Friday, December 20, 2019


I've read so many interesting books this fall so let me share the best if you are looking for a gift for a young child or writer in your life. I recommend all these but one, as you'll see. 

Silent Night by Brigitte Weninger and Julie Wintz-Litty is a beautiful story of this beloved Christmas carol. Will it be ready in time for Midnight Mass? 

Hanukkah is right around the corner and what better way than to celebrate with a new book: Kugel for Hanukkah? by Gretchen Everin. I reviewed it earlier. You might think it strange for a Catholic to be interested in a Jewish holiday but you have to realize that Catholics honor these Maccabean martyrs as saints. The story is documented in Maccabees 1 and 2 and part of Scripture that's read in church. Jesus Christ celebrated Hannukah (see John 10:22-23). I do so love how the Jewish and Catholic faiths dovetail. They each illuminate the other.

I came across a gem on the Picture Book Builders blog: The Lost Words by Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris. I immediately ordered it for our library and they were all oohing and aahing over it when I came to pick it up. It is a gorgeous book. Enjoy! 

Our local newspaper ran an interview with John Conley, author of Daniel Island Unearthed and I was so impressed I got a copy for myself. It's a field guide to the artefacts one can dig up. I love living here. 

Try not to throw up at the next picture. It was completely coincidental that these next three books ended up in a pile together. I was re-reading On Writing Well by William Zinsser for a nonfiction workshop and James' Fifty Shades (it is truly awful and also pornographic) ended up in the same pile of library books. I wanted to skim through it because of a very interesting book, The Bestseller Code by Jodi Archer and Matthew Jockers, that was first discussed on Writer Unboxed by Keith Cronin. Almost all of us know the elements of a good story instinctively; we respond to them in books and movies, and as writers we analyze them. What Archer and Jockers did was to feed bestselling books to a computer and have it spit out patterns. We know that our characters must go through trials, have ups and downs, but the essence of the bestselling book is that these emotional ups and downs need to happen at regular intervals. What was fascinating was how similar the curves were for Fifty Shades (romance) and the Da Vinci Code (thriller). The only difference lies in the end. Da Vinci ends on an up-note whereas Fifty Shades plummets because it's the setup for the sequel. I found The Bestseller Code very enjoyable and informative and I think we all can learn from it and the bestselling books. Fortunately, not all bestsellers are poorly written. There's enough variety for people with different tastes. 

I'd read reviews of My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, calling it darkly comic. I didn't want to read it. Yet another discussion on Writer Unboxed piqued my interest. I didn't find it funny at all. It is a beautifully written story about two sisters, one who is beautiful and attracts men like honey, and the other who literally cleans up her messes. My heart ached for the narrator because how well I understand those deep familial bonds, but I also wanted her to have a true and faithful love. I wanted to rewrite the ending on a more hopeful note. The author is a poet and you can tell because of the spare and beautiful language she uses to tell a story that lingers in one's heart long after you've closed the book.

The title of Jordan Peterson cracks me up because even God gave only Ten Commandments. The men's reading group has been going through 12 Rules for Life this fall. Max was the first to read it in our family--it was his birthday present last year. This is one of the few books by psychologists that actually makes sense. So much common sense.

I always pick up extra copies of Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren whenever I see them at the thrift store. It's one of the best books I've ever read in developing a deeper relationship with Christ. It makes a wonderful Lenten or Advent meditation or let's face it, anytime meditation. Last year I discovered a companion journal at the library book sale and it was in pristine condition. What a treasure. It's been a God-send.


Finally, I want to draw your attention to a slim gem of a book that I discovered on Kristi's blog: it's a meditation on the Prayer of Jabez. It is beautiful and it reminds me very much of John 10:10 I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. The Christian life is that of abundance! May you have the peace and joy and blessings in abundance. 

I'm writing Christmas cards and listening to beautiful Advent music. One of my favorites is Rorate Caeli and the reflection by Msgr. Charles Pope is so lovely, as is the plainchant and Byrd arrangement of the first verse sung by Voces8. I've been captivated by this group ever since I listened to their Ave Maria. Of course, I'm also practicing our Christmas menu for choir. But it won't be Christmas until the kids are home--soon, soon!


Mirka Breen said...

As before, I continue to be amazed at *how much* you read. I'm too slow a reader to take in this much even in a year.
Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi, but I'm pretty sure he didn't have Kugel at Hanukkah or any other time. It's an eastern European Jewish casserole variation that as far as I'm concerned is good anytime including Hanukkah, although many Sefaradic (i.e. middle eastern) Jews don't care for it.

Vijaya said...

Mirka, I often have to get to confession...for neglecting other, more necessary things in life.

You made me giggle. Yes, I doubt Jesus had any kugel. The story is of the secular variety but I do hope the lighting of the candles reminds children of the miraculous oil.

Happy Hanukkah to you and yours!