Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Top Ten Books Read in 2012, #1

The #1 book I read in 2012 was Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism. I brought it with me during my priesthood retreat, and its pages were a joy to read. He prose is cogent and clear. He writes well to all levels of knowledge of Catholicism from the doctor in theology to the inquisitive atheist.

He takes from reason and beauty all that we believe as Catholics.

Like I said in my review, this book is the perfect book for catechesis for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Our RCIA uses it and our Men's Spirituality Group will soon be using it as well.

There is no easier and more enjoyable book from which to learn about the Catholic faith.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Top Ten Books Read in 2012, #2

You remember #2 from a review from earlier this year. It took me nigh on a year to read The Discernment of Spirits by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV.

This book is a practical guide to the spiritual using St. Ignatius of Loyola's Rules for the Discernment of Spirits that is found in his Spiritual Exercises.

We all experience ups and downs in the spiritual life. This book is a practical guide for how to navigate them well.

It was the second best book I read this year. The best .... will have to wait for tomorrow.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Top Ten Books Read in 2012, #3

#3 was the relative surprise of the bunch. The other books were connected with authors, pop culture phenomenons or publishers with whom I was familiar. Murder in the Vatican by Ann Margaret Lewis was a whim purchase. I had heard Sarah Rienhardt mention this book on her blog, Snoring Scholar.

As you well know, I love mysteries. Sherlock Holmes is the popularizer of the genre (I tip my hit to Dupin as the originator). So, to connect Holmes with Catholicism, with religion being a sticky situation to Holmes character (most in part due to his atheistic author Doyle), I was really excited to read it.

The stories are the normal Doyle length. The three stories read more like novellas. Two of them are set in the Vatican, wherein the main Vatican character is none other than Pope Leo XIII, the reviver of Thomism and the writer of the first social encyclical. Lewis showed a great deal of knowledge about Leo and the goings on of late 19th Century history in Europe. She played well with the depth of intellect that both the real man and the fictional man had. It made for great dialogue and a certain development within the character of Sherlock Holmes.

Two of the stories, as well, welcomed a beloved character in the halls of Reverenced Reading, Fr. Brown. One of them mentioned him while he was still a seminarian and the other featured him.

This book was a delight to read. I've landed it twice since reading it. Currently my father, who reads a book a year ,is flipping its pages. I thoroughly recommend it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Top Ten Books Read in 2012, #4

So #4 was probably one of the biggest clean books (down with the smut!) of 2012, even though it was published a few years earlier. This was due in large part to Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games being brought to the big screen.

In our most popular guest post and second most popular post all time, our friend Katherine spoke about it here.

As for me, it takes me a week or two to read a book of fiction. I read Collins' dystopian teenage drama in less than 24 hours. I couldn't put it down. I was surprised the way it sparked my reading.

The concept is both apropos and scary at the same time. It takes the culture of death that has been invading our national culture and brings it to the end game. Children are put on national display in a contest to kill each other. You can tell that the hunger is not just for food but for true freedom, which from all quarters is sorely lacking. In the outlying districts they are enslaved to work and production. In the Capital they are enslaved to pleasure. It is overall a quite depressing book.

All this is played out in the confused life of Katniss Everdeen. She herself seeks freedom but can never find it. All she see is predetermined ends. In the end, she exerts her free will to disrupt the 'tradition' of the Hunger Games and awakes in the hearts of many a desire for the freedom she exhibited.

It has some food for thought from a Catholic perspective. It asked all the right questions, but where Collins failed is she never provided answers. More questions occurred and no answers were forthcoming. Even if her answers were wrong, bringing up the right questions would have still made for a satisfying book.

It was fast paced and like a speed boat never entered the depths. This is made even more evident in the second and third book of the series. Nonetheless, this book caught me off guard and hit me square in the shin (which when I read it had metal sticking out it). I couldn't ignore its profundity even it never realized it itself.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Top Ten Books Read in 2012, #5

Book #5 has garnered one of the most popular posts on this blog, Trains are Not Safe Places. Agatha Christie's (the only other author to make a repeat appearance on the top ten) The Murder on the Orient Express is an exercise in the masterful craft of confusing the reader.

The characters are rich and greatly described. The setting, hence the reference, makes for a great place to do a character study because once it's set it doesn't change.

It was my introduction to Hercule Poirot. I have now watched one season of the BBC television show Poirot due to enjoyment of this detective. He is the synthesis of Arsene Lupin and Sherlock Holmes. He is both suave and deftly deductive.

This is my second Christie novel and probably one of her best. She might not make the list again. I started from the top and fear that I have only down to go, but I'm looking to be surprised. I haven't even enter the world of Ms. Marple.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Top Ten Books Read in 2012, #6

Number 6 is another biography from unlikely, although apropos biographer. On a whim I downloaded from Libirivox, James Watt by Andrew Carnegie. I honestly don't know why I would download such a book. I vaguely connect the book with my friend Billy Newton, over at Blog of the Courtier, but I'll let him comment with regards to the validity of that memory.

Anyway, this book was fascinating. I am not a scientist. I don't like physics other than to enjoy the objective beauty of its equations. English was my strong suit (hence, the current mode and medium you are reading). Somehow, the fact that the business tycoon Andrew Carnegie wrote a biography on some dude fascinated me. James Watt was an extraordinary man. He ran not only in scientific circles but in philosophical circles as well. He was friends of Adam Smith, the founder of capitalism, who would have, at that time, been considered a philosopher.

His scientific achievements were vast and wide. He was a practical inventor. It was his practical inventiveness that allowed him to develop the best design for a steam engine that had uses outside of coal mining.

The most fascinating part of the book though is Carnegie's interjections into Watts life. He intrudes like an overattentive narrator. It is not your modern biography where facts are told in prose. It's more like your rich grandfather is telling you a story about an important person in history, a person that enabled him to be rich. I love Carnegie's commentary of Watt's life. Although not a style in style, I enjoyed the imposition because it gave it good coloring to the book.

My only suggestion would be to pick it up via an ebook as opposed to the Librivox recording. The narrator was terribly dry and often mispronounced words, which I found distracting.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Top Ten Books Read in 2012, #7

I picked up #7 in Audible because frankly, I love William Shakespeare. I've read Shakespeare bios before, but this seemed so comprehensive. Peter Ackroyd's Shakespeare covers it all and not just with hearsay. You can tell by the documentary evidence that he researched well this man's life, a feat that is remarkable for there is little documentation on the world's greatest playwright. 

Ackroyd wrote in a style that was both easily accessible to the lay reader while still being for the scholar a good source of biographical material on the enigmatic writer. He makes a lot of references to the plays using them as fodder for his thought.

Because Ackroyd is so thorough the audiobook clocked in at about nineteen hours of listening time. Needless to say, that was a lot of rides in the car, but the narrator, Simon Vance, is one of my favorite, so I didn't mind.

If you enjoy Shakespeare, you would definitely enjoy this book. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Top Ten Books Read in 2012, #8

Number 8 on the list has been previously reviewed. So I won't say much, but what I will say is that it has rekindled my love for Tolkein and Lewis that had waned over years of Kant, Nietzsche, Kung, and Raymond Brown reading for two degrees. It inspired my imagination again.

David Downing's Looking for the King is the Catholic literature buff's Indiana Jones adventure. It has chases, romance, and pints with the Inklings. Who can ask for me?

Unlike #9 this would be a great summer reading book.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Top Ten Books Read in 2012, #9

Sorry for the two day delay. Things at the parish caught up with me. Anyway back to the countdown...

Number nine here is from an author who made it on the countdown twice last year (and I'll be honest will probably make the countdown every year). The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton was probably one of the strangest books that I have ever read. I read it during my time in bed after my ankle injury (see the tag ankler).

I had enjoyed my previous outings with my favorite Catholic writer. However, this time felt like I was in a daze (and not from the Loratab). This book, subtitled a nightmare, holds true. It seemed surreal. I could never really wrap my head around what really was going on, which indeed was the way the main character, Thursday, as he is named, felt.

This is certainly a book that I will read again not necessarily for its greatness but just so I can understand better what Chesterton was doing.

It is a great read despite the fuzziness. The characters are well layered and the plot moves along quickly.

It's not a summer read. It's more suited for a rainy day, a hurricane, or for you who are from up north, a snow storm.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Top Ten Books Read in 2012, #10

So I'm doing my annual countdown of the best books I read on 2012. There is a small caveat before I start. I didn't read as much. I read fourteen less books in 2012 than in 2011. This is in major part due to the fact that I'm still learning to manage my time well as a priest, but it's also because I decided to read the incredibly long novel The Father's Tale by Michael O'Brien (remember back when I wanted to do a summer reading? #fail), of which I am not even half-way finished. People have told me they loved it, and it has its moments of greatness. However, it, at least to me, is incredibly slow. It'll probably show up on next year's list because I'll finish it sometime in October. Without further ado, # 10

So I haven't read a play in awhile. In fact, I haven't read a play since my Shakespeare class back in 2006. I came across Oscar Wilde's  The Importance of Being Earnest through the Gutenberg Project. I downloaded it as PDF onto my iPad.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. Wilde has a great wit about him. He channels Shakespeare in the great comedy of acting as someone who you are not, or impersonation. Weddings play into it as well, which Shakespeare used as a great device for wit in his plays; Much Ado About Nothing comes to mind.

I found myself laughing quite a bit at the word play that Wilde uses and even the names. Algernon is strange enough, but that his nickname is Algy puts it over the top.

For a Victorian laugh, look no further than Wilde's play.