A year ago, I wrote that I was working my way through Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ (published 1958). The book still accompanies me to weekly Adoration, and when at home this Lent I keep it nearby. It takes only a few paragraphs to foster prayer and meditation.
While browsing through the Kindle store, I came across an interesting-looking book about Dorothy Day. I downloaded a sample that captivated me. Never mind the e-book; I had to have the hard copy! I’m now well into Dorothy Day: the World Will Be Saved By Beauty by Day’s granddaughter, Kate Hennessy. It’s a loving and lyrically-written portrait of Day by someone who loved her dearly, yet saw her clearly.
This seems to be my month for history books. I came across Crown and Sceptre by Tracy Borman thanks to my library’s online service. More a reference work than a compelling page-turner, it’s a survey of Britain’s monarchs from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II. Over the years I’ve had reason to study some of the Plantagenets and Tudors and Windsors, and the rest of the ruling houses are a mystery to me (aside from some dramatic figures like Victoria and George III). Time to fill in the blanks.
My favorite recent discovery from a used-book store is The Refugee: a North-side View of Slavery by Benjamin Drew. It’s a 1969 reprint of an 1855 book. Drew went to Canada to interview formerly enslaved people who had escaped the American South. He transcribed the brief oral histories and collected them for his fascinating and unsettling book.
What’s on your shelf this month? Let me know in the comments.
Welcoming spring, observing Lent: it’s a season of new books for me.
I often select a familiar devotional to read during Lent, and sure enough, there’s Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ in this year’s rotation. I’ve added a work of fiction that’s a stretch for me on several counts: Silence by Shūsako Endō, first published in 1997, translated from Japanese by William Johnston. The story of a handful of Portuguese priests and the Japanese people they evangelized in the seventeenth century is painfully illuminating. What does it mean to be a missionary and an apostate (a word seldom heard in my neck of the woods)? What is Christian witness? How do Christian neophytes grow in faith – sometimes to astonishing degrees – when priests are scarce and persecution is everywhere? I’m still in the midst of the book, and already I know it will leave me with even more questions. It’s a beautiful work, understated rather then melodramatic, difficult but not obscure.
I’m loving the fresh look at Dorothy Day in a book by Kate Hennessy, her granddaughter, who writes like a dream. Dorothy Day: the World Will Be Saved by Beauty is subtitled “an intimate portrait of my grandmother.”
I’m not sticking to spiritual fare this month. I’ve just finished Carl Bernsteins’s memoir Chasing History: A Kid In the Newsroom. Anyone of my generation will remember Bernstein’s journalistic partnership with Bob Woodward, but I know younger readers might not know of him. I recommend Chasing History to one and all, whether familiar with Bernstein or not. The book covers the first years of Bernstein’s professional life, beginning as a high school student who was much more interested in journalism than in classwork. He brings the now-defunct Washington Star newspaper to life for readers of this generation. He writes with a sharp eye for events and with affectionate memory for the pros who served as his mentors and co-workers. I read this for fun – and learned a thing or two while I was at it.
#OpenBook is a monthly blog linkup by Carolyn Astfalk, featuring a roundup of bloggers and the books they’re exploring.