What I’ve Been Reading: May 2019

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The first week of June means a new post in my What I’ve Been Reading series! (You can find last month’s installment here.) Below is a rundown of the books (and music) I encountered in May and what I thought of each.

Mansfield Park, Jane Austen

I’ve discussed Mansfield Park before, in my February blogpost about Faramir, Fanny, and Other Characters I Loved. If you remember that post, then you know this novel was one of my favorite Jane Austen works as a teenager, and it’s still near to my heart. I reread it this spring just for the joy of it, and it did not disappoint. Check out that post from February if you’d like to learn more about the protagonist, Fanny Price, and why she was one of my favorite heroines growing up.

At the Back of the North Wind, George MacDonald

When I was little, I used to listen to Focus on the Family’s radio drama version of this children’s story by George MacDonald, but I realized that I’d never read the book itself. So last month I finally checked this one off my To Read list. To be perfectly candid, MacDonald’s writing style and manner of storytelling are not my favorite, but his stories laid a foundation that C. S. Lewis (and others) built on with enormous success. And most importantly, MacDonald has deep insight into the nature of God and His world that definitely makes his books worth reading (and rereading), despite any stylistic shortcomings. I loved reading At the Back of the North Wind and recognizing themes that Lewis later developed in the Chronicles of Narnia.

Anne of Avonlea, L. M. Montgomery

Confession to Anne Shirley fans: I’ve never read the entire Anne series. As I recall (and I was probably in junior high when I first read L. M. Montgomery), I read about four and a half of the eight books and ran out of steam at that point. Sadly I never returned to finish the series. And while I may have reread Anne of Green Gables at some point in my teens, I believe this May was my first time to revisit the second book, Anne of Avonlea. I found that, as an adult, I appreciated Anne’s maturing process more than I did as a middle-schooler, and can now better understand her struggles as she and her friends grow up and change. I don’t know how far I’ll get through the series this time around…but yes, I’ve started book three already!

In addition to the books I read in May, here are some albums I listened to throughout the month:

Cinderella, soundtrack by Patrick Doyle

I watched this film (the 2015 Disney remake) a couple years ago and kinda remember feeling fairly positive about it but don’t remember details. For me, the soundtrack stands on its own as 75 minutes of lovely background music performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. Personally I think some soundtracks (when listened to on their own) can be boring, others melodramatic, depending on how they were designed for their film, but I’ve enjoyed the Cinderella soundtrack’s balance between the two extremes. It sounds charming and imaginative without demanding my attention, which for me makes ideal background music while I write.

Tolkien, soundtrack by Thomas Newman

(Yes, I like movie soundtracks.) I’ve been listening to this one out of curiosity about the new Tolkien film released last month, which I have yet to watch (and about which I feel some trepidation). I assume the music would carry more meaning if I’d seen the movie first, but without that context I have to say I’ve found this to be a soundtrack of the rather boring kind. It probably works well in the film itself, but as a standalone it’s so unobtrusive that I can’t even remember anything distinctive to tell you about it, though I’ve heard it numerous times. It still works as background music but doesn’t do much to fuel creativity.

Jason Gray playlist

So I have mixed feelings about Christian singer-songwriter Jason Gray. I’ve heard several of his albums, and I’ll be frank: some of his songs I really like and some I really dislike. (No offense intended to Mr. Gray, and for the record most of my objections are theological, not artistic.) But, as I said, he has some great songs that I enjoy and appreciate, so I’ve created my own playlist of the tracks I like best from his various albums. A few of my favorites are “Love Life,” “A Way to See in the Dark,” and “Sparrows.”

I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading (or listening to). Let me know in the comments!

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