It’s been a while since I blogged about books. Â It doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading, though! Â Here are some of the highlights of the past few months.
Paraclete Press was kind enough to send me a review copy of Fleeing Herod: A Journey Through Coptic Egypt with the Holy Family Â by James Cowan. Â Cowan shares his journey tracing the steps of the Holy Family on their travels throughout Egypt, a topic about which I knew very little (the Gospels don’t have much to say about the particulars of their journey, though there are detailed writings in the Coptic tradition). Â Along the way he visits ancient cities and monasteries, meets monks and sisters, and goes on his own journey of faith. Â Â It was fascinating to read about the various legends of the Holy Family’s travels, and to ponder the role of the desert in early Christianity. (I was particularly intrigued by the early anchorites, monks who renounced the world to go live alone in the desert, and by their modern counterparts.) Â Egypt has always been fascinating to me — perhaps all those childhood viewings of The Ten Commandments are partly responsible! — but I’d never before spent much time pondering the role that the country played in harboring and protecting Jesus. Â As Cowan writes, “Without the generous embrace of Egypt, where would Christians of the world be today? Â Egypt is like a scroll containing an ageless and continuing story.” Â After reading this book, I agree.
Years ago, I fell forever in love with the utterly delightful and charming novel I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Â Only recently did it occur to me to see if she’d written anything else, which brought me to her 1967 novel It Ends with Revelations. It wasn’t as good as I Capture the Castle — truth be told, there are very few novels that are as good as I Capture the Castle — but I enjoyed it nonetheless, and certain moments of it stayed with me for quite a while. Â It’s the story of a woman named Jill and her actor husband Miles, and I honestly can’t say much more without giving away spoilers. Â Suffice to say that the book is a very honest and ahead-of-its time look at the vagaries of love and desire, exploring the complexities of human relationships and showing that we human beings are, in the final analysis, very Â hard to categorize. Â Some moments were extremely moving. Â I’m glad I read it.
One of the biggest highlights of my trip to LA Congress in February was meeting my editor Vinita Hampton Wright, whose expert eye for detail saved Random MOMents of Grace from having some random moments of clunkiness. Â I’m now reading her Â book Days of Deepening Friendship: Â For the Woman Who Wants Authentic Life with God, and I’m not joking when I say that I want to give it to every woman I know. Â If you are looking for a way to give your prayer life a shot in the arm — or if you’ve never had much of a prayer life to begin with — this book will do it. Â Its chapters and prompts address all aspects of a woman’s spiritual life, everything from how our childhood influences our view of God to why we resist prayer (and what to do about it). Â There are a ton of prayer guides out there, but this is one of the very best (maybe the best) I’ve read because Vinita’s writing is so wise, so authentic, and so inviting.
It’s been a while since I last opened a graphic novel (I believe the last one featured Tintin and Snowy) so Saint Francis and Brother Duck was a definite departure from my usual fare. Â It’s absolutely charming: a life story of St. Francis of Assisi and his fictional companion Brother Duck, who accompanies Francis on his various adventures of faith. Â Brother Duck is the most adorable cartoon bird since Woodstock, with personality plus, and the book is a very effective vehicle for conveying Francis’ life and beliefs. Â The book is a colorful, inviting, accessible introduction to Franciscan spirituality. Â If you are looking for a First Communion gift for a strong reader, this is a great choice (and a timely one, thanks to Pope Francis).
My spring break last week was enhanced by the fun of reading Mrs. Tim of the Regiment by D.E. Stevenson. Â It’s a sweetly funny novel from the 1930s, written in the form of a diary kept by a British army wife. Â Mrs. Tim (her name is really Hester) is a sharp observer of human nature, and her tales of marriage, motherhood, various quirky neighbors and Â a move to Scotland make for delightful reading. Â Nothing really bad happens in this book, which makes it a great antidote to the news, but it’s not just fluff; it has wit and real heart, and various subplots that keep the story humming. Â It’s also apparently one of a series, though I’m not sure the others have been reprinted (hopefully the library will have them — must check). Â I recommend it highly.
What are you reading?