Wednesday, March 2, 2022

An Open Book: February 2022 Reads

Happy Ash Wednesday! This penitential start to Lent also happens to coincide with the latest edition of Carolyn Astfalk's An Open Book-so I'm linking up to discuss the books that brought me through the wild days of February! (a month that included sunshiny spring weather in the 60s and an ice storm that kept us housebound for half a week) The month included both fiction and non-fiction, and it was a fun mix of books. Let's dive in! 

The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway

This is the beautiful saga of an old fisherman in Cuba who sets out with the hope of catching a big fish. That's the extent of the plot; the man goes out to fish and then returns home, all within the span of a few days. However, in the deeply reflective character of the old man (and the boy who assists and learns from him at times) is a rich story of love, loss, community, and our relationship with nature. I really enjoyed this novel; the prose was beautiful, and the descriptions were fantastic--and the book was short, so very easy to pick up and read! 

The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life, by Edith Eger

In this book, Eger provides simple, practical ways to work through our fears, anger, and other challenges as we seek greater healing and freedom. She draws from her own life experiences as a Holocaust survivor a little bit, but mostly seems to pull from stories of working with her clients. This book was a pretty quick read, fairly short, and some of the advice I already knew from my own experiences in therapy or from her first book, The Choice, but it was still a good read, nonetheless. However, I much prefer The Choice and definitely recommend that one over this one. 

Reclaiming Vatican Two, by Fr. Blake Britton

In this upbeat, approachable book, Fr. Britton takes the reader on a journey through some controversies surrounding the Second Vatican Council, and through some of the major documents themselves. Along the way, he brings in lots of Scripture, quotations from Church fathers, and his own personal stories. I've read some Vatican II documents (and excerpts of others), and I think this book will be hugely helpful for me as I read more of the major documents from that council! I love how he tackles big topics with enthusiasm and joy and makes it simple for an "everyday Catholic" like myself to dive into Vatican II. All that being said, however: initially, I was a bit skeptical of this book. I felt a bit frustrated when a few times in the first several pages, Fr. Britton makes some sweeping general statements about "traditionalists" that, I think, were quite unnecessary. His desire for unity is apparent in this book, but some of the things he said in the beginning could be a big turnoff for some people. Once I pushed through those few parts, I absolutely loved the book, though! 

Molchanie: The Silence of God, by Catherine Doherty

This book is part of Doherty's six-part series begun with Poustinia, and in it, she reflects on how the journey of poustinia, poverty, and unity led her to experience the life-changing silence and solitude of God. This book is really hard to pin down; it is part poetry and part prose reflection (all of which were very poetic), and it's unclear whether some of her reflections were visions she had or imaginative prayer experiences. Even though it's a small book, I found this was best taken slowly as I savored Doherty's words on unity, prayer, and suffering. Some of them went far above me, since she was a woman of very deep prayer, but I underlined a lot and there were many reflections in here that really prompted me to deeper prayer and realization of my own shortcomings and places where I can grow. This is a beautiful, powerful book, but I only really recommend it for people who have already experienced Doherty's other books and are up for something a bit different and poetic. 

Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart

This is a super fun historical fiction novel set in early twentieth century New Jersey. It follows three sisters who live by themselves on a farm outside of a small town in New Jersey. One day, they have a run-in with some thugs who crash into their buggy in town--and Constance (one of the sisters) decides that she will not rest until they have been compensated for damages. This book is based on the real-life adventures of Constance Kopp, the first female deputy sheriff in the U.S. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I like how it is grounded with a lot of true historical details from the Kopp sisters' life while still being an upbeat novel (due to the limited information available, parts of the book are heavily fictionalized).  

Lady Cop Makes Trouble, by Amy Stewart (book 2)

Picking up Constance Kopp's story after the close of the first book in the series, this installment continues to follow Constance's adventures as a deputy. Clouding all of her experiences in this book is Constance's stress at being informed that, despite her capability, she will no longer be allowed to act as a deputy. Relegated to the role of "jail matron," she tries to find a way to prove herself--and then makes a mistake that puts both her career and the sheriff's in jeopardy. I thought this book was just as much fun as the first one, and I really enjoyed it! 

Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions, by Amy Steward (book 3)

This installment centers around Constance's work with "wayward girls"--those women who have been arrested for alleged or legitimate immorality. Constance embarks on campaigns to help these women, while simultaneously, Fleurette-the youngest Kopp girl--spins wild dreams about running off to become a showgirl. While I thought the historical focus on "wayward girls" was fascinating, and while it was fun to see different characters developed in various ways, I had a major problem with the narration of this book. The first two books were both told from Constance's perspective, in first-person. This book, however, is told from third person and the POV switches from character to character throughout the story. I still enjoyed the story, but the first two books were noticeably better than this one. 

The Story of Civilization, Volume 1: The Ancient World, by Phillip Campbell

Many people I know use either Story of the World or Story of Civilization to teach their children history, and I've heard pros and cons to each curriculum. So, I've decided to read books from each set to see what I'd like to begin using with my own children. In this volume, Campbell walks through major civilizations of the ancient world, providing lots of historical information and facts that give a strong picture of daily life, as well as important developments and figures. Periodically, he'll interject a short fiction (or true story, or legend, in narrative form) scene to really bring the subject matter to life. A definite benefit to this book is that Campbell, as a Catholic, brings in the story of the Israelites early on, and towards the end of the book, has some chapters about the life of Christ and early Church history. This book seemed to pack in a lot of information, which is great, but it also seemed like a lot at times...probably because people are supposed to use this book over the course of several months, instead of reading it in the week that I spent with it haha! I'm considering using this text as a read-aloud with my kids (maybe next year?), and if I do so I'll probably edit out some of the gory details (because even before you get to Christian persecutions, there's so much violence and bloodshed in the ancient world). I'm looking forward to reading more in this series, and also to see how it compares and contrasts to SotW

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


  1. I read The Old Man and the Sea so long ago - and more than once! But I really need to re-read it. I'm curious to see what I get out of it at this stage in my life. And it is a short books, which makes it easy to pick up! Thanks for linking to An Open Book,

    1. I bet Hemingway's book would be fascinating to go back to at a different stage in life. I love that about many of the classic novels-that I can keep coming back to them throughout life and always be struck by something new or different because even if the text of the book hasn't changed, I have changed.

  2. These all sound so interesting! Always so impressed with your varied genres and expansive list! I am currently reading “All Creatures Great and Small” by James Herriot. Not my usual type of reading but its really good!

    1. That's so neat! I think I read a book by Herriot once upon a time, but I should probably dive back into him as some point. Have you seen the show (I think it's on PBS)? I haven't yet watched it, but I've seen a preview and it looks good.

    2. I also saw the preview and it looks good!!

  3. Your bookshelf has the most interesting variety! Oh man, I am hesitant with a lot of books on Vatican II because of such strong biases authors have. Good for you pushing through that. Love hearing about the fiction too, I really need some new fiction!