It’s summer! That means more time to read, and I had quite a variety in my reading material this month. Some old favorites, some recommended by friends, and one that I’ve been working on for four months. Whoops.
- Dead Letters, Caite Dolan-Leach, fiction
This was crazy, but I really enjoyed it. Ava is living in Paris when she finds out about her twin sister Zelda’s death. She goes home to New York to be with her family and begins receiving letters from Zelda with clues about what’s really going on. It kept me interested the whole time, although all of the characters can be frustrating. There’s something going on with the writing that I didn’t catch until way later than I should have – if you read it I’d love to hear if you notice!
- One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp, Christian life
This reads like a mix between a memoir and a very long poem. I loved the first few pages, but it was wearying to read her style for a whole book. Her message is one of thankfulness and gratitude, and I appreciate what she is communicating. I was inspired to start my own gratitude journal and begin counting my blessings intentionally. I wish she would have written a collection of poems rather than a book. I’m all for breaking grammar rules to make a point or draw attention, but some of her stylistic choices drove me crazy.
- Anne of Avonlea, L. M. Montgomery, fiction
I LOVE the Anne of Green Gables series. So much. My grandma traveled to Prince Edward Island when I was little, and she brought me back the full set of 8 books as a gift. I’ve read them countless times since then and they’re all starting to fall apart because they’ve been so well loved. Anne of Avonlea is the second book in the series. I read this as a reward for making it through One Thousand Gifts. Even though I have many parts nearly memorized, I still found myself laughing out loud at some of my favorite stories and making David read some pages. Reading these books always makes me want to live in the country and take a walk in the woods, or perhaps go on vacation to PEI and see it all for myself.
- The Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L’Engle, Madeleine L’Engle, poetry
David has been all about the Wrinkle in Time series lately. He just bought copies of all 5 books for our bookshelves and is in the process of rereading them. Another friend of mine recommended Madeleine L’Engle’s nonfiction, and I couldn’t find that at the library, so I decided to try this collection of her poetry. I should mention that I generally tend to like poetry much better in Spanish than in English, so I did not have high expectations. Most of these poems are about God, and many are from the point of view of a biblical character. I enjoyed some of them quite a lot. This was one of my favorites, a part taken from the poem Come, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come:
Come, thou wholly other, come,
Who came to man by being man.
Come, Lord Jesus, at the end,
Times end, my end, forever’s start.
Come in your flaming, burning power.
Time, like the temple veil, now rend;
Come, shatter every human hour.
Come, Lord Jesus, at the end.
Break, then mend the waiting heart.
- Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation, James K. A. Smith, theology/culture
I’ve been reading this book since February. Oops. David read it several years ago and has been talking about it ever since. The basic premise is that humans are not primarily “thinking things” but rather lovers, and our actions come out of our ultimate loves and desires. The point of this book is to expound on that point, illustrate how Christian higher education should look different based on that understanding, and how we can form (rather than inform) students to love and pursue the Kingdom of God instead of alternate kingdoms. As an educator, I found the idea compelling. Our faculty at school read through part of his book You Are What You Love, which is essentially the same book although with an intended audience of laypeople, while Desiring the Kingdom was written primarily for people who work in Christian higher education. You Are What You Love was honestly way more difficult for me to follow than Desiring the Kingdom – I think he chose the wrong things to simplify. His ideas aren’t difficult to understand, and any terms I came across in this book that I didn’t understand, he explained them. Usually multiple times. I’m not sure why You Are What You Love was necessary, truthfully. Although I really agreed much of what he wrote, I found myself wanting more concrete examples of what this would look like in education, particularly K-12. That wasn’t the point of the book, but the practical side in me wants to know how I could implement these ideas in the real world.
- The Heretic’s Daughter, Kathleen Kent, historical fiction
I saw this while browsing Half Price Books and was interested because it’s written by a woman who lives in Dallas about her ancestors. She is descended from Martha Carrier, one of the women who was executed during the Salem Witch Trials. I’m glad I decided to get it from the library instead of buying it, because I don’t think I’ll ever read it again. It was interesting, but not as emotionally gripping as I thought it would be. There was little to no redemption for any of the characters. I closed it feeling pretty melancholy.
- Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, Tish Harrison Warren, theology/Christian life
I love everything about this book. It was given to me by an amazing mom at my school, so I knew I would love it and it has been patiently waiting for me on my shelf for a few months. She takes ordinary, mundane daily activities and discusses what is really going on in each of them and how she is being formed by them. Everything we do has significance, down to brushing our teeth. This is very much along the same lines as James K. A. Smith’s ideas in Desiring the Kingdom, but written by a priest (Warren is an Anglican priest in Austin!) instead of a philosopher. I loved the conversational tone, concrete examples, and the challenge to examine my own daily practices and dig into them a bit. I read it over the course of one afternoon, so I will probably go back through more slowly and try some of her suggested practices. I want to be friends with Tish Warren and also get a copy of this book to all my friends.
- Anne of the Island, L. M. Montgomery, fiction
This is the third book in the Anne series. I decided to continue my trip down memory lane this month after reading Anne of Avonlea. This book covers Anne’s college years. I love the stories about her times in Patty’s Place with her friends, and it made me a little nostalgic for my own college years with my best friends as roommates. Also, it’s at the end of this book that Anne and Gilbert finally get engaged, so that’s always fun to read.
- Hannah Coulter, Wendell Berry, fiction
This was my first Wendell Berry novel, lent to me by a friend. The title character is also the narrator, and it’s essentially an autobiography. The whole book is just Hannah telling the story of her life, from growing up poor to losing her first husband in the war to her relationships with her grandchildren. It’s pastoral and manages to still be serene while describing a life full of everyday heartaches. The whole thing feels a bit like a lament for times gone by and the loss of farms that were meant to be passed down to willing heirs. I can see the appeal and understand why Wendell Berry is well-loved, but it isn’t something I would read again or was particularly enchanted by.
Reading Challenge Progress: 45/50 books completed.