Wednesday, August 3, 2022

An Open Book: July 2022 Reads

I don't know about y'all, but July flew by over here! With the heat wave that slammed multiple states with seemingly neverending days of triple digit temperatures, I was quite happy to curl up inside with some good books! I mostly dove into nonfiction for the month of July, but a couple of classic children's novels found their way into the mix as well :) I'm linking up with An Open Book, so let's dive in! 

The Lost Art of Dying, by L. S. Dugdale

This approachable book explores big topics surrounding death, mostly from a secular perspective (though the author does address a couple of Christian perspectives, since Christianity has a lot to say on death and life). There were a lot of interesting areas the author covered, like the value of ritual and the importance of community-the statistics on people in apartments dying and only being discovered days later was super sad!-but a big takeaway from me was the importance of accepting death. The author talks about how medicalized death has become, and how many people die in hospitals instead of in the comfort of home. I thought this book was excellent, and I really enjoyed it. 

How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, by Thomas E Woods, Jr

This was a really interesting discussion of the pivotal role that the Catholic Church played in the development of Western Civilization. I was especially intrigued to read about the Church's role in developing the university system, law, and agriculture. The conclusion of the book felt unfinished and unresolved, though. The author basically talks about specific ways that the West has forgotten its heritage and is living without acknowledging God, but the author gives no kind of resolution or encouragement on how, in simple ways, we can regain what we as a society have lost. Also, some of the chapters felt really long to me (though they were interesting-perhaps my attention is just not what it should have been). Overall, though, I enjoyed this book! 

My Amish Childhood, by Jerry S. Eicher

This was an interesting memoir of a boy's childhood in Honduras, where his family (and several others) from an Amish community in America decided to live for several years. This book did not include as much about their belief system as I had hoped to read (it really intrigues me), but this was still an interesting, quick read. I was especially fascinated to see the ways in which the Amish people tried to live in a culture completely different from what they were used to. This book definitely put me in the mood to read more non-fiction books about the Amish, so hopefully I'll get to some in the next few months! 

Unschooled, by Kerry McDonald

This book has tons of interesting research and anecdotes (both from the author's experience and those she interviewed) that discuss the benefits of child-led education. I was particularly fascinated by the opening chapters of the book, which walked through the history of compulsory school in the United States, as well as the origins of compulsory curriculum. While I wasn't fully on board with everything in here (for example, the section on screens and computer technology was a bit more enthusiastic than my own views and values), most of this book had me nodding along and it was very convicting--and it was so nice to see someone else write about one of my personal soapboxes (the sad reality that, quite often, it's the rich kids who get to benefit from a more child-led education, whereas minorities and those from low-income families are stuck with whatever the free public school offers them). This book was a great read, and I recommend it to parents and non-parents alike! 

Strawberry Girl, by Lois Lenski

Written in the 1940s, this book is, from what I understand, from a group of "regional novels" that Lenski penned in order to depict the various experiences of childhood in America. While this story is fiction, the author notes that the people and events were inspired by the individuals she personally met as part of the research for this book. The story follows two families living in backwoods southern Florida: the rough-edged Slaters and the new-on-the-block Boyers. Told through the eyes of Birdie Boyer, a young girl, the novel reveals the contentious and brutal relationship that springs up as the Boyers try to make a life in their new home, only to find their plans thwarted by the often-drunk Mr. Slater. Through all the hardships, Birdie and her family try to persevere, and it's fascinating to see the ways in which they navigate difficult events and relationships. I enjoyed this novel, especially the vivid dialogue, which really makes the region and time period come to life. I look forward to reading other children's novels by Lois Lenski! 

The King of Confidence, by Miles Harvey

In the 1840s, Joseph Smith was murdered--and James Strang, an atheist-turned-Mormon-came out of nowhere with a letter (allegedly from Joseph Smith) which declared that he, Strang, was Smith's successor. Strang gathered a group of Mormons around him and ultimately moved with them to Beaver Island, in Lake Michigan, where he had himself crowned King of Earth and Heaven. This non-fiction book was an absolute delight to read! Strang's story is wild and colorful, and the author's writing style is really fun and engaging, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I also really like how the author placed the founding of the LDS church, and Strang's life, in the historical context of the Burned Over District (apparently in Western New York in the 1830s and 1840s, self-proclaimed prophets were quite common). If anyone knows Lin-Manuel Miranda, please ask him to read this book and adapt it as a musical-because I would honestly LOVE to see a stage production of James Strang's story! 

The Office BFFs, by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey 

This was a really fun light read, written in a conversational back-and-forth style between the authors. I especially enjoyed hearing their perspectives as women and as mothers working full-time in the entertainment industry. I don't really listen to the Office Ladies podcast much (I don't listen to podcasts often, in general) and I enjoyed learning the ladies' different stories! 

The Naked Communist, by W. Cleon Skousen (2017 edition)

Originally written in the late 1950s, this book dives deeply into the issue of Communism--its history and its presence in various countries. Reading this book filled me with a lot more understanding towards people during the Red Scare, because this book certainly gives the impression that Communism is everywhere! This particular edition includes a few sections that were written in the past couple of years, as an "update" to show how W. Cleon Skousen's original text has proven to be true over time...and while some of conclusions seemed a bit dramatic to me (they didn't seem to say anything negative about capitalism or the employment situation in America, for example) a lot of it was pretty sobering and seemed fairly accurate. This book took me a while to get through, but I'm definitely glad I read it! 

The White Stag, by Kate Seredy

In this short children's novel, Seredy illustrates the origin of Hungary by diving into the legends and mythology surrounding that country. Her writing style is beautiful and captures the intriguing tale of the Magyars and the Huns in a lyrical and poetic manner. I'd read one or two of Seredy's other books when I was a young girl, and I'm glad that I read this one! It also made me want to go back and read other books by Seredy :) 

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


  1. I've never heard of an Amish family living outside of an Amish community. (I live just on the other side of the Lancaster County, PA, border, so it's not uncommon for me to see Amish families out and about.) My husband, I thought, had something by W. Clean Skousen that he was reading, but I'm not sure if it's the same book. Sounds interesting though. Thanks for linking to An Open Book

    1. That's so neat that you live near the Lancaster area! It was really interesting to read about Amish families living outside of the typical communities in the U.S. where we normally see them.