My Personal Syllabus for 2020

Books HDWhen I was sent to lockdown over two months ago, I was fortunate enough to have an enormous stack of books from the public library. I got a few notes on Instagram about how lucky I was, but, really, I am just a literary glutton. It is not uncommon for me to have over a dozen books out from the library. I have a problem.

Between those books, the ones I own but have not yet read, the backlog on my Kindle, and access to advanced copies from Netgalley, I could easily be locked down for a year and not run out of things to read. That is beautiful, in my opinion, but it also presents a total free-for-all of directionless, indulgent reading. I could only read mystery novels for a year, probably.

Like many people, I have actually had a hard time focusing during this time. I am not sure if I have retained much of what I read, but the mental fuzziness has started to wear off and I am thirsting for some learning. I remembered that in January I created a personal reading syllabus after I read advice about doing so by Haley over at Carrots for Michaelmas. I broke out my list to spark some more purposeful reading.

Kasey’s 2020 Syllabus

  • Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales
  • The Confessions of St. Augustine
  • My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell
  • Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
  • The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
  • The Most of Nora Ephron (been in progress for years)
  • Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait? Alice, Paul, Woodrow Wilson, and The Fight for the Right to Vote by Tina Cassidy
  • Needful Things by Stephen King
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman
  • The Overstory by Richard Powers
  • Joan of Arc by Kathryn Harrison
  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
  • Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy

My reading syllabus was created in the context that I already read a pretty diverse and inclusive range of books, especially in current literary fiction and young adult fiction. The purpose of this list was to pursue some topics or writers that I have been neglecting while reading the big new releases.

The first theme of my syllabus is books by or about the saints. I hope to read more than what is on this list (i.e. books by St. Teresa of Avila and St. Gertrude Stein), but I included some big titles that have been sitting on my shelves for years, partially read or waiting to be started. I used to do quite a bit of spiritual reading, and for what feels like a long, long time it has been crowded out. In an effort to get back to some sort of rhythm in that area of my growth, I have also included books by great Catholic writers who I have read little or nothing by: Flannery O’Connor, J.R.R. Tolkien, and G.K. Chesterton. Over and over, I keep hearing Flannery O’Connor talked about as one of the greatest Catholic writers and I have only read a couple of stories by her. Similarly, Catholic public figures who I respect love Tolkien and, despite my dad’s many attempts to get me to read The Hobbit, I never made it past the first twenty pages. Finally, I also included some nonfiction and novels that I have meant to read for a long time, but never quite get around to. That’s how Stephen King and Mary, Queen of Scots ended up on the same reading list.

I am hopeful that I will be able to make progress on this reading list while still reading my usual pile of the big books of the year. I’ll let you know.

EDIT: So far, off the list, I have read My Sisters, the Saints, which made me weep pretty good. Other books that I have read and enjoyed include: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, Lakewood by Megan Giddings, Why We’re Polarized by Ezra Klein, She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman by Erica Armstrong Dunbar, and Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City by Kate Winkler Dawson.

Have you made a reading plan or list for yourself? What is on your list? I’d love to know!

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