Wednesday, June 5, 2024

An Open Book: May 2024 Reads

It's the beginning of the month, so I'm linking up with An Open BookAn Open Book to discuss the books that accompanied me in May. It was an extremely fun month for reading, with memoirs, historical non-fiction, historical fiction, and novels forming my reading stack. Let's dive in! 

American Zion: a new history of Mormonism, by Benjamin E. Park

Since I love reading about the spiritual climate in 19th century America, when I happened to see this volume on the "new books" shelf at the library, I knew I had to read it. It was a fascinating look at the development of the LDS church, with each large chapter covering a different time period from the church's origins and into the 21st century. I was particularly intrigued to learn just how enmeshed the LDS church became with politics over time. Even more than that, I was fascinated to see just how hard the LDS church fought to practice "plural marriage" for many years, and then to learn just how hard the church then fought to rid itself of that image so Utah could gain statehood and the church could become more accepted by others. It is interesting to observe what the author included in this volume, since he's pretty up-front about not being able to cover every aspect of the LDS church. For example, he barely even mentions Richard Bushman's book (Rough Stone Rolling) which, as far as I know, made a significant impact in the LDS community when it was published. All in all, this book was really interesting, and I enjoyed it! 

The Charter Class, by Anne Faye

Loosely based on events mentioned in the yearbook for the graduating charter class of Our Lady of the Elms college, this novel is a fun foray into 1920s Massachusetts. The story follows the religious sisters who begin the college, as well as a few different women who come to the college as students in the initial class. Faye does a wonderful job making all of the characters come alive as they push through their challenges, sorrows, and joys. It was neat to see how different the students all were, coming from different backgrounds-loving families, abusive situations, having a clear idea of the future, and having no idea what the future held. I enjoyed reading this story! 

Not God's Type: An Atheist Academic lays down her arms (Ignatius Press 2014), by Holly Ordway

In this memoir, Ordway shares her journey from atheism to Christianity. As she does this, she explores a lot of English literature and her experience as a competitive fencer-both delightful topics that I thoroughly enjoyed reading about :) She shares the significant experiences and relationships that God used to guide her to himself, and it was really cool to see how Ordway came to know Christ. At the very end of the book, she shares a little bit about becoming Catholic, too. I loved how she shared that part of her story; I think she makes her book very approachable for people, regardless of what their faith background is. I really, really loved this book. 

Kilmeny of the Orchard, by L. M. Montgomery

This sweet story follows Eric, a young college graduate who takes a teaching job on Prince Edward Island. One day, he comes across a young woman who is playing the violin in an orchard-and he is completely smitten. He discovers that this woman is the reclusive Kilmeny Gordon. Due to mysterious negative stigma around her, and her inability to speak, she stays apart from the community. Yet, Eric begins a relationship with her, meeting in that orchard and getting to know her. Of course, plenty of obstacles rise up in their path, and Eric must learn to navigate those so he can marry the woman he loves. This story was fairly melodramatic and a bit predictable, but I had a lot of fun reading it! 

Finding Margaret Fuller, by Allison Pataki

After seeing this mentioned on another blogger's "Open Book" post, I knew I needed to read it! Pataki's novel explores the life, loves, and adventures of Margaret Fuller, the Transcendentalist you've never heard of but need to know about (seriously, I recall reading excerpts of Thoreau and Emerson in high school, but I DO NOT recall anything by Margaret Fuller). As a young woman, the well-read Margaret receives an invitation to stay with Ralph Waldo Emerson and his wife at their home in Concord, and here she meets an eclectic group of freethinkers and writers, the Transcendentalists. As Margaret continues to write and journey throughout life--travelling to Boston at one point and eventually to Italy--she seeks to find her place in the world and make her mark. Pataki's writing is marvelous, and this story was very engrossing. Content note: There was one brief sex scene that I skipped over, and Fuller's friendship with Emerson definitely came across as an emotional affair, but this book seemed fairly "clean" overall, and I think it would be a great addition to a high school American literature course. It makes me want to look up Margaret Fuller's actual writings (and definitely put me in the mood to revisit the other Transcendentalists). And, you know, the book made me want to visit Concord. This was a great read, and I loved it!

Canary Girls: a novel, by Jennifer Chiaverini

During World War I, many weapons arsenals in Britain rose up to fill the munitions need. Since many men were enlisting, women were specifically recruited for this work. Against this historical background, this novel follows the story threads of a few different women who all wind up in an arsenal. As they form relationships and strive to relax in some way, the women from the Danger Building (who, due to TNT exposure, turn yellow and are called "canary girls") decide to form a football team (what Americans know as soccer haha!). We see these women find ways to cope, advocate for themselves, and grow as footballers as the war drags on, and it was really interesting. There was a minor character with a same-sex relationship subplot that I could have done without, but it didn't overwhelm the story in any way. Overall, this novel explored different aspects of wartime life (and World War I itself) in a really interesting, unique way. I really enjoyed this book!

Breadsong: How Baking Changed Out Lives, by Kitty and Al Tait

After stumbling across Kitty Tait's baking channel on Youtube, I promptly watched all of her videos, requested this book from the library, and read it...and I did all of this in the span of a couple days. Kitty is a 19-year-old woman who works as a solo baker, operating The Orange Bakery in her small town in England, and her videos are absolutely delightful. In this book, she and her dad share Kitty's baking journey. At the age of 14, Kitty experienced debilitating depression and anxiety, and after trying countless things, her dad invited her to bake a loaf of bread with him-and through baking bread, she began to experience healing and purpose. This book is an insightful, beautiful, fascinating story, and the last chunk of the book includes a selection of Kitty's recipes. I enjoyed this! 

REREAD: The Blue Castle, by L. M. Montgomery

Valancy is an unmarried 29-year-old woman who embodies the very definition of "people pleasure," especially when it comes to her relatives. Her life is dreary and uneventful, and she doesn't have much hope for anything, really. However, Valancy visits a doctor (and not the one approved by her family!) and learns that she is dying. So, she decides to stop existing to please others, and to start joyfully living and taking risks, instead. This is a very fun novel, and it's always a great comfort re-read :) 

Banana Ball: The Unbelievably True Story of the Savannah Bananas, by Jesse Cole with Don Yaeger

I recently learned about this book, and shortly after that, I learned that the Savannah Bananas were in my area for a game! So, I decided that I needed to read this. In it, Jesse Cole relates his lifelong love of baseball-and when he finally discovered that baseball, as a spectator, had become boring. So, he decided to look for ways to make baseball fun again. Ultimately, he created Banana Ball, a fast-paced take on baseball with some unique rules, and the team, the Savannah Bananas, to play the game for crowds across the country. As Cole walks through his story of trials, triumphs, and failures, it was neat to observe the ways that he strove to overcome adversity and think big and creatively. This book didn't grip me in a way that would make me want to reread it, but I enjoyed it and am glad I picked it up! 

Thanks for joining me this month! If you have any recommendations, please drop them in the comments. I'm always looking to expand my reading list :) 


  1. Love seeing the L. M. Montgomery reads on here! I always get in the mood for her books and stories when spring/summer roll around!

    1. Aren't they so fun? The Tea and Ink Society blog recently had a post about L.M. Montgomery books, so that put me in the mood (and taught me about some, like Kilmeny of the Orchard, that I had never heard of!). If you don't already peruse the reading lists on that website, I think you would love looking at it! I've learned about many fantastic books there :)

  2. I was literally thinking about The Blue Castle when I opened this post, so I love that you mentioned it! I want to reread it this summer, and I rarely reread a book. A comfort read for sure!

  3. I really have to give some L.M. Montgomery a try. I wasn't introduced to it as a girl, but my oldest daughter in particularly loves Anne of Green Gables. Thanks for linking to An Open Book this month!

    1. Summertime is a great time to pick up L.M. Montgomery! Her books are a lot of fun :)