One of my—I hate to call it a new year’s resolution; but can’t think of a better word—anyway one of the things I want to be more intentional about this year is tracking my reading in a more systematic way. I want to at least list all the books I’ve read and ideally comment on each briefly. I’ve had much positive feedback from blog readers about my book lists and I do enjoy writing about books and discussing them. So I’ve decided to keep a running list on my iPhone (Did I mention that I was eligible for a new phone and Dom found a great deal on a refurbished iPhone 3G?) which once a month I’ll transfer to the blog with reading notes as I feel like elaborating.
It seems to me that it makes sense to do this at the end of the month; but I reserve the right to change my mind and do a twice a month or a once every two month update if that is easier.
So without further ado, here’s January’s list (I still have this nagging feeling I’ve missed something; but I can’t think of what. Perhaps it’s a lingering regret over last January’s books that I never blogged about. Yes, I still remember that feeling of incompletion, isn’t that sad?)
1. Lay Siege to Heaven by Louis de Wohl
A biographical novel about St Catherine of Siena. Unlike the novels about St Benedict and St Francis, this one focused much more on the person of the saint. I sort of knew about Catherine’s life in broad outlines; but this made me feel like I got to know her much more. I look forward to comparing de Wohl’s novel with Sigrid Undset’s novel St Catherine of Siena.
2. i>The Glorious Folly by Louis de Wohl (and with this, I think I’ve exhausted our public library system’s de Wohl holdings, which is too bad because I’ve greatly enjoyed them.)
A novel about the times of St Paul. The protagonist is the Roman centurion Longinus who at first wants to stop Paul by violence and is a witness to the moment on the road to Damascus. The contrast between the two men is interesting. Longinus’ own moment of conversion is never shown, though it is referred to several times. When the novel begins he’s already a Christian and married to a Jewish Christian; but he certainly grows in his understanding of the faith and in his trust in God. By nature he is a man of action and so his first reaction is to try to recruit enough men to break St Peter out of jail. He fails and finds that prayer is the more effective weapon. when Peter shows up unharmed having been rescued by the power of an angel.
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Was the pick of the month at Reading for Believers. It’s probably been more than a decade since I read it. Perhaps almost two? I feel so old! I definitely found it to be a different sort of book this time through. Much more enjoyable. But I think the group’s discussion speaks for itself.
4. Our Lady of the Lost and Found by Diane Schoemperlen (See my reading notes here.)
Hmmm. Only four books completed. About one a week. But I’ve begun quite a few more that I’m currently juggling.
1. Leaving My Beloved Children Behind by Takashi Nagai
Continuing in last year’s fascination with Nagai. In case you’ve missed my earlier posts on the subject, Takashi Nagai was a Japanese physician and scientist during the second World War. He was a pioneer in the field of radiology and though he well knew the dangers of radiation sickness, he heroically continued to put in long hours in the lab doing research and treating patients when there was a shortage of trained personnel during the war. He put his concern for his patients and his drive to further medical knowledge above his own health and well being. He knowingly exposed himself to dangerous levels of radiation and contracted leukemia and he and his wife faced the knowledge that he had only about three years to live, that he would leave her a widow with two young children. Then the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and his wife was killed, their home destroyed. Their two children had been sent away and so survived as did Nagai, though of course being very near ground zero he received another intense dose of radiation.
Nagai was a convert to Catholicism and his memoir about the dropping of the atomic bomb is an amazing account of how he led the Catholic faithful of Nagasaki to understand the event as a voluntary holocaust that they were able to offer to God as a sacrifice for the cause of peace.
Sadly this is it for books by Nagai in English. The Bells of Nagasaki was a memoir of surviving the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, told mainly as a man of science but also as a man of faith, this is a more personal book. But still it is Nagai as observer and commenter on Japanese society it also delves into subjects of greater interest: in this case reflecting on his own dilemma as he faces the prospect of his own death leaving his children orphaned he also examines the problem of all the children left orphaned by the war and how their plight should be addressed. Specifically interesting how his Catholic faith informs his response.
This is a heartbreaking subject. A father who loves his children very dearly and knows that shortly he will die and they will be orphans learning how to entrust them to his Heavenly Father.
2. Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome
(See my previous blog entry here.)
3. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
I think I heard about this one from Jen Ambrose? I put it on my library hold list on impulse and forgot about it. When I picked it up I wasn’t sure I really wanted to read it. But this is the book I’m having a hard time putting down. I opened it up one evening thinking I should at least give it a glance. It had me at the first page. I realized I know next to nothing about Korea and my curiosity got me into the first chapter. But Demick’s compelling storytelling has kept me reading. Demick’s narrative follows six people who defected from North Korea and weaves in history, politics and economics with their individual stories.
4. A Time to Dance No Time to Weep by Rumer Godden
The first volume of Godden’s autobiography. I’ve only got a few pages into it.
5. Psalms and Canticles: Meditations on the Psalms and Canticles of Morning Prayer by John Paul II
I’ve only read little bits of this volume which has meditations and catechesis for the psalms and canticles of every day in the four week cycle that comprises the Liturgy of the Hours. I’m hoping to get a bit more serious about using it during Lent.
6. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
Inspired by Jamie, I began this quite some time ago. I put it down and have had trouble picking it up again. The story is just not the engaging to me and I keep finding books that are more interesting. not to mention library books from my on hold list that come in and get put on higher priority.