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.
Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green
John Green has a strange penchant for writing in the first person perspective of teenage girls. He does a fine job at it, but I still find it a little strange. In general, I have noticed that in his books there is an overall lack of adult characters, and the adults that are there tend to be pretty ineffectual to the story. I suppose that this isn’t very uncommon in YA literature, but it’s still as strange to me as Green’s proclivity to write as a teenage girl. Maybe I am just getting too old for the genre. In this particular book, Green gives an interesting look at the inside of mental illness, which is an important perspective for those who have never experienced it. It’s an uncomfortable book to read at times, because Aza’s mind is meant to be an uncomfortable place to live. I appreciated the relationship between Aza and her best friend Daisy, because it was messy but genuine. However, I found the book overall to be a little lackluster.
Edith Stein: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, by Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda
I feel as if I found a kindred soul in Edith Stein/St. Teresa Benedicta, even though our lives are so very different. Born and raised Jewish at the beginning of the 20th century, she eventually converted to Catholicism, subsequently became a Carmelite nun, and was eventually killed, along with one of her sisters, in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. It was not exactly light reading. However, in the years before the Holocaust was in full force, Edith was an academic and a philosopher, a prolific writer, and independent woman who lived life on her own terms, and all this in Germany in the early 20th century. Even after her conversion, which was devastating to her family, she was a devoted daughter, sister, and aunt, keeping in regularly correspondence, especially with her nieces and nephews, even after she was cloistered. Her academic work and devotion to her family spoke particularly to my heart, but I most admire her steadfast pursuit of Truth. I enjoyed this biography a great deal for how succinctly it was written and for how neatly it interwove Edith’s personal history with the events that led up to World War II. Hitler was only two years older than Edith, and so their lives are occasionally presented side-by-side. The book also does a good job of describing the circumstances of German Jews even before the World Wars, which was incredibly helpful and enlightening.
Middlemarch, by George Eliot
I was assigned to read this once in college, and I think I only got halfway through it before giving up. I am now ashamed of my younger self, because I LOVED it this time through. By the last half of the book, when I was really invested in the characters, I could hardly put it down. I now have to admit the George Eliot is actually a better writer than even my beloved Jane Austen, who was writing about fifty years before Eliot (George Eliot was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans). For one thing, Eliot’s male characters are as well developed as her female characters. This book is an excellent look at different marriages and relationships, and the necessity of compromising and occasionally submitting to others. I feel like I learned a great deal from a writing perspective, as well; such as how to really bring life and reality to characters, giving them flaws, creating misunderstandings, etc. I have a lot of opinions about the different characters, but I’ll save those for others who have read the book.
Doors in the Walls of the World: Signs of Transcendence in the Human Story, by Peter Kreeft
I absolutely loved this book, but I don’t actually know how to describe it or articulate what I loved about it, except to say that it spoke Truth directly to my heart. It’s a philosophy book, talking about all the different ways we can experience transcendence in this world, and Kreeft’s writing style is delightful to read. For a philosopher, he is fairly easy to comprehend, and he makes a lot of references to the Lord of the Rings. Right before this, I attempted to read a book about existentialism that a friend had loaned me, and I only got about twenty pages into that one before I wanted to throw the book at a wall. Kreeft’s book was the perfect remedy for my brain (and soul) after that. Highly recommend.
Guardians of Ga’Hoole: The Capture, by Kathryn Lasky
This was a delightful fantasy book for young readers; well-written and enjoyable, dealing with the fight between good and evil. Similar to the animal-populated Redwall books, all the characters in this book are owls, and all the information on the animals is well-researched, highly educational, and interwoven beautifully into the narrative. The main characters are clever, kind, and brave, and there is an excellent balance of male and female characters throughout the book. This was only the first book in the series, and I think there are eighteen total. And man, you will learn a lot about owls.
Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within, by Taylor R. Marshall
A very important book for our times. I was very impressed with Marshall’s level-headed presentation of facts of what still ends up being a very disturbing narrative, covering what has been going on in the Catholic Church for the last 150 years. All of the information is backed up by documents or interviews that Marshall conducted himself, and all of his sources are listed in the back of the book. A lot of the information, especially concerning Vatican II and the popes during that era, is very important because it’s a different side of the official narrative that we are usually fed. Marshall’s balanced and straightforward writing allows one to see the good and the bad that has come out of the pontificates of the last century, and there is a great deal of both that most Catholics (never mind the rest of the world) probably aren’t even aware of and which effects everything about our faith and how we practice it. And even as Marshall exposes the ugly underbelly of those in power in the Church right now, he still emphasizes the respect and obedience that is due to the pope, regardless who is currently sitting on the Chair of St. Peter. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit is still the one in control.
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