Living in a Catholic bubble can be nice, but I like to pop my head outside and take a look around every now and then. In the context of Austin CNM, that means reading books by non-Catholics or without explicit religious themes for this Catholic book review column. Sometimes that leads me to gems like Mere Christianity and pleasant surprises like Bound Together. But even when I select a book that doesn’t ignite that spark, I always find something to learn. Starting at the End: Worldview, God’s Word, and Your Future, by Brad Alles, is another non-Catholic book choice.
Jul 25 2013
What kind of moving experiences have you had with your books? (Or, just in general if you’ve got good Moving Day stories–and who doesn’t?) Did having to pack and move your books cause any changes in your book-collecting habits? Make you wish you had everything on an e-reader?
This is remarkably timely because I moved just recently. I’m still in Austin, just in a different part of town. More about that in my 7QT tomorrow.
I inherited all the boxes I needed for my move (and then some) from my friend Guy, who recently moved into town from New York City with his fiancée. I’ve never been much for putting my stuff in boxes for a move. I realized that’s because I usually move using just my car! I was grateful for all of his book boxes, though. They were just the right size (about 5x5x18″) and number to fit all of the books on my shelves.
My confession is that the books I own now aren’t all of my books! I have about six shelves in my old room at my parents’ house. When I was home for my grandfather’s funeral this summer, I used my Goodreads app to scan all of those books into what I’m calling my off-site collection. I didn’t scan every book though, because I would be perfectly happy to see some of those books disappear. If I thought it’d help, I’d let my sister sell some during textbook buyback at Maryland.
Regarding my main site collection, I’m pretty pleased with it. I have some of my teaching books that I just couldn’t leave behind, an ever-growing collection of Catholic and Christian books, and of course all my Harry Potters. Packing them did make me grateful that I’ve kept my purchases under control. Most of what I’ve acquired in the three years I’ve been in Austin has been books to review or free review copies. I don’t have a real e-reader, just my iPhone, so I didn’t feel the real effects of having e-books versus physical ones. E-reading is more about getting fast copies from NetGalley and always having something to read. I finished the first Sherlock Holmes anthology that way, and although it was delightful, I am pretty glad I didn’t have to pack it.
Jul 23 2013
I love learning. That sounds so cheesy, but I really do! My favorite learning experiences are always connected to finding out earth-shattering new information about something I thought I already knew well. I used to think that car turn signals were activated by the car (not the driver; in-car navigation systems seemed unremarkable at first!), and I used to know that the “Holy, Holy, Holy” at Mass came from Scripture, but not how. Thanks to a long-term book loan from a friend and the Catholic 20-Somethings summer book club, I have now read The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth, by Scott Hahn, and I have learned so much.
You may remember my review of Rome Sweet Home, also by Scott Hahn, from the beginning of the year. Hahn is a former Presbyterian who reasoned his way to Catholicism based on his understanding of covenant theology and his deep knowledge of Scripture. I expected more of the same in this book, and I was proven correct. In The Lamb’s Supper, Hahn tackles the Book of Revelation (which is singular—no “S”) and reveals that the fullest understanding of the book must be united with our understanding of the Mass.
Jul 18 2013
Well, that was a week full of no posts. On to the good stuff.
How do you feel about books about dogs or pets? Fluffy stories of fluffy family members? Solid books on training them or taking care of them? Touching reminiscences of trouble and the way a person’s dog (or pet) has helped get them through? Any favorite books to recommend?
My attitude toward books about pets is much like my attitude toward actual pets: I don’t like them. I haven’t come close to having pets since I was a kid. My current lease doesn’t allow me to have them. I can handle other people’s dogs just fine as long as they don’t lick me, but I don’t want any of my own. I read Black Beauty, and I read a little Saddle Club when I was in middle school, but I’ve just never found animals that appealing.
Do your reading habits change in the summer? Do you take your books outside more? Do you curl up in the air conditioning? Do you read fluff instead of serious books? Are you too busy playing in the sun or gardening or whatever to read much at all?
Taking a book outside? In this heat? No, thank you! I am much more likely to be enjoying air conditioning in the summer than any other time of year, especially while reading. I usually have more time to read, although I can’t say I actually do more reading. I’ve never changed my reading material to fit the seasons, but I am more likely to do something like committing to a new series because I’m more likely to be able to finish it in a reasonable time frame, unlike my near-decades with The Princess Diaries and Jessica Darling.
Jul 04 2013
Today is one of those days when I can tell which of my memes are based in the U.S. and which aren’t. I play a photo meme hosted by Chantelle of Fat Mum Slim, and as she lives in Australia, all of her recent photos have been of winter. Today’s theme is “red, white, and/or blue,” though, which seems appropriately international, although still U.S.-leaning (America!).
Do you ever read books that could be considered patriotic? Rousing stories of heroes? History? Brave countrymen & women doing bold things? What would you recommend if somebody asked you for something patriotic–no matter what your country?
I read a couple of Dear America books when I was in middle school, and I read some American Girls books before the series got too huge for me. I think I quit those around Josefina. They were good at the time, but then that time ended.
I also read All-American Girl, but as much as I like Meg Cabot, I didn’t like that book quite enough for its sequel. It’s got a very patriotic cover, though, that I owned in hardcover (which was as big a deal then as it is for my book-purchasing habits now):
I’ve never been into actual history books, though, so that’s about as far as it’s gonna go for me.
Jul 03 2013
You know the drill. It’s not Tuesday, but I don’t care!
Top Ten Books That Intimidate Me
- War and Peace: I read a great “book-a-minute” summary of it. “History controls everything we do, so there is no point in observing individual actions. Let’s examine the individual actions of over 500 characters at great length. The end.”
- Moby Dick: Matilda could handle it, but she had Miss Honey to help. I know enough about it for trivia, and that’s all I need.
- Les Miserables: It’s like 1000 pages unabridged, and I don’t condone abridgements, so I’m never going to get to read it.
- Vanity Fair: I thought, “If it’s good enough for Reese Witherspoon to agree to star in a movie about it, it must be good enough to read.” Then I held the 500-page paperback in the library one day. I stopped holding it pretty quickly.
- Anything in Spanish: I read enough of a few books (Enero sin nombre and La familia de Pascual Duarte) in college to pass my tests, and I still own them, but I’ve never actually finished reading them. I don’t think my Spanish is good enough anymore!
- The Confessions of St. Augustine: I own a PDF of one translation, but I’m too intimidated to read it. It just seems too epic.
- The Interior Castle, by St. Teresa of Avila: Mystics are intimidating by definition.
- The Bible: It intimidates me, but I am tackling it bit by bit. One of these days, I’ll finish!
Jun 25 2013
I love conversion stories. As a cradle Catholic who lapsed for a few years, I have my own story of coming to know Christ and his one true Church, but I am always fascinated by the journeys other people have taken to get to Catholicism. Some of my favorites are the stories that came with the greatest personal risk. Allen Hunt, author of Confessions of a Mega-Church Pastor: How I Discovered the Hidden Treasures of the Catholic Church, made the riskiest leap I’ve seen so far. It’s stories like his that leave me convinced of the great blessing of my having been baptized into the Church as an infant and the incredible responsibility I have not to ever leave her.
Jun 11 2013
I don’t worship false gods, at least not on purpose.
Let me explain. I never say I was raised Catholic. My mom’s side of the family is Catholic, which is the reason I am a Catholic (although not the reason I remain one). We didn’t go to church for most of my childhood. Because of that, most of what I know about Catholicism is what I learned on my own. I taught myself the basic “Bless Us, O Lord” table grace; all my Catholic friends in college knew it already. I started attending Mass weekly of my own volition. Even now, it can take a minute for me to remember the Commandments. I know them all, though, which is part of what intrigued me about Elizabeth Scalia’s first full-length book, Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life. We hear about people “making sex and money into idols” by placing them before God, but do we ever really think about what that means? I hadn’t at all until I started reading this book. I am so glad I did.
Read the rest at Austin Catholic New Media.
May 15 2013
I’m back to longer reflections about books. It’s not Tuesday, and this was not the topic from a few days ago, but I started this post, so I’m going to finish it! I’ve read plenty since the last time I did a TTT. The original poster broke hers up into five and five, so I will, too.
Top Five Books I Liked Less Than I Thought I Would (a.k.a. Bad Surprises)
Scribbler of Dreams, by Mary E. Pearson: A modern take on Romeo and Juliet sounded like a good idea. It was pretty lame. I could barely finish reading it. I might still technically own it among the books that live with my parents, but I’m reasonably certain I’ll never pick it up again.
Both Sides of Time, by Caroline B. Cooney: In general, when I like one book by an author of many, I will like that author’s other books. The Face on the Milk Carton saga was the closest thing to a thriller I’d encountered at age 14, and I liked Twenty Pageants Later, so I gave this time-traveling historical romance a try. It was a mistake. I disliked this book so much that I didn’t finish it. I was not sad at all to abandon it, and it was the only book that messed up my ink-and-paper list of books I read. I’m still a little miffed about that.
Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli: Don’t stone me! I heard good things about it from a fellow reading friend. I was skeptical, and I was right to feel that way. It just didn’t surprise me the way I hoped it would.
Angus, Thongs, and Full-Fr*ntal Snogging, by Louise Rennison: I heard such good things about this series. I think one of my best friends from middle school had read and enjoyed all the books. I found it too strange to be good, though. British humor is always touch-and-go. With this one, I touched on it, but I had to let it go.
That Summer, by Sarah Dessen: I saw How to Deal because I love Mandy Moore’s acting, so when I had the opportunity to read the two books that inspired the movie, I jumped on it. Unfortunately, like many readers, I found Someone Like You much more interesting than That Summer. Someone Like You is one of the few romances I have read and enjoyed. This one, not so much.
Five Four Books I Liked More Than I Thought I Would (a.k.a. Good Surprises)
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride: I was hesitant at first because, you know, it’s about raising the dead. I was really pleased, though. It was funny (as the title indicates), and I found it especially original for YA fantasy. I’m looking forward to the sequel.
The Chosen, by Chaim Potok: You would think that, as a religious person, I wouldn’t be so surprised to enjoy a book about religious people, but I was. I learned so much about Hasidic Judaism, and I found the relationships between the two boys and their fathers so fascinating. I tend to read a lot of books with female protagonists, so I enjoyed reading about men for a change. I initially read this because I inherited it as my students’ summer reading, but I’m so glad I did.
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins: A friend from college blogged about how much she loved them. Borders (back when it was still in business) sent me emails about the midnight release of Mockingjay, but I ignored them the way I ignored Twilight midnight releases. I’m so ashamed that it took me so long to read even the first one! The second two I’m less ashamed about; at least I was properly anxious to read them. I usually hate politics (a stance that working in religion only solidified), but I loved them here.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling: Are you surprised? I had read books about witches at boarding school before, and I really liked them. Nothing could have prepared me for Harry Potter. I got on board shortly before Goblet of Fire was released, and I am still a little astonished at how completely I fell into the fandom. I have a framed poster of the cover of the last book! I wear a Marauder’s Map lanyard at work every day! What book does that?
So, it seems that fantasy and dystopias delight me, but romances tend to be disappointing. Also the story of my life.
Apr 11 2013
What’s the last book that made you spring to your feet, eager to spread the word and tell everyone how much you enjoyed it?
I am delighted that I’ve had that reaction to more than one book. According to my Goodreads records, the last book that made me tell everyone was Unwind. It was so fantastic! The premise was compelling but not overdone, the future it described seemed unnervingly realistic, and it stood on its own even before I found out there were sequels. So many series have books were each volume is clearly incomplete by itself, even if it’s contributing to a larger story. Unwind felt more like Harry Potter than The Hunger Games—and that’s good.
If you want to read more of what I thought about the book, you can check out my review at Austin Catholic New Media. And then go read it! And tell me what you thought!
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