When I started blogging, I used to watch Instapundit make note of books he’d received in the mail, (even, eventually, making note of mine!) and I would be so jealous, thinking, “I want that! I want people to send me books in the mail!”
I have come to understand why Glenn Reynolds makes a quick mention, when a book comes in, rather than waiting until he gets a chance to read them. The books, once they start coming in, tend to um…pile up quickly!
Don’t get me wrong. I love getting new books, and I really do try to read — or at least attentively skim — most of them, and read the ones I think will really speak to me or instruct me (like, this one and all of the books I mention here) but I can’t get to all of them. One day, eleven books showed up, and yes, I wanted to read them all! Try doing that while also trying to keep up with Patheos’ vibrant and very busy Book Club!
I have decided the only way to keep up will be to do a Weekly Book Mention, where I will let you know what books have come in and, like Instapundit, just let y’all decide what looks good to you, although I will of course give a sense of what I’ve read and liked.
For instance, these three (very different) books:
Paula Huston is one of my favorite writers, and I was thrilled to get a copy of her novel, A Land Without Sin, which was the first novel ever featured at the book club, (you can read an excerpt, here). Huston is a lyrical, beautiful writer and I realized as I looked through it that A Land Without Sin was something I wanted to be able to sit with and not speed through, so I have been holding it aside for downtime. Downtime is coming next week, when my husband and I take a couple days “getaway” to celebrate our 30th and 31st Anniversary, and I’m really looking forward to reading it.
Paul Thigpen’s A Year With the Saints: Daily Meditations with the Holy Ones of God is one of those books I am going to recommend as a really great Christmas gift idea. I know, I recommend a lot “saints books” but they are all different, and — as my dear Saint Philip Neri correctly insists — all valuable. Thigpen’s book has a couple of things to recommend inclusion into your collection. For one thing, like all of the Tan/Saint Benedict’s Press books in their “A Year With” series, it’s gorgeously designed, with an imprinted cover that feels like leather, gilt edges and creamy paper you almost never get in books, anymore. More importantly, the content is swell. Rather than acquainting you with several hundred saints over the course of a year, this book gives you about sixty in a wide variety of church men and women — from John Chrysostom to John Vianny to Therese of Lisieux to Aquinas, to Thomas More, to Blessed Henry Suso to Augustine and Francis de Sales to Saint Basil — oh, how I have discovered I love Saint Basil! — and then lets you get to know them in an in-depth way, through repeated exposure and meditative prompts. This book is glorious!
In a very unusual move, the back cover of John L. Allen’s The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution contains no blurbs recommending it, but declares simply, “IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP”. This book is a distressing piece of work that nevertheless needs reading, and there is no better reporter on the Catholic beat to bring us up to speed on the very real issue of religious intolerance and the flash-fire speed at which it is spreading throughout the world. Pay attention to Chapter 8 (“The Myth That No One Saw it Coming”), particularly if people blow you off when you try to address the topic. What has arrived elsewhere won’t bypass our shores. We all need to read this book.
UPDATE: Read an interview with Allen, about the book, here.
So, three great books – you can see from my stack that there are plenty of others you should check out. There are two missing that you need to be aware of because I’m convinced you’ll want both of them:
Flannery O’ Connor’s Prayer Journal releases tomorrow and yes, I’ve already pre-ordered the book for Kindle because the few excerpts I’ve read of it have knocked me off my feet and I want the thing dropped to me through the air, the minute it’s available.
Speed is one reason why you’ll also want to pre-order the Kindle version of Brandon Vogt’s new book right now — you get it as it drops, next Spring — but by pre-ordering the ebook this early you’ll enjoy a huge savings. His ambitious-sounding title and subject matter could not be more timely for or helpful to the church — Saints and Social Justice: A Guide to Changing the World:
Five years ago, I taught a multi-part course at our parish on Catholic social teaching, which is the Church’s wisdom about building a just society. I was so excited about the topic since it had deeply affected me. A few years earlier, as a Protestant college-student bent on changing the world, I discovered these teachings and they blew me away. I read the relevant encyclicals, studied the principles, and saw them lived out in people like Mother Teresa, John Paul II, and Dorothy Day. They ended up playing a crucial role in my conversion to Catholicism.
Yet since becoming Catholic, I’ve discovered just how controversial Catholic social teaching can be. Whenever I express excitement about these teachings I’m often met with nervous glances or heavy sighs. Thanks to years of distortion and confusion, many Catholics literally cringe at their mention.
Read how this incredibly energetic son of the Church is working to change all of that, and get excited! I sure did. I’ve made the point that Pope Francis is calling us to become aware of how we create idols in our lives, and to cut it out; he’s also calling us to become more aware of the needs of others and to put on a mindset of service, and I really believe that Brandon’s book is the Holy Spirit’s way of helping us to understand what that means and how to answer that call in our lives.
We are living in interesting, distressing and exciting times. And we’re being given the books we need to face them.