The Way of Perfection

by Saint Teresa of Avila

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I had a difficult time getting through this one. I think, mostly, because of oatmeal brain coupled with pregnancy brain.
Despite my difficulties, I was still able to cull a lot from this book. Saint Teresa gave a lot of good advice on detachment, humility and contemplative prayer.
She also spoke of some interesting states contemplatives may find themselves in.
Then she broke down the “Our Father” line by line and gives the reader plenty to think about from just that one, perfect prayer.
I would recommend it for anyone interested in contemplative prayer or looking to take their contemplation up to saintly heights. Just make sure your brain is up for it.

The First and Second Books of Samuel

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible

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I wanted something to read for the saint Michael’s Lent and, based on my fascination with King David, thought I’d work my way through the books of Samuel. This study Bible was awesome (hard to go wrong with Scott Hahn).
When I read the Old Testament, I frequently think things like: ‘what the heck?’, ‘why would they do that?’ or ‘what does that mean?’
I’m happy to report, this study Bible pretty much answered all those questions in addition to answering questions I didn’t even think to ask. Lots to keep you interested in these fascinating books, not to mention the content of the books themselves which actually got pretty ‘Game of thrones’ at some points.
Would definitely recommend. King David is an excellent example of trying to live God’s will and an excellent example of contrition when he falls short. It’s also neat to see the rise of Israel under this King and to see how a lot of his life lined up with Christ’s.

Coming Soon

by Michael Barber

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I thought I’d start my summer with a little light reading on the Apocalypse. Ha! I bought this book about 7 years ago but I had a hard time reading anything more challenging than Dr. Seuss during that time so I gave up on it. (With three kids, my brain went into some kind of hyper-sleep and it was all I could do to remember to breath. It’s come out of the fog a little with each subsequent kid since then).
Then after reading the Dr. Bergsma books, I thought I’d give this another try, since it was one of his recommended readings for further study. (Also, we’re on a super tight budget with the new baby coming so I’m trying to work through my embarrassingly large “to read” pile instead of buying any more books.)
I’m glad I gave it another go. It was an engrossing book that was difficult to put down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read readings from the Book of Revelation and have had no idea what I’d just read. (If you ever wonder why Catholics believe that Jesus left behind a teaching authority, read this book of the bible from beginning to end and you’ll quickly understand the need for one).
The imagery in it is incredible. I’ve already had a lot of weird-o dreams this pregnancy, but nothing like after reading this book.
**Spoiler alert** the whore of Babylon is not the Catholic Church. Sorry to disappoint.
The author went through the entire Book of Revelation a paragraph or so at a time and explained it the best it can be explained at this time. He drew on scripture (especially a lot of Old Testament. If you try to figure this book out without the Old Testament, fuhgeddaboutit!), he drew on tradition and he talked a lot of history. The history of that time was fascinating. Especially learning about the battle between the Romans and the Jews that led to the total destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 AD. It was a crazy, horrible battle with many horrible things that happened and did I mention it was horrible?!
And like many things biblical, the Book of Revelation works in the past, the present and the future. It draws on things that have already happened to give you an idea of what will happen in the future. And if the destruction of the temple in 70 AD is a precursor of the the Second Coming, I’m hoping Ryan and I and all of my children and grandchildren, etc. kick-off before it happens!
But there was also a lot of very beautiful things such as God finally making his dwelling among us (the Eucharist) and of what life will be like when Jesus has finally ended the reign of the devil (even though the devil’s helping to solve crimes on Netflix crime shows now). Life will be nice.
I definitely recommend this. I’d even recommend this for non-religious types. It’s very fantastical and will hold your interest if you like Apocalypse-y kind of things.

All the Bible Basics for Catholics Books

by John Bergsma

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I ended up reading this whole series (thanks for the mother’s day present husband!), which I would definitely recommend to Catholics looking to get more scripturally savvy. All three were great, but if you only have time to read one, I’d read the New Testament Basics. It was the most comprehensive and information-dense. The books do a great job showing that in order to understand a lot of the New Testament, you have to get to know the Old Testament. It’s very cool to see how the two link up all over the place.
Also, in the New Testament book, Dr. Bergsma explains a lot of where Protestants get some of their theology (especially when you get to the chapter on Romans). He was a Protestant minister and so has the inside scoop. He answered a lot of questions I’ve had for a long time about a couple of things, including subjects such as ‘once saved always saved’ and ‘faith alone’ and how Protestants read John 6. He provides the Catholic contradistinction for each of these subjects, which was very helpful.
He also dips into the Book of Revelation a little bit, which is the wildest and craziest book of the bible and the book that convinces me that God, would indeed, leave behind a teaching authority to help those of us who are simpletons untangle some of that imagery. (His truncated description gives a good overview while stoking your curiosity, which is why I am currently reading an entire book on the Book of Revelation).
And most important of all, I have oatmeal brain. It comes with having a bunch of little people running all over my house. Yet despite my oatmeal brain, not only did I understand these books (the stick figure drawings really help), but they were page-turners. I wrote him about the books to compliment his work and he said he wrote them hoping to keep everything simple enough so that tired Catholic parents could read them at the end of the day and still understand them. He did a great job of it!

Money Secrets

by Dave Barry

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I’ve been grumps, so I thought I’d read a little Dave Barry to lift my mood.
I bought this book in particular because someone in the reviews said they bought it thinking it was a serious book on money and they were in hysterics when they started reading it and realized it was humor. That just tickled me.
It was hilarious. Unless you’re a CEO of a massive corporation, then, I’m afraid to say, you’re the butt of a lot of jokes.
It covered all the basics: how money works, the economy, personal finances, real estate, getting a job, arguing with your spouse about money, how to manage a hedge fund, etc
It also had an entire chapter on a book Donald Trump wrote that was so funny that that chapter, alone, made the price of this book worth it.
It was very funny. Even if you bought it knowing it’s humor. 

Psalm Basics for Catholics

by John Bergsma

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This book was fantastic! I wanted to read it because, I’m embarrassed to admit, I have a difficult time connecting with the Psalms and I was hoping this would help.
It definitely delivered.
He teaches a good history from the various covenants to why Kind David is the most important Old Testament figure (not Moses!) . He also shows how many of the Psalms point to the New Testament happenings and to Jesus, the new David.
He points out that no matter what our mood, there’s a Psalm for it (with a handy dandy chart at the end) and he has suggestions for how to read them.
The book is complemented with stick figure drawings that do a great job bringing the point home for us visual learners.
I could not put this book down. It was a page turner. I read it over the weekend.
It’s great! Read it. It’s like getting a mini-course at Steubenville on the cheap (he teaches there and I can see why he’s such a popular teacher!).
I’m going to have to read the other two in the series now.

A Worriers Guide to the Bible

by Gary Zimak

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I’ve been meaning to read this for a long time. The author is a frequent guest on a morning show I like so I’ve gotten a lot of this from his interviews over the years. I don’t worry near like I used to but this book was certainly a nice refresher.
It’s pretty much as advertised. 50 verses to help get worriers through; ranging from confusion all the way to despair. It all kinds of boils down to:
1. you’re not alone in your situation (which is nice to remember)
2. Needless worrying does nothing to help any situation (and he gives some things to do to keep you busy so you’ll stop sitting around needlessly worrying)
3. In the end, whatever happens will be the best for your spiritual growth because
4. Our goal is to get to heaven. And sometimes it’s nice to remember (for those of us that are goal-minded) that what happens in this life isn’t the end.
5. Also, the big JC doesn’t want us to worry and he says so. A lot.
6. And there’s a lot about prayer.

It takes a lot to keep anxiety in check. Especially in our society that panics about everything. This book is a good start to wrangling that demon and finding some peace. (Though, he didn’t use my favorite 1 Peter 5:7. There were a lot of good ones in there!)

Introduction to the Devout Life

by Saint Francis de Sales

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After reading the Saint Francis de Sales biography, I thought I’d try this. It was an exceptional read.
It was originally written to help those living in the upper-classes in his day lead more devout lives so it applies well to us today in that we are living far more comfortable lives than even the wealthiest of people during his time.
The instruction is fantastic, the writing is beautiful (this guy could metaphor!) and he pretty much covers every situation that may come up in life. He makes the Devout Life seem very doable (though, not easy). In his time, the prevailing wisdom said you practically had to be a desert monk to live a devout life. Saint Francis de Sales believed anyone could live it with the right instruction.
Very good book!

The Treasure Seekers

by E. Nesbit

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I came across this author, E. Nesbit, on a list of suggested reading by the woman who designed the curriculum I’m using this year. She’s got excellent taste and my daughter, always devouring books, is in need of some new reading material. We’re using it for her book report so I needed to read it to make sure she is reading it.
It was a fantastic book. It’s about a family with six kids. Their mom had died and they’ve fallen on hard times financially so the kids decide to go out and replenish the family fortune to take some of the stress of their father. They try each kid’s idea which leads them from digging for buried treasure to robber barroning to selling their poetry to trying to take out a loan so they can start a business and more.
To say it was a delightful read is a gross understatement. Each time I opened the book, I got to be a kid again and go on adventures until my adult life would call me back outside the pages.
It was a book about kids being kids. It’s nice to know there is a place in the world for good, fun, innocent children’s books.

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

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I had never read this book. A couple of days ago I was reading a commentary Chesterton wrote about this book and it left me thinking, I’ve got to read this book. Luckily, I remembered seeing a copy of it when we went through all our books this summer.
I’m so glad I did! This book is wonderful! Dickens is a great story teller and an absolute master at capturing humanity. He was especially deft at humanizing Scrooge which, I thought, really showed his craftsmanship in that Scrooge was a pretty awful man. But he was still a man and Dickens did a great job of showing you Scrooge’s heart, hardened though it was.
The writing was so good, I still cried even though I knew Tiny Tim died. It was such a beautiful perfect scene.
Read this book! It won’t take you long and you’ll be glad you did.

Prince Not so Charming

by Roy L. Hinuss

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I read this along with my 4th grade son. It was his book report book. I found it after a long, arduous search for a book that he would ENJOY reading. Right up until the last week, he rigidly stuck to the 5 pages each day schedule and then nearing the end, he couldn’t wait and finished it on his own! Mission accomplished! A book that my son actually liked and WANTED to read!
It was a silly, funny book about a prince that wanted to be a jester and not a dragon-fighting Prince. It was super cute. Not sure what reading level it is. Probably chapter book? My daughter read it in a day, but she’s a strong reader.
I’d recommend it. Especially for reluctant readers. It gives that victory of finishing your first chapter book in a fun way.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place:

The Mysterious Howling

by Maryrose Wood

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This, too, is a middle grade book and I bought it based entirely on its cover. Happily, it’s contents lived up to its exterior.
It’s about a governess who’s first job is at a huge mansion to tend to three children who’d been found in the woods and who were, clearly, raised by wolves. Her job was to civilize the children.
I LOVED this book. Even for a kid’s book it was absolutely delightful. The author is British, so her story telling has that English charm.
My daughter loved it too and is deep into the series.
Would definitely recommend for anyone looking for a good series for their kids to read.

 

The Penderwicks

by Jeanne Birdsall

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This is a kid’s book. Middle School level, I think. I read it for several reasons, one being nostalgia. It’s about four sisters and their dad spending a couple of weeks on Cape Cod during their summer break. Which was what we did as children.
Though I must interject here that they did not go to the beach even once! Who goes to the Cape without going to the beach?!
Anyhoo, it was a fun little book. Lots of kid-ventures, friendships forged, mean grown-ups to deal with, lessons learned.
Also, their mother died when the youngest was a baby, so there were some emotional moments stemming from that.
And there was a Gardener named Cagney. How can you dislike a character with such an awesome name?
It was pretty good. Would definitely recommend (though maybe more for girls).

Voyage to America

From the Log of the “Santa Maria”

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This book was pretty cool. It’s Columbus’s log re-written for kids. The thing I liked about it: it really gives a good feel for how tedious and frightening this journey was for those men. We all know the end of the story, but they didn’t. They had no idea when or even if they’d find land. They were just stuck on those boats, seeing nothing around them but miles of ocean, having gone further than anyone knew of anybody going but not knowing if that would mean they were sailing to their inevitable deaths.
Interesting perspective.

Leif the Lucky

Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire

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I don’t know if I would have come across this series of I didn’t homeschool. I don’t remember them from when I was in school. A lot of homeschoolers love the D’Aulaire books. I love them. They’re beautiful, colorful and written by good storytellers. It’s a good way to read a great story and accidentally learn about history.
I get super excited when we have a D’Aulaire book day (probably more excited than the students!)
Just thought I’d let you know these little gems are out there.
PS, the one on Norse mythology is incredible! I feel a little more high-falutin just owning it.

Peter

by Tim Gray

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When I picked up the Saint Francis de Sales book, this book on Saint Peter was right underneath it. Of course I had to buy it. It’s Saint Peter!
This book was excellent. It was an in depth scripture study on Saint Peter – what kind of person he was and what kind of person God intended him to be.
Dr. Gray goes into the history and culture of the time as well as the Old Testament significance of the things that Jesus said to Saint Peter that sheds a much brighter light on the conversations than you get from just reading in the context of today.
You can’t help but love Peter, admire his courage and you’ll see the benefit of following his example.
I LOVED this book. Would highly recommend.

Saint Francis de Sales

by Louise Stacpoole-Kenny

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A series of unusual events led me to this book so, even though I’m in the middle of another book, I set it aside to read this one.
It was an act of obedience, at times, to make myself keep reading this book. Saint Francis de Sales came from the upper class in France back in the late 1500s and early 1600s and, I have to admit, with all the titles and everyone having practically the same names, I couldn’t keep everybody straight. But I think I figured out the key players. Mostly. Maybe.
When the book focused on saint Francis de Sales and his writings, however, I enjoyed it and it gave me much to think about. Including my inclination to prejudice against the elite. The amount of time Saint Francis spent ministering to the upper class and monarchs was often questioned but he reminded people that they had souls that needed saving too.
He actually worked really hard to remain humble and live simply so that he didn’t fall prey to the trappings of status and wealth.
His preaching converted a huge Calvinist stronghold back to Catholicism. He founded the first order of nuns that went out into the streets to minister to the poor until the guy above him insisted on the nuns going back into cloister. (He didn’t want saint Francis unleashing the anarchy of nuns serving the poor in his diocese) (Saint Vincent de Paul, his contemporary, would pick up where saint Francis left off).
He wrote several great books and was very good about getting out amongst his sheep and serving them. He was very well-loved by just about everyone from Kings to beggars.
His final advice was to “ask for nothing, refuse nothing”. To just be content with whatever God sent your way. He was pretty good at it.
Anyway, it was a good book overall, though hard to get through at times. I hope to read one of the books he wrote. According to critics at the time, they were game-changers.

Listen My Son

by Father Dwight Longenecker

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This book was cool. I’d read a book by the same author on Saints Therese and Benedict that was wonderful for me at that time. It was the first time I’d been exposed to Benedict’s Rule and wanted to learn more about it.
I came across so many books on how to apply the Rule to everyday life, it was overwhelming! So I emailed Father Longenecker and he was kind enough to suggest another of his books which I’d glanced over because it said it was for Fathers. But he assured me it worked for moms too.
And he was right. I got a lot out of this book. He had a lot of good ideas on how to apply monastic living to everyday living from prayer to work to property ownership to discipline to obedience to traveling to having guests over to humility. The humility section was, like, twenty chapters long! But the chapters are short because this book is intended to be a daily reader. In fact, he has the month and day on each chapter so you can read it on the same schedule as the Benedictines if you’d like. They read through the rule three times a year.
At the beginning of each chapter is a reading from the Rule (which is heavily grounded in scripture) followed by Father Longenecker’s reflection and his suggestions on how to apply it to family life.
I love Father Longenecker’s writing style. A lot like GK Chesterton, but more American-y. He has a lot of common sense and he’s cheerful.
It’s one of those books you can read over and over again and get something out of it each time.

Deceptively Delicious

by Jessica Seinfeld

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I saw this cookbook at my OB’s office and liked what I saw. The entire cookbook is based around hiding pureed veggies and proteins into food kids aren’t suspicious of. Today we tried a couple of recipes out of it and they were AMAZING! Ice cream sandwiches made with yogurt, which the kids loved and Mac and cheese with hidden cauliflower, which the kids were suspicious of (because they haven’t had much Mac and cheese that doesn’t come from a box.). But it was really good and I don’t like cauliflower!
I think the secret to these recipes is they’re healthy, but not diet-y. She uses cream cheese and cheese and and butter and she actually fries things instead of baking them and claiming they’re fried.
Tomorrow we’re trying the chicken nuggets with hidden broccoli. And maybe the blueberry cheesecake cupcakes with hidden spinach and squash (though I’m a little mistrusting of this one. But she insists the taste of spinach disappears!)
Anyhoo, thought I’d recommend in case any other parents have picky kids that only want to get by on pasta.

To Light a Fire on the Earth

by Robert Barron with John L. Allen Jr.

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This was a super entertaining read. The book takes you from Bishop Barron’s childhood all the way through his life until now. You get to see the various circumstances and people that shaped him into who he is today and from there, shaped his ministry Word on Fire.
He also does a great job of naming many of the ills of the church in America, a large one being the beige Catholicism. This book would be good reading for any Catholics who attend a beige parish and are constantly thinking to themselves, there’s something missing (especially baby boomers and beyond who grew up in it).
And he has lots of good ideas for solutions for the ills.
And of course, he talks a lot about evangelization, especially through the beautiful.
It’s a wonderful book that makes you love the Bishop all the more!

The Old Evangelization

by Eric Sammons

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It was a good book. It’s about exactly as the title says, how Jesus and the original apostles evangelized. There is a stark contrast with many of the evangelization methods today. In some cases, very stark.
This book also causes a lot of introspection, which I’m always hoping to avoid, but, apparently, can’t ever escape it. (I’m not sure that sentence works at all grammatically.)
Would recommend!

A Man for Others

by Patricia Treece

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I thought this would be a good book for Advent since Father Kolbe’s whole life was kind of an Advent of sorts. Holy schnikes this book was intense! Maybe a little too intense for Advent. Probably a better choice for Lent.
Father Kolbe’s life was fascinating, making this biography a real page turner. You go from Poland to Italy to Poland to Japan to India to Poland to Auschwitz ( which is in Poland. For some reason I thought it was in Germany).
He was a brilliant man that built a kind of magazine empire in Poland. His publications became so big, his friary ended up becoming a small town. Until the Nazis invaded. They eventually determined he was too principled and would never be of any use to them so they had him sent to Auschwitz (after an initial imprisonment from which he was freed). Nazis hated priests almost as much as they hated Jews, something I didn’t know till I read this book.
The Auschwitz part was horrific. Utterly horrific. How people could do those things to other people… The absolute evil of Auschwitz really highlighted the absolute Holiness of Father Kolbe by contrast. Nobody else was like him. Even other priests that survived were like, ‘That dude was operating on a whole different level.’. He prayed, heard Confessions, had spiritual retreats, blessed the sick and dying and even held a couple of Masses with smuggled communion wafers. All of these things he did with the risk of being beaten or killed because it was all forbidden.
He was such a comfort to everyone, generally at his own expense.
I knew he was going to die and still it made me cry. That’s how much you love him by the end and how much you want him to live. If not for himself then for all the others to whom he brought so much comfort.
I’m sure I’m not doing this book justice so just read it for yourself. It was fantastic! Lots of spiritual growth.

Mere Christianity

by CS Lewis

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I bought this on a whim, which is how I usually come across books that have an important impact on my life. Everybody and their mother talks about this book, which, I think, is what kept me from reading it for so long. I felt like i’d already read it!
But I was buying another book and walked by this one and something gave me pause. I went ahead and grabbed it thinking, might as well get it over with.
Talk about surpassing expectation! I think I was expecting some sort of idiots guide to Christianity, a kind of beginner’s introduction for people who don’t know much about it. Surely I was well past needing this book.
Turns out I’m an idiot! I needed this book. It opened, for me, an entirely new level of spirituality. Bishop Barron said that CS Lewis has a literary take on Christianity. He’s right, and it worked well with how I think. CS Lewis was very good, nay brilliant (that’s right, I used ‘nay’) at explaining difficult concepts that I’ve had a hard time grasping by simplifying them into similes and metaphors taken from every day life.
This book is a great introduction into Christianity, but also a great reintroduction for those of us already running around trying to be all Christian-y. Lewis, himself, points out that even Jesus didn’t introduce new moralities. “It is quacks and cranks who do that.” Ha! (Lewis is very funny.)
I’m always amazed by how simple the Christian Life is. There’s really only one rule: to love God above all things. (GK Chesterton said that Jesus had to add the ‘love thy neighbor’ one because He knows it’s so difficult for us to do. Ha! Seriously!). One simple rule and yet tomes have been written for two thousand years on how to obey it.
Don’t be deceived by the perceived simplicity of this book. It’s simplicity that moves mountains! Read this book. I promise it will shake something loose. (If it doesn’t, it’s because your soul is dead. My promise can only be held to account by live souls.)

The Little Rule and the Little Way

by Father Dwight Longenecker

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This book was excellent! And it was exactly what I needed in my life right now. Saint Benedict and Saint Therese both figured out how to find God in ordinary life and the Little Rule and Little Way combined together… It’s perfection. Father Longenecker writes with a bit of Chesterton’s style and he definitely shares Chesterton’s mirth and joy concerning this subject matter.
It’s difficult for me to put into words how wonderful this book was for me, so I’ll use the words of the Little Flower. “There are deep spiritual thoughts which cannot be expressed in human language without losing their intimate and heavenly meaning.”

Praying the Rosary Like Never Before

by Edwaed Sri

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I bought it for two reasons. I’m a big fan of Edward Sri and I was curious because it sounded as though he had the same motives for writing his book that I had for writing mine. In fact, his book sounded like a serious version of mine. And it was, without paintings and fleshed out a lot more. I would recommend this book based entirely on the mystery reflections alone. Mr. Sri does a really good job of setting the scene and I learned a couple of new things with each reflection. (Lots of St. JP II!)
And there were several good ideas for fitting the prayer into your busy day, getting more out of it and discussion about how the Rosary is really Jesus-based.
Great book! 

Why We’re Catholic

by Trent Horn

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I figured I better read this one to make sure I’m in the right place. (I am). This book gets down to brass tacks, that’s for sure. It has intros into why we believe in truth and God (and science! What?!), Jesus and the Bible ( including a description of the new testament that just tickled me), the church and the sacraments, saints and sinners (how we get past scandal and also the second simplest explanation of faith/works debate I’ve come across) and morality and destiny.
It was a fast read and great for anyone wanting to know just what is going on in that crazy Catholic Church. ( Even those of you who only pretend to want to know more so you can ask me “gotcha” questions to let me know, in a clandestine manner, that I’m being bamboozled by the “whore of Babylon”. Which he talks about in this book! Ha!).
Five stars!

How Not to Share Your Faith

by Mark Brumley

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I picked this up on a whim and ended up getting a lot out of it. Not only was it helpful concerning sharing one’s faith (with very entertaining examples of what not to do), it was also a good read for someone like me who tends to be a little too cerebral about my faith while neglecting the more spiritual and emotional aspects of it. Highly recommend!

Business Boutique

by Christy Wright

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I finally finished this, including all the exercises. It was like a condensed business degree. I went to depths of my little Etsy business I didn’t even know existed including laying out for myself why I’m doing it, why people would want my product and whether or not I should press forward with it. I’ve learned a ton about marketing, being organized financially (which I’m horrible at) and even salesmanship.
I look forward to putting it all into practice, though it’ll take a while. I’ve got quite a mess to clean up!

Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters & Seymour An Introduction

by JD Salinger

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Probably the last book in my ‘laid up with morning sickness’ book-a-thon since I seem to be feeling better. It was good, although the two stories read like they were written by completely different authors. Franny and Zooey is still my favorite.

Wiseblood

by Flannery O’Connor

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This one was dark, strange and very southern and it was also difficult to put down. You were always wondering what would happen next (I kept hoping things would lighten up a bit.  They don’t). I don’t usually read books this dark but I did kind of like it. It was just kind of strange and disturbing.  I liked it better once I read a study on it.  All the imagery in the book is pretty astounding.  Still… I’m a little hesitant to read anymore of her work.  It was just so dark.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

by Douglas Adams

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The latest in my “laid up with morning sickness” book-a-thon. Very funny!

Franny and Zooey

by JD Salinger

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Here’s the second book in my “Laid up with morning sickness” book-a-thon. This has been one of my favorite books since high school and I wanted to re-read it now that I have a better understanding of its subject matter. It did not disappoint! It was very profound and had, probably, one of the best climactic moments in literature. And all in this in unpolished, 1950s dialogue. Perfect.

Silas Marner

by George Eliot

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Since I’m sick and laying around, I thought I’d try to be more constructive than watching hours and hours of Thomas the Train. I found Silas Marner in our book collection and remembered liking it when we read it in high school English, so I re-read it. It was fantastic! (I think i’d even gotten used to the language enough by the end of it that I was getting some of the humor. ). A perfect story. And even better when you don’t have to hear an English teacher drone on and on about it in monotone. (Just kidding English teachers!)

Flannery

by Brad Gooch

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I started reading this book because I’m a little intimidated by Flannery O’Connor’s fiction. I read an article that suggested learning more about the author and then understanding her fiction will come along a little easier.
I hit the jackpot with this book! It was such a good book! Definitely the best biography I’ve read (barely nudging Alex Haley’s Malcolm X out of the top spot).
The author spent 6 YEARS on this book, and you can tell. It is very thorough. No stone is left unturned in this remarkable woman’s life. He even goes into some detail about what’s going on at the time both historically and literature-wise. She was born in the 20s so she lived through WWII and she lived through the start of the civil rights movement. She lived during the time of Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton (she and Merton were each fans of the the other’s writings).
There were so many author’s mentioned in this book– that influenced her, that she hated, that she loved, that she was compared to–you could spend the rest of your life just reading off that list. TS Eliot, Faulkner, JD Salinger, Margaret Mitchell, the poet Robert Lowell (probably one of my favorite people in the book. He has a breakdown at one point in the book and she said, “I was too inexperienced to know he was mad, I just thought that was the way poets acted.” Ha!) Her friends seemed to be a who’s who of the literaté of the time.
She was an irish-Catholic living in the south. The author does a great job of illustrating this world, which is not a normal world. It is a very quirky, entertaining world, pea-fowl and all.
Most importantly, the author really goes into her writing process, linking moments in her life to scenes from her fiction, how her faith permeated everything that she did, describing her demanding writing schedule and then writing about the critical response to her writing.
He also goes into some detail about her lupus, a horrible cross she had to bear and that took her life way too soon at the age of 39. And by that part of the book, he’s got you so attached to her… I ended up crying. I knew she was going to die and I still cried because I didn’t want her to die. I wanted the book to keep going.
I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s not just for Catholics and it’s not just for Flannery fans. It’s for everybody. It’s about the amazing life of a beautiful (and very funny) soul who wrote about some very dark things in order to enlighten other souls who had fallen asleep.

 

Loaves and Fishes

by Dorothy Day

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It’s the story of Dorothy Day’s ministry The Catholic Worker movement. It was fascinating and challenging, especially on a spiritual level. It’ll never feel like you’re doing enough to live as God wants you to live when you’re reading Dorothy Day and I think that’s a good thing. She chose to live in poverty and to work with what are considered the dregs of society. The work was thankless and exhausting and draining, but she kept doing it.
She takes you through their various troubles: having a hard time finding a building to work out of (nobody wanted her ministry in their neighborhood because of whom it attracted), finding enough help, finding enough money (she’s taught me a lot about the value of living in precarity instead of security. In theory. I still prefer security but I’m involuntarily learning to live with precarity. Ha!) etc.
She does a great job of humanizing the people she helped while being honest about them. She’s also great at illustrating the challenges that come from, not only the homeless and impoverished themselves, but also those that claim to be helping them. Including the government which shut down her houses using anti-slumlord housing regulations even though her houses were not set up at all like rental housing and were free for the occupants (who were usually penniless and couldn’t have paid even slumlord rent).
She makes me uncomfortable with where I’m at and that I should be doing more. And I should be doing more. There’s so much to do!
I would recommend this. It might be a little easier to get through for some than The Long Loneliness. This one is a lot less politically uncomfortable.

Freddy the Detective

by Walter R. Brooks

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This was our first read aloud this year and it did not disappoint! All the school age kids loved it and gathered around to hear it. It was charming and entertaining and very, very funny. Can’t wait to read more from this series.

The Long Loneliness

by Dorothy Day

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I was a little hesitant to read Dorothy Day because I was a uncomfortable with her association with communism. However, in recent months, I’ve come across several of her writings and quotes that have catalyzed a lot of introspection and at some point, probably because I was going on and on about these writings, my husband bought her autobiography for me. So despite my worries, I dove in.
It was a great book! She was very honest about her kinship with communists, socialists, anarchists and the labor movement. I learned a lot about the politics and the living conditions of many of the people in the early 20th century. She was involved in women’s suffrage and heavily involved in the labor movement and fighting poverty. The labor movement involved fighting child labor, 80 hour+ workweeks and slave wages that had many people living in deplorable conditions. Deplorable! Vermin infested tenement buildings that were packed to the gills with families just trying to scrounge together enough to eat and pay rent. She said the smell of these buildings was indescribably disgusting (she lived in them here and there). And this was pre-depression!
She points out the various things that attracted her to the ideologies and then points out where they fell short. And the whole time, her attraction to the Catholic church.
She ends up living on Staten Island with a dude and gets pregnant. It becomes a turning point in her life for the faith. The dude won’t marry her because of his political beliefs about marriage and she can no longer live with him as husband and wife unless he marries her. He won’t so she has to go forward without him.
A little while after, she meets Peter Maurin, who I’m pretty sure is my spirit animal, and together, they would start the Catholic Worker movement.
They lived this radical life of voluntary poverty while trying to help the involuntarily impoverished. And a wild life it was!
I would recommend this to anyone, but specifically to people interested in Catholic Social Justice and for Catholics who are political, who love politics and who are politically involved. This book will cause a lot of thinkin’ and it really shows that with Christ, the decision is no longer either/or but both/and.
Also, though it’s a little melancholy, she is an excellent writer and an excellent journalist.
Double also, based on this book I agree that she is deserving of official sainthood only I think they need to present her and Peter Maurin as a joint cause and I don’t think she’d disagree.

Who Am I to Judge?

by Edward Sri

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This was very good! It was more philosophy and ethics than religious. (Lots of Aristotle). It took a different approach than trying to point out how moral relativism is self-defeating (i.e. to say there are no absolutes is to make an absolute) because, he points out, moral relativists don’t care about logic. He also brings up that moral relativism has wounded a lot of people and some of their most entrenched beliefs are from those wounds and therefore being empathetic is very important when having a discussion. It was a small book, but completely stuffed with lots of great information. It was like taking a mini-ethics course. I could go on and on about it all day!

The Great Divorce

by CS Lewis

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Such a great book! CS Lewis has taken his rightful place as one of my favorite authors.
This was a fantastical story about how souls in hell get on a bus to go visit heaven and once there, souls in heaven, sent to each of the visiting souls, try to convince the visiting souls to stay. I loved it. It was an interesting take on the decision we have to make about our eternity.
I knew I was going to like it when on the bus from hell, a poet was trying to get the main character to read his work. Haha! It killed me that Lewis included that the hell for someone with a literary bent would be having to read amateur poetry for an eternity!
The Great Divorce read so smooth that before I knew it, I’d finished it! Despite it being a fast and delightful read, it was very fruitful. I finished it about a week ago and I’m still spending a lot of time thinking about it. He illustrated very well how subtle our vices can be and how difficult it can be to let them go even if it means that by clutching to them, we’d eternally seperate ourselves from God.
Read it! Even if you aren’t religious, it was still a wonderful book. Lewis is a master at illustrating human behavior with his characters. Makes for some funny and entertaining reading.

One Beautiful Dream

by Jennifer Fulwiler

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One Beautiful Dream is essentially Jennifer Fulwiler’s story of trying to pursue her passion, what she calls her blue flame (which is writing), while raising a bunch of small kids, instead of doing what everyone says to do, which is to wait until they’re all grown (and which is particularly hard for those who’ve decided to just be open to whatever babies come along, as she and her husband did, because you might lose decades waiting!)
There was so much I could relate to in her life. The six kids, though hers were spaced a lot closer (I’ve always been thankful for our spacing). People thinking she’s crazy for having six kids. (Ha! I’ve gotten a lot of that!) People thinking she’s even crazier for having a bunch of kids and still wanting to pursue her dream (Yes!).
She has a hard time asking for help and an even harder time accepting it when it’s offered. (Yes! And Yes!)
She and her husband also came across a small house that had just gone up for sale while pregnant and living with parents (I was living with my in-laws) and jumped at the chance to buy it (there’s nothing like living with your in-laws to make any house look like your dream house! ). Then they later realized they were probably going to end up raising a big family in that small house (this is slowly dawning on my husband and me as well).
She had this friend that she kind of hung out with that she thought was super holy and so she was nervous about opening up to her because she was worried she was a little too salty for her. It turned out that the super holy gal was also a convert and had also had a storied life and they got on much better once Jen wasn’t worried that the other gal would find out that she wasn’t a perfect saint. That cracked me up because I’ve had that happen several times now. It always turns out that people who seem so together spiritually 1. Weren’t always that way and 2. Are cool with imperfect people because of the very fact that they’re so together spiritually.
And the extrovert retreat! Ha! Read this book for just that story alone! (Especially if you’re an introvert.)
She pretty much covers everything that comes up for a mother with a dream. The guilt, the feelings of inadequacy, the frustration, the anxiety, the penchant for everything to go wrong at pivotal moments, the hope, the happiness, the fulfillment and the peace that finally comes with figuring out how to prioritize everything and and the peace that comes with letting go of things you probably didn’t need to be chasing in the first place, and the peace that comes with using your God-given talent instead of putting it on hold..
This book was excellent. It read like a long, wonderful, deep, soul-baring conversation with your best friend. She’s very funny and kind of a hot mess and she just really makes you feel better that you’re not the only one out there flailing around in the chaotic life that is being a mother of a bunch of crazy kids and yet still trying to pursue your blue flame.
I would definitely recommend this! Especially to mothers of large families who have particular challenges in today’s world that aren’t addressed in most “having it all” books. And also especially to moms with little littles. This book will help you see that you’re only in a season and that it gets easier.
This book has given me much to think about…

Prayer for Beginners

by Dr. Peter Kreeft

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I’m always looking to improve my prayer life and it looked like a quick, easy read that I could get through with pregnancy brain. It wasn’t! It was a very dense book and it was brilliant. I can’t believe all he managed to pack into such a little book. Like everything worth anything in Christianity, it had that contradictory characteristic of being so simple and yet so difficult. Would recommend to everybody, not just people who think they’re not so good at prayer. (Though, is there anyone who thinks they’re an expert at prayer?). And be ready to do a lot of pondering!