Please note: I have intentionally decided not to include Amazon links (unless something is available exclusively on Amazon). Instead, if you are interested in reading any of the books I mention, I encourage you to check out your local library or independent bookstore. These places (and the communities around them) need your support, and they are generally quite willing to order any book if they don’t currently have it in stock. However, if Amazon is still the more practical choice for you, it is easy enough to search and find any of the titles that I mention.
Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis
When I was re-reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I found some of Lewis’ writing surprisingly stilted and a little awkward, though I still very much enjoyed the story. Thankfully, he seems to have hit a better stride when he got to Prince Caspian. The prose is much smoother and engaging and the characters are more dynamic, especially Lucy and Edmund. The secondary characters in this book are actually some of my favorite, namely Trumpkin the Dwarf and Reepicheep the Mouse.
Why Dinosaurs Matter, by Kenneth Lacovara
I actually just read this book back in November, but even re-reading so soon it still proved fascinating. The first time I went through it very quickly, and so needed to go through it again a bit more slowly so that I could take notes and underline some of the more significant passages. This little book is actually a great introduction to the world of dinosaurs and paleontology. Lacovara is a skilled writer and storyteller as well as an accomplished paleontologist. He was also the one who discovered the current largest known dinosaur, the Dreadnoughtus. Some of the great things I learned from this book: all modern birds are actually dinosaurs (which makes it that much more entertaining to watch my chickens run around the yard), the tiny little arms of the T. Rex are actually what allowed them to evolve their powerful jaw muscles which made them practically unchallenged, and the concept of Deep Time and how old our earth actually is, which kind of makes one’s head spin. I honestly don’t understand how anyone sees a conflict between faith and science, because the more I learn about science the more I am just in awe of God’s work and the mysteries of the universe.
Food Freedom Forever, by Melissa Hartwig
I have a serious love for Melissa Hartwig these days. Her approach to food and health is very down-to-earth, practical, and sensible. She is also very aware of all the mental and emotional complications that arise around the topic of food, and she treats the entire subject with great compassion and understanding. One of the important takeaways from this book, in my opinion, is that there shouldn’t be any kind of morality judgement based on what we are eating. Having some pizza and beer does not make you a bad person, and eating a salad does not make you anymore virtuous. Food is meant to nourish and sustain our bodies, but there is also no reason to take for granted its ability to give comfort and pleasure, as well. The beauty of Melissa Hartwig’s philosophy, which is behind the Whole30 plan, is that once you learn how your individual body reacts to different foods then you can make informed decisions about how you want to eat instead of just chasing the latest food trend and diet. I highly recommend this book.
Mother Teresa, by Kathryn Spink
This was the perfect Lenten reading for me this year. I already had a strong draw and fascination with St. Teresa (aka, Mother Teresa or St. Teresa of Calcutta), but reading more in depth about her life and ministry has really solidified my attachment and admiration of her. What I love the most about her are the examples of humility, obedience, simplicity, and her devout love for every human life. She wasn’t interested in being an “activist” or in starting a big movement to change the world; she just wanted to love and care for as many individual people as she could, simply because they are people and each are made in God’s image and likeness. I also love her insistence that all of their work be done with joy and love, which I think is a very important aspect of any ministry. Our fallen human nature can make it too easy to go about our lives begrudging and downcast, especially if circumstances are hard, and yet the act of a simple smile can make such a difference. I remember well from my days of working in retail that just the act of smiling at someone and showing them some genuine kindness and understanding could really change their day. St. Teresa knew the truth of this and emphasized it constantly to the sisters in her order; that they weren’t there to just physically help the Poorest of the Poor but to also show them Christ’s love and mercy on earth.
Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace, by Scott Hahn
I love all of Dr. Hahn’s books, and this one was no exception. This book provides a basic overview and Dr. Hahn’s own experience with the work of Opus Dei, an institution of the Roman Catholic Church which teaches that everyone is called to holiness and that ordinary life is a path to sanctity. Opus Dei (Latin for “Work of God”) was founded by St. Josemaría Escrivá, who also happens to be one of my favorite saints. Like others such as St. Thérèse the Little Flower and St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Josemaría taught that we can glorify God by offering Him our mundane, everyday activities by doing those activities with great love and dedication. By caring for your family, applying yourself with dedication and integrity at your job, being a good friend and family member, all of these things can sanctify our lives and lead us and those around us closer to God, who is Love.
12 Rules for Life, by Jordan B. Peterson
I would really need a whole separate blog post to unpack how amazing this book is, and there is a good chance that blog post will happen eventually. For now, I will just say that everyone should read this book. Peterson is a practicing clinical psychologist and professor in Toronto, he is also extremely well-read in literature and philosophy, and so has a great deal of knowledge and practical experience to inform his thoughts and opinions. This book is written more as a philosophical treatise than as a modern self-help book, and yet Peterson also writes with enough wit and personal examples that one is never bored. His 12 “rules” are really quite brilliant and also just down-to-earth and common sense. I’m already planning to re-read this book sooner rather than later so that I can dig into it even deeper, because he also uses a great many examples from literature, philosophy, and biblical stories that ended up contributing to my future reading list, as well. I highly recommend this book to everyone.