The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Summer Reading

Even though I'm officially retired, life still slows down for me during the summer months. Many of our parishioners are "snowbirds" who head north to their summer homes under the mistaken belief that it will be better somewhere else than it is in Florida...Not! It's always better in Florida, even in the summer months. Anyway, this seasonal migration typically means fewer demands on my time. For example, the two Bible Study sessions I facilitate at the parish go on summer hiatus. The upshot? I have more time for leisure activities, especially reading.

During the past few months I've purchased a number of books and set them aside for my summer reading. Most of you who check out this blog regularly -- at least as regularly as I write in it -- probably don't give a hoot about my reading habits. But I make this list more for myself than for anyone else. By posting the titles here I turn this reading list into a public promise, one I will more likely fulfill. You see, with the addition in my life of more leisure time I can get a wee bit lazy. When I plop my slightly overweight body into my comfortable easy chair each evening, I might opt to watch a rerun of American Pickers instead of reading Augustine. And so, the list.

First, some general non-fiction titles...

Permanent Things, Ed. by Andrew A. Tadie & Michael H. McDonald; Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1995. A collection of essays about some of the 20th century's greatest minds, true conservatives such as T. S. Eliot, G. K. Chesterton, Russell Kirk, C. S. Lewis, etc.

Small Is Beautiful, by E. F. Schumacher; Harper Perennial, 1973. Subtitled, "Economics as if People Mattered", this is one of more influential books of the 20th century. I simply never got around to reading it, although a few years back I read the author's A Guide for the Perplexed and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm particularly interested to see how this economist's thoughts mesh with the distributist ideas championed by Chesterton and Belloc.

Beginning at Jerusalem, by Glenn W. Olsen; Ignatius, 2004. Subtitled, "Five Reflections on the History of the Church", the book looks at the Church during five different historical periods and examines how she has maintained her essentials and how she has developed over the centuries.

The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia, by Roger Kimball; St. Augustine Press, 2012. This book won't be released until the end of June, so I have it on order and hope to receive in in early July. I read a couple of reviews and it sounds interesting.,

Then, some biographies...

Bishop John Carroll
A few months ago, while roaming through a used bookstore, I came across two biographies of members of the Catholic Carroll family of Maryland. Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832) was a Founding Father and signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his cousin, John Carroll of Baltimore (1735-1815), was the first Catholic bishop and archbishop in the United States. I found the two books leaning against each other on one of the shop's bookshelves.

Charles Carroll of Carrollton, by Ellen Hart Smith; Harvard University Press, 1942.

John Carroll of Baltimore, by Annabelle M. Melville; Charles Scribner's, 1955.

After reading these two books, I intend to see if more recent biographies have been written on these two men, since modern scholarship might well shed additional light on their lives and work.

And some fiction...

Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle; Ballantine Books, 1977. For many folks, science fiction is one of those genres they ridicule in public but read in secret. Here, however, I declare openly that I actually enjoy science fiction, certainly not all of it, but the writing of certain authors; for example, Gene Wolfe and Walter M. Miller, Jr. For more than 30 years now several friends, knowing what I enjoy in the genre, have been urging me to read Lucifer's Hammer. So, finally, I bought it and intend to start it this evening.

Charles Williams
All Hallows' Eve, by Charles Williams; Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1948. Charles Williams who, along with C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, was a member of the famous Inklings, wrote this book not long before he died in 1945. I actually read it, along with Williams' six other supernatural thrillers about 30 years ago. In those days, before the arrival of internet booksellers it was hard to find Williams' novels. And then, one day, while browsing in a Cape Cod bookstore I found all seven, newly reprinted by Eerdmans. I bought them all, read them one after another, and enjoyed each one immensely. I've decided it's time to reread them and will start with All Hallow's Eve because I've always considered it the best of the seven.

Finally some poetry...

Dante's Paradise, trans. by Anthony Esolen; Modern Library Classics, 2007. Dr. Esolen, a professor at Providence College, is one of those remarkable people whose work never fails to educate and delight. I've already read his translation of Dante's Inferno and Purgatory, and now look forward to being lifted up heavenward by his translation of Paradise. And don't neglect Dr. Esolen's other books; they're all wonderful.

Farming, A Hand Book, by Wendell Berry; Counterpoint Press, 1971 (2011). A book of poetry (and a play) by this contemporary, rural American poet whose work, much like the Psalms, always calms me. And that's saying a lot considering I'm so citified and suburbanized.

Use the comment function to share some of your summer reading...

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