While I am sure the blog world does not need yet another list of books to read, I love gaining titles and ideas from the blogs I read and thought I would begin sharing some of my recent reads. (Let’s be real: I wanted to be cool like Margaret and Rebekah.)
Love in the Ruins, Walker Percy
I read this book primarily on a plane to and from Los Angeles. It is strange and eery but hauntingly beautiful and memorable. For the four-hour flight from Atlanta to LA, I did not once put the book down. Percy masterfully creates the setting for the reader, and the languid heat and buzzing insects and occasional bullet whistling past hang over the reader. I could feel the humidity as I read; even now, I can quickly return to the eery stillness and oppressive summer weather. The main character, Dr. Tom More, spends his life attempting to cure others of the longing to escape the evils of matter and this world (“angelism”) and the reduction of people to biological machines (“bestialism”). The setting that Percy creates with its intense physicality reveals to the reader that while “angelism” might seem to be an appealing way of living to Dr. More and many of his readers, we cannot escape the physical, indeed even the sacramental, nature of this world. For it is the incarnational, sacramental, physical everyday that brings Dr. More to truth not through transcendence of the physical, but by seeing it for all that it is:
“What she didn’t understand, she being spiritual and seeing religion as spirit, was that it took religion to save me from the spirit world, from orbiting the earth like Lucifer and the angels, that it took nothing less than touching the thread of the misty interstates and eating Christ himself to make me mortal man again and let me inhabit my own flesh and love her in the morning.”
Given: Poems, Wendell Berry
I read a few poems from this book each morning before my students came to my classroom, and Berry’s poetry once again gave me lines to linger upon throughout my day. Berry is my favorite poet, and this collection provides some of his best.
For every year is costly,
As you know well. Nothing
Is given that is not
Taken, and nothing taken
That was not first a gift.
Love & Salt: A Spiritual Friendship Shared in Letters, Amy Andrews and Jessica Mesman Griffith
I linked to this book in an earlier post, but felt that this deserved its own mention. Love & Salt is a collection of letters between two women who are struggling with what it means to live. Their letters are honest, sometimes brutally so, and filled with pain and questions but also hope and grace. They provide beautiful reflections to some of life’s biggest questions and their friendship reveals what true friendship consists of: two people who teach one another of God, life, love, and faithfulness. On top of the rich substance in each letter, they are pieces of art and both women are wonderful writers. This has been one of my favorites this year as I look back over the pages and see myself in some of their stories. And isn’t that what we all desire as human beings, to know we are not alone? These women will reassure you that you are not, in fact, alone in all of your doubts and fears and questions and loves and hopes and joys.
Maybe I’ve had it all wrong, and it’s not that I have to love God more than my family but simply come to see that my love of my family—past, present, and future—is a sign of the even greater love of God, which governs all.
If Aristotle’s Kid Had an iPod, Connor Gallagher
This is a delightful, quick read. The author takes some of the fundamental ideas in Aristotle’s philosophy and whimsically and simply shows parents all of their implications for raising children. Gallagher discusses ideas such as friendship, virtue, leisure, and happiness, and how to cultivate them in your children. While some of my Hillsdale friends might just prefer to read Aristotle himself, I found this book to be witty, succinct, and deeply insightful—especially as I attempt to help eighteen children grow up into virtue and goodness.