Wednesday, February 5, 2020

An Open Book: January 2020 Books

Now that February is here (and hopefully springtime is around the corner???) it's time to look back at the books that started off my 2020 reading stack. I read some amazing novels and some really interesting nonfiction, so I decided to take a a short break from "new" reading to re-read Brideshead Revisited (this is partially because I just watched Lady Bird-which TOTALLY made me think of Waugh's novel). But anyways, enough about all that-time for Carolyn Astfalk's monthly book linkup!

Catholic & Christian, by Alan Schreck.
This was a great book that seeks to build up an ecumenical attitude as it addresses various topics that Catholics believe. Drawing from lots of Scripture and early Church Fathers, Schreck provides a thorough, but very readable, exploration into various topics like infant Baptism, the communion of saints, and devotion to Mary-all through the view of the Incarnation. This book was written in the 1980s and gives some great deep-dives into Vatican II documents, which I thought was pretty neat. I enjoyed this book, and think it could be very helpful  both for Catholics who want to learn more about the Faith and for non-Catholics who want to understand more of what Catholics believe.
(as an aside: the author is a really great person, too-I was in one of his classes during college, and the joy I witnessed in class really comes through in this book!)

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck.
I say this as someone who still carries the horrific memories of being forced to read Steinbeck's novels as a young teen-I LOVED this book (my relationship with Steinbeck's work might make it onto a future blog post). A re-imagining of the Book of Genesis set in turn-of-the-century California, the story follows a cast of vivid characters as their lives collide. This is an extremely dark story, with lots of sinful choices portrayed (brothels, abuse, manipulation, to name a few!), but there are beautiful themes like free will, hope, forgiveness, and redemption. The first hundred or so pages may seem a bit slow, since (similar to Hugo's Les Miserables) this novel sets up deep backstories and layers that provide a rich depth; yet when the action really starts, wild things happen. It's a whopping 600 pages, but I flew through this in a few days. 

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte.

I'm grateful that I heard "stay away from plot summaries" before reading this novel, because you honestly don't want the plot spoiled to this one. All I can really say is: Told from the perspective of a young man, the story dives into the mystery of a young widow who has recently moved into the nearby Wildfell Hall. It's an amazing story. Part of my love for this book stems from the problems I have towards Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I am legitimately confused at to why everyone reads JE and no one reads The Tenant of Wildfell Hall when this novel is so much better. It takes similar heavy themes that JE addresses and treats them much more appropriately. There's a lot more I could say about this book, but I honestly don't want to give it away. Basically, if you enjoy reading books in the vein of Jane Eyre, I highly recommend that you read this one :)

Permanent Record, by Edward Snowden.
This was the fascinating account of Snowden's childhood growing up with the Internet and his work with the CIA and NSA before he worked with journalists to reveal serious abuses regarding mass surveillance that the U.S.A. was committing. I particularly appreciate how he included some pages from his girlfriend's journal, to show the upheaval, confusion, and utter chaos that happened in the U.S. while Snowden was being shuttled between safe houses in another country. Some of the very computer science-y parts went a little over my head (though Snowden really tries to break things down in simple terms) and this book DEFINITELY made me sympathetic to Ron Swanson's desire to live off-grid. I enjoyed this one a lot!

I think you're wrong (but I'm listening), by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers.
This was a very nuanced and unifying discussion by the co-hosts of the Pantsuits Politics podcast about why we should talk politics, and about how we can do so with grace and compassion. While I didn't agree with all of their personal political views that they expressed (though they only brought in their views minimally), I really appreciate and loved their conversation about what we can do to work together in making our country-and world-a better place to live. A lot of this book really resonated with me, and I thought they provided some good tips and points of reflection as we enter into discussions with other people.

Thanks for joining me in this literary discussion! Let me know if you have any recommendations to share; I love to expand my reading list! 


  1. I love Jane Eyre, so I'm willing to give The Tenant of Wildfell Hall a shot. Adding it to my list. Thanks for linking up!

  2. I definitely want to check out that Alan Schreck book! Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Steinbeck! I had to read Of Mice and Men in 10th grade and absolutely HATED it. It's my least favorite book I've ever read, and even if I reread it I don't think I'd be able to appreciate much about it. However, I read The Grapes of Wrath a few years ago and absolutely loved it. I was so moved by the story and that whole aspect of history. I want to try East of Eden sometime.