December was a month for reading series, and for remembering old loves. I read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books and I started the Traveling Pants series. Then, because that to-read shelf is overflowing, I read a book that I just can’t buy my own copy of right now (it’s unavailable on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble!), though I certainly will. I was pretty amused to notice that in 2006 I read 57 books, but this year, I only got up to 40 – could that be the Lemony Snicket books? Perhaps the fact that I haven’t listened to audio this year? Maybe that I’ve been otherwise engaged? Hard telling, really. And it’s not really a matter of much importance, that final number – it’s just interesting to someone who loves lists – and when you love lists and you love books, well, a list of books is a natural thing!

The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien

I loved these books back in sixth grade when I “discovered” them, thanks to a Christmas gift from an adult who I wish I could go back and thank properly. I remember being immersed in them in the odd moments between classes, at the end of classes, at home. They sucked me in then, and they did it again now, almost twenty years later!

Prince Charming and I read them together; with his 40-plus minute commute now, he has plenty of time to listen to audio books, and with my little friend nursing, I have plenty of time to read (in theory). It was awesome to share this Adventure with Prince Charming; we were a little helter-skelter on the rate we were both getting through them – it seemed like I was either way ahead or way behind him, so we didn’t so much talk about them as we have about some of the other books we’ve read together. Even so, the writing is fabulous and the Adventure enticing. (Not that I’m saying anything you didn’t already know in this review, and not that I thought I would!)

We were done with them by Christmas, and we got to sit down and watch the first two movies (wow, you can really see the differences when you’ve read the books that recently!). Well, Charming and his brother were able to sit down and watch the movies; we forgot about orcs and other creatures being, well, inappropriate for an almost-three-year-old, so her and I played trains in the other room with big boxes and cooked plastic food and drew cards.

If you haven’t read these books ever or in a while, pick them up. They look imposing, and they are lengthy. But Prince Charming assures me that the audio is well-done (think Harry Potter) and I found that the length just disappears in the face of the story. I marvel at the creation of a world and all those different races of beings and, and, and, and…well, it’s a good set of reads. Give it a whirl. Really.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, by Ann Brashares

The Second Summer of the Sisterhood, by Ann Brashares

My 13-year-old sister lent me these books, and her passion for them made me eager to start them. I really struggled with the first one, because I felt like it depicted everything I hate about how teens are usually depicted. I was also struggling with how to talk about not liking them here, in a place where Nen is likely to see it and perhaps be hurt by my reaction.

I took my time with the first book and came away a bit…disappointed. Had it not been for Nen’s passion for these books, I wouldn’t have read the second, and that would have been too bad for me. The second book struck a nerve with me, and it felt more cohesive than the first. While the first book takes quite a bit of time examining the relationship of the four girlfriends to each other and working out their personalities and quirks and some other things, the second is comfortable in its own skin. Perhaps that’s what grated me a little about the first one…it was gawky-ish and choppy-ish (it cut scenes every few pages, because the four girls are apart from each other). I came away from the second book eager to read the third (I’ll have to wait til Nen’s read it, though, because getting them from the library instead of my sister just feels so, well, not quite right in this case!).

*A word of caution: These books are definitely for older teens, not for your 10-11-12-year-olds. Sex is discussed, and the girls in the books are in high school.

A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century, by Oliver Van DeMille

One of my friends has been raving about this book for almost a year. When I lent some books to one of my other friends (who’s a mutual friend of the first friend), she mentioned that she had a copy of this and that I was welcome to borrow it. I knew from what Friend 1 said that it was a short book (“My husband devoured it in a weekend!”), and it didn’t gather any dust on my to-read shelf. Unfortunately for Friend 2, it might be a while before she gets it back, because with its unavailability to order, I have to make sure Prince Charming reads it too.

The premise is that the work of education rests with the student. While Van DeMille does mention homeschooling throughout, he provides ways to encourage a Thomas Jefferson Education (TJEd) in the school systems (public and private) as well. After reading it, I’ll admit that I ordered two copies of a math classic – The Works of Archimedes (and, if I may wander off-topic a bit, they came yesterday, and in flipping through it, I groaned and thought, “Oh, yeah, this looks enticing,” to which Math Charming replied, “Ah! Let’s get started!”). Prince Charming and I are going to start reading some classics together, and not the “usual” ones either. Van DeMille includes a list of books (ah, you see me grinning, don’t you?) and, in another appendix, ways you can include TJEd mentality in your current plan.

Am I sounding redundant this month if I tell you to go out and read a copy of this book? Because whether or not you have kids of your own, you should. This book reminded me of my own love of learning, and it reminded me that I’m still learning (and that I can still pursue my education, even if I’m not “formally” enrolled somewhere – not that I didn’t know that, but, well, I sort of forgot it for a minute or five).