Book Notes: Just Finished, Currently Reading, and to Be Read

Book Notes: Just Finished, Currently Reading, and to Be Read

Just finished:

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett—A Japanese businessman is lured to a birthday party in an unnamed Latin American country by the promise of a guest appearance by his favorite opera singer. The country hopes his company will be convinced to establish a factory there. But things go tragically awry as the entire party are captured by terrorists, hoping to capture the president of the country, who skipped the party in favor of staying home to watch his favorite soap opera. The standoff between the terrorists and the government troops last for more than four months, during which time a group of hostages and terrorists are confined to the grounds of the Vice President’s house. Classic Stockholm Syndrome as lines are blurred. Music creates unexpected relationships among the terrorists and hostages.

Could Mr. Hosokawa say [. . .] that this was the happiest time in his life? Surely that could not be the case. He was being held against his will in a country he did not know and every day he found himself looking down the barrel of some child’s gun. He was living on a diet of tough meat sandwiches and soda pop, sleeping in a room with more than fifty men, and although there were irregular privileges at the washing machine, he was thinking of asking the Vice President if he could kindly extend to him a second pair of underwear from his own bureau. Then why this sudden sense of lightness, this great affection for everyone?

I found the ending most unsatisfying and wish I was still in contact with the friend (a colleague at Salem State) who originally recommended it years ago so I could talk about it with her.

Prince of Thieves: A Novel by Chuck Hogan—A mystery-thriller follows four young thieves in Charlestown, MA, then-capitol of armored car robberies.

This book also has an unsatisfying ending. Unsatisfying in rather the same way. Really, how can a book that makes you feel sympathy with criminals end except unsatisfactorily? If justice is to be served, they must receive their reward; but because they are sympathetic, you are secretly rooting for them to get away with it.

I mainly liked this book for all the local color. The detailed descriptions of Charlestown, where I once held a summer temp job; the cinema heist at the Braintree cinema next door to Dom’s current office.

Interesting aside: I was curious about the author, assumed he must be local with all the detail. So I looked him up. The official author bio was very scant of information; but I found this article from the Canton Citizen. Turns out Chuck Hogan went to high school with Dom. More, they were both Sharks in the same production of West Side Story.

Currently reading:

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner.—I’m supposed to be reading this for my book club. I’m not making any progress. Faulkner isn’t agreeing with me right now and I can’t quite bring myself to care enough to make an effort. Not with so many other books calling my name. I was hoping a support group would help pull me through; but it doesn’t seem to be happening right now.

Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding by Scott Weidensaul—I’m only a few pages in; but it’s fascinating. I didn’t used to be the kind of person who read non-fiction. And now, well, I stayed up too late last night reading this book. I found this was as hard to put down as any novel. The little bits of bird trivia, the fascinating characters.

Sex au Naturel: What It Is and Why It’s Good for Your Marriage by Patrick Coffin—Yes, Dom is mentioned in the acknowledgments). Dom read an early chapter of the book back when we were dating. I read it over his shoulder too. (Patrick is a friend of his from Steubenville.)

This is a great short exposition of the Catholic teachings on sexuality. It’s approachable, humorous but doesn’t dumb it down. He also does a great job of explaining why it’s important at all. 

“For Catholic teaching against birth control asks that one be willing, when the occasion warrants, to keep in check one of the most imperious, at times unruly, appetites within the human person—the sexual urge. Our culture routinely fails to differentiate sex from love, as if the former were the sole, infallible proof of the latter.”

I’m competing with both Dom and Tree for this book, so I’ve only got a few chapters in.

Godly Play by Jerome Berryman. Berryman is a Protestant minister who studied with Sofia Cavalletti. I’m only a few chapters in; but I’ll confess so far his approach to a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd-style of learning doesn’t connect with me in the same way Cavaletti’s does. The difference is definitely one of world-view. His is Protestant and hers is Catholic. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have something to offer, however, so I’m going to push forward and read further.

The Good Shepherd and the Child: A Joyful Journey by Patricia Coulter. This rather feels like a Cliffs Notes version of The Religious Potential of the Child. Not dumbed down; but briefer. I wish I’d read this first as it provides a quick overview of the broadest concerns.

Organizing from the Inside Out, second edition: The Foolproof System For Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your Life by Julie Morgenstern. I’ve found this book really engaging. Even though it’s geared more toward businesses and professionals, she also addresses homemaker’s concerns. She begins by helping you identify the root of your organizational problems and building up systems that will work for you. I haven’t finished the book yet; but even if I never get any farther (and that’s possible as the library won’t let me renew it any more times) It’s given me hope. It already motivated me to get started on one project.

Organizing for Your Brain Type: Finding Your Own Solution to Managing Time, Paper, and Stuff by Lanna Nakone—This one did nothing for me at all. I didn’t see myself in any of her four brain types. I didn’t even finish the self test because every question left me scratching my head. I wasn’t A, B, C or D. I skimmed the rest of the book and found it all equally unhelpful. I’m sure she’s describing some people; just none of them is me.

Come to think of it, I feel the same way about the medieval four temperaments (choleric, sanguine, melancholic, phlegmatic). I know many people find them useful. I’ve never felt like I really fit into any of the categories or that they helped me understand myself or anyone else. No, I’m a Myers-Briggs kind of girl. That just makes sense to me.

GENERAL AUDIENCES: JOHN PAUL II’S THEOLOGY OF THE BODY by Pope John Paul II—During Lent I started reading the audiences one a week on my iPod. I’m finding it much easier to read in that format than in a book. Somehow having just a small part of the text in front of me at a time makes it much easier to absorb. I haven’t touched it in a few weeks; but hope to get back to it soon. This is the sort of thing that will literally take me years to get through as I can’t see myself reading it at a much faster pace than the original talks were given. I think JPII was wise to break the material up into such manageable chunks, spaced at the rate of one a week. It is so very dense. My sister is also reading too and we’ve had some good discussions.

Introduction to the Devout Life by St Francis de Sales. Also on my iPod. This is another that I’m taking very slowly, picking up and then putting down and then picking up again.

My dad recently directed me to a later section of the book. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist and have a hard time giving myself permission to skip around in books. But in this case that was really quite helpful.

Jennifer of Conversion Diary said this was one of those books that she didn’t feel made a great impression her first time through but to which she keeps returning with new and greater insight. I hope to eventually make it through the first time because I also feel it will be good to return to.


To be read:

Microbe Hunters by Paul DeKruif—I haven’t started it yet; but glanced at the first sentence and can’t wait to read.

This one and the next came in at the library at the same time as Of a Feather. Three non-fiction books that highlight the biographies of pioneers in three different biological fields. I seem to have hit on an unintentional theme. I believe I put all three on hold becasue they were recommended at various blogs. The sad thing is I probably won’t be able to get through them all before they are due. This is why I am perpetually owing the library money.

The Dangerous World of Butterflies: The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists by Peter Laufer—This one was recommended by Melissa Wiley. We’ve been on a butterfly kick round here. Bella loves butterflies and I’m running with it. This book is beyond her of course; but no reason I can’t allow her passions to discover new rabbit trails for me to follow. Can’t wait to get started.



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  • You’ve hit on something very important, Melanie. In any area of sin, transparency, or maybe I mean accountability?, or both brings healing and reduces future susceptibility to the sin. If nothing else, the public exposure of abuse within the Church has led to greater transparency on the part of the Church, which we can hope will lead to better responses by the hierarchy in future cases, and also hope will mean fewer future cases.

    The current media frenzy is a desolation, in a way, and maybe, as you say, it is needed, to illuminate the seriousness of the problem and, like salt in a wound, to cleanse and begin real healing, both psychological and spiritual, to the victims and the Church as a whole.

    When a trusting relationship has been damaged, transparency is needed to rebuild trust and enable forgiveness. If the media’s over-reporting brings that, I agree that it might be worth it.

    But I am pained to see the Church I love torn apart by these scandals. And I pray that there isn’t anything more to be revealed so that, with the help of God,  the forgiveness, penance, and healing can begin to happen in earnest.

    Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!