Wednesday, December 2, 2020

An Open Book: November 2020 Reads

 Happy new liturgical year! Now that December has rolled around, I'm linking up with Carolyn Astfalk's An Open Book to talk about what I've been reading lately. In the month of November, I did not read as much as I typically would. I was making more time to dive into creative writing projects, we went on a big out-of-state trip, and my children all seemed to be clamoring for attention more than usual. So, not as many books, but there were some great fiction and non-fiction selections that I enjoyed! Let's dive in. 

Sir Percy Hits Back, by Baroness Orczy.

This novel follows Fleurette, a teenager who lives a very sheltered life in her French village. Cherished by her father (who often travels for work) and beloved by a young man, Amede, Fleurette is mostly oblivious to the horrors of the guillotine that is constantly at work in France. One day, a mysterious person speaks to Fleurette, and her simple act of obtaining the valuables of aristocrats who have been arrested causes Fleurette's life to become entangled in the drama of the Revolution. This is a great story revolving around the Scarlet Pimpernel, and I really enjoyed it.  

The Story of Doctor Dolittle, by Hugh Lofting and illustrated by Michael Hague.

John Dolittle, M.D., has a problem: when his medical patients don't want to come see him for care, since his pets are always underfoot. With the help of Polynesia, his parrot, Doctor Dolittle learns the language of animals and becomes a veterinarian. He receives word that there are many sick monkeys in Africa, so he--and some of his beloved pets--sail off to Africa to save the monkeys. Published in 1920, this classic children's story was so fun to read. This edition was tastefully revised (an incident with Prince Bumpo was reworked, and a couple of racial slurs omitted, from what I understand) by Patricia McKissack and Fredrick McKissack, in order to make it more accessible to modern readers (particularly children) and to honor the dignity of all people. The book still does merit discussion when given to children, since the editors did not "whitewash" the text, and this story can be a great conversation starter about our attitudes towards people of other races and cultures as well as our attitude towards the environment. This story was delightful, and I enjoyed it quite a bit! 

These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body, by Emily Stimpson.

One of my soapboxes about the Theology of the Body is that everyone seems to talk about TOB only in regard to sex and romantic relationships. Well, I was thrilled to find this book-a discussion about TOB that clearly shows how the Theology of the Body is not just about sex and marriage, but that it helps us see the dignity in each other, ourselves, and prepare for life with God in Heaven. This book is a collection of great, thoughtful essays about TOB in various areas of life, including manners, the Liturgy, and our relationship with food/eating. The essays draw heavily from JPII's audiences, which I really appreciate. I recommend it, especially for people who aren't extremely familiar with TOB-the author begins the book with a great introduction to TOB and the historical context of St. John Paul II's TOB audiences (modernism! Post-modernism!). 

Your  Blue Flame, by Jennifer Fulwiler.

In this book, comedian, former talk show radio host, and mom of 6 dives into the concept of one's "blue flame," which she briefly touched on in the book One Beautiful Dream. Drawing together examples from her life, some hands-on exercises, loads of encouragement, and a dose of humor, Fulwiler empowers us to discover our own passions and use those to bring light and life to ourselves and the world. I really enjoy her writing style and message, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I particularly like how she dives into the many different "blue flames" we can have throughout our life, and while I haven't done her "cocktail napkins exercise" yet, I intend to-and I think it will be helpful! I enjoyed this book a lot and recommend it! 

The Reed of God, by Caryll Houselander.

This classic has been on the edge of my radar for pretty much forever, but I kept putting it off. Then, out of the blue, Ave Maria Press mailed me a review copy, so I knew that I finally needed to read it. Originally written in the 1940s, this book contemplates the humanity of Mary, the mother of Christ. In this contemplation, it focuses in on the ways that we can seek Christ in our lives, and the ways in which we can draw close to Him and love others better. It's a short book, a simple book, and easy to read-yet, Houselander packs a powerful punch in each sentence. I honestly could sit with a paragraph for quite a long time as I ponder my own need for God's mercy, and how I can choose holiness in daily life. As I found myself underlining and bookmarking page after page, I wondered why I've put off reading this for so long. It was so good. This book is well worth reading, and I highly recommend it (review copy provided by the publisher). 

The Death of Ivan Ilyich, by Leo Tolstoy.

A novella/short story centered around the life and death of one man, Tolstoy's work delivers a powerful punch about mortality, death, and what really matters in life. Through a vivid description of the coworkers of Ivan Ilyich as they hear of his death, to the backstory that lays out Ivan's life and events leading to his death, this short work is thought-provoking and well worth reading.

Making Room for God, by Mary Elizabeth Sperry.

This short book helps the reader embark on a spiritual journey and a decluttering journey. Bolstered with stories from the author's life and some lovely snippets from Church fathers and Scripture, Sperry encourages the reader to draw closer to God and cultivate a more ordered home. She makes it clear that she still struggles with clutter, and makes her words relatable (although she speaks from the experience of someone who lives alone, not someone who has young children). While I have read decluttering books that I prefer to this one, I did appreciate the short sections on "spiritual hoarding" and the universal destination of goods. 

What We Carry, by Maya Shanbhag Lang.

In this memoir, the author walks through her own experience of being a mother and the process of coming to grips with her mother's Alzheimer's diagnosis. Short chapters and lots of back-and-forth between Lang's childhood, early motherhood, and current life make this book easy to read and engaging. Through Lang's stories, I really heard the call for solidarity for new moms "in the trenches." I also thought it was interesting to ponder the place that stories have in our lives-even stories that are not factually true. While I do not agree with all of the personal beliefs that the author presented, I appreciated reading this book, and I like how it showed the beauty of caring for someone with Alzheimer's while also making a strong case for knowing when to step aside and let others become caregivers. 

Thanks for joining me this month! Let me know if you have any recommendations, I am always adding to my library list :) 


  1. Impressed that Ave Maria sent you a press copy out of the blue!!!

    LOVED These Beautiful Bones!!! We did that as a book club a couple years ago. My fave chapter was the one on work/manual labor!

    1. It is so cool that your book club studied These Beautiful Bones! The work chapter was great. That book is so ripe for discussion and deep thought.

  2. I've been wanting to read These Beautiful Bones for so long! Reed of God has been on my radar too. And I think we'll have to read Doctor Doolittle aloud soon!

    1. I hope you are able to pick those up sometime! I think you would enjoy all of them.