Once again, my “recently read” listÂ is a hodgepodge ofÂ genres. Â I kind of like it that way …
InÂ all my many years of reading, this is a first: I Â read somethingÂ published by ESPN Books. Â It’s Man in the Middle, by John Amaechi, and it’s about hisÂ unlikely journey from Manchester, England to his years as a player in the NBA. Â Â Amaechi spoke at my high school last fall, during a particularly vulnerable time for our school, and he was riveting; the kids couldn’t stop talking about it.
His journey is fascinating. Â Amaechi didn’t pick up a basketball until he was 17, and through sheer grit he made his way to Penn State and the NBA.Â The book covers a lot of material he didn’t address in his talk, including the extent to which he went to conceal his identity as a gay man from the press and the team and fans, butÂ what I found most fascinating was Amaechi’s frankness about what basketball did ( and mostly didn’t)Â mean to him. Â “I was never a basketball player; I just happened to be really good at it for a while. Â I mostly looked forward to going home to hang with my friends, to take care of my kids, to work with future generations of children.” Â In both his talk and in the book, he comes through as a thoughtful, compassionate man. Â When he was a teen, he said that his mom asked him, “Would you recognize your soul in the dark?” — a pretty terrific question, if you think about it. Â Â I think we all are on a quest to know who we really are inside, once all the externals are gone. Â This book was a fascinating look at what happens when someoneÂ lets that question guide his life.
It’s been a long time since I read any Dickens, so I startedÂ Little DorritÂ on Christmas vacation, reading it in bits while also working on other books.Â Â The last four hundred and fifty pages were better than the first (how often does one get to make a statement like that?). Â I was reminded ofÂ Â how brilliant he is at describing a place or a scene with one or two details: the “staring”Â hot streets of Marseilles, for instance. Â There are also little turns of phrase throughout that made me dog-ear the pages … the man was good, no doubt about it. Â That said, I didn’t warm to the main character quite as much as I think I was supposed to, so it won’t end up in my top tier of Victorian novels. Still, I’m glad I read it.
Sanctuary:Creating a Space for Grace in Your Life by Terry Hershey.Â I got the chance to meet Terry at LA Congress and was thrilled to get a copy of this book. Â It’s a very readable invitation to think about what in your life gives you a break. Â Where do you go to recharge? Â What in your life gives you a feeling of being home? Â What do you do when you feel the need to replenish? Â How can we be sanctuary for others? The book has invitedÂ meÂ toÂ think about what my own sanctuaries are, and why they draw me. Â Â There are reflection questions and space to write in the book itself,Â too, which is something I always like in a spiritual book like this. Â It’s a great read for busy people who know they need to create a quiet space in their lives, but need a little push to begin.
An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey. Â It’s hard to know how to describe this book: it’s part mystery, part romance, part historical fiction, part cookbook. Â In the eighteenth century, a young cook gets drawn into her mistress’s life of intrigue in Italy, and uses all of her wit and cleverness (and her ability to cook) to great effect. Â The book was rather ambitious in its storyline and there were a few plot threads that seemed a little loose, but overall, I enjoyed it and once we got fifty pages from the end, I could not put it down.
A kind friend sent me The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman, and I read it in about two days. Â It’s a love story (a few love stories, actually) set in Italy during WWII. Â This book really opened my eyes to theÂ terror of the time, as well as the sheer courage of those involved in the Italian resistance movement. Â I also lovedÂ this book’s treatment of the romantic relationships. Â Sometimes I get drawn into a love story between two characters and get disappointed when one inevitably betrays the other. Â In this book, you seeÂ the power of true feeling and the beauty of loyalty, which made a refreshing and inspiring change. Â It’s also about the kindness of strangers,Â and that is always a theme I like to encounter in fiction (and in life).
AÂ Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac by MargaretÂ Rose Realy. Â I have kind of a thing for gardens, as you know if you’ve read this blog for even a minute, and I just love the premise of this book. The book is divided into twelve sections, one for each month;Â Â each month focuses on a different spiritual theme andÂ meditates on that theme as reflected in the act of gardening. Â Realy includes tips for gardening, stories of saints connected with plants or gardens, Scripture stories and verses that relate to the monthly themes, and the net effect is wonderfully inspiring. Â I love how she invites the reader to work spiritual symbols into the garden and to create specific places for prayer. Â It’s the kind of book that makes me want to drop everything and go pick up a trowel.
What have youÂ been reading lately?