Wednesday, December 1, 2021

An Open Book: November 2021 Reads

Happy Advent! Another month is here, so it's time to join An Open Book to chat literature! I wound up reading three books last month (one of them took quite a while as I slowly munched on it), and they were all incredibly interesting in different ways-a novel, a spiritual reading classic, and a non-fiction book about education. Let's dive in! 

Hide Me Among the Graves, by Tim Powers

Creepy, suspenseful, and gripping, this fantasy novel deftly explores the attraction of evil--and the devastating effects it has on our lives. Set in 19th century England, this story follows the young Christina Rossetti as she-not realizing the full implications of her actions-smudges her blood on a statue before putting it under her pillow. What follows is a dark, horrific tale of vampires, ghosts, poets, occultism, and sacrifice. There were moments when it was painful and I wanted to yell at the characters "DON'T DO IT! NO MORE SEANCES! GET A PRIEST!" because, inevitably, inviting evil in just one time would lead to more and more, in a terrifying spiral. I'd never read Powers before, and I really enjoyed this book (although I did skim through a couple scenes that were just a bit too intense for my taste), especially because the story centered so much on poets that I read and enjoyed in college! Apparently, it's a sequel (though I was able to follow the story), so I guess I'll have to read The Stress of Her Regard at some point. 

Unseen Warfare, by Lorenzo Scupoli, edited by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, and revised by Theophan the Recluse

This spiritual classic is full of wisdom about how we can pursue holiness and virtue in our lives. This edition has a fascinating history; originally penned by a Roman Catholic priest in the post-Reformation period, it was later picked up by a Greek Orthodox monk, who edited and brought his unique Eastern perspective to it, and then it was revised by a Russian Orthodox Bishop. I really loved the interplay between these different perspectives, and the introduction to the book has some great thoughts on this as well (and it provides a good overview of Eastern Christian theological perspective). Even though I am not exactly the target audience for this book (since I'm not a monk), I LOVED IT. It was so, so good, and I wound up highlighting a ton and spending most of the month slowly going through it. I highly recommend it! 

How Children Learn, by John Holt (50th anniversary edition)

Drawing from numerous observations of small children, Holt reflects on the natural love of learning that children have, and the various ways in which they learn. He discusses problems within the educational system of his time, and looks for ways that classrooms can become more child-centered to nurture a love of discovery. In the edition I read, he also included some notes with further reflections on what he wrote in the original book. I wound up nodding my head through this entire book. Some of the observations in here are things I myself have witnessed in my own children, some of the ideas really gave voice to what I think about the education system, and some of his ideas seemed revelatory to me-I had never thought about the harm that our constant probing and correcting of children can do, but his explanations made a lot of sense. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it, especially to people who interact with small children in personal or professional settings. 

Thanks for joining me this month! If you have any recommendations, please drop them in the comments!


  1. Thanks for linking to An Open Book! I need to give Tim Powers another try. I tried one of his many years ago, and it didn't grab me. This one sounds pretty gripping.

    1. Thanks for hosting! I was definitely grabbed by the Tim Powers book; I think it definitely helped that I had read the Victorian poets in college long ago, so it was very fun to encounter them again :)