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Reading in 2013: Capote, Milosz, Lewis & More

Last day of the year. Last books of the year.

Breakfast at Tiffany's and Three Stories - Truman Capote. The only fiction I read during the semester, this was for a book club meeting that I didn't make it to (thanks a lot, winter cold!). However, I enjoyed it immensely. Not only the title short story, but the three others included in this small volume. I would like to read more Capote. And watch the classic film adaptation with Audrey Hepburn.

As soon as the semester ended, I ravenously picked up more fiction. Actually, that's not entirely true. Before I hit up any fiction, on the silent retreat, I leafed (leaved?) through several books in the monastery guest house's little library, skimming a bunch of Nouwen, and ultimately sitting down to read this book:

Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies Throughout the Ages - Ursula King. I enjoyed this and found it utterly fascinating. For one, it features several women of prominence in their own time and culture, women known for their wisdom, spirituality, and often, poetry/artistry. I currently crave these stories and was encouraged to remember that strong women have actively participated and influenced the world throughout history. Another thought that fed my interest in these people was an awareness (coming out of this semester's introduction to church history) that within the past 150 years, monasticism and communities entirely devoted to spiritual thought/reflection have radically decreased within the Christian church. For over 1800 years, this was one of the foundational forces within our community (and beyond, into culture at large). What does this shift signify? What do we lose in it? Do we gain anything? 

The Unnamed - Joshua Ferris. The first novel I'd read in months, Ferris tells the story of a successful NYC lawyer who finds his body taken over by the compulsion to walk. Unable to find a cure (or even a diagnosis), this book details his struggles, its impact on his work, his family, and ultimately his own self.  It was not what I expected, but it was good. Whenever I read novels that gets at the heart of marriage and wrestling with its immense difficulties, I brace myself, ready to be saddened at yet another story that ends in brokenness and separation. But this was surprisingly hopeful, even in its honest pain.

Selected and Last Poems: 1931-2004 - Czeslaw Milosz. Technically, I started reading this book last year. I read poetry in small quantities, picking up an anthology here and there, now and then. This one is a doozy that I have finally completed, and I am sure I will re-read again and again.You may recognize Milosz's name, as I've posted excerpts on here more than once. I. Love. His. Writing.

(For those of you who mistrust poetry, I would like to reassure you by sharing that as I read an anthology, if I love 25%, enjoy 50%, and am puzzled/confused/don't understand 25%, we are doing well, the poet and I.) I do believe a better knowledge of Greek mythology would help me with many poets, and maybe someday I will tackle that. In the meantime, I am moved by this poem, and this one, and this one, and this.

The Spirituality of Narnia: The Deeper Magic of CS Lewis - John Bowen. A Christmas gift from my boss (who is also the author), this was read in the post-ice storm quiet. I love CS Lewis, and taking time to ponder spiritual themes and the beauty with which he expresses them was an excellent start to my time at home. In particular, I was left thinking about the idea of heaven - what it is that we mean when we talk about the "afterlife" and what difference it makes to how we live in this "beforelife." I don't have a strong sense of what I believe in this realm, but Lewis and Bowen remind me that it is of utmost importance. And that it is likely more mysterious and beautiful than I have often believed.

Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra (Voyage to Venus), That Hideous Strength - CS Lewis. Since I was now at home, and my dad has an extensive Lewis collection, I uncovered his vintage copies of Lewis' Space Trilogy (they'd put him out $0.95 each, back in the day!). A mixture of pre-space-exploration science fiction and ancient mythology, I found these harder to get into than the classic Narnia. They're not an "easy" read, and they are certainly intentional in attempting to communicate Lewis' views on humanity, progress, our past and our future. But I found them fascinating. They challenged, again, the ideas I hold about the inevitable end - of one human life, of our corporate human life, of all things as we know them. I found the third book to be the easiest to really enter into (perhaps because it is set on Earth, and I found the setting accessible/believable), but the first two were the most philosophically stimulating. Would I recommend these? If you're into sci-fi or fantasy, and philosophy, sure. If you're simply a fan of Narnia, not necessarily.

Girls in White Dresses - Jennifer Close. I actually read this way back in the summer, but somehow missed posting it. It was a light, fluffy, easy summer read. I found it relatable in its perspective on ladies my age navigating relationships (and lack thereof) and the angst of being many times a bridesmaid, although the circles these girls travel in are little like my own.

There you have it, folks. Apart from the assigned readings for school, my entire year of reading is up for your perusal right here. I enjoyed keeping track and expect I might do it again in 2014. See you all there!


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