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.
C.S. Lewis: A Very Short Introduction, by James Como
This is a really great overview of C.S. Lewis, his life and works. I’ve read the majority of Lewis’ own work at this point, but definitely gained some new insights from Como’s explanations. Notably, I have a better understanding of Til We Have Faces, one of Lewis’ novels that he wrote later in life and that is somewhat of a departure from his other work. I read Til We Have Faces for the first time a few years ago and really enjoyed it, but couldn’t really say that I understood it very much at the time, so Como’s overview of that work was very helpful. Even being as familiar with Lewis as I am, I still very much enjoyed this Very Short Introduction.
The Geometry of Love: Space, Time, Mystery and Meaning in an Ordinary Church, by Margaret Visser
This was not a quick read, but it was very moving and powerful. It is basically a long meditation on the meaning of a church as a building, the meaning of the universal Church as well. There is a wonderful amount of Church history, as well as catechesis on the beliefs of the Catholic faith. The many descriptions of art and the architecture of churches and the symbolism behind it all is an excellent explanation of why having beautiful churches and Christian art is so important to our faith. We are material creatures and God gave us our senses for a reason. We need tangible things that can help point us to God’s higher truths. We were given an appreciation of beauty as a way of drawing us closer to Him. By engaging our senses, a beautiful and well-designed church can bring us deeper into the mysteries of our faith.
Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, by Richard A. Swenson
This book is a great look at the toxic overload that our society is suffering from these days. We are all constantly overstimulated and overworked and it has taken serious tolls on our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Swenson’s prescriptions to combat this lack of margin in our lives are all concepts that I already knew and try to implement, but that didn’t make the book any less poignant for me. Rest, simplicity, good nutrition, quality sleep, focusing on actual relationships rather than the acquisition of things and experiences. I also appreciate that without being marketed as a spiritual book, Swenson is always drawing from his faith and our relationship to God, for this is how we know the proper way to order things. It’s never preachy or in your face, but Swenson clearly has a deep faith that is very refreshing. This book fits in along the lines of some of my other favorites, The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart and In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore.
Between Heaven and Hell, by Peter Kreeft
This was a wonderful and quick read, mostly due to it’s dialogue format. It’s also a brilliant example of Christian apologetics and how debates are actually supposed to work. Kreeft is an excellent writer and is steeped in these topics. The book is basically a Socratic dialogue between C.S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley, and JFK, all of whom died on the exact same day, and it takes place immediately following their entry to the afterlife, when they don’t quite know where they are or where they are going. They then enter into a series of debates about God and what each of them believes. This book really highlighted for me how our culture has lost the ability to discuss things that matter. We are terrified to offend, and are so easily offended ourselves. We are afraid to go deep, and so all of our conversations are kept shallow and we have lost the ability to explore big ideas and examine what we really think about things. Bless Peter Kreeft for giving us an example of courteous modern dialogue.
The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien
I swear that every time I read Tolkien, I end up loving it all even more. And I think that as my own faith and knowledge of the Catholic Church has deepened, my appreciation for Tolkien’s thought and love of the True and the Beautiful has also increased. Here are some of my random thoughts on this re-reading of The Fellowship: Boromir is a total punk. There really is not a lot of depth to his character at this stage of the story, maybe we become more sympathetic to him after we meet Faramir? Sean Bean should really be praised for bringing so much nuance to the character in Peter Jackson’s movies. Other thoughts: I love Frodo, but not as much as I love Bilbo in The Hobbit. Aragorn is perfect and wonderful. There are so many significant and great characters that did not make it into the movies, which I understand but it is still a shame. Fatty Bolger, Glorfindol, and of course Bill the Pony. Though Bill does get a cameo in the extended edition.
The Tyrannosaur Chronicles: The Biology of the Tyrant Dinosaurs, by David Hone
Another great dinosaur book. A lot of the information in this one was pretty dense, but I still really enjoyed it. Reading these more detailed books is great because I feel more immersed in the paleontology world, and it also gives me a better appreciation for all of the things that paleontologists don’t know and probably never will. There is just so much time covered by the earth’s history and in order to preserve any of it conditions had to be exactly right. There could be, and probably were, whole species that we will never even know existed simply because they did not live in the right area with the conditions needed for preservation. Tyrannosaurs are probably the most studied dinosaur species and yet there is still so much that is unknown about them. I feel paleontology is actually a very humbling science, because we will never be able to know all there is to know.