George Washington’s World
by Genevieve Foster
I read this with my son for his history class. The concept of this book was very cool. It went through the main stages of George Washington’s life and told what was going on during those time periods not only in his life but also in the United States and around the world. It did a great job of de-compartmentalizing the various historical snippets floating around in my brain with zero relationship and showed how they were connected. For instance, I’d heard of Napoleon and the battle of Waterloo but didn’t have a firm idea on when he existed nor when that battle took place. Catherine the Great? The French Revolution? Juniper Serra? The French and Indian War? All of those floating bits of information were pulled out of the air in my mind and fixed firmly in order on a timeline.
The storytelling was entertaining and the information in each section was pretty thorough. We enjoyed it and learned a lot.
Side note: I did come across a couple of sources that suggested some of the narrative in this book about what was going on in Europe had an anti-Catholic slant. (There was a review on Amazon that also brought this up). I do not know enough about European history to judge either way (though I recently purchased a couple of books to help better educate myself on the subjects so that I can be a better judge. Reviews to come as I get them done!), but I wanted to put that out there in case the bias does exist and needs to be expounded upon.
Saint Isaac and the Indians
by Milton Lomask
This book was about one of the North American martyrs Saint Isaac Jogues. He was a Jesuit that journeyed from France to Quebec in hopes of bringing Christ to the natives of North America. The Hurons agreed to let him live amongst them, so he traveled the arduous journey to their village by canoe and foot when the waters were impassable to canoes (called portages).
We were then immersed in Huron village living with Father Isaac as he attempted to minister to them, teach them and help them. The priests had to sometimes employ out-of-the-box thinking in their dealings with their Huron hosts. There was a particularly humorous episode involving “Captain Clock”.
All went well until the villagers were struck with a sickness and the medicine man said it was on account of the “Blackrobes”, putting the lives of the missionary priests in danger. Despite the threat to their lives, the priests stayed and managed to survive until the villagers’ rage calmed down and once again welcomed the Blackrobes back into Huron homes.
While on a trip with a band of Hurons, the group was ambushed and kidnapped by some Iroquois, the enemy of the Hurons. Saint Isaac lived as a slave with the Mohawks (a subgroup of the Iroquois) and endured many tortures. He managed a daring escape and found his way back to France where he received medical attention and rest. Once he felt better, he headed right back to North America to try and convert his captors and was martyred.
It was an excellent book. It moved along well and kept me and my 4th grader entertained (we were reading it for his history). We learned a lot about the wilderness, the various North American tribes and the relations between the Europeans and the natives at the time in addition to the life of a great saint.
by Jane Austen
While trying to decide what to read next, I came across the trivia tidbit that the movie Clueless was based on Jane Austen’s Emma. I’m not at all embarrassed to admit that – coming of age in the 90’s – I loved the movie Clueless. I am also not at all embarrassed to admit that my curiosity to see how a Victorian-era novel / classic piece of literature could contain within it the embryo of a 90’s comedy movie was 85% of the reason why I chose Emma as my next book.
The decision to read Emma was not disappointing. Like the other Jane Austen novels I’ve read, it was beautifully written and had a well-executed plot. I particularly loved how she invited us into some of the social agonies Emma endured. For instance, she wrote out the endless chatter of Miss Bates, the many anxious ruminations of Mr. Woodhouse and the obnoxious and endless social boasts of Mrs. Elton. It was enough to almost make one feel grateful to be poor and without social obligation!
Austen wrote with enough mystery and tension to make it fairly difficult to put the book down. Even knowing, essentially, how the story would go (having the memory of the plot of Clueless), there was enough difference between the book and the movie, plus the extra fun of seeing how the two matched up, to keep me turning pages.
It was a most excellent book. The ending was satisfying, lessons were learned (don’t meddle or gossip or be rude to people just because they are poor) and, as always happens after I read English literature, my syntax has improved 200%.
I now see why the movie Clueless was so surprisingly good. It took after its parent.
All One in Christ
by Edward Feser
I bought this book because I had an inkling as to what Critical Race Theory was but I definitely didn’t have the knowledge necessary to have any sort of conversation on it.
This book has excellent information about where the Church has stood on slavery, immigration and, of course – Critical Race Theory – how it stands up philosophically and how it stands up against church teaching. It’s a fast read, but is dense with information and is well cited. A very informative work.
Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know
by Jospeh Pearce
This was an excellent book! It was like a mini-literature course taught by a professor that you love.
Mr. Pearce starts back in antiquity with Homer and Virgil and works his way up to the 20th century with a truncated, though informative synopsis of the great works, their authors and why Catholics should read the various works. It ends with a list of 100 great works every Catholic should read, which is just the sort of ending an over-achieving goal-oriented Catholic needs after reading just such a book. He gets you pretty excited to read these books!
And, it’s Joseph Pearce, so it was an endlessly pleasant read.
A surprise bonus: my daughter is reading Homer right now and this book came in handy to give her a heads up of what, as a Catholic, to look for. So, this book also makes a good tool for parents with kids entering into the “reading literature” years.
The Mysteries of Life in Children’s Literature
by Mitchell Kalpakgian
I loved practically every sentence of this book. To read this book is to be immersed in the world of children and everything that they are – my favorite of all worlds.
The author takes us through the mysteries of
- Divine Providence
as each is illustrated in children’s literature. How the virtuous and the good prosper. How oftentimes in children’s literature, it is children that teach us the deepest truths (as they do in reality).
It is obvious that the author of the book had a great love for children and their literature. His enthusiasm for both is very contagious.
Important note for bibliophiles: there are many leads for good books in this book!
Though, I should add, the final chapter has a completely different tone from the rest of the book. Whereas the rest of the book felt like a whimsical frolic through fields of flowers, the final chapter was a bit more blunt. Sledgehammer blunt. However, I think it worked to write it that way in order to illustrate the difference between a world that welcomes children with open arms and our more anti-child culture.
by GK Chesterton
This book was excellent. It was definitely the most approachable of all of Chesterton’s nonfiction that I’ve read so far. It had good flow, was well-organized, had solid arguments and it was very funny.
I had so many of the same questions, problems with modern thought and intuitions about the universe that he had that I could have written this book myself (though, with much poorer results). I probably underlined and starred half of the text. This book is a breath of fresh air and sanity for anyone coming out of the fog of modernity and nihilism. It is a perfect book for anyone who feels like there has to be more because – as Chesterton gives ample evidence of it throughout the whole book – there is.
Orthodoxy is the adventure you are looking for in your life. This book is a map to get you started.
Just as an aside: He wrote this about the same time that he wrote The Man Who Was Thursday, so you might want to pair them up.
Father Marquette and the Great Rivers
by August Derleth
In school we are studying the further exploration into North America. Father Marquette was a Jesuit French priest who had dreamt from childhood to bring God to the Indians in the New World. His dream came true and he was sent on mission to New France.
He started in Quebec where he was taught the customs and languages of many of the tribes he would be serving. From there he worked his way deeper and deeper into the wilderness, trying to bring the message of God to as many tribes as he could find until finally finding himself on an exploration of the Mississippi for France to find out if it traveled west. (There was still hope of a waterway that cut through North America – the much sought after straight cut to the West Indies).
Though Father Marquette had much adventure at each mission, the adventure down the Mississippi proved to be the most exciting. It brought him into contact with tribes that hadn’t yet had much contact with Europeans, with American wildlife like buffalo and mosquitos and with terrifying natural phenomena that many of the natives thought were monsters living along or in the river.
It was an excellent snapshot of that time period. The missionaries lived difficult lives as compared to what they left behind (and definitely by our standards today). There was a lot to learn about the customs and the temperaments of the many tribes that lived around the Great Lakes at the time. Now-a-days, the term ‘Native American’ can conjure up a picture of a kind of monolithic people that lived here before Europeans showed up. But monolithic they were not. They were as diverse as the various kinds of tribes that had once peopled Europe (and which we learned about in Ancient History this year).
It was a well told biography about a man I hadn’t heard much about that brought his part in American history to life in a very vivid and entertaining way.
I would definitely recommend.
by Beverly Cleary
I just finished this as a read aloud with my son who hates read alouds. He was completely drawn into the story and even asked me to continue on when our stopping point came at a suspenseful part of the book. He was sad when it was over and wants to read the other books in the trilogy now.
The writing was excellent. It was entertaining for both adults and children. The story was imaginative. The characters were likable (except for Catso!) and well-developed. The conflict resolved in a satisfying, though believable manner and neither of us wanted the book to end.
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization
by Thomas E. Woods, Jr., Ph.D.
An excellent and well-cited recounting of how the Catholic Church was integral in preserving and adding to the achievements of Western Civilization. From Catholics helping save important writings and art during the barbarian raids after the fall of the Roman Empire, to the monasteries helping civilization get back on its feet to the start of universities to the many advancements Catholics made to science and math (including making science possible at all by depersonalizing nature and establishing that creation is consistent and orderly) to incredible achievements in art and architecture, to the beginnings of international law to economics to changing the world with their Christ-inspired charity to their contributions to Western law and Western morality.
I’m glad I came across this book. After growing up only learning about the purported bad things about the church, it was very eye-opening to see the many good things that came from the church, most of which we take for granted today. It was also interesting to read the reactions of the pagan peoples responding to the things Catholics were doing that were so alien at the time but very familiar to us now. The world was VERY different before the influence of Christ’s church.
Would definitely recommend for anyone wanting a fuller history of the West.
The Passion of the Infant Christ
by Caryll Houselander
I first heard of Caryll Houselander when her reflections would pop up at the end of the daily readings in Magnificat. I don’t think there has been even one of her reflections that didn’t speak to me and escape being torn out and taped into my prayer journal.
I bought two of her Childrens books and found the stories beautiful and heart warming.
So, when Amazon suggested I might like this book while I was doing some Christmas shopping during Advent, I didn’t hesitate to buy it.
This book is short but dense. The introduction gives biographical information on Caryll Houselander, which brings some illumination to her writing. She had a difficult childhood, witnessed the child labor of the Industrial Age and helped care for her roommate’s granddaughter, all of which had an obvious influence on her sympathies for the plight of children.
Houselander is terrific at combining both aspects of our creation as tools to lead us to holiness. God created us with a body and a soul and found them both good. A lot of spiritual writers under-appreciate, if not ignore altogether, the role our material life plays in our journey to heaven. Not so with Houselander. She weds the interior life and exterior life into a tight covenantal bond that can not be torn asunder.
She also has a near-perfect understanding of the world of children. I live with many children. I can say with much assurance this woman has a bead on them like few I’ve read.
This book gives the reader much to think about from sowing seeds to motherhood to the infancy of Christ and its impact on us interiorly to becoming spiritual children (and not spiritual adolescents!).
It was a good match for Advent but would be a fruitful read any time of the year. I highly recommend.
wild at heart and the way of the wild heart
by John Eldredge
I read these books for research for a book I’m planning on writing. For my purposes, these books served well, though I probably could have gotten away with just reading The Way of the Wild Heart.
I needed ideas for male rites of passage and it was chock full of them. In addition, Mr. Eldredge takes the reader through the various stages of manhood he’s observed: the cowboy, the warrior, the lover, the king and the sage. He gives examples of how men should enter each of these stages and how men could’ve been wounded in each of these stages and how to heal those wounds with the help of God.
Mr. Eldredge is very well-read, brings a lot of experience to the reader and is very passionate about this subject. However, keep in mind the books are very Protestant in tone for those who are used to reading Catholic books.
Overall, I enjoyed the glimpse into the male mind (especially since I have several boys and only had sisters growing up so I have no idea what I am doing with these guys) and I think more books like this are needed in our steadily growing hostile-towards-masculinity culture.
The Habit of Being
by Flannery O’Connor compiled by Sally Fitzgerald
I was very uncomfortable with Flannery O’Connor’s writing.
I am a very sunshine-y person who loves to read about my faith so when I heard multiple sources in the Catholic world talk about what an incredible Catholic author she was, I skipped off to my book store and purchased Wise Blood. I still haven’t recovered from the experience of reading that book, it has so haunted me.
Determined to find out what it was that I was missing, I ended up reading a biography on O’Connor by Brad Gooch and it struck me that whenever he quoted her, I was always delighted.
How did this Flannery O’Connor square with the woman who wrote the things that she wrote?
I decided to go to the source and purchased The Habit of Being to try and get to know her through her letters in her own words.
It took me about three years to work my way through the rather substantial book. I wanted to read it here and there, to lend to it more of a penpal experience.
It was excellent. Flannery O’Connor was a funny, bright and faithful woman with many struggles both internal and external. She had very many deep conversations with her friends captured, in written form, for the rest of us to listen in on. I learned much about the Catholic faith, life on a farm in Georgia during her time, the craft of writing and, what I hoped for from the purchase of the book, I learned much about her writing.
There is a lot of discussion about her short stories and her final novel, The Violent Bear It Away, that really edified me concerning her motives when writing what she wrote and even made me curious to read them.
Once I’d finished the book of letters, I wanted see if getting to know her would better improve my understanding of her work. I thought I’d try it out on “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. I figured it was the safest bet because if you ask practically anyone which is their favorite story, they pick that one.
I loved it. Not only did it get an emotional response from me, but I halfway understood it (Cliff Notes filled in the other half).
I would recommend The Habit of Being to both get to know Flannery O’Connor as a person and also to better understand her writing. Also, there is much for aspiring writers to glean from it and plenty for anyone who wants to learn more about the Catholic faith.
The Cries of Jesus from the Cross
by Fulton Sheen
I had something else planned for Lent, but the husband came home with this right before Ash Wednesday so I went with it for my Lenten reading.
There are seven chapters for each of the seven last words Christ spoke from the Cross.
Essentially, I spent my entire Lent at the base of the cross with Fulton Sheen. I am a different person now than I was when I started it. I can’t recommend this book enough.
Stunned By Scripture
by Dr. John Bergsma
Lately, little baby won’t let me read books while she’s nursing. She keeps grabbing at them and won’t eat. So Ryan showed me how to download an app on my phone that lets me read books on it. Now little baby eats and I get to keep my reading time. Isn’t technology amazing?!
This was my first Kindle read.
I’ve read all of Dr. Bergsma’s Bible Basics for Catholics books and thought I’d read what brought him into the faith in the first place.
Like his other books, with this one, not only do you get a lesson in scripture, but also an insider’s look at how Protestants interpret the passages different from the Catholic interpretation. Very interesting. And he’s funny. He’s got a down to earth style that us normal folk without doctorates in theology can understand. Highly recommend!
PS. One of the biggest turning points for him was having debates with a Catholic that knew his bible. Get to know your scripture Catholics so you can answer those questions! (The Bible also makes for entertaining reading so, two birds!)
Fearing the Stigmata
by Matt Weber
It does seem that really young people and really old people have a good handle on their faith/life whereas those of us in the middle are still working on how to Catholic in our post-Christian culture.
This book was about one man’s story of searching for how to do just that: Being not too young, but not too old and Catholic-ing in our current culture.
This book was funny. I’m talking laugh out loud a lot funny.
It was also very endearing. He shares a lot of special moments.
And it’s all interwoven with his faith.
(And it’s so funny!)
Also: The chapters are short so it’s good for nursing mamas
Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace
by Scott Hahn
I came across this book quite by accident. I’d heard of Opus Dei before and had even looked into it years ago, but couldn’t quite find what I was looking for and so I stopped looking into it.
This book was what I was looking for back then. It was a great overview of both Opus Dei and Saint Josemaria Escriva, the man who started it.
I’d recommend it for anyone who is curious about the organization, the saint who started it or anyone interested in learning how to be better.
It was a fast, good read.
By the Great Horn Spoon
by Sid Fleischan
This was the Sid Fleischman book that must have been the trigger for Ebay to suggest The Whipping Boy to me.
This was a really fun and engaging book (for everyone except who’s history it was for).
Jack is a twelve-year-old orphan that lives with his aunt and her Butler (Praiseworthy) and runs away to California. His hope is to join in on the Gold Rush, strike it rich and then come back and save the old family home that was becoming too expensive for his Aunt to keep. Praiseworthy found out about the plan and joined him to keep an eye on him.
The book starts in Boston where Jack and Praiseworthy take a steam ship to California. They sail south, around the tip of South America and then back up north to San Francisco. (We were surprised to find out that the journey by ship was actually shorter than just traveling across land.)
From San Francisco, the two head out to the diggings, out past Sacramento to try their luck.
It was a great book! We learned a lot about the time in which it took place (the Gold Rush was always one of my favorite parts of history) and the story line was such that, at the end, we were all cheering.
It was one of those books you wish didn’t have to end.
Holiness For Everyone
by Eric Sammons
This was an excellent book on how to apply Saint Josemaria Escriva’s spirituality to your life.
We’re all called to be holy, not just those with a vocation to religious life. This book helps you get started. It’s a big help in perceiving the possibility that we can all live saintly lives despite our earthly circumstances or professions.
Sammons does a great job of illustrating the scriptural and historical basis for Escriva’s teachings and he also does a great job of giving real world examples of how they might be implemented.
I recommend it for anyone wanting to begin the journey towards Sainthood living in the world (but not being if it!)
The Whipping Boy
by Sid Fleischman
When buying books for the next school year, there was a Sid Fleischman book on the list that I purchased which must have been what made Ebay suggest “The Whipping Boy” to me. I forgot all about this book! It was one of my favorites as a kid.
Happily, it was as good as I remember and the kids loved it too. The lead characters are a bratty prince and his stalwart whipping boy. There’s a law that you can’t lay a hand on the prince, so they, instead, have a whipping boy to take all his beatings. Of course, with someone else taking the whippings, the prince is a naughty brat who refuses to do his school work and the whipping boy pays the price for it.
The prince ends up running away, taking the whipping boy with him. They run into two bandits who realize they have the prince, but think the whipping boy is the prince because he can write but the actual prince can’t. They refuse to believe that a prince could be ignorant while his whipping boy is literate.
The prince and the whipping boy end up seeing each other in whole new lights and there’s a dancing bear and rats and a guy named Captain Nips and the illustrations were great… It was such a fantastic story and it’s got everyone saying “Gaw!” when they’re exasperated around here.
Also, though deceased, Sid Fleischman has a pretty awesome website complete with magic tricks to try.
How To Be Holy
by Peter Kreeft
This has been my Kindle reading when there isn’t enough light to read a paper book.
Like all Peter Kreeft books, it was as close to perfect as humans can get. He makes philosophy and theology accessible for everyone. This book was short but dense. I’d read a chapter and then spend the whole next day thinking about it.
I’d recommend it to anyone trying to get to heaven.
by Jon Acuff
This was an excellent book. First and foremost, it was hilarious. I’d probably read Jon Acuff books even if they didn’t help me because they’re so funny.
Secondly, he exposed pretty much every excuse I come up with to avoid finishing things. Including making up secret rules. I can’t believe other people do that! (I thought I alone had to deal with that weird-o personality quirk).
He gives a lot of pointers for dealing with perfectionism and overcoming all the self-imposed roadblocks to success.
If you find yourself sabotaging everything you start so that you never finish, this book is for you. Even if you do eventually finish, but it’s a fight to get there (this is where I’m at), this book will help streamline the process.
by Trent Horn
I bought this book more out of curiosity than anything else. I ended up getting far more out of it than I ever would have thought. Maybe like how St. Thomas Aquinas would describe what God wasn’t so we could get closer to an idea of what he was (though still forever far from being able to comprehend Him), this book ended up being a spiritual exercise in finding out who Jesus wasn’t so that you can get closer to who he is.
It is also an excellent apologetic book to help lead people through the counterfeits to the real deal (if they have ears to hear). It is written with the utmost of love and charity and logic.
I’d recommend it to anyone seeking to grasp the person that is the Christ
Angels and Demons
by Peter Kreeft
This was a very fascinating, informative book. Dr. Kreeft went through and answered 100 questions people have asked him on this subject. Many were biblical answers, and many were answered with reason. Great book for anyone interested in what is known (or what has been ascertained from what we know) about angels and demons.
The Acts of the Apostles
by Saint Luke
As a child of the 90s, I think I can best describe these Ignatius Study Bibles as The Bomb.
My daughter was reading the Acts of the Apostles as part of her curriculum this year so I thought I’d read it with her. Within the first chapter, they had Judas dying in a different way than in the gospels. I’d never heard this more gruesome death for Judas and so thought, “What the heck?!”
So I ran out to our local Catholic book store, got a copy of it in this study bible form and -BOOM- question answered. Actually, many questions answered. It was a big help with my daughter’s discussion questions.
The Acts itself was a quick-paced story. It focused mainly on the happenings of Peter and then Paul.
The disciples would preach, get beaten, then imprisoned and then sprung from jail by angels so they could go out and preach again. Some were killed, some were thrown off their horses and blinded until they stopped persecuting Christians and joined the team. There were healings, raisings from the dead and a lot of travel.
It was non-stop action. It was also very interesting to watch them set the church up, to read about the legal system of the day and to read the world’s most abrupt ending.
Amos Fortune: Free Man
by Elizabeth Yates
We just finished this up in history and thought I’d recommend it in case anyone needs some reading material while the kids are home.
It was excellent! One of my favorite things about the curriculum we use is the heavy use of books like this one that do a great job of bringing the historical context to life.
So with this book, we were taken from a village in Africa where Amos was kidnapped, across the Atlantic on a slave ship to Boston (almost forgot they originally had slavery up north too). He was sold to a Quaker family that taught him English and to read and write. The Quaker gentleman died before he could free Amos and so he was auctioned off to a tanner and learned that trade before he eventually bought his freedom.
He excelled as a tanner and worked to buy the freedom of two women, who each die within the year that they were freed and then he works to free a third woman and her little girl. They end up married and move near a mountain to build there home.
There is so much detail of the challenges he faced in each phase of his life, how various people treated him, how he thought of things. He was intent on not letting the ugliness of others affect how he lived.
He’s a wonderful example to aspire to. Nothing about his life was fair. None of it. His youth and the prime of his life were stolen from him. His father was murdered, he never saw his sister again. He was forced to leave his home. He spent a large part of his life as property and even once free, he always had to be wary about what he said or did because of his skin color. And yet he did not let himself become enslaved to the notion of how life should have been. He always pushed forward, working with what he had, helping others and looking forward to a time when things would be made right. What an incredible human being! I’m glad we’ve all gotten to know him in this house.
Jesus of Nazareth
by Pope Benedict XVI
This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Pope Benedict said this book is his personal search for the face of the Lord. It just so happens I’m on the same search!
He takes the reader with him as he wades through all the various interpretations and theories about everything from Jesus’s name all the way to his Divinity. It starts with the baptism in the Jordan and concludes with the transfiguration and how Jesus identifies himself.
It was profound, educational but simple (why do we always complicate Jesus?) and understandable for normal people who don’t have theology degrees.
When you realize who (and what) Jesus is, you want to get to know him better. This book is a good guide on your journey
From the Bible
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The creation story was like reading poetry. Quite lovely. And to learn of all the meaning embedded in the literature made it even lovelier.
So many interesting tidbits. For instance, the name of Noah’s first born was Shem, which means name. I’m glad Noah saved mankind from the flood because he wasn’t going to be winning any ‘most creative namer’awards!
Also, all semites came from Shem’s line and all Hebrews came from his descendant Eber. If you were wondering where those groupings came from.
Once you get to Abraham, the narrative slows down a bit and you really start to get a lot of details about his life and about ancient near East living in general. Archeological finds have uncovered similarities in how people during that time lived and the customs described in the Bible.
There’s also a lot of commentary on how certain scenes are illuminated once Jesus arrives on the scene.
Isaac doesn’t get a lot of screen time but what’s there is a nice glimpse.
Jacob had a crazy life. From buying his brother’s birthright for a bowl of soup to getting tricked into marrying the older sister of the woman he loved to then marrying the woman he loved to wrestling with the angel to having twelve sons (with for different women) to being renamed Israel. And that’s where the word Israel came from. It means ‘wrestling with God’ and by the end of Genesis, it’ll be applied to the whole nation of Jacobs descendants.
And a very fitting name looked at in the context of the Bible!
Jacobs begets Joseph (with the Technicolor dream coat) who can interpret dreams, is sold into slavery by his brothers and eventually goes from slave to the Pharoah’s right hand man. He is able to save his brethren (the Israelites) during a famine by moving them all into Egypt, which he’d prepared for the famine storing lots of food during their years of plenty. He also forgives his brothers for trying to kill him and then selling him into slavery because he saw that through that evil, God was able to bring a lot of good.
He was also to give his dad a pretty awesome funeral. It was an Egyptian military escort back to the cave where the other patriarchs were buried.
I also found out that I had erroneously believed that Jesus came through the line of Joseph. Jesus actually came through the line of Judah. But after reading the story of how Perez (Judah’s son) was begotten, I can see why they choose, instead, to use the story of Joseph for the Jesse tree. The story of Judah isn’t Christmas talk.
Anyhoo, I can see why this book has been popular for centuries. Highly recommend! Just make sure you read a study Bible because otherwise you’ll be lost. There is A LOT that needs to be explained
Ben and Me
by Robert Lawson
This was a cute little book that tricked the kids into learning a little about American history.
It was written by Amos, a mouse that lived with Ben Franklin. He was the brains behind most of Ben Franklin’s success and wanted the world to know it, so he wrote his story down.
It’s a fun little trip through Ben Franklin’s life from a different perspective.
The kids liked it and the author was kind enough to make it entertaining for adults too.
Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls
Dr. John Bergsma
I got this for Christmas. It was as great as I hoped it would be.
Doctor Bergsma is an Old Testament and Dead Sea Scrolls specialist and a teacher (at Franciscan University). You can tell how fascinating and exciting he finds all this and his fascination and excitement are infectious.
Also, he does a wonderful job of dispensing the information so that even housewives in the suburbs with brain fog can understand it.
In 1946ish, The Dead Sea Scrolls were, apparently, one heck of a find.
There was a community, called Qumran, of celibate Jewish men from a sect called The Essenes, that lived near the Dead Sea. They were a radical sect of Judaism that had a lot of parallel ideas to Christianity.
The book gives an overview of the Qumran community. Their beliefs, their daily life at the time and their writings ( we call the Dead Sea Scrolls) found in the caves of their community.
The Scrolls add a new dimension to many New Testament writings and may shed some light on some of the quirkier elements.
Why was The Baptist living in the desert, eating bugs and baptising people?
Why does the Gospel of John have different language than the other gospels?
Why is the dating of the Last Supper different in a couple of the gospels?
Did Saint Paul write all of his letters?
It also sheds new and interesting light on the Last Supper and the Priesthood and the structure of the early church. Also, why was there a guy in the Garden of Gethsemane only wearing a linen garment and who was that dude that arranged the upper room for the Last Supper and why was he carrying water?
At the end of each chapter there’s a summary and half a dozen recommended books if you’re interested to learn more on what he’d just written.
It was engrossing and I didn’t want it to end.
The Enormous Egg
by Oliver Butterworth
We just finished this as a read aloud. The kids loved it. It’s a story about a triceratops that hatches out of a chicken egg on a farm in New Hampshire. What’s not to love about that plot?
It moved along at a good pace, was funny and entertaining for all of us and this printing was illustrated by Mark Crilley, a favorite illustrator around these parts.
I also liked some of the apolitical commentary on DC politics at the end. Not much has changed, that’s for sure!
Jesus of Nazareth
The Infancy Narratives
by Pope Benedict XVI
I know I’m way behind on this one… And it was worth the wait. This book was excellent! Perfect Advent read.
Each line of the Infancy Narratives is packed with meaning and Pope Benedict really draws it out with his beautiful writing. You can tell he is completely in love with God and his love is contagious.
I learned a lot about the history, theology, scripture and various theories surrounding these readings.
There is much to contemplate in these pages.
The Way of Perfection
by Saint Teresa of Avila
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
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.
by Michael Barber
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
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!
by Dave Barry
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
by Jeanne Birdsall
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”
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.
Leif the Lucky
Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
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.
by Tim Gray
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
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
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.
by Jessica Seinfeld
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.
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
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.)
A Man for Others
by Patricia Treece
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.
by CS Lewis
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
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
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.
Why We’re Catholic
by Trent Horn
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!).
How Not to Share Your Faith
by Mark Brumley
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!
by Christy Wright
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
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.
by Flannery O’Connor
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
The latest in my “laid up with morning sickness” book-a-thon. Very funny!
Franny and Zooey
by JD Salinger
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.
by George Eliot
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!)
by Brad Gooch
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!