New Year, Old Books

Hello, readers! Happy New Year, and welcome to 2022. How are you at making New Year’s resolutions? Perhaps the better question is how are you at keeping New Year’s resolutions? There seems to be only one resolution I am sure to keep: this year, I will read more books! Actually, I have to confess, reading more books is never an issue for me; it’s only finding the time to read that gives me trouble. I know there are more productive ways to spend my time (e.g., housework, laundry, unfinished crafts), but books just seem to call my name!

Now that the holidays are over, we all need to recover from the stress of the season. Winter is upon us, and what better time to stay inside, have a warm cup of tea or cocoa, and catch up with old friends – and by “friends” I mean books! There are so many new books coming out each month, my “want to read” list keeps growing. But even with all those great new choices, there are times I just want to reread something that is comforting and familiar. I know many people who say they would never read a book more than once, and I can understand that up to a point. I have read lots of books that I enjoyed and recommended to other people, but I will probably never read them again. (I will look for other books by the same author, however!) Still, I do have certain books that I have reread multiple times, and they delight me every time. You may ask, “Why? You already know what’s going to happen” and to some extent that’s true. But rereading books that I love is like visiting an old friend;  I know them, love them, find solace in them, and it’s just so nice to see them again! 

Some of these books are classified as juvenile fiction; however, I didn’t discover any of them until I was an adult, and I enjoy them tremendously. Some of them may be familiar to you from movies or television, but I truly believe that the book is always better. With that being said, let me introduce you to some of my old friends. (I don’t think they’ll mind if I give their date of birth.) 

Jane Eyre (1847) by Charlotte Bronte. This is the story of Jane, who was treated cruelly as a child, but overcame hardships to find her happy ending. There are mysterious twists in this story as it follows her from childhood to adulthood, and the Victorian-era viewpoints may be a bit dated, but this is a classic English romance. There have been many movies made of this story, but do read the book first!

Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886), A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden (1911) by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I love The Secret Garden, the story of orphaned Mary Lennox, who goes to live with her uncle in England and finds happiness in bringing a neglected garden back to life, with a little help from a robin. Again,there have been quite a few movie adaptations of this book, but none of them can equal the book itself. The other two books may not be as well known, but are just as wonderful. A Little Princess and Little Lord Fauntleroy both show how kindness can change hearts and triumph over all. 

Freckles (1904) and A Girl of the Limberlost (1909) by Gene Stratton Porter. This author was a naturalist with a keen interest in preserving the Limberlost Swamp in her home state of Indiana; both of these books take place in that setting. Freckles is a one-handed orphan who gets a job with a lumber company, guarding the timber in the Limberlost. Full of the flora and fauna of the swamp, there is also plenty of action (with lumber thieves) and intriguing characters like the Bird Woman and the Swamp Angel. Freckles also makes an appearance in A Girl of the Limberlost; this one is a story of a family struggle, a desire for education, and a dash of romance. 

Anne of Green Gables (1908) by Lucy Maud Montgomery. This is another classic orphan tale that has been made into a wonderful television series. (I do recommend this series, because it is so faithful to the book!) But the book itself is a treasure, telling the story of Anne, who is taken in by Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert on their farm in Prince Edward Island. Don’t stop with just this book; the entire series, listed here, continues the story of Anne’s life and is full of unforgettable characters, as Anne grows up and has a family.

By the way, LMM has written many more books than just the Anne series, including novels, short stories and poetry, and I recommend all of them; the following two are old friends that I’ve visited many times. Kilmeny of the Orchard (1910) and The Blue Castle (1926) are both charming, old-fashioned stories, each with unexpected twists, but very satisfying endings.

These are my oldest friends, and I love them all. I do have some “younger” old friends, and I’m sure you would enjoy meeting them as well!

Christy (1967) by Catherine Marshall. This book, about a young school teacher in Cutter Gap, Tennessee, is a splendid tale of mountain traditions in Appalachia. The main character in this fictional work is from Asheville, but in real life she is based on the author’s own mother. There are so many fascinating characters in this book, from Miss Alice to Little Burl, and the depictions of life in the mountains are quite authentic. This book was also made into a television series that I can recommend, but like Jane Eyre and Anne of Green Gables, read the book first!

The Shell Seekers (1987) by Rosamunde Pilcher. A lovely story set in Cornwall, this book follows the life of Penelope Keeling, the daughter of an artist. The family drama is balanced by the vivid descriptions of the location, so that you feel like you are there and know all these people, or would like to. Rosamunde Pilcher has written quite a few other books, and they are all equally captivating. After reading one of her books, I feel homesick for England and Scotland!

At Home in Mitford (1994) by Jan Karon. This is the first book in the Mitford series, a collection of books about Father Tim and all the goings-on in the fictional North Carolina town of Mitford. There are many recurring characters that I have come to know and love, and I highly recommend the entire series. Every book is warm and charming, and even with hints of mystery and sadness, there is a sense of comfort in going to Mitford.

Handyman (2000), Not a Sparrow Falls (2002), If I Gained the World (2003), At the Scent of Water (2004), and In Search of Eden (2007), all by Linda Nichols. This family of books is by my very favorite Christian fiction writer, and since that is my most-read genre, that says a lot about this author! I have probably reread these books more than any of the others on this list, and that also says a lot about these books. This isn’t a series; each title is a stand-alone, but this author’s writing has a way of drawing you into each story and making it come alive. The people in each of these books are real to me, and I personally can identify with several specific characters. I won’t try to give a synopsis of each book, but I will say that At the Scent of Water takes place in our part of western North Carolina and has names and places I recognize. (This was actually the first of her books that I ever read, sent to me by an out-of-state cousin who saw that connection.) All of these books touch my heart, and I think they will touch yours, too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of my old friends. I’ve tried to be deliberately vague about the storylines, so as not to give any spoilers. If there are books on this list that you’ve never read, I hope you’ll give them a try. If these aren’t really your cup of tea, then I encourage you to think of a book you enjoyed at some point in your life, and give it another go! You may discover something you missed the first time around, or some part of it may be more relevant to your life today. You may even make a new old friend!

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!