Busy as I am, I always find time for books. Here are some of the highlights of the last two months (or however long it’s been since I did my last book pile post?).
The St. Teresa of Avila Prayer Book. First of all, how gorgeous is this cover? I just want to eat it up. If the cover hadn’t hooked me, the author sure would; this book is by Vinita Hampton Wright, my editor and friend, whose books on spirituality are always edifying. And the subject is the spirituality of St. Teresa of Avila, the fascinating Spanish saint who was a steely reformer with a mystic side. This wonderful little book offers a biography of the saint, as well as information about her spiritual influences, but the core of the book is a week of morning and evening prayers centered around topics close to St. Teresa’s heart (“God With Us,” “Always Humility,” “Patience in Our Prayer.”) Each day offers “prayer liturgies” made up of St. Teresa’s own writings, as well as Gospel readings, psalms, a prayer by a saint whom Teresa herself would likely have known, all arranged around the topic for the day. It’s a wonderful approach that highlights the saint’s unique spirituality while still showing how her prayers centered on universal Christian themes. (Thanks to Paraclete Press for the review copy.)
There are not a lot of authors whose books I’ll buy in hardcover, but Kate Morton happens to be one of them. The Lake House has many of the same delicious ingredients as her other novels: an evocative English setting, a fluid movement between past and present, a mystery that unfolds gradually, a wonderful sense of atmosphere. This one, interestingly, took me a little longer to get into than her others — why, I’m not sure — but once it got spinning I was hooked, and it reached a most satisfying conclusion. It’s a great book for that rainy or snowy weekend where you just want to block out the world and read.
Heather King is a terrific writer, and her new book — Stripped: At the Intersection of Cancer, Culture, and Christ — is a darn good read. She writes about her experience navigating the terrifying diagnosis of breast cancer (as well as how it fits with her Catholic spirituality) with laser-like insight and humor. This is a book that raises so many big questions about suffering and healing and hope, and as someone who (like many of us) has seen friends and family members dealing with cancer, I appreciated King’s frankness and vulnerability. Whether or not cancer is currently a part of your life or the life of someone you love, this book is worth reading for the way that King wrestles with the most essential questions about our bodies and our souls.
Persephone Books, the marvelous British publishing house that revives “forgotten classics,” has another winner with the book Vain Shadow by Jane Hervey. First published in 1963, it tells the story of a family gathered at an English country home for the death of the patriarch. Following the old man’s demise, the family dynamics begin to reveal themselves, and the various layers of conflict in the family make for engrossing reading. It’s not a book with a lot of action, but it is a book with well-drawn characters, flashes of dark humor, and utterly realistic human drama, if you like that sort of thing (and I sure do).
Did you know that Christopher Plummer loathed the part of Captain von Trapp? Were you aware that a massive part of the movie’s success belongs to the screenwriter, Ernest Lehman? Did you know that the reason the Mother Abbess has her back to Maria when she sings “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” is because the director felt it would be too corny for her to be singing it right in Maria’s face? (good call). All this and more is revealed in the book The Sound of Music Story, which is extraordinarily detailed and recommended for the movie’s diehard fans. I guess I can come clean here and admit that I’m one of them.
What are you reading? Do tell!