In my middle- and high-school years, I always had required summer reading. I also always waited until the last weeks of August to start doing it (sorry, Mom), and in the meantime, didn’t read books I actually wanted to read, because I let the obligation hang over my head.
I can read what I want now, and as an adult I have freedom to read where my interests lie. I’m learning that some seasons of life allow for more reading time than others, though for different reasons. This summer had a slow start, but just like in my younger years, I read a lot in these last few weeks before Labor Day.
The first book I read was Further Up & Further In: Understanding Narnia by Joseph Pearce. My husband and I have watched his DVD series on a Catholic reading of The Hobbit (which I’ve started but not yet finished), so I was excited to get his take on a series I’ve read and reread.
I firmly believe that adults should read the Chronicles of Narnia, even if they don’t have children. The allegories; the symbolism; the reflections on Christ, His sacrifice, and what that means for humanity are so well drawn and provide ample opportunity for deepening one’s spiritual life. Though Lewis wasn’t Catholic, he understood our common need for redemption and he wrote about it gracefully. Pearce’s interpretation goes book by book, adding in details about Lewis’s literary and cultural influences and the times in which he was writing. In a lot of ways, these details make the books even more relevant for our times.
I would recommend this book to someone who’s already familiar with Narnia. I am planning to reread each book’s chapter next time I read the series to my kids, both so I can point things out to them and so I get more out of our bedtime stories for myself.
My next pick was I Went to Mass: What Did I See? by Katie Warner and illustrated by Meg Whalen. Told a style similar to that of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? it hits on the major elements of the Mass (holy water, the priest, family praying, etc.) in a simple, but direct way, just right for little ones. I love the illustrations, which are black and white, expect for whichever element is being named. The page for the Eucharist is stunning. I only wish it were produced as a board book as well, so I could let my littlest one hold it on his own.
The third book is one I’d love to see in care packages for those who have daughters off at college, namely, Go Bravely: Becoming the Woman You Were Meant to Be. (My daughter is three, so I have some time!) I’ve never seen Emily Wilson Hussem speak, but I sure would like to! She covers every aspect of what young women face today, from gossip to self-image, from following your dreams to honoring the people you love. Living a life of faith is no easy task, and considering the numbers of young adults who aren’t identifying with a faith (the “nones,” as it were), this book is very much needed. If you know a young woman who has already decided to live out her faith, or who has a spark in her heart that she doesn’t know how to fan into flames, this book is for her. Also the cover is so, so pretty!
The final book is one that I’m going to recommend to basically everyone I know or meet in the next six months. Perhaps many of you have already read it: One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both by Jennifer Fulwiler. From her blog to her radio show, Jennifer Fulwiler is just fun to listen to. She’s smart, funny, honest, humble, and has a love for the Church. I read her first book, Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It, some years ago and enjoyed it (I think I read it in two days?), but wanted more. Well, here it is! The writing is even more engaging and the story was even more relatable—especially since she writes about publishing her first book and mine was just published last week.
She writes about how building a family and a career can (and sometimes perhaps should) happen simultaneously. For some reason I expected it to be a didactic book, telling me how to do things (I’m not sure why; I’ve never heard her take that approach), but it turned out to be a story. A beautiful story about hopes and dreams and goals and how God is not opposed to these things. How we can use them for His glory. How He wants us to use them for His glory. Can I get an Amen?
Next up on my stack is The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart. I’ve been reading Haley’s blog, Carrots for Michaelmas, for years, and I can’t wait to dig into this one!
What did you read this summer that you loved? What’s the next book you’ll pick up?
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Copyright 2018 Lindsay Schlegel
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