January Reading Roundup!

Monday, January 30, 2017



Hi, everyone!

It's a been a while. And by "a while" I mean something like six weeks. Give or take. Sorry about that. I've definitely been writing during this time, and if you want to see what I've been up to in the last month, you can check out some of my writing at She Is Light and #CatholicChic. But what I mean is that it's been a while since I've given my personal blog some love.

That stops today. What I'm hoping to do from here on out, in addition to regular "deep thoughts" posts, is take one post at the end of each month to give you an overview of the books I've read during the last 30 to 31 days. I hope you can find something in this list to spark your interest (and if you do, the links to purchase them are in the titles)!

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

One new year's resolution I made for myself this year was to select a patron saint for 2017: someone to intercede for and guide me as I walk through the year ahead. I picked St. Thérèse (I was also assigned St. Anastasia at random within a group of my friends, but seeing as how she's the patroness of weavers, martyrs, and sufferers of poison, and I'm, well... none of those things, it's a bit harder to determine her relevance in my life just yet). It made sense to start the year by reading her autobiography, and I'm so glad I did. Hers is the kind of story that makes you think, No wonder this girl is a saint. She's practically perfect. Her feathers hardly seemed ruffled by worldly annoyances, and so she's intimidating in that way, I guess. How's an ordinary person supposed to be that holy? But actually, St. Thérèse was just an ordinary girl who offered everything up to God. And her story inspires me to do that, too.


Brian Doyle


I became a fan of Brian Doyle in my college creative writing classes, where my professor would use short pieces of his fiction to teach us about characterization and careful story construction. And that's exactly what we get in this collection of essays: precise insights where no word is wasted and no feeling is spared. Doyle is adept at getting to the heart of human emotions that most of us would be hard-pressed to name, but recognize when they appear on the page. And he writes with the extraordinary empathy that reminds us everyone has a story to share, and he is only the vehicle who shares them so exquisitely. As he himself notes, "I am a storycatcher, charged with finding stories that matter, stories about who we are at our best, who we might be still, because without stories we are only mammals with weapons. I am here to point at shards of holiness. That's all. That's enough." ...If that doesn't make you excited to tear through this lovely book, I don't know what could.



Henri Nouwen


I'm so excited to attend the Blessed Is She Beloved retreat in March that is based on this book, so of course I had to read it before then! And let me tell you... it's wonderful. Henri Nouwen, a Dutch priest and prominent 20th-century Catholic theologian, wrote this for a Jewish friend who wondered how to create a meaningful, spiritual life in such a secular, God-separate world. Nouwen's response lies in four truths of our lives as beloved beings created by a loving God: we are Taken (Chosen), Blessed, Broken, and Given. A book that reminded me of my own and others' infinite worth, while also prodding me to bless others' belovedness and more fully give of myself to everyone I meet, Nouwen's work brought me close to tears on more than one occasion, and I highly recommend it. 


Brother Lawrence


This one is a slim little volume you could probably read on your lunch break, and you totally should, because it's all about how Brother Lawrence continually sought to lift his mind and heart to the Lord in every moment, not just the time specifically allotted for prayer: "The time of business... does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament." This book is an ideal candidate for that midday reading break when you might need to remind yourself that God is present in the daily grind. And then you'll be inspired to look for Him there when you return to your desk.


Gabrielle Zevin


Delightful, delightful read, complete with a whimsical cast of characters, plenty of literary and pop culture references, and a story sure to linger in your heart. When A.J. Fikry, widower and independent bookstore owner, loses his precious, rare copy of Edgar Allan Poe's Tamerlane, he receives something else, and his whole life changes. As a book person myself, I appreciated the many self-aware references to the qualities that constitute a great book, and of course I believe this little novel, having implemented those components, is one of them. Sweet, sincere, tender, and chock-full of charm. Send this one straight to the top of your reading list.


Debora L. Spar


Spar's book is one that asks, "What does the modern feminist movement look like?" While dissecting the current state of women's struggles to liberate themselves from traditional stereotypes and social norms, she unveils another fight on its heels: the "quest for perfection." Because, as she wisely points out, now that we have the means to design so many aspects of our lives on our own terms, the avenues to a "perfect" life, with that fabled work/life/romance/family balance are all the more plentiful. So... how much have we really freed ourselves? How far have we actually come? And where do we go from here? An insightful and informative read -- shoutout to Tracy for sending this one my way!

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What are some of the books you've read in the last month? I'm a hopeless bookworm, so... I need all the recommendations I can get. :)

Next month's mission: more novels! Stay tuned, friends.

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