I haven’t written a Quick Lit post in a while. Here are the books I’ve read this year in chronological order:
The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra // A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Marra’s debut novel set in wartime Chechnya, was probably my favorite nursing-in-the-middle-of-the-night novel. Like that book, Tsar is a series of stories set across time in the Soviet Union and Russia and the characters’ lives end up being improbably intertwined. These stories were riveting, but I thought the collection ended on a clunky note philosophically, if not plot-wise.
The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip Zaleski // I’m a sucker for all things Inklings and I enjoyed this hefty biography immensely. C.S. Lewis dominates the narrative, but Tolkien was my far-and-away favorite of the bunch. Family man, faithful Catholic, inveterate nerd: Tolkien was great. It makes me want to re-read Lord of the Rings. (If you’re interested in re-reading it, check out my friend Michael’s LOTR-themed Lenten reflections.)
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall // I started running in the Fall and heard a lot about this book. The author travels to Mexico to investigate the super-runner tribe, the Tarahumara, and is lead to learn about and from the characters who make up the ultra-running circuit. There’s a pitch for barefoot running, which was somewhat appealing until it started snowing here in Connecticut.
Callista: A Tale of the Third Century by Bl. John Henry Newman // I love Newman. I love his earnest attempts at novels. I did not love this novel. The book is about a lukewarm Christian, his skeptical brother and, an exiled Greek woman who makes pagan sculptures and their experiences of the Decian persecution in third century north Africa. Its Victorian verbosity was almost too much for me and I nearly quit after an extended chapter about a plague of locusts descending on the north African town where the story is set. I was rewarded for finishing, I think, but I don’t think I’d recommend this book. I enjoyed Loss & Gain much more.
The Once and Future King by T.H. White // I read this with my middle school literature class. It’s a long one and we were pretty desperate to finish by the end, but I found myself enjoying it more and more. Book III, in particular, and Lancelot’s struggle with (and loss to) sin captured my imagination. I do, however, understand why I abandoned this book as a sixth grader obsessed with Lord of the Rings and thirsty for some more medievalesque tales.
Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin // Set in 14th century Russia, Laurus follows a man from his childhood full of death through his youth, full of death, to his old age, full of suffering. While this sounds like a downer (the first third really was), the medieval vision of the world told without irony and the picture of redemptive suffering has made it really stick with me. I think it’s a Must Read for me this year just because I want to hear other thoughts about it. (Also, the cover is just gorgeous, but I can’t find a non-copyright image to post and my library book didn’t have a dust jacket, so go see for yourself!)
The Lawless Roads by Graham Greene // The End of the Affair was my favorite book last year and I’ve since been making my way through Greene’s Catholic oeuvre. His life story fascinates me and since he wrote The Lawless Roads before he left his wife and his relationship with the Church got, term, complicated, it was interesting just to read his own thoughts about Catholicism. I also don’t know much about the Mexican Revolution, so I learned a lot through his dreadful experience traveling through officially Socialist Mexico. Plus, he knows how to convey how terrible he felt through most of the trip. It’s definitely the most contemptuous travel log I have ever read.
The Way by St. Josemaria Escriva // Funny story: I requested this from the library at Yale for my husband to pick up. He went to get it and said he had already checked it out and it was sitting on our shelf at home. D’oh. Anyway, this book was my morning spiritual reading for a week or so. It’s a collection of proverbs Escriva wrote to his disciples and, I recently learned, to himself. I was convicted by quite a few of them and have tried to stick to my plan of life since reading it.
I’m currently reading Edmund Campion by Evelyn Waugh (English Catholicism, my fave) and Lord of the World by Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson (Masons! Esperanto! Anti-Christ!) and keep getting them vaguely mixed up because England + Catholic persecution. I decided not to use social media while Christopher is awake for Lent since it bore much fruit last year, so I’ve been getting more reading done as well as feeling my compulsive desire to check my notifications waning. It’s magical.
Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit this month.
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