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Every year for the past four years or so I’ve published a summer reading list on my Facebook page or blog, and asked my friends or readers to list the books they plan to read. And every year no one replies. No matter. Here once again is my list. This year I’ve pared it down by a few books as a mistake I made in the past was trying to bite off more than I could chew by listing either too many books or books that take months to read. (Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged took me six months to slog through in 2010. Dumas’ Count of Monte Christo took me almost as long in 2009.) So this year I am shortening my reads to the typical slower, summer faire. To that end I’ve put Don Quixote on hold until the winter. I’m still turning to Les Miserables now and then as I want to finish it before the movie is released in December, but if I don’t then I guess I don’t. The list below is not in any particular order. One book, Jesus Living in Mary, is a 1200+ page tome that I plan to begin this summer but know I won’t finish until sometime in 2013. It’s not meant to be a quick read, and is a book that one does not devour at once, but in pieces over time. The quickest read will likely be The Princess Bride or Days Off. All but two will be read in paper form. The Princess Bride I’ve purchased on my Kindle, and I’ll download Calico Joe soon. It’ll be interesting to see if that number increases for next summer’s list.
I just noticed with bemusement that two of the books were on last summer’s list. While I felt pretty good about getting through that list, I obviously fell a little short. Here’s to better days.
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Jesus Living in Mary: Handbook of the Spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort
By St. Louis de Montfort
Many Catholics know of St. de Montfort through his spiritual classic The Secret of the Rosary (a beautiful representation of this powerful little book is here) or if they’ve participated in his 33-day Total Consecration exercises. I’ve done both and have had this book sitting on my shelf for nine years. I recently took it down and dusted it off and decided it was time to get after it. It contains the works of this prolific 17th century French priest, including many quotes from him as well as Scripture, the Catechism, Popes and others. It is arranged to cover 80-90 topics ranging from Adoration, Beatitudes, Beauty, Discernment, Family, Freedom, Silence, Tenderness and Wisdom. In fact I found a list of the chapters and their content on the EWTN website here. This book, while technically not a “summer read” is one I’ll begin this summer and spread over the course of a year.
The Power and the Glory
By Graham Greene
I read this book over five years ago and with the release of the movie For Greater Glory have decided to give it another read. The Whisky Priest is one of the most interesting and confounding characters I’ve encountered outside of a Flannery O’Connor story, and I definitely want to read this story again. I came across an excellent description of this book on the blog Pursued by Truth yesterday:
This novel is a great introduction to a dark moment in Mexican history – the suppression of the Catholic Church and the violence against clergy that ensued in the 1930s. But more than a history lesson, this book is a probing search into the complicated psyche of a mediocre, alcoholic priest who becomes a surprising lesson for the reader in humility, grace and holiness.
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Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love
By Matt Logelin
I first picked up this memoir last year and still haven’t read it. Partially because I usually hate memoirs, but also because a part of me is scared to read this story. Scared because the sadness that lies within parts of it. I’ve read some of Matt’s blog in which he tells of his romance and marriage to his wife Liz and of the tragedy that quickly followed the birth of their daughter. But I’ve put it off long enough. It’s time I got around to meeting Maddy.
By Evelyn Waugh
Of the books on this list this is likely the last book I’ll get to. I’ve long been told and have read that this book is one of the best of the 20th century and a must read. Of course I’d heard of it as I remember there being a BBC mini-series on television when I was a teenager that starred Jeremy Irons. It follows the story of Englishman Charles Ryder and his wealthy but dysfunctional family that inhabited the family estate in post World War II Britain. Mr. Waugh is known for his exquisite prose serving to make this story even more enjoyable. Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence is a favorite of mine, and while she covered many of the same themes from a time period fifty years earlier, one thing I don’t recall her incorporating into her story was the struggle of faith vs. secular, or the sacred and the profane. I’m really looking forward to sitting down with this book.
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By John Grisham
I generally don’t read John Grisham novels as he usually writes in a genre I’ve little to no interest in. I did read his book Bleachers last summer and found it to be an excellent story about the influence, for better or for worse, that a coach (in this case football) can have on the lives of his players. While at the bookstore the other night this cover caught my eye. I read the summary on the sleeve and then parts of the first chapter. I’m definitely interested in this story of not just baseball, but of the larger themes of fathers, sons, regrets and forgiveness.
By J.R.R. Tolkien
I’m not sure what I could possibly say about this book that hasn’t already been written. In short, I’m re-reading this book in preparation for the December release of the first installment of the two part movie of the same name.
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The Princess Bride
By William Goldman
If you’re like me you’ve watched the classic Rob Reiner film a hundred times since the 1980s and it never gets old. I can recite lines from it just as effortlessly as I do from Monty Python & The Holy Grail. I know that sounds “inconceivable” but it’s true. I purchased the book a few weeks ago for my Kindle and began to read it last week.
By Henry Van Dyke
While copies of the book may be found at Amazon in both print and electronic form I’ve chosen to link to an online copy that you can read for yourself. Van Dyke is one of my favorite writers and last summer I was fortunate to stumble upon eight of his books published in the very early 1900s for just $7 each. They are a jewel on my shelves and whenever I need to slow down and by reminded why I feel that need I pull one from its place and slowly digest its pages. I’ve listed this book last on this list, and while I’ve begun to read one or two of the others already, this is the book I’m using to kick off my summer. Last night I began by reading the first chapter and essay, Days Off, which you can find here. There is always something quotable in Van Dyke’s rich books, but instead of cutting and pasting a bunch of them here (which believe me I’m tempted to do), I’m inviting you to read this little chapter to get a taste for yourself. Within it I found the pitch-perfect note for what summer is all about and a mentality I hope to find myself enjoying more often than not.
And so dear reader, once more I ask you:
- What will this summer find you reading?
- Will you be reading more from the traditional paper form of books, or from an e-reader?