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Good writers are prolific readers, so I asked a group of Christian writer friends to go back in time one hundred years and then I posed the following situation to those who write historicals.

It’s the end of the day on January 11, 1911. The logs are blazing in the stone fireplace of your remote country home while you settle into your rocker and turn up the wick in the lamp on the table beside you. In your lap is a book. What are you reading on this cold winter night and why?

Henry McLaughlin: I’m reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (published 1870).

Vickie McDonough: Ivanhoe, because it’s an exciting story of fighting for what one believes in with a sweet romance included.

Karen Witemeyer: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. My favorite classic book of all time. I’d read it for the romance, for the hard-shell hero and the plain, godly heroine who cracks that shell, and for the hope and warm, gentle joy that arrives after so much angst and suffering. 

Dorothy Clark: The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart. I’m reading it because the cold, dark night, the warm crackling fire and whisper of the rocker against the floor begs for a good mystery.

Ramona K. Cecil: I would have likely been reading The Two Vanrevels by the Indiana author, Booth Tarkington, published in 1902 by McClure, Phillips & Co.

Jaime Wright: The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne – talk about deliciously creepy!

Mildred Colvin: I haven’t changed much inthe last 100 years (or most of it), so I’m sure I’d be reading a bit of history and plenty of romance in Grace Livingston Hill’s In the Way. It was published in 1897.

Carla Olson Gade: I’d be reading a new book that I got for Christmas, Kilmeny of the Orchard (1910) by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Kacy Barnett-Gramckow: I’m reading Molly Make-Believe, by Eleanor Hallowell Abbott, because Mother packed it in my Christmas box to cheer me through another chilling Colorado winter. I’m also eating candy, packed by Father.  

Laurie Alice Eakes: I’d have been reading [the serialized version of] The Secret Garden [in anticpation of the release of the book later in 1911]. Yes, a children’s book, but I still love it. I like reading children’s books now and then.

Lena Nelson Dooley: I’d be reading Love Hath Wings by Bertha M. Clay, a dime novel, but only in secret or held inside a copy of Harper’s Bazar, (the correct spelling at the time) so no one would know I was reading the dime novel. There was also a romantic one with Lena in the title. I’d be intrigued by that.

Pat Iacuzzi: I would probably be reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott or Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I’m a romantic and, for some reason, read books or watch movies that fit the season/mood. Historical settings do that for me.

Walt Mussell: The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper. I read it in high school and probably would have pulled it off the shelves, just to finally figure out why Mark Twain had been so critical of it (and Cooper) years earlier.

Lynn Dean: I’m re-reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Though this book was written almost a century ago, I find the characters typical of people with whom I am acquainted today, albeit in different costume. Miss Austen’s insight into human nature is timeless, and her observations so wry and satisfying that I am sure this story will endure as a favorite of readers for another hundred years. These are the marks of a classic, so unlike the tawdry “penny horribles” that came and went in a season. How amusing to think that book lovers in the next millenium may find amusement in these pages though their temporal world will surely be more different still!

Nicole Miller: I’d have a copy of Homer’s The Odyssey on my lap. It is truly an epic and classic tale of adventure, love and bravery.

I agree with Mildred. None of us (women) have changed over the past one hundred years. We still love romance!

This is not the complete list of answers I received. Come back tomorrow to read more of what historical writers would be reading had they lived in January of 1911.

In the meantime: Does your bookshelf hold any of the classics from the 19th century and early 20th century? Have you ever read one of the dime novels (or penny dreadfuls)?

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