Happy New Year! A Planner and a Playlist for the Road Ahead

Rarely do I begin a contemporary book and feel it’s paid for itself before the end of the first chapter. But I’ve begun 2019’s reading year wth Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books and I’m feeling grateful and inspired.

My college major was English and when I finished, I spent ten happy years teaching communication arts to college freshmen. After that my career path turned toward counseling but I never quite lost my envy of the English professor who gets paid to read and reflect on books. Prior is one, and her rich experiences as a professor, a reader and an intellectual Christian make her a fascinating tour guide.

She had me at the introduction, “Read Well, Live Well.”

“It is not enough to read widely,” Prior asserts with authority, having also written on the benefits of “reading promiscuously” in Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me. “One must also read well.”

That is, one must read with a heart pursuing excellence, diligently cultivating virtue for living a truly free and happy life.

I was delighted to discover that Prior delivers her insights into both literature and virtue through twelve essays on ten great books and three short stories from authors as diverse as Shusaku Endo, Flannery O’Connor and Jane Austen.

I’ve only read about half of them. And I’m sure I won’t get to all of the rest this year, but I want to keep them on a permanent list of planned reads.

And that brings me to the planner I created.

It was only a couple of years ago that I took a little time in January to plan my reading year in advance. Not ridgidly, but I selected a variety of books I’d been meaning to read, that I’d started but hadn’t finished, or whose content would meet a felt need in my ever-incomplete education.

I didn’t meet all my goals of course, and last year I was far more cursory about it. I became enamored of the Goodreads Reading Challenge (and I recommend it–I’m doing it again) and I spent an inordinate amount of time organizing my Goodreads shelves until I finally just “called it” and read books instead.

But sometime last fall I began to regret not taking the time to intentionally plan my year’s reading even though I wanted lots of freedom to change the plan.  I wanted a tool to guide that planning so my list wouldn’t get buried in a journal as my first one was.

I listed the categories of books I wanted to include in my reading year (classics, spiritual reading, biography/memoir, science, books I already owned, etc.). I decided to create a simple planner, a placeholder for those titles…and for books I probably wouldn’t get around to reading but didn’t want to forget.

Then I realized you might like to have one too.

Reads That Feed: A Booklover’s Planner is the result. Created with Sparrowfare readers in mind, it’s a 12-page e-book with pages for categories of books you might want to consider as you plan your reading list in advance.

But it’s designed for more than once-a-year planning. It will hold the titles you discover in a place where you’ll remember to look for them. And it contains short (as opposed to overwhelming) lists of books Sparrowfare recommends in each category.

To receive your copy, all you need to do is subscribe to Sparrowfare’s email newsletter, Reads & Other Seeds. Published about once a month, it links you to the latest Sparrowfare content plus recommendations and discoveries from around the web selected just for readers with a likeminded sensibility.

Faith. Reason. Optimism. Books. Music. Civility. Compassion. Children.

If you care about these things and enjoy new discoveries about them, Reads & Other Seeds is for you.

And there’s a little something more. Along with the booklover’s planner, I’m still sending Flight Fuel: An Eclectic Playlist of Hope to everyone who subscribes. Inspired by In the Night: A Song for Your Playlist of Hope, a post written after the 2017 mass shooting at the Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Flight Fuel is a linked playlist of 33 diverse songs that remind me to keep going when I’m tempted to despair. (Related post: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize: How Music Helps Us Rise When All We Want to Do is Quit.)

Ready to fly with Sparrowfare in 2019? Just subscribe here. Reads that Feed: A Booklover’s Planner and Flight Fuel: An Eclectic Playlist of Hope will wing their way to you.

Happy New Year, fellow wayfarers! As always, I’d love to hear about the books and music feeding your soul right now. In these days of bling and bluster, we’re all seed-searching among the stones. If you know someone with a Sparrowfare sensibility, please share!

Reads & Other Seeds

Lengthy as the discussions may be, I am loving the Close Reads podcast. Brought to you by CiRCE Institute (who also produces The Daily Poem), this lively group of professors invites you to join their book club by listening to conversations of a great book read just a few chapters at a time. I kept up with their conversations on The Power and the Glory and The Great Gatsby and was blown away more than once. Next up? Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day.

Think an atheist, a Catholic bishop and a rabbi can’t have a civil conversation about religion? I bring you good tidings of great joy. When Bishop Robert Barron, Rabbi David Wolpe and Dave Rubin got together just before Christmas, they exceeded my expectations. (I wrote about Bishop Barron’s first appearance two years ago. See Dialog in a Divisive Time: Bishop Barron, Dave Rubin and the Space Between.) Both conversations are models of what is possible when we commit to respecting the dignity of people with whom we disagree.

Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash.

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