24 books in 2018


One goal of mine for 2018 was to read two books a month. And while I didn’t technically fulfill my goal (reading zero books in some months and four in others), I am proud to say that I did read 24 books last year. Here’s a brief rundown.

Nonfiction


When Breath Becomes Air

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I read this and its counterpart below at the time of my grandfather's decline, death, and funeral. I was arrested by Kalanithi's approach to death, to love of his family, to legacy. To journey through the dying process from a young neurosurgeon's personal perspective was particularly illuminating. Highly recommend.


The Bright Hour

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Riggs' memoir was similarly intriguing. I was engrossed in her personal essays, her stories of marriage and motherhood and loss. Her story helped me face my own mortality with greater courage, joy, and humor.


One Beautiful Dream

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Comical, raw, motivating. Jennifer Fulwiler’s got a gift. There’s nothing like using our gifts to come alive, do good, and glorify God. (And providentially, I happened to meet Jennifer after Mass just after I’d finished this and said that, because of her, I want to write a book of my own someday. She was all graciousness and encouragement.)


The Grace of Enough

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This book helped to stoke my growing detachment from worldly possessions. Haley Stewart’s thoughtful writing reminded me of the goodness of simplicity, hospitality, nature. I’m no minimalist (yet), but I sure do feel freer from the traps of materialism thanks to this book.


Bird by Bird

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

A dear friend lent me this wondrous book, which I read voraciously on my lunchbreaks. Lamott writes with humor, realism, and great poignancy, and I finished feeling more empowered than ever as a writer in my own right. We writers, from masterful like her to amateur like me, can find such validation in sharing foibles and triumphs.



Spiritual Reading


I Believe in Love

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Let me do it. Thanks to this book, I've listened to Jesus say that to me time and time again. And I do believe my life is changing.


The Lamb’s Supper

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Scott Hahn writes beautifully of the Mass as heaven on earth. I’m notoriously ignorant of the scriptural roots of the Mass, so I was most grateful for Hahn’s skillful explanation of the myriad connections. He’s helped me to enter the Mass more deeply, with greater wonder and awe.


Searching for and Maintaining Peace

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

If I could give this six stars I would. I savored each page as I walked the Camino, feet sore from many miles but heart light from many graces. I read it in a time of substantial transition in my life, and it brought me such comfort. This is one to be reread, for sure.


A Witness to Joy

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Speaking of rereading, I’d read this several times before, but it always strikes me anew. Chiara Corbella Petrillo lived a life of such beautiful, arresting holiness, and reading about her makes me want to imitate her. What a blessing to see a profound witness of a simple laywoman living with such radical courage and abandonment in the face of great suffering. She points me to heaven.


The Lessons of St. Francis

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

There’s nothing like reading a book about St. Francis when you’ve just travelled to Assisi. I appreciated John Michael Talbot’s insights into living a Franciscan-inspired life.


A Right to Be Merry

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

What a delight, this chronicling of life as a Poor Clare. Just when I thought cloistered nuns must live such bland, monotonous lives, Mother Mary Francis proved me entirely wrong. Their lives were simple and humble, yes, but lived with great uniqueness, joy, and passion.


The Reed of God

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I’ve read this countless times, but it just never gets old. My weekly small group and I discussed the Advent chapter, and I gleaned countless new insights thanks to their personal reflections. I can never spend too much time contemplating how to live more like Mary, and Caryll Houselander helps in that pursuit immensely.


He and I

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The words in this blessed book were such a comfort to me over many months. Jesus spoke to Gabrielle with such tenderness, clarity, and authority, in the thick of simple, daily life—on trains, at the movies, while gardening. She gave me great hope. I can be that close to Jesus, too. He can be my constant companion. (Thanks for the recommendation, Alejandra!)


Preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus Christ Through Mary

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Another reread, this book guided me again as I renewed my Marian consecration. St. Louis de Montfort’s love of and devotion to Our Lady is edifying and contagious. I’m always particularly struck by his list of Mary’s principal virtues: deep humility, lively faith, blind obedience, unceasing prayer, constant self-denial, surpassing purity, ardent love, heroic patience, angelic kindness, heavenly wisdom. Sign me up.



Fiction


Brideshead Revisited

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

I'm sorry to be such a nonconformist (truly I am, I love a good bandwagon as much as the next reader), but I found myself with nary a character to root for in Waugh's work. The writing is brilliant, of course, but the time frame felt needlessly choppy, and I cared little about the outcome of any of the subjects. Sorry, great literature scholars everywhere. I guess I don't belong among your ranks.


The Leisure Seeker

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Ugh. I bought this book as a birthday present for my mom and I'm so sorry I did. I was delighted by its premise, an elderly couple suffering from Alzhiemer's and cancer taking a road trip across the country, but I couldn't see past the language, familial thoughtlessness, and embrace of the culture of death. The themes of nostalgia and travel and adventure were what kept me going.


The Alchemist

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention, but this book didn’t quite capture my imagination as I’d hoped it would. Perhaps I’m just not cut out for allegory. Santiago’s adventuresome spirit was enough to hold my attention till the end.


Out of the Silent Planet

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

I may or may not have had to ask a friend to explain to me what the heck was going on, but once I (somewhat) understood, this did capture my imagination to some extent. I’m not a huge science fiction fan, but in my mind, C.S. Lewis can do no wrong. I may not have enjoyed it enough to finish the trilogy, but still, it was engrossing and thought-provoking.


Dandelion Wine

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

My favorite summer book still reigns. As well as I know the story by now, I still find myself delightfully captured by the boyhood adventures of Doug and Tom. Those were simpler times, and I always feel transported to that timeless era of small town America in 1928. (I may be an idealist, but it sure is a pleasant way to live.)


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

What an unexpected gem. I bought this for a book club (that I ended up not even being able to join), and how glad I am that I did. Eleanor is a marvel of oddness, but by entering her mind and habits and way of life, I found myself growing in compassion and gentleness for suffering social outcasts. This was a journey of surprising self-discovery.


Farewell Summer

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Nothing can compare to my favorite summer book, but this sequel isn’t a bad runner-up. More of a coming of age tale, it traces the rivalry between Green Town’s young and old. Never before had I considered what it might be like to parent a teenage boy. Reading is eye-opening like that.


Sense and Sensibility

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Embarrassingly, this was my first read of the Austen classic. While nothing can ever take Persuasion’s place as my favorite, I loved accompanying Eleanor and Marianne through their emotional, sisterly journey of heartbreak and longing.


My Italian Bulldozer

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Light and fluffy, this book was a true treat to read. (Reading it by the pool of an Italian villa may have helped.) It’s no masterpiece, but reading books about travel while traveling will always result in a special degree of satisfaction for me.


Holes

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Another reread of another classic. Stanley Yelnats feels like an old childhood friend, and I will always love this tale of suffering and redemption.


Anne of Green Gables

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

So, this is cheating because I’m not quite finished, but Anne with an e has been a marvelous companion of mine for a few days now. She’s the sort of character that I likely couldn’t stand in real life, but somehow her heightened emotionalism, drama, and appetite for romance charm me to no end on the page.



I’ve loved my literary year, and I look forward to 2019 with great expectations! Any recommendations for me?



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