Summer Reading: Books That Are Fun to Read
Good Picks: Chesterton Is Everywhere, When Faith Feels Fragile and Yes, God!
This is quite a mix, but one that speaks to how so many of us are. There are smiles and tears in this mix, along with advice and just plain, good reading.
“I found Chesterton quite by accident,” David Fagerberg says in his introduction to Chesterton Is Everywhere (Emmaus Road, 2013). “I added a $2.50 copy of Orthodoxy to an armful of books to bring my total exactly up to my spending limit on that visit. Like most people, I had heard Chesterton’s name in association with a clever quotation, but knew nothing more about him.”
I, for one, am glad Fagerberg began his Chesterton binge, because it started him writing with a Chestertonian flair. His book is a collection of essays originally published in Gilbert magazine by the American Chesterton Society.
“Most of them have their origin in a faint smile caused by an irony, a juxtaposition, a curiosity, a foolishness, a forgiveness. Something connects in my mind with a Chestertonian point of view. These essays do not so much look at Chesterton, as they use Chesterton to look at things.”
Fagerberg is as entertaining as Chesterton. This is one of those books that I’m glad I didn’t start dog-earing, because the whole book would be a crumpled mess. I was laughing and nodding throughout.
The essays are divided into five parts: “Happiness,” “The Ordinary Home,” “Social Reform,” “Catholicism” and “Transcendent Truths.” Most of them are only a couple of pages long, making them the perfect pick-up-anytime companion.
It’s as refreshing a book as it is insightful. You’ll be a better person for having read it — and maybe that’s because you’ll have enjoyed it so much.
And speaking of books you’ll enjoy, there’s Father R. Scott Hurd’s When Faith Feels Fragile (Pauline Books & Media, 2013).
“The good news is God has an offer to make. He’s holding out his hand to us even now. Faith does require action on our part, to be sure. But at the end of the day, faith is God’s gift. We just have to take it,” he begins.
“This book is about accepting God’s offer of faith. Together we’ll explore what faith is and consider ways we can open ourselves to this gift and hold it close to our hearts. It will take effort, that’s for certain. But then that’s true of anything worthwhile.”
In four sections — “All About Faith,” “Churchy Things to Do,” “Practical Things to Do” and “Fun Things to Do” — Father Hurd accomplishes in less than 200 pages what some can’t accomplish ever: He makes me nod and realize that I’m going to fail and I might just succeed. His chapters are short enough to be read twice in one sitting, and yet they’re packed with practical insight that stays long after.
This book is a pure gem. It seems like light reading at first, but it’s really more like my 86-year-old grandma’s bits of wisdom. They make you chuckle at first, but they stick with you and come back when you need them:
“God can certainly write straight with crooked lines, as the old saying goes. Thankfully, God can work with the crooked lines we sometimes present to him, because he knows us better than we know ourselves. He made us the way we are, everything he makes is good, and when all is said and done, all God wants is for us to be the person he created us to be: a saint, but one unlike any other.”
Susie Lloyd considers Yes, God! (Ave Maria Press, 2013) a parenting book, but I thought it was both helpful and entertaining, thus defying categorization with the other parenting books scattered on my shelves.
She says, “Not your standard how-to (be-like-me) book, it is filled with stories of people who are wiser than I. They have allowed me — and now you — into their homes, like friends. Isn’t that the way most of us learn how to live?”
Lloyd shares the stories of five priests and five nuns, including interviews with both them and their parents. Each chapter highlights an aspect of the person’s Yes to God, from “Saying Yes to Duty” with Father Joseph Eddy to “Saying Yes to the Greatest Commandment” with Sister Mariana McGlynn.
This book not only made priests and religious sisters seem like regular people, it made their families seem normal, too. Lloyd did what she does best: highlight the remarkable in ways that make it approachable:
“The Rocks got this right. Yes, they got a lot of things right — not much of which I am qualified to imitate. They are out of my league and so be it. Yet I know that none of their superpowers would have meant a thing if they hadn’t shown their kids how much they loved them — phee-si-cally. Dad lined the kids up every night and thumbed a cross on their foreheads and said, ‘God bless you, and sleep well.’ To this day, Mom visits the convent and kisses Sister Brigid Mary on the cheek, and Sister rubs the spot — not to rub it off, but to rub it in. This is how those kids grew up knowing the love of God. This is how Sister is able to carry it to others.”
I would have liked more, the way I’d like more of a great latte or a good apple pie. It’s a chance to peek into homes that have produced vocations to religious life and the priesthood and see just what “secret ingredients” there are.
Never fear feeling overwhelmed by it. Lloyd walks beside you, pointing out the little things that make a big difference.
Happy (summer) reading!
- catholic books
- david fagerberg
- father r. scott hurd
- g.k. chesterton
- sarah reinhard
- susie lloyd