Wednesday, January 4, 2023

An Open Book: December 2022 Reads

 Welcome to 2023, everyone! I'm joining An Open Book to look back on the books that I ended the year 2022 with. It's a great mix of fiction and non-fiction, so let's dive in! 



Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village, by Maureen Johnson and Jay Cooper

This is a really silly, macabre book with short one-liners to prepare anyone who plans to visit an English Murder Village. It includes helpful advice like "stay low. They can't throw you off the balcony if you never go up there." A couple of the cartoonish pictures were a bit on the inappropriate side, but overall, this was a fun super-quick (you can easily read it in less than an hour) read! My biggest complaint is that it was so short. I would have liked it to be a little beefier and more substantial (more of the quizzes about "which option do you pick in this situation?" would have been delightful), but for what it was, it was an enjoyable book. 


REREAD: Perelandra, by C. S. Lewis

In this second book of the Space Trilogy, Dr. Ransom journeys to Perelandra, a peaceful, innocent planet. However, a force of evil comes as well, seeking to bring chaos and darkness. It's basically an occasion of the devil tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the book is beautifully written. I first read this book when I was in college, but I've been wanting to read it again, and I'm glad I did! It was really good. However, in all honesty, parts of the book were a little slow-going for me-this story is a very methodical reflection on good and evil, which is great--it just means I need to be at the top of my game to really let it soak in. Still, it's a great read and one that I hope to get back to eventually-if anything, because I love Lewis' depictions of good and evil and his reflections on God and eternity!


Into the Deep, by Abigail Favale

In this memoir, Favale details her journey from an Evangelical childhood to her years as a postmodern, liberal feminist, to her unlikely conversion to Catholicism. She is a gorgeous writer, and I loved this book. One of my favorite parts about this book is Favale's emphasis on the fact that her actual interior conversion began AFTER she became Catholic. I also was giddy to see her discuss why we shouldn't create God in our own image (specifically regarding her former practice of rewriting prayers to talk about God the Mother). I flew through this approachable book; she writes in a very conversational style and simply shares her journey (while she includes a couple of footnotes, this is very much a memoir and not a scholarly text). 


Marmee, by Sarah Miller

Written as the diary of Marmee, the beloved mother of the March sisters in Little Women, this book was a delight. It was fun to see Marmee's side of the story, especially when her days had a different focus from what we hear in Little Women (working in supply/relief rooms, attending to her sick husband). It's a very intimate look at Marmee and for the most part, was very true to Little Women. A couple parts did seem a little too 21st century for me, but the author of this book did a lot of research on the Alcott family and drew heavily from Louisa May Alcott's mom when creating this book, which I think is cool. 


Not Without Parables, by Catherine Doherty

Doherty shares a collection of stories that she was told by various pilgrims over the years, a section of stories from her work in the Madonna House Apostolate, and a section of stories that she created herself and told to a monk as he lay sick. These stories showed the beautiful power of God and prayer. In particular, some of the "how stories" (the ones Doherty wrote) hit me with a gut-punch. This is a beautiful book to read and pray with! 


Address Unknown, by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor

Published in 1938, this short novel is a set of fictional letters between two friends: one a Jewish art dealer in California, and his former business partner who just moved home to Germany. Through the letters of these two men, we get a glimpse of how Hitler and his ideologies grabbed hold of so many people. This book was a very quick read, but really, really good and I highly recommend it. It's baffling to me that I hadn't heard of it until recently (when I have read loads of fiction and non-fiction about World War II), and it is unsettling how timeless this book is--some of these letters easily could be talking about life right now. 


REREAD: Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry

When one of my kids was lying on the couch sick, I started reading this aloud to soothe him. He fell asleep as I read it, but I kept going because I wanted to re-read it myself! I read this book countless times as a kid and I still really enjoy it. It follows a young boy and girl as they work and hope and dream about buying a pony of their own at the annual Pony Penning Day festivities (when wild ponies are herded from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island). It's a delightful, heartwarming story, and a lot of fun to revisit. 


The Pursuit of the Pilfered Cheese, by Haley Stewart

This children's chapter book explores the adventures of a community of mice that live under the floorboards of G. K. Chesterton's house. In this tale, the mice have decided to host a fundraising festival to pay for a new roof after the Chesterton's cat attacks one of the mouse-children. However, the prize cheese that was donated is stolen! Two of the mouse nuns and their students embark on an adventure to catch the thief, find the cheese, and restore it to the festival. This was a really fun story, and the illustrations were absolutely delightful. I enjoyed reading this, and then I read it aloud to one of my children. I'm looking forward to reading the next one in the series! 


The Girl with All the Gifts, by M. R. Carey

Melanie is a ten-year-old girl who, each day, is visited in her cell by guards. The guards strap her in a wheelchair and take her to a classroom, where she sits for academic lessons with several other children.  Slowly, through the perspective of the different characters, we learn about the children, about this facility, and about the world of the story. This is a gripping zombie apocalypse novel that I devoured (no pun intended). The language was a bit too filthy for me, but the story and characters were fascinating. I do think that the writing style fit the protagonist's voice best; it didn't work as well with the other characters in my opinion. I'm not sure if I'd re-read this one or not, but I did really enjoy reading it (I loved some of the questions it brought up) and it was a great way to power through a crazy week of caring for sick kids ;) 


Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Mangement, by Isabella Beeton (Skyhorse 2020 abridged edition)

Published in 1861, this manual for the domestic sphere was upheld by both middle-class individuals and domestic workers as the authority on a variety of topics. There were chapters on hiring servants, hosting dinner parties, and childrearing. There were also several recipes that were very interesting to read. Some of the information is obviously not worth following (giving laudanum to kids) but there were also chunks of advice that seem very relevant to 21st century living (cultivate a loving atmosphere in your home so that your kids will actually like spending time there, instead of running off and doing irresponsible things). I unknowing got the abridged edition, so I'd be interested to know what other information the full version includes. This was a fascinating look at life in the Victorian period! 


Heaven: The Heart's Deepest Longing, by Peter Kreeft

With logic and clarity, Kreeft philosophizes about the ways that we all naturally have a longing for Heaven. Touching on various religious belief systems, he compares and contrasts them with Judeo-Christian thought, and ponders how Christian teaching on Heaven captures what we are made for--Who we are made for. He also talks about Heaven itself, how "Earth is Heaven's womb," and questions or misgivings we may have about eternity and Heaven. His discussions include thoughts from various philosophers and there's also a heavy dose of C. S. Lewis. I particularly appreciate Kreeft's emphasis on joy and humor. This book was really excellent, but admittedly I had a tough time getting into it (probably due to it being rather philosophical and December being a very full month for me in various ways). Still, I'm grateful that I read it, and I definitely want to re-read it at some point, perhaps when my brain isn't bogged down so much with infants/toddlers/holidays etc. 


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


4 comments:

  1. Amazing list of books, always so inspiring to see what you read! :)

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    1. Ps. It's Elisabeth btw :)

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    2. I'm glad it can inspire you, Elisabeth! I hope you are doing well and having a beautiful Christmas season!

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  2. Address Unknown! One of the best books I read last year. I had the same thought that it seemed eerily similar to modern times.

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