Last week I finally updated my 2014 Reading List here. It’s so hard for me to make a favorites list because I read books for a variety of reasons and so I’ve got a lot of different angles to evaluate. This is the first year I’ve noticed that I’ve spent a lot of time reading books that I haven’t bothered to finish. There are some books on the finished list that could just as easily have never got there. Maybe I’ll tell which, maybe I won’t. But in any case, I find I’m more willing to let books go these days.
That said – The Chrestomanci books, Barbara Crooker’s poetry, Still Writing, The Goldfinch, Redefining Realness, Surprised by Scripture, When We Were on Fire, Ice Whale, A Song of Ice & Fire, and Hannah Coulter have been highlights. (yes – really. George R.R. Martin and Wendell Berry side by side. Ah! the complexities of Jennifer’s reading choices.)
I follow a lot of trails in my reading and I’m generally not much of a re-reader. But George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin shows up repeatedly in my annual list making. It came up early this year. I think there’s something intriguing about a book that I look for and read more than once. At least … I’m intrigued. This book is short and manageable. Perhaps that’s why. It’s a kid’s fairytale after all. It’s got a princess, goblins, a wise mother, and a poor miner’s boy. It’s got danger and heroic action. It’s got friendship and family. And it’s got this bit about an invisible thread….
The Princess has a mysterious old great great grandmother who lives high in the castle and can only be seen by those who have eyes to see her (the Princess can). In one scene the grandmother gives the Princess a “shimmering ball…something like spun glass” that is attached by invisible thread to a ring made of fire-opal, which the grandmother also gives to the Princess. The Princess, enamored with all the loveliness, is at once disappointed and confused when her grandmother takes the ball back and shuts it in a drawer:
‘But what use can I make of it, if it lies in your cabinet?’
‘That is what I will explain to you. It would be of no use to use – it wouldn’t be yours at all if it did not lie in my cabinet. Now listen. If ever you find yourself in any danger…you must take off your ring and put it under the pillow of your bed. Then you must lay your forefinger, the same that wore the ring, upon the thread, and follow the thread wherever it leads you.’
‘Oh, how delightful! It will lead me to you, grandmother, I know!’
‘Yes. But, remember, it may seem to you a very roundabout way indeed, and you must not doubt the thread. Of one thing you may be sure, that while you hold it, I hold it too.’
Oh! the thread-following faith of the Princess! A frightful, beautiful story. Please tell it to me again.
I’ve finished 62 books so far this year and have read many more pages of books I either didn’t finish or haven’t finished. When I started keeping track of my reading trail, 62 would have been a very high final number for one year. Last year I logged 121 books. I think this might be a bad thing. I am competitive. I’m running behind. That is all.