Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What's missing from my list of books-read-in-2015

It was fun to put my thoughts together recently about the books I've read so far this year.  I noticed one large concern during the process:

I was struck by how little spiritual reading I'd done this year.  Granted, there are still six or so months left to 2015, but it was convicting to see so little related to my faith on the list.

Now, I've read some edifying online articles during this time but not enough books.  Fr. Roderick's Geekpriest was a sincerely enthusiastic memoir about his journey to the priesthood, use of new media, and Church teaching, wrapped up in geekery.  I also dipped my toe into The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur: The Woman Whose Goodness Changed Her Husband from Atheist to Priest by Elisabeth Leseur.

But any books on deepening prayer? Scriptural study? Apologetics? (At least not straight up apologetics- lots of the memoirs have apologetics in them by way of explaining conversion stories.) Church history? Life of a saint?  No.

To rectify this, I've made a Spiritual Reading Plan.  (And it's not even Lent!)  I am going to:

purchase the latest Magnificat and begin morning and evening prayer with it. For the unfamiliar, morning and evening prayer isn't just one prayer in the morning and one in the evening.  It's a grouping of sacred hymns, Psalms, Scripture, and Canticles.  I'll read the other readings and offerings in the magazine as desired. (Try Magnificat for free!)  I could pray morning and evening prayer directly out of the Divine Office or find it online, but this is screen-free and seems more doable.

read Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus by Sherry A. Weddell.  Nancy at Reading Catholic named it the best book she'd read in 2013.  I've always remembered her review, and I'm ready to dive in.  This book has been talked about quite a bit in the Catholic world for the last couple of years.

read Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? by Guy Consolmagno, SJ and Paul Mueller, SJ.  When I heard about this book on The Jennifer Fulwiler Show, I made a mental note of it and picked it up at the bookstore.  I've already started it, and it's very accessible.  I just have to choose to read something besides the fiction I've been escaping to while we prepare our house for market.  The authors' backgrounds are admirable: Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ is a graduate of MIT, a Vatican astronomer, and a Jesuit brother.  Paul Mueller, SJ is a graduate of the University of Chicago, a Vatican Observatory research staff member, and a Jesuit priest.  I know I will finish this book wishing I'd read the rest of it sooner because faith and the cosmos is a subject I am currently nerding out on.

read Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers That Even I Can Offer by Leah Libresco.  I'm not a regular reader of Libresco's blog, Unequally Yoked, but I poked around it a little bit after I heard about her atheist-to-Catholic conversion in 2012.  (Her conversion was even featured on CNN!)  I found her so fascinating because it sounded like she thought her way to Catholicism.  That's a subject I'd like to read more about: if I went back to school, I'd study philosophy and theology.  This book is supposed to cover her conversion, as well as be an exploration of prayer from her unique perspective.

reread The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth by Scott Hahn.  I've read this book and want to revisit it to deepen my appreciation for the Eucharist and the Mass. Hahn's memoir Rome Sweet Home (co-written by his wife, Kimberly) was instrumental in my massive reversion to the Church several years ago.  After my reversion, I looked up what else Hahn had written and read this book.I'm looking forward to reexamining the link between Scripture and the Mass.

read Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future by Elizabeth Esther.  I read about this book at Modern Mrs. Darcy, and I've been wanting to read it ever since.  I find memoirs so helpful in understanding people from different backgrounds. I'm also choosing this book because I understand Esther converted to Catholicism, and as a Catholic, I enjoy learning about how people walk toward the faith.  I love conversion stories.  Looking forward.

Perhaps a little too low in the stack

Anything missing from your list of books read this year? What do you wish you'd read by now? Do you need a spiritual reading plan?  What are you reading for your faith right now?

What I've been reading (July 2015)

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt.  Holling Hoodhood is a remarkable seventh grader.  He holds his own with a tough teacher, bullying, parental demands, rats, a first love, athletic competition, family drama, Shakespeare, and the backdrop of the Vietnam War.  If I went through what he did in the book, I'd be quaking in my boots and/or developing an ulcer.  Holling seems to handle it all with aplomb.  Or perhaps Mrs. Baker and their weekly Wednesday meeting is what holds him together? Charming, graceful, and full of smarts.  Like I said in my mid-year reading roundup, I was fondly recalling this book as soon as I finished it. One of my faves of the year so far.

Wish You Were Eyre (The Mother Daughter Book Club #6) by Heather Vogel Frederick.  Bits of Jane Eyre were all over the most recent release in this series, just like all the books before it.  Each book has homages to the fictional group's current book selection.  I wondered how Frederick would pay tribute to the mysterious third floor happenings of Thornfield Hall, and she did so in a clever way.  Megan's long-awaited trip to Paris Fashion Week is the highlight of this book. Fun.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.  I kept reading this book to see what happened; so, I give the author credit for suspense.  I also appreciated the small nod to Wuthering Heights. However, I didn't really care about the story or the characters.  I didn't buy a crucial part of the plot, but teenagers (including my past teen self) can make really inane mistakes.  I can't recommend this one, though I'd take an island with houses for all my family members!

I feel like I am forgetting something this month!  Goodreads list, don't fail me now!

What did you read this month? Linking up as usual with Modern Mrs Darcy's Quick Lit Reviews.  Check out her post this month for loads of other chats about what people have been reading.

P.S. Want more bookish fun?  Check out what I read in June and my 2015 mid-year roundup of what I've been reading!

Monday, July 13, 2015

A mid-year reading roundup

I thought naming my five favorite books of 2014 was so fun, I decided to check in on my favorites mid-year as well.

Without further ado, I give you my top five favorite books of 2015 thus far, in no particular order and not necessarily published this year:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. My goodness, this was a heck of a book.  I'd never read anything like this before.  As a fan of all things of the British Isles, being transported into the early eighteenth century Highlands was a wild ride.  This book is heavy on what we Catholics like to call the marital embrace (thank you, JP2 and your Theology of the Body), and that could be a deal breaker for some readers.  However, speaking of, I was pleased to see echoes of JP2's beautiful teachings in the story.  This is not just a romance though; it would be unfair to classify it as such.  It's part romance, fantasy, and historical fiction, all wrapped up in one. Capable, intelligent Claire and loyal, loving Jamie are at the center of this sweeping novel.  You won't be able to put it down.

The Mother Daughter Book Club Series by Heather Vogel Frederick.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy zipping through this bookish and girlish series.  It celebrates the bond between mothers and daughters, families, great books, and fellowship.  We read as creative Megan, writer Emma, athletic Cassidy, and all-around talented Jess grow through the ups and downs of sixth grade all the way to sixteen, one book club pick at a time.  One more book in the series due for publishing. What will be the final book club selection? Any guesses?

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.  Utterly readable, Better Than Before is a study of everyday habits and a natural extension of her Happiness books.  I liked the Happiness books more than this one, but that didn't stop me from nerding out over Rubin's insightful research into her topic. She uses a self-created Four Tendencies framework to organize the book.  I'm an Obliger.  This would explain why I often try to set up unique ways of gaining accountability when setting life goals, large and small. Take Rubin's quiz to find out what kind of person you are as it relates to habits: an Obliger, a Rebel, an Upholder, or a Questioner.  Also: I'm in the booooooook!

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt.  This top-5-favorite-so-far selection is a scoop on my upcoming What I've been reading post.  I finished this book not too long ago, and it was such a relief to sink into the witty (but not too witty for its own good) writing, likable characters, and glimpse into adolescence during the Vietnam War era.  I don't claim to be a Shakespeare fan, but I very much appreciated how his plays were woven into the narrative of Holling Hoodhood's seventh grade year.  Can you feel fondness for a book right after you read it?  I did.

Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer by Fr. Roderick Vonhögen. I really enjoyed Fr. Roderick's story of coming into the priesthood and his determined and blessed usage of new media to evangelize the world.  His book is a study in how being the person God made you to be is all He wants.  Fans of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, gaming, technology, and comics will enjoy this book.

UPDATE:  I figured out what's missing from this list.

What's in your top five so far this year? 

* Achieve the umlaut over the letter o by:
1) holding down alt + u
2) let go of the keys after you see highlighted quotation marks
3) type the letter o

At least, that's what happened on my MacBook Pro using Blogger.