Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My favorite books in 2011

Thanks to my kindle, I read a lot of books in 2011. Well... at least more than in previous years of recent memory though maybe not an impressive number compared to other avid readers. Many of these books were read while waiting: in car line picking up the kids from school, at railroad crossings, for water/soups/sauces to boil, while I was brushing my teeth, or any other time that I could sneak in a quick peak at my favorite e-reader. Here are some of my favorites from the past year:

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brad Pitre - I read The Lamb's Supper by Scott Hahn several years ago and found his explanations of the Eucharist fascinating and my experience of the mass has been enriched ever since. This book covers a bit of the information in Hahn's book but expands upon it and adds so much more of the historical context. I really need to reread it two or three more times to have any hope of retaining a fraction of the fascinating correlations between the New Testament Eucharist and practices and beliefs of Old Testament Jews. Highly recommend!

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger - Peace Like a River is my favorite novel of this year and I even gave it as a Christmas gift to a family member. I mentioned it already in a 7 Quick Takes Friday post, but I love it so much that I had to mention it again. It's a fantastic tale of faith, adventure, sacrificial love and miracles and is so beautifully written. It's one of the best of the best!

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke - I rarely read a book that has not been recommended by someone in whom I have some level of trust in his or her taste in books. I found this book, however, because the kindle edition was on sale for super cheap for one day only. The reviews intrigued me and described the book as a mix of historical fiction, literary fiction and fantasy. It's a story of two English magicians who are trying to revive the lost art of English magic during the turmoil of the time of the Napoleonic wars. It's a very long book (don't skip the footnotes, they are a must!) but was well worth my time.

Heart of Virtue by Donald DeMarco - After a fascinating homily by one of my parish priests, I realized that I understood very little about virtues, what they are and how to attain them. In a search for a good book on virtues from a Catholic perspective, I browsed the websites of several Catholic publishers until I found Heart of Virtue published by Ignatius Press. It was exactly what I was looking for! The book explores 28 virtues, beginning with an example of the virtue in action from history (both secular and religious) or literature and following with an in depth explanation of the virtue. I plan to reread this book as part of my Lenten practices this year.

Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra by C.S. Lewis - Arwen's recommendation at Faith and Family Live! convinced me to give these books from C.S. Lewis' space trilogy a try. They were completely unknown to me, though I've enjoyed a number of Lewis' other works. The books were not available at either my public library or on kindle, but I was able to purchase paperback editions on amazon. These novels were written to make you think. And think. And think. I'm waiting patiently for Eric to finish Out of the Silent Planet right now and when he does I'm anticipating some deep discussions of the nature of sin, angels, God's relationship with His fallen creation and what might have been if sin had never entered our world. I plan to complete the reading of this trilogy in 2012.

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy - Over the past year or so, I've seen The Moviegoer recommended on a number of Catholic blogs. It's an intriguing book with a unique and troubled main character who can't ignore a deep yearning inside himself to pursue "the search". The message of the book is very subtle and while reading it I was often reminded of Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, another complex and subtle work of Catholic fiction.

The Penderwicks at Pointe Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall - We love the Penderwicks! I read this third installment of the series several months ago and have been enjoying reading the first two books aloud to Elizabeth (age 7) this school year. The tales of the four Penderwick sisters are touching and fun and I've loved being able to share them with my daughter.

Unplanned by Abby Johnson - Anyone who call themselves pro-life would benefit from reading this book. Abby's story shows the power of love in the conversion of hearts and gave me great hope for the future and the defense of the unborn. It's unique perspective also helps the reader understand why pro-abortion proponents believe what the do. It can only help the pro-life movement if we understand where the other side is coming from; but, ultimately the movement will only be successful if hearts are converted and that can only happen through love and the gift of God's grace.

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens - Yes, Dickens is long winded and wordy and it's a definite time commitment to read one of his novels. But, I love Dickens. His plots are intriguing, the characters are varied, thought-provoking and memorable and his themes are timeless. Little Dorrit is an intriguing tale and a sweet love story. I also particularly enjoyed the BBC mini-series adaptation.

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen - This young adult novel is sweet and endearing. While light-hearted and fun, it also has some important messages about what makes a person worthy of our love, how we shouldn't judge our neighbors, and the inherent value of the mentally disabled. This is a fantastic story for a teen or tween (or her mother) and the movie "Flipped" is just as good. 

What are your favorite reads of 2011? I'm always looking for more good books to add to my "To Read" list!

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