Friday, January 31, 2014

Reading Round-Up: End of January

The bitter cold for much of the month has had me staying in more. It's also made me want to curl up in a cave and read for the duration of the winter.

Lots of good books on tap this January...some I've finished, and some I'm still meandering through. Here's a peek at what I've been reading.

Having finished Alister McGrath's biography of C.S. Lewis, I've been enjoying the letters of Joy Davidman Gresham Lewis collected by Don King in Out of My Bone. I confess about half-way through, I skimmed forward to the end, but now am going back to read the final half of the book more fully. What a fascinating woman she was, and what a lively voice in her letters!

Ever since reading an essay on Elizabeth Enright (whom I've known for years as a writer of stories for children...we especially love her delightful books about the Melendy family) I've been wanting to read some of the short stories she wrote for adults. I finally got my hands on an old collection from the library system, whose thick teal cover and smudgy yellowing pages is reminding me of a high school textbook. What loveliness inside the covers of A Moment Before the Rain though. I love her way with description and how she sees so swiftly to the heart of ordinary things.

Alan Jacobs has graced the world with a terrific"biography" of the Book of Common Prayer, the very book I always wanted to read about the BCP. It's encapsulating what I know already in a beautifully written summation, and it's surprising me with fresh insights. What more can you ask? Plus who doesn't love the notion of a biography of a book? Because a book (especially one with this long and complex a history) does indeed take on a life of its own.

Taking fortifying sips from Richard J. Foster's Sanctuary of the Soul, a sustaining book on meditative prayer. A lot of these insights will sound familiar if you've read other books by Foster, but they bear repeated hearing, and it's nice to see them all in one place in a book focused specifically on this one topic.

Our continued journeys into better mental health has me trying to find new ways both to deal with my own stress and help the sweet girl cope with her anxieties. Michelle L. Bailey's book Parenting Your Stressed Child is helping me navigate a better understanding of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). There are some good breathing exercises I'm finding especially helpful.

Family read-aloud finds us plowing through Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Yes, we've reached the darker part of the HP epic. It took the sweet girl a while to get used to angry, angsty adolescent Harry (didn't it take time for us all?) and her sensitivities to injustice, always high, have positively quivered with rage in response to the terrible Professor Umbridge, but it's been a good read for us so far. And oh my, how much fun to read these characters' voices. As villainous as Umbridge is, she is also hilarious (a tribute to JK Rowling's writing) and reading her "high, girlish" voice, so at odds with the tyrannous and oppressive things she's declaring, and making her high-pitched throat-clearings is a lot of fun. I love reading other voices too, from Hermione's even handed earnestness to Dumbledore's slow, careful cadences and everything in between.'s just fun to read British words like "git" on a regular basis (thank you, Ron). 

The sweet girl and I enjoyed Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (another read-aloud this month) and she and I both read (independently of each other, but agreeing we loved it) Kevin Henkes' The Year of Billy Miller, which recently won a Newbery honor. Light, innocent fare with sweetly drawn characters you root for, especially Billy himself.  I've heard it described as Ramona for boys, but Billy, likable as he is, is not nearly as mischievous as Ramona (though he does worry a lot, just as she does). Something about the book put me more in mind of the old-fashioned Betsy books by Carolyn Heywood, though of course with a contemporary feel. Billy's little sister Sal is especially well drawn (and her name, perhaps, a tribute to Robert McCloskey? Hmm...that possibility just dawned on me) and their relationship feels so true to sibling-hood.

Oh, and I found Jane Langton! I read her first Homer Kelly mystery, written back in the 1960s, The Transcendental Murder, and found myself laughing aloud. She "gets" Concord so beautifully, and draws delightful characters. Turns out I actually knew her work from years ago (I'd read her children's book The Diamond in the Window) but didn't realize it was the same author until I looked her up.


OlDave said...

WOW! You've been doing a lot of good writing since the last time I looked in your window.

Your comments about Foster's Sanctuary of the Soul prompt me to mention a book and author I just recently bumpt into. The book is "Searching for and Maintaining Peace" by Jacques Philippe. He just tip-toes through this book so lightly that you don't notice how skillfully he introduces the subject and it's importance in a God centered life. It's another little book worth the time. I've found several, lately.

Beth said...

Thanks for the recommendation! I don't think I know Philippe, but will look him up.

Sometimes it's those little books we find unexpectedly that end up meaning so much.