Monday, August 15, 2016

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

I did a ton of reading on my recent trip to Poland for World Youth Day — there wasn't much time to read while we were there, but the travel to and from (and the many layovers and delays) afforded me the opportunity to finish a bunch of books. I may have even set a record for myself! Here's all that I've read in the last month.

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans: The book is a mix of memoir, personal reflections on faith, and Christian history, all grouped into sections loosely based around the seven traditional sacraments. I didn't expect this book to hit such a chord with me (I'm a fairly content cradle Catholic), but I kept finding myself tearing up as Evans spoke to my heart about the beauty and the pain of being part of a church and a faith tradition.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie: How to review this classic without spoiling anything? Let's just say that I guessed the reveal and still greatly enjoyed the read.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: I love Ishiguro's writing and enjoyed this book not so much because of the suspense of the alternate history he created as because of the relatability of the interactions between the characters. The last quarter of the book fell a bit flat for me plot-wise, but I'm still glad I read it.

Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success by Angela Duckworth: This book details Duckworth's research on "grit," defined as the combination of an individual's passion and their perseverance. While the studies and stories she shares are interesting, I felt that they ultimately failed to gel together into a coherent narrative; I would have liked a lot more out of this book.

Philippine Duchesne: A Woman with the Poor by Sr. Catherine M. Mooney: I knew little about Duchesne when I chose her as my confirmation saint, and this biography filled in a lot of gaps for me. I especially liked Mooney's opening chapter about how saints are chosen.

Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren F. Winner: This is not so much the kind of book that you take a lot away from as much as it is a book to sit with you in empathy at time that you feel God's absence. Winner shares small insights that didn't necessarily re-cement her faith, but offered up sparks of light in a time of darkness.

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women by Sarah Bessey: I wanted this book to be so much more than it was. I think it could be a good starting point for some (like those who haven't read Rachel Held Evans' complete works), but for me she played it too safe and made too many assumptions about her reader.

Prototype: What Happens When You Discover You're More Like Jesus Than You Think? by Jonathan Martin: I enjoyed this reflection on Christian identity and community. It explores both how to try to grasp that you are fully loved by God without having to earn it, and what it looks like to live that out in relationship to others.

The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out by Brennan Manning: I thought this was going to be similar to Prototype, but I quickly got frustrated with the writing/organization of the book (e.g., strung-together block quotes with attributions only in the footnotes, examples that might be real or made-up) and his muddy conflation of being loved and being saved.

Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future by Elizabeth Esther: Esther shares her story of growing up in a fundamentalist cult, finding a way out, and learning how to heal. This is worth a read, whether you know nothing about spiritual abuse and "child training" or you're way too familiar.

When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over by Addie Zierman: This is a beautifully written memoir of having a teen's evangelical fervor, traversing the valley of disillusionment and cynicism as an adult, and coming out on the other side with a less confident but more real faith.

Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles: Miles shares about her journalistic background, her unexpected conversion to Christianity, and her journey to set up and grow a food pantry out of her new church. In between, she meditates on the mystery of the Eucharist, the way food brings people together, and the challenge of actually being as radically welcoming as Jesus. It's definitely worth a read.

A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro: I liked the sections on Shakespeare's inspirations and revision process, and I found the background on England's political climate of the time mildly interesting if dry. Pick this up if you're a big fan of Shakespeare or Elizabethan England.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley: This wasn't a bad read, but I never got very invested in either the mystery of the crash or what would happen to the main character afterwards. It felt very much like a businessman's airport read.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty: This wasn't quite on the level with my favorite Moriarty books, but it was still enjoyable. She's risking becoming a bit too formulaic in her books, but her insights into married life, friendship, parenting, and so on continue to make her books worth reading.

The Big Four by Agatha Christie: This was a very odd addition to the Poirot library. Rather than focusing on a small-town mystery, Poirot is trying to foil a plot for worldwide domination. It felt hurried and lacked most of what I enjoy about Christie's mysteries.

What have you been reading this month? Share over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

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