Gold Shoe, Re-Creations, and Brentwood. My teen-age daughter read Brentwood and loved it.
    The Empty House, Sleeping Tiger, Snow in April, The Blue Bedroom, Flowers in the Rain, Gemini- all by Rosamunde Pilcher. I've read all of her books, but these are my favorites.
    I loved the Anne of Green Gables series and bought all of them in college.
    October Sky and The Coalwood Way by Homer Hickam are good too.

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  14. Hi Jenny,
    Have you read Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher? I must have read it out loud 3 times whilst homeschooling and cried everytime! It's now on my top 10 favourite books of all time. I've just ordered The Home Maker - I look forward to reading it!

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    1. Yes, it was one of our favourite read-alouds and now Blossom has the book in her library to read to her children one day. :-) That's why The Home Maker appealed to me as she's such a good writer. But unlike the Betsy book, The Home Maker is for adults and is full of complexity - but what a beautiful book, and I was laughing and crying in the last few chapters. Enjoy!

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    2. It's winging its way to me from the UK - hope it arrives soon! I'll let you know how it goes!

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  15. Off topic...I heard from a friend in Canada that Ibuprofen and Advil taken at the same time will head off her migraine and works for some of her friends too. Hope this helps you.

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  16. Hi Jenny
    Interesting the stages of life we go through. I can so relate to your recent blogs as I read my ditto story in your words. I have always been an avid reader passed on by my parents. With a vocation that was bound in science I had this world to unwind in. When I became an older mother i had an excuse to explore these fun worlds again.Now a grandmother, I am being made aware of the impact on my children of books and interactions such as you described in your post with home schooling. Now I am back with my grandson enjoying again the wonder of stories and magical worlds and the life lessons they can teach us ( even older girls like me). I have been given the time and the opportunity to pass this on. I however battled with giving myself permission to take time to do this. Thanks for your blogs. You have been a blessing . God bless you and your precious family. Keep safe. Faye H facome@westnet.com.au

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  17. Hi again Jenny,
    As a PS to my post above ( no 23) I just noticed that Sally Clarkson is on your list of "nice blogs". Her recent blog posts and podcasts ( especially the ones about reading & books) have also been an inspiration. In one of her posts she mentioned books that I have inherited from my father including Freckles and Girl of the Limberlost. The strength of those memories from opening those books was surprising and a little overwhelming. Overwhelming in a good way...like a big warm hug from my dad. I want my children and grandchildren to have memories like this about books too. All of these blog posts are so valuable. Keep up the great work x Faye H

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  18. You might try Elizabeth Goudge. I like her 'contemporary' books that are generally set in the early to mid 1900's but she has quite a bit of historical fiction as well. The Mitford books I can highly recommend as well. I'm a fan of D. E. Stevenson, as well.

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    1. I actually purchased Pilgrim's Inn by Goudge about two years ago and it's still on the shelf. Has now been added to my reading list.

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  19. Love following your posts Jenny, especially the garden stories [having also lived in the tropics and now in Brisbane Qld] I used to read mainly biographies but now a lot of Christian fiction. When I choose a book, it is usually by author. I like mysteries, romance both historical and modern. Woven into the stories are many useful lessons about issues, faith and family life. Some of my favouite authors are Karen Kingsbury, Beverly Lewis [many with Amish themes], Catherine Palmer, Lori Wick, Ellen Gunderson Traylor [Her retelling Bible character stories are great] - not a complete list. I look for Christian publishers: Harvest House, Tyndale, Bethany, Zondervan etc

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  20. So interesting you should mention reading again. I loved reading in the past and am trying to get back into it I have been collecting books from 2nd hand book stores recently some from my childhood including Bobbsey Twins The Five litte Peppers and Cherry Ames nurse books Loves these as a child I love Little Women and funny enough just this last weekend was able to get a hard copy book of Anne of Green Gables stories Also have been collecting the Jan Karon series With her series in particular God teaches me things and there's a book that came out recently that's called Bathed in Prayer that has father Tim's quotes prayers from the books and other nuggets of inspiration wisdom prayer etc that really touches my heart God can use fiction to speak to us and challenge us. I agree with you about Jane Austen that is a treasured series and I also just picked up and sent a copy of Little house on the Prairie to my children Talk about going back to basics in home making etc. Thanks Jenny

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  21. I have three littles at home and most of my reading is picture books. We do read a few chapter books. Right now we are reading The Secret Garden and the older two kids are enchanted with the story. I recently picked up Cheaper By The Dozen for a reread, it will have you laughing out loud. Thanks for sharing some recommendations and encouraging me to keep up with reading out loud to the children.

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  22. the warmfireplaceJune 13, 2020 at 5:55 PM

    I have the Wendell Berry books to read, I very rarely read fiction, but love factual books. I have re read Amish peace by Suzanne woods fisher a lovely book. I miss reading to my children all grown up now, it was then that I read fiction books too. Take care Sue x

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  23. I love to read but only do so just before bed so it does take me a while to get through books. I do enjoy a good murder mystery and some historical fiction. It is probably time I re read Jane Austen but I think I will save that for a while. Enjoy your reading Jenny. xx

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  24. Hi Jenny,
    I borrowed a book on cassette, now that's taking us back quite a while, from the library. Pushed play, started cleaning the house then realised/remembered half way through, it was a book on tape that I was supposed to be listening to. Too funny !
    hugs,
    Joanne

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  25. You definitely struck a chord with this post. Like many of your commenters, I love to read, preferably on the written page. As an Austen fan, I reread Pride and Prejudice once a year, but my favorite is Persuasion. After readiny your recommendation, I immediately went to Amazon and downloaded Aunt Jane for my Kindle. Thank you for the lovely post.

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  26. I'm a reader, always have been. That's what I've been doing all during the pandemic - more than a book a day sometimes. I'm a really fast reader, though. I DO like science fiction, and read a lot of it. I don't really care what the genre is, as long as the writer can pull me in, and it isn't trashy. Except I don't read horror. One of my favorite authors of light reading is Jeanette Oke. She's Canadian and writes historical Christian romance series. One you might like, if you haven't read any, is Song of Arcadia series. There are none of her series I didn't like, though, and all are based on real times and places. I think the first series I ever read of hers was the Love Comes Softly series.

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  27. I love historical fiction that Philipa Gregory writes. She is a historian and weaves fact and fiction together about the Tudors and others. I also love novels about the war years and disenfranchised people. Fiona MacIntosh takes me to places where she actually visits to research her novels. So many novels, so many places and people to visit through reading. My list is endless. We are so blessed to be able to self educate ourselves through reading and to also find ourselves absorbed in a good novel.

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  28. You brought good memories of when I homeschooled my children and read to them. I am currently designing a quilt for my oldest daughter that features her favorite book I read to her, Little Women. She identified with Jo the main character.

    Like you, I kinda stopped reading books but have been wanting to get back to reading. My son gave lent me a book he read and wants me to read it, but I have trouble keeping up reading it because it's not my style. I told him I would, so I will try to hurry and finish it so I can read some Jane Austen.

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  29. I love Jan Karon's Mitford Series and was hooked right away. Blowing Rock, NC is the fictional town of Mitford and is such a cute little town in the mountains of North Carolina. Years ago, a friend of mine suggested we take our sons back to college and then go to Blowing Rock. The drive up the mountain was beautiful and the town was charming. It made for a fun day.

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  30. I have always been an avid reader. Next to sewing and gardening its a daily must for me. When my kids were young I read to them from Little House books, Pilgrims Progress and more. I love historical fiction, some light mysteries, old classics, and more. Right now, since library's are closed I have been reading a lot of my old vintage books from the early 1900's, some of George MacDonald's books and a few of hubby's Zane Grey. Reading is an adventure!

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  31. I recommend Miss Read's Fairacre series. There are quite a few, but you don't have to read them all. Each one stands on its own. I believe Village School comes first. They center on a small village in England starting in the 1950s. They are told mostly from the POV of the village school teacher, Miss Read.

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  32. Little House books definitely, I have read them all, have videos of the series and have also read biographies of Laura and her daughter which are wonderful. I love historical fiction and have read many wonderful titles about emigration, to Australia, the US, Argentina etc. Far too many to give you specific titles but I am sure that you can search by topic area. I also love some romantic fiction, Debbie Macomber is excellent, she has a wonderful series set around a wool shop and many others.Anita Shreve is also one of my favourite authors, so many brilliant novels from her. I love books, read every day and could not imagine a world where I didn't. They just transport me, educate and entertain me and they are so vital at the moment in keeping me sane.

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  33. Oh my! I am sitting her in amazement that you and I are, at the moment, in the same place! I just finished listening to "The Jane Austen Book Club" (which I don't recommend). But the reading (listening) of that book has prompted me to listen to Jane Austen novels. I am currently on chapter 18 of "Emma," as that movie, with Gwenyth Paltrow, is among my all-time favorite movies. Audiobook listening has been a regular pastime for several years as I enjoy it when I'm machine quilting, doing handwork, or taking long power-walks. When a friend asked me to review the books I listen to, it became a regular addition to each of my blog posts. In 2019 I listened to 46 books, and 2020 will certainly top that due to quarantine. I can't begin to list all the great books I've heard, as well as many I would NOT recommend. But should you ever fall short of titles to read, please pop by my blog for a book review!

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  34. I got to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum last year (in Missouri).

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  35. Dear Jane.
    I have always been a compulsive reader. At 5 years old, when I started school, they were surprised by my vocabulary and that I can read, I learned with stories and comics, and I was surprised that the other children did not know.
    I recommend any of the classics of the Spanish golden century if you have not had the opportunity to read them. I love "The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes" and as a late 19th century novel "Fortunata y Jacita" by Benito Pérez Galdós. They will help you learn about the immense social inequality that has marked my country throughout history. And the wealth of ingenuity and fighting spirit of my countrymen.

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  36. Hi Jenny I haven't read books for many years back when I was working I started to read Brice Courtney books and I would be so engrossed in them that I would read till 3 and 4 in the morning and I had to start work at 9 ,lol so after many nights of this and once I finished these books that was it for books,so now I only read mags lol. I am glad that you are enjoying reading again ,maybe one day I will get back to reading books,hope you have a wonderful weekend my friend xx

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  37. Oh girl. How I love to read - and am now enjoying it without guilt. I think you'd love the Aunt Dimity series of books by Nancy Atherton, they're such gentle mysteries they're hardly mysteries at all, set in England - laugh out loud funny, heart-warming, lovely books. She's one of my very favorites, I've already re-read them twice.

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It's always nice to receive feedback on a blog post, so *thank you* for taking time to comment!
I will try to reply via email unless you are a 'no reply blogger' which means you'll have to check for my reply in the comments. Of course, life is a rather hazardous activity, isn't it? So if I don't respond to your comment that's the reason why - life simply stepped in...
hugs
Jenny
x