Wednesday, May 3, 2023

An Open Book: April 2023 Reads

Another month has arrived, and with it An Open Book! In the past month, I dove more deeply into a creative project and struggled through a little bit of a reading rut (it was hard to figure out what I was in the mood for), but I thankfully managed to pick up a few great books-a selection of fiction and nonfiction. Let's dive in! 

REREAD: Animal Farm, by George Orwell

I hadn't picked this novel up since high school, and revisiting it was a lot of fun! Rather than reading it strictly as an allegory (which is what we were told to do in high school), I simply read it as a whimsical story about animals. I really enjoyed it and it was interesting to see what jumped out at me when I wasn't focused on noting the symbolic elements for a high school exam. It was great! 

The Early Church was the Catholic Church, by Joe Heschmeyer

In this nonfiction book, Heschmeyer sorts through extensive research to show the continuity of the apostolic church throughout the first few centuries after the ascension of Jesus Christ. As he dives into topics like Baptismal regeneration and the Eucharist, Heschmeyer presents claims by various modern theologians and shows how some modern assumptions about the early Church simply are not true. This was a well-written, clear, and thorough book, and I'm glad I read it. However, it was very hard for me to get through at times, because the book is saturated with solid research. It's a good problem to have, but between that and the long chapters, it was just tough to get through while I was handling all the aspects of daily life with young kids. 

Guilt, by Caryll Houselander

Houselander begins by discussing the widespread experience of guilt and psychological suffering. She dives into scrupulosity and the obsession with self-perfection, suffering, and fear. Houselander argues that many of the challenges we struggle with stem, in some way, from an inordinate self-love. Throughout her discussions, she draws from spiritual writers, saints, and psychologists. She meditates on the life of Christ and reminds us of the necessity to grow in love of God and others if we wish to heal, become saints, and live in the abundant joy of the Trinity. This was a fantastic book that hit me repeatedly right where it hurt (in a very good way). I highly recommend it! (I received a copy in exchange for review; all opinions are my own-and an in-depth review will appear on in June!)


Write your novel from the middle, by James Scott Bell

This was really short (just under 100 pages), but it was an interesting book about the craft of writing fiction. The author argues that regardless of whether you favor outlining of a "fly by the seat of your pants" approach, every person can benefit from a "write from the middle" approach. With this technique, you go directly to the midpoint of the novel you wish to write, the heart of the story, and craft a moment when the main character "looks in the mirror" to see where he or she has gotten to. From there, you can pull together the character's psychological backstory and ultimate transformation. Then, with all of this information, you can either write the novel spontaneously or you can carefully outline the scenes. This is a very simple book, but I'm glad I picked it up from the library and read it! I haven't been spending much time on fiction writing lately, but when I get back into fiction, I will try out some of the techniques in this book. 

The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare, by G. K. Chesterton

This classic by Chesterton has been on my TBR list for years, and I am grateful that I finally picked it up! It follows Gabriel Symes, a poet and detective, who finds his way into the Supreme Council of Anarchists, where members are referred to by a day of the week (Symes is known as "Thursday"). Symes/Thursday embarks in a fantastic adventure through England as he tries to foil an assassination plot while not being found out by the other anarchist council members. I'm sure Chesterton interjected lots of deep truths and philosophical points in this story, but I was just focused on the whirlwind adventure. I enjoyed it a lot, and I think it'll be a good one to return to and sit with longer. 

That's a wrap! I have a couple of great books lined up for May (I've already started one that I'm enjoying a lot) and I look forward to whatever other books cross my path. Please drop recommendations in the comments if you have any to share! 


  1. My oldest kids have been after me to read Animal Farm for a while. They both loved it, and it's so short. I really have no excuse.

    So, might Guilt be helpful to someone who struggles with perfectionist tendencies? Sounds like it might help in understanding that reliance on God is paramount.

    Thanks for linking to An Open Book!

    1. I hope you enjoy Animal Farm! I think Guilt could definitely be helpful for someone who struggled with perfectionist tendencies (like myself)-Houselander does a really good job taking a variety of behaviors and tendencies and showing how we need to more wholeheartedly love God and others as we combat those.

  2. I didn't read Animal Farm until I was working with a HS student on homebound instruction (back in the day before remote was a possibility--I really loved that job). It was really good. Worth reading, Carolyn.

    1. @Barb, that sounds like such a neat job! I bet it would be fun to go through that book in a more one-on-one way with a student. It's amazing how fresh and relevant the book still seems to me.