On this World Book Day, I’d thought I’d share my favorite books.
The Magic Tunnel by Caroline D. Emerson was my very favorite book as a child. I still have it although the book jacket is almost long gone. It takes place in New York City and the main characters, children about my own age at the time took the subway and ended up somehow in New Amsterdam. It was a combination of my favorite things: time travel, history, and being that I lived in NYC it seemed plausible to my child mind.
Maybe one day I would get on the subway and end up somewhere far away and long ago.
My second favorite book came to me as an adult while working at Waldenbook’s. It was the cover illustration that caught my eye, and of course the title: Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman.
Like The Magic Tunnel this was also historical fiction, no time travel though; this time taking place in Medieval Wales during the time of Llywelyn Fawr, the Prince of Wales. It set my on a path of learning Welsh history and discovering myself. I was enthralled with the story and even more enchanted by the author’s note that revealed how much of the fictional account had actually happened, including burning mattresses, adulterer’s murdered, and in the third book a kidnapping by pirates! Not to mention the release of Llywelyn’s son from the King’s custody as spelled out in the Magna Carta no less.
Everything you could ask for in a book!
The most recent books I’ve read (out of about eighteen for the year so far), and all that I would recommend include:
Lily Dale: The Town That Talks to the Dead by Christine Wicker,
The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho,
When Women Invented Television: The Untold Story of the Female Powerhouses Who Pioneered the Way We Watch Today by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, and
Inside Camp David: The Private World of the Presidential Retreat by Michael Giorgione.
Ash Wednesday has arrived. It feels so early this year, but I suppose everything feels a bit jumbled during this pandemic year. As my priest said at mass this morning, things are different, but they’re also the same. Less people allowed at mass. Ashes distributed with a cotton swab (my parish) or sprinkled over your head (others). I didn’t make this morning’s mass in person although I planned to, and registered to attend. The ice on my car made different plans. I was able to watch the mass livestreamed and stopped by the church later in the afternoon to pick up a small vial of ashes. It was a do it yourself for me today.
I would have thought a year into the pandemic that I’d be an expert on reflections on any subject that came to mind, but when I went to write this on Tuesday, there was nothing. Sometimes reflections feel like journal entries, and I’ve been not great at journaling this past year. I’ve tried to keep checklists – masses attended, rosaries said, writing accomplished, but even that little bit has been a failing.
I hadn’t even decided what I’d be giving up, and then I gave myself an extension. Not anything canonical, but I think sometimes when we force ourselves to do things without the impetus of why we’re doing them, they lose something in the translation.
I spend a lot of time worrying about what I’m going to give up as if forty days without chocolate or soda is a hardship in the big picture of things, but on the other hand, I think that sacrifice should also be a sacrifice of time. What can I do to grow in my relationship with G-d? What are things that I can do for these forty days that will stay with me for the next forty? And then the next?
To begin for the readers waiting with bated breath, I’m not going to make my decision on what I”ll be offering to G-d for Lent until the first Sunday of Lent although I have a good idea what it will be and it wasn’t even on my original brainstorm list. By Sunday, I will have had some time to discern what I can accomplish from giving something up or trading it for something that is more positive and/or spiritual.
Lent is a forty day period where prayer, fasting, and almsgiving take the center of spiritual life. Despite being given dispensation from holy days and Sunday masses during the pandemic, I have still gone almost every week to the livestream mass. I was happily surprised to find it just as rewarding as going in person. In the summer, I began to attend Monday’s daily mass in person and I will continue to do that. Our church has done a great job of keeping things safe. I am very lucky with both my church and my children’s school.
In addition to the three pillars of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving since I’ve become a Cursillista, I try to incorporate the tripod of piety, study, and action into my everyday life, but moreso during Lent when our time is spent in communion with Jesus, and of course, ourselves.
I have some tools and links that I’d like to share with you to assist with your own Lenten journey. The first three I will be doing throughout Lent.
Prayer of Spiritual Communion (this is what my parish uses for communion during their livestream masses for those of us participating at home):
I wish, my Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility, and devotion with which your most holy Mother received you, with the spirit and fervor of the saints. Amen
In addition to some of these, I am also going to praying the Rosary on Mondays and the Stations of the Cross on Fridays as well as committing to submit a reflection to my Cursillo group’s weekly digest. I will also (finally) begin reading A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith by Timothy Egan. This was recommended a couple of years ago and I bought it then, but haven’t found the right time to start it. I’ve decided to make that time now.
I also intend to recommit to my writing, both spiritual and secular. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve kept consistent with this website, but my other writings have fallen on the wayside. I hope to rectify that over the next forty days.
I hope to bring you more in the coming days. Have a meaningful Lent.
In 2017, my friend Brother Mickey McGrath took Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudato Si’ and created a wonderful visual meditation using the Pope’s words and Brother Mickey’s art. It is just breathtaking. I would highly recommend reading and exploring it, especially if you can do it outdoors with the breeze ruffling your hair and the leaves on the trees.
Our Common Home is published by World Library Publications. From the back cover:
Our Common Home invites us to slow down, look areound us, and remember that all we see has been granted to us and is in our care.
Just in time for the weekend! What follows is the list of all the books I’ve read in 2019, followed by two graphics describing President Obama’s 2019 reading list. Please add your own recommendations in the comments. I’m always looking for a new book to enjoy!
Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling (on the 1st)
Women of the Bible: A One Year Devotional Study – Ann Spangler and Jean E. Syswerda
The President is Missing – A Novel by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
The Last Good Heist: The Inside Story of the Single Biggest Payday in the Criminal History of the Northeast – Tim White, Randall Richard, and Wayne Worcester
The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction – Neil Gaiman
The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero – Timothy Egan
The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump – Andrew G. McCabe
Believe Me: a memoir of love, death, and jazz chickens – Eddie Izzard Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance – Barack Obama
A Holy Mosaic: Love, Diversity, and the Family: Inspiration from a Pope Francis – Michael O’Neill Mcgrath OSFS
Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law – Preet Bharara
Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus – James Martin, SJ
Not by Bread Alone: Daily Reflections for Lent 2019 – Mary DeTurris Poust
Lenten Reflections – Bishop Robert Barron
The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain – Bill Bryson The Truths We Hold: An American Journey – Kamala D. Harris
Gaudete et Exsultate – Pope Francis
In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines who Dared to Break the Rules – Karen Karbo
Daily Reflections for Easter: Rejoice and Be Glad 2019 – Various Authors
Enemies: A History off the FBI – Tim Weiner Cronkite – Douglas Brinkley
The Lost Gutenberg: The Astounding Story of One Book’s Five-Hundred-Year Odyssey – Margaret Leslie Davis
July Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for the Future – Pete Buttigeig
No Dream is Too High: Life Lessons from a Man Who Walked on the Moon – Buzz Aldrin with Ken Abraham The Library Book – Susan Orlean
Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense: The Courtroom Battle to Save His Legacy – Dan Abrams and David Fisher
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl – Timothy Egan
Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America – Jared Cohen
The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars – Paul Collins
Zoo Nebraska: The Dismantling of an American Dream – Carson Vaughn
Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II – Robert Matzen
Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her – Melanie Rehak
Your Fourth Day – National Cursillo Movement
City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York – Tyler Anbinder
Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators – Ronan Farrow
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith
The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir – Samantha Power
Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump – Neal Katyal & Sam Koppelman
Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style – Benjamin Dreyer
A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals – Thomas Merton
Our Father: Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer – Pope Francis
President Barack Obama’s 2019 Book Reads and Recommendations:
Whether you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, Independent or any other political designation, I hope that you believe, as I do that the impeachment of a President (or Cabinet member or judge) should be considered as a last resort, taken with the seriousness and gravitas that it deserves.Unfortunately, with this President and his Administration flouting the rule of law, ignoring subpoenas, and its blatant public acts of corruption and solicitation of foreign election interference, he, Mr. Trump has given Congress no choice.
And all of that was before this quid pro quo with Ukraine and giving the green light for Turkey to invade the Kurdish territory in Syria.
The G7 at the Doral Resort was just another cherry on the top of the ever growing Trump Corruption Sundae.
It may be hard to wade through the Republican lies and disinformation campaign. Personally, I am disappointed in Republicans who in the past at least pretended to be pro-America. They’ve truly shown their true colors and loyalties especially McConnell, Graham, and Meadows. I’m less surprised by Pompeo, Mulvaney, Jordan, and Nunes. This couldn’t have been proved any better than their deliberate and illegal interruption of impeachment testimony in a secure room in the House just yesterday. The President’s involvement in their stunt is another impeachable offense.
However, my opinion doesn’t mean anything without the facts to back it up.
This post offers sources to read, follow, and listen to as they lay out the impeachment case and continue to offer reasoned perspectives. As new information comes out or readers suggest other sources, I will update this post. I will also add it to my Home page.
Please comment with any of your own recs.
Podcasts (I provide links through Player.FM which is where I listen to my podcasts, but you can listen anywhere you already listen to podcasts.)
Neal Katyal is an attorney who served in the Justice Department, was the Acting Solicitor General during the Obama Administration from May 2010 until June 2011, taking over the position after Elena Kagan became Supreme Court Justice. He was born in Chicago, and has argued more Supreme Court cases than any other minority lawyer. He seems to always have cases before the Supreme Court. He drafted the Special Cousel regulations in 1999, and those are in continued use, and used to assign the parameters of the Mueller Investigation. He was one of Al Gore’s co-counsels before the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore and teaches at Georgetown.
He has written his first book, Impeach: The Case Against President Trump, which is coming out on November 26th, just in time for those family dinner conversations, explaining impeachment to those of us asking the questions. It can be pre-ordered.
Politics are everywhere these days. I’m a political junkie, and even for me it can be a little exasperating. In the US we have an unhinged narcissist who can’t control his Twitter fingers and the media who used ot have journalistic integrity churning out pieces on his nicknaming habits, no follow up questions for outrageous lies, and more twattle than I thought humanly possilble. In the UK, Brexit is a disaster, no one gave a thought to Northern Ireland, Prime Minister Theresa May has resigned. The EU is in the middle of elections and fascists are everywhere. The Austrian government has basically fallen apart. And of course, there’s Iran and North Korea.
Amid this frenzy, I offer five ways to bring your blood pressure down and cope with the news of the day, no matter your normal comfort level:
1. Turn it off. Turn off the television, turn off your phone notifications, take a break from Twitter.
2. If you must stay on Twitter, only read Lin-Manuel Miranda exclusively. He is positive and uplifting and always says the one thing you needed to hear. Monday through Friday, he has Good Morning and Good Night tweets for his followers.
3. Read a book.NOT The Handmaid’s Tale. NOT 1984 or Lord of the Flies. Try Bill Bryson. Or James Martin, SJ. Or Becoming by Michelle Obama.
4. Treat yourself to a movie. Avengers: End Game is still in theatres. Other options: A Dog’s Journey, Aladdin, Detective Pikachu, and in the coming weeks: Men in Black and Toy Story 4!
Bernard Cornwell is one of the foremost writers of historical fiction. His fictional travels have taken me from the Anglo-Saxon period through to the Revolutionary War. He has a brilliant way of describing the battles and creates the vision in your mind so you feel as though you were there.
For a long time, I resisted reading his Winter King trilogy that focused on King Arthur. I have had my own image of Arthur’s world of Camelot and Excalibur since my five page high school paper on Thomas Malory’s L’Morte D’Arthur that went on for over fifteen pages. My teacher was not thrilled. In addition to that being ingrained in my head and heart, I also had the John Boorman Excalibur movie with Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, and Nicol Williamson that I was attached to. When I eventually gave in to my friend’s persistent recommendation, I could not put The Winter King down and it is now my headcanon. The next two books were equally enthralling and I highly recommend them and every other one of Cornwell’s books.
I’ve read his only historical (non-fiction) book, Waterloo is also brilliant.