Here's what I've been reading lately:
Book #17 of 2019 was Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown. I was curious to learn more about Princess Margaret, but it was a little hard to keep track of what was real and what was invented in this "biography."
Books #18 and 19 were a couple of novellas by Diana Gabaldon, The Space Between and Virgins. Gabaldon puts these out in between her monster (800+ page) novels in the Outlander series. I found them in the library while looking for something else and they were quick reads that give additional background to the series.
Book #20 was Discover the Mystery of Faith: How Worship Shapes Believing, by Glenn Packiam. Packiam's ruminations on how we express our beliefs in worship and how our worship informs and shapes what we believe were thought-provoking.
Book #21 was Hank Green's novel An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. While I didn't especially enjoy this (though I'll probably read the sequel so I know what happens), I did like this quote from the acknowledgements: "I also want to thank every single person who ever says, ‘You have to read this book!’ to a friend. I don’t care if it’s this book; I just want people to remind each other how wonderful books are." (Books are wonderful, friends!)
Book #22 was Many-Storied House: Poems by George Ella Lyon. This book began as a writing assignment, where students were supposed to write about a room in a house from their childhood. Lyon, the teacher, did the same and ended up writing about the house where she grew up in a lot of detail. I enjoyed reading this.
Book #23 was A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty, by Joni Eareckson Tada. If anybody has earned the right to talk about these issues, it's this author, who has spent the last fifty years in a wheelchair after breaking her neck as a teenager. In addition to quadriplegia, she also has suffered for many years from chronic pain, and more recently breast cancer.
Book #24 was A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny, the twelfth Inspector Gamache book. I liked the new setting of this novel, the police training college that Inspector Gamache is supposed to clean up, but I didn't understand why several characters had to head to Three Pines midway through the book and hang out there.
Book #25 was All He Ever Wanted, by Anita Shreve, a sad, depressing story of a marriage based on a complete lack of communication.
Book #26 was The Chalk Artist, by Allegra Goodman. I really enjoyed this story about creativity, how our brains work, what we get or don't get from our families. I especially liked the teacher character, Nina, and the realistic, sympathetic sections about how she is learning her job. There aren't many books that mine the emotional territory of how hard it is to teach, especially at the beginning.
Book #27 was Out of the House of God: Satisfying Your Hunger for God with the Spiritual Disciplines, by Preston Yancey. I liked this, especially the extended metaphor of baking and spirituality. (I'm not a baker, but I live with one.) Yancey is very reflective and goes beyond the obvious. Here he is on prayer: "Kneading is a work of wrestling, of working out something from chaos into something that has form. Intercessory prayer is like that. We are working out with God the mess of things, the chaos of being, and seeing what shape and form it could take on when we turn it over, again and again, back to God." Elsewhere he writes: "Icons are the ordinary signs of miracle. There is never just a cup in this world when every cup brings to mind the cup held by Jesus on the night he was betrayed, when he said it held his blood shed for us. There is never just a bed when every bed brings to mind the command of God to speak of the stories of God at all times and in all places, in our lying down and our rising. There is never just a basin of water when all water is called holy because Jesus entered the waters of baptism with us, called himself living water at the well of Jacob." I will probably read this one again; there's a lot to think about here.
Book #28 was A Small Porch: Sabbath Poems 2014 and 2015, by Wendell Berry. I think this is the first time I've read a full book by Berry. He is so good to read in this time we live in, when the planet is choked by plastic and heating up and it feels as though we all need to climb on a spaceship and go somewhere else. Berry is so much more in touch with agriculture and the earth than most of us will ever be, and although he is completely clear-eyed about the mess, still he has hope. In addition to the poems in the book, there's an extended essay on Nature, and I loved the discursive commentary about Chaucer and Spenser and Wordsworth and others, and the combination of poetry and farming, philosophy and where you should wipe your feet if they have manure on them. I kept having the feeling about Berry that I used to have when I read C.S. Lewis in my teens and early twenties: that the author would not approve of me at all due to the trivial, frivolous nature of my inner landscape. But I enjoyed the book anyway.
Book #29 was Free Verse, by Sarah Dooley, a middle grade novel about seventh grader Sasha and her tragic life in Caboose, West Virginia. Sasha loses members of her family, ends up in foster care, runs away, and writes poetry. She is a sympathetic character, if a little old-seeming.
I'm in the middle of several books right now, so there should be a new update fairly soon!
2 hours ago