Book Status – August 2012

I recently read Maggie’s “Book Status” and thought I’d give it a whirl, too. I added one question at the end to round it out at an even twenty questions.

1. The last book I’ve read is: Wish You Were Here: Travels Through Loss and Hope – Amy Welborn

Wish You Were Here: Travels Through Loss and Hope is the story of Amy Welborn’s trip to the island of Sicily with three of her children five months after her husband’s sudden death from a heart attack. Her journey through city and countryside, small town and ancient ruins, opens unexpected doors of memory and reflection, a pilgrimage of the heart and an exploration of the soul. It is an observant and wry memoir and travelogue, intensely personal yet speaking to universal experiences of love and loss. Along the narrow roads and hairpin turns, the narrative reveals the beauty of the ordinary and the commonplace and asks stark questions about how we fill the empty places that a loved one leaves behind. It is a meditation on the possibility of faith, one that is unflinching, uncompromising, and altogether unsentimental when confronted by the ultimate test of belief. This book is not only a well-told memoir, but a testimony to the truth that love is stronger than death.

That’s according to Amazon. To which I can only add “Ditto.”

2. The book(s) I’m currently reading: Strangers and Sojourners – Michael O’Brien

Again from Amazon:

An epic novel set in the rugged interior of British Columbia, the first volume of a trilogy which traces the lives of four generations of a family of exiles. Beginning in 1900, and concluding with the climactic events leading up to the Millennium, the series follows Anne and Stephen Delaney and their descendants as they live through the tumultuous events of this century.

Interwoven with scenes from Ireland, England, Poland, Russia, and Belgium during the War, Strangers and Sojourners is a tale of the extraordinary hidden within the ordinary. It is about courage and fear, and the triumph of the human spirit.

3. The last bestseller I’ve read is: I truly have no idea. I don’t generally follow those sort of lists.

4. The last book I’ve bought/received is: Mountain Man – Vardis Fisher

Upon learning that this is the book that the 1973 Robert Redford movie Jeremiah Johnson was based from a good friend of mine, I mentioned that in that case I needed to read this book. As it is a favorite of John’s, and we’ve been known to pick up a book for the other now and then, when I came to work a few weeks ago he presented me with my own copy as a gift. I plan to read it this winter.

5. The book(s) I’ll be buying soon is/are: I have NO idea. Probably something on the Kindle though, since that was the reason why I received it as a birthday gift in January. My wife is tired of the stacks of books around the house (and quite frankly, so am I). I currently have 195 items stored on my Amazon Wish List, of which all but a few are books in paper or electronic format. Oy.

(Update: over the weekend I bought a spiritual classic I’ve been meaning to purchase for some time because this edition contains a commentary/study guide. I’m looking forward to reading The Interior Castle: Study Edition by St. Teresa of Avila and prepared by Kieran Kavanaugh & Carol Lisi.)

6. My favorite children’s book is: Love You Forever – Robert Munsch is 1a. There are many I considered for this list, but this is really the only one that kept coming to mind. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame is 1b.

7. My favorite Shakespeare piece is: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. At least it is right now.

8. Best period of literature: Difficult to say. I love the 19th/early 20th centuries the most I suppose. Dickens, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Twain…even early Chesterton or Belloc.

9. Emily Brönte or Jane Austen? I’ve read neither, but own books by both and mean to read them over the coming year(s). I really enjoyed Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence though.

10. My favorite poet(s) is/are: Robert Browning & W.B. Yeats I suppose. And T.S. Eliot. I do not read much poetry but have enjoyed their work, and Eliot’s Four Quartets is a masterpiece.

11. My favorite literary character is: While Pip from Great Expectations ranks right up there along with a few others, I would have to say that far and away my favorite literary character is Josip Lista, the main character in Michael O’Brien’s masterpiece Island of the World. You are introduced to Josip when he is twelve and live his life with him and through him until his dying breath. It was exhausting, exhilarating, joyous and heartbreaking. When I finished this book I actually mourned for a week and missed my remarkable friend Josip.

12. A book I could reread a thousand times is: The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis

13. A book I hated is: I started a book called Golfing With God by Roland Merullo that I had picked up on the cheap. It was awful and I stopped midway through the second chapter. Perhaps I stopped too soon, but what it appeared to be to me was the author’s bald-faced mocking of theology and of God. While I was probably too harsh and wanting to get to another book, it’s the first book I recall to have put into the recycle bin/trash. Another non-favorite would be The Shack by William P. Young. One Amazon reviewer says of this book (in a 2-star review): “If you are one of the zealot orthodox Christians who couldn’t stand “The Shack,” steer clear of this book.”

I guess I’m a zealot then. Woot!

14. My ritual when reading a book is: Coffee/cocoa or bourbon? Check. Comfortable chair? Check. Quiet surroundings? Check. Book open? Check.

15. Best places to buy books: The best source I have for books is Amazon I suppose. I have used their Wish List feature for years to store my wants/needs when I’m on the hunt. I will go to Barnes & Noble locally, though not as often as the store has changed over the years and not for the better when it comes to finding titles (or else my tastes have changed). For Catholic books I always go to Gloria Deo, a local Catholic bookstore in Lincoln. Or I’ll order them online from Ignatius Press or Roman Catholic Books. For used books I will walk a few blocks from my offices to visit A Novel Idea Bookstore. I have used New Boston Fine and Rare Books once or twice to find a rarity and have been very happy with them (warning: beware the sticker shock). The Easton Press and The Folio Society have also been sources of books that I enjoy.

And of course, there’s the Kindle.

16. The language(s) I read most of my books is: English. All of them in fact.

17. Do you write? If so, what?: Yes, I write. Though I’m not sure how I’d classify it. Mostly thoughts and observations that I’m leaving behind for my children so they are better able to know me once I’m gone.

18. Recommend a book: I truly cannot recommend Island of the World by Michael O’Brien often enough.

19. Book you want to own: I would love to own a medieval Book of Hours/Psalter one day. After reading Eamon Duffy’s book Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers, 1240-1570 I have been very interested in obtaining my own copy, though priced at thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars I doubt I ever will. I enjoy praying the Divine Office and have toyed with the idea of recreating the practice once used by affluent families to commission their own personalized psalter. Though I’m far from affluent in relation to those medieval families, I would still love to design my own while still retaining the basic and traditional elements of the common psalter.

20. If my life were a book, it would be: I dunno, I suppose could be really pretentious here and say a combination of The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, The Screwtape Letters or Dante’s Divine Comedy. Only because I am on some semblance of the journey that the main characters in each story embark upon. More likely at times, however, I am only a simple-minded Pooh Bear. And that ain’t so bad.

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