April’s Books

April’s Books

Finished in April:

1. Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus by Sherry Weddell.

I’m working on a separate book review post. But realizing I want to go back and re-read the book first. So I’m re-reading and getting so much more out of it the second time through. Book review coming soon.

2. Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI.

This was excellent, as all of Pope Benedict’s Jesus books are. Truly they are a masterpiece, a spiritual treasure. I would definitely recommend them to anyone, Catholic, Christian or non Christian who is interested in knowing more about who Jesus is. They dive into history. They unpack scripture. They explore the mystical union between Christ and his Church. I’ve been meaning to write up a separate blog post that excerpts my favorite passages. Soon. Very soon. Until I get it done the book will sit there on my night table pleading with me.

3. Saving Erasmus: The Tale of a Reluctant Prophet by Steven Cleaver. Read my book review here.

4. Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden.

The story of a group of Anglican sisters who attempt to establish a convent and school and clinic high in the mountains of India. And who find themselves utterly defeated by… the place itself. I didn’t like this one as much as I’ve enjoyed her other novels about sisters—the masterpiece In This House of Brede or the excellent Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy—but it had something about it. Definitely one of those books I’ll have to read again before I really get it. I do love how much the place itself is a character, the mountain, the palace, the landscape, the wind, the people. What exactly is it that defeats the sisters? Is it the place that is utterly inhospitable and refuses to make room for Christ or is it something lacking in themselves? The character I loved most was Mr Dean, the Englishman who has “gone native,” who drinks and womanizes, and yet who seems to have a clearer vision of Christ at times than do any of the sisters. He at least knows who it is that he isn’t following. His character reminds me more than a bit of Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited. This is definitely one of those books I’m going to have to read again. But that’s Rumer Godden for you. All of her books bear re-reading.

5. The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden.

This was a gem of a book, which isn’t surprising at all because… Rumer Godden. Her juvenile books are all so beautiful. This is the story of a Gypsy girl, Kizzie, whose grandmother dies leaving her all alone in the world. Unwanted by the few distant relatives who show up to comb through her grandmother’s possessions, she’s instead thrown into the custody of the various charitable souls in the local town. Rumer Godden knew intimately what it was to be a child who is an outsider and this story distills that experience. But she also knows how to write about love. This is one of her finest books, even if I’m still not sure how to say the name.

6. The Woodcutter by Kate Danley.

I really wish I remember where I heard of this book. Was it a blog? Was it Facebook? I have a vague recollection of someone mentioning it and I can’t even remember if it was specifically directed at me in a hey, you should read this way or if something else reminded someone of this book or if it was a review or what.

Anyway, someone recommended it and I went and checked it out from the library. And it was a quick read, which was good. It was… different. No, really, it was fun. I enjoy books that are adaptations of fairytales and this had some nice twists. Seriously, the idea of pixie dust being an addictive drug… very clever.

Oh now I think I remember. It had to have been Happy Catholic. Oh and she says it so much better than I could. It’s a story that isn’t all Disneyfied. Instead, it really understands that true love is sacrificial love.

The Woodcutter is more ambitious than most adaptations I’ve read. Instead of adapting one or two fairytales, it swallows up and spits them out in a new way. It that it reminds me a bit of the television series Once Upon a Time. But The Woodcutter is much darker than even that adaptation. In tone at least it cleaves very closely to the original Grimm. In other ways, though, it is so original. The way it has a sort of metanarrative about the nature of story, the Woodcutter being aware of the various fairy tale tropes and conscious that he is in a story, aware when the story departs from the traditional versions.

In Progress:

1. Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master by Father Robert Barron. I read fast up to the day our book club met and then haven’t read it since. It’s unfortunate because it is a great book, but it’s hard going, the kind of thing I need a carrot to help me get through. Without a deadline looming I’m finding anything and everything more appealing. I’ve got a book review post half written. Maybe I’ll post what I have without finishing the book and do a second post for the second half. The book is certainly meaty enough to demand two posts.


2. Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life by Elizabeth Scalia. I’ve just read the first couple of chapters and already I’‘m feeling very, very uncomfortable. This book is an extended examination of conscience on the first commandment. I so needed to read it. Right now. And yet… Ouch.  I’ll definitely be writing more about this one. Highly recommended.

Now that I’ve pretty much said that I need to write more about most of the books I’ve read this month…. I can only hope I’ll actually get around to writing all these posts that are brewing. I’ve got plenty of motivation but typing long posts while holding a baby is difficult.

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  • On picture books: I would think readability by adults would be a *necessity* for good children’s books. Partly, of course, this spares adults from going *completely* mad when they have to read the book 500 times in succession. But I have this requirement mostly because any great idea is going to speak to all human beings. Obviously, the great idea has to be framed and discussed differently in a book for children, but why would we want our children reading books in which all the decent ideas have not just been simplified but have been stripped out or mangled to death?

  • That’s kind of the same thing that the author of your article said, now that I think about it: Universal themes, reading Harold at 14, etc. But he seems to think this is an inherent property of children’s books. I’m a little more cynical about many of the modern offerings in that genre. smile

  • Oh I agree about readability. And yet children will often be drawn to the most awful stuff. In fact it’s rather like candy. You want them to like steak and broccoli and asparagus and you know one day they will, but their palates do have to learn. I’ve become a bit more flexible in the last seven years. I do let the kids pick their own books from the library, but if they are too bad the book disappears into the bag.