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– St. Catherine of Siena

Sunday, January 13, 2019

My 2018 Reads

Typically I have an initial post at the beginning of the year on the upcoming plans for the year, and then I post an update at the end of each quarter with the fourth quarter being the conclusion of the year’s reads.  This year I had that initial post in January and a first quarter update, and then I abandoned my poor blog readers without an update the rest of the year.  I apologize, and if you thought I had given up on reading, you were mistaken.  Anyway, you can tell by my posts throughout the year I was certainly reading.  Here is the final quarter’s update which summarizes my reads for 2018.  First a listing of what I read by quarter, and then I’ll break it down in a summary.

Completed First Quarter:

From Islam to Christ: One Woman’s Path through the Riddles of God, a confessional memoir by Derya Little.
The Inferno, 1st part of the epic poem, The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, translated and annotated by Robert and Jean Hollander.
The Inferno, 1st part of the epic poem, The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, translated and annotated by Anthony Esloen.
"Behind the Veil," a short story by Dhu'l Nun Ayyoub, translated by S. Al-Bazzazz. 
The Way of the Cross, a non-fiction devotional by Caryll Houselander.
A Man Could Stand Up, the 3rd novel of the Parade’s End Tetralogy by Ford Madox Ford.
The Magician’s Nephew, a novel from the The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis.
“The Call of the Cthulhu,” a short story by H. P. Lovecraft.
“Hard Times,” a short story by Ron Rash.

 Completed Second Quarter:

“The Dead,” a short story by James Joyce.
“Arrangement in Black and White,” a short story by Dorothy Parker.
Humanae Vitae, a Papal Encyclical by Pope Paul VI.
The Book of Isaiah, a book of the Old Testament, KJV translation.
The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, a non-fiction work of theology by Robert Cardinal Sarah.

Completed Third Quarter:

The Everlasting Man, a non-fiction book of Christian apologetics by G. K. Chesterton.
 “Flowering Judas,” a short story by Katherine Ann Porter. 
Purgatorio, 2nd part of the epic poem, The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, translated and annotated by Robert and Jean Hollander.
Purgatorio, 2nd part of the epic poem, The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, translated and annotated by Anthony Esolen.

Completed Fourth Quarter:

“Letter to the Corinthians,” a papal epistle from Pope Clement I.
The Book of Isaiah, a book of the Old Testament, RSV (Catholic Edition) Translations.
Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics, a non-fiction book by Daniel Ali and Robert Spencer.
Confessions of a Convert, a non-fiction memoir by Robert Hugh Benson.
Not All of Me is Dust, a novel by Frances Maureen Richardson.
Blood Pressure Down: The-10 Step to Lower Your Blood Pressure in 10 Weeks—Without Prescription Drugs, a self-help, non-fiction book by Dr. Janet Bond Brill. 
The Gospel of Luke, a book of the New Testament, Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, a novel from the The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis.
The Letter to the Hebrews, an epistle in the New Testament attributed to St. Paul, KJV and RSV (Ignatius) translations.
Joy to the World: How Christ's Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does), a non-fiction work on Christian theology by Scott Hahn.
Vol 4 of Les Misérables, “Saint-Denis, the Idyll in the Rue Plumet, and the Epic in the Rue Saint-Denis” a novel by Victor Hugo.

Currently Reading:

Julius Caesar: Life of a Colossus, a biography by Adrian Goldsworthy.
The Virgin and the Gipsy, a short novel by D. H. Lawrence.
Hildegard of Bingen: Selected Writings, a collection translated and edited by Mark Atherton.
Fra Angelico (Metropolitan Museum of Art Series), a non-fiction work on art by Laurence Kanter, Pia Palladino, and others.
The Life of Saint Dominic, a biography by Augusta Theodosia Drane.
The Fathers of the Church: An Introduction to the First Christian Teachers, 3rd Edition, a non-fiction work by Mike Aquilina.

As you can see, being the moderator of the Catholic Thought Book Club at Goodreads shapes my reading list.  I would say that more than half—perhaps three quarters—is determined by the book club selection, and since I’m moderator I can’t really opt out of a read.  The readings break down in the following manner.  Nine works of fiction, eight works of non-fiction, only six short stories, five books from the Bible, and two papal documents.  Let’s take the categories individually. 

In the nine works of fiction, I include two individual canticles of Dante’s Divine Comedy separately.  It is a poetic epic, but I count it as fiction because it is narrative in nature, and I count the canticles (Inferno and Purgatorio) as separate works.  Each are book length.  Also I count the two different translations (Hollander and Hollander and Esolen) separately since I read them both.  In all four of the nine works stemmed from Dante.  As you may know I’ve been reading Ford Madox Ford’s tetralogy of novels set during World War I collected under the title Parade’s End.  This year I read the third of the four, A Man Could Stand Up.  One more to go.  In that vein, the last few years I’ve been reading the over 1200 page epic Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.  Because of its length I’ve been reading annually one of the five volumes and counting each as a novel.  This year I read the fourth volume, “Saint-Denis, the Idyll in the Rue Plumet, and the Epic in the Rue Saint-Denis.”  One more year to go on this too.  I’ve been reading C. S. Lewis The Chronicles of Narnia series with my son.  This year we read the first two, The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  They are delightful and frankly not just for children.  Finally, I read Not All of Me is Dust, a novel written by an incredibly nice woman I met in my Catholic Thought Book Club at Goodreads, Frances Maureen Richardson.  I would classify this as a Catholic novel since the faith of the characters is at the center of each of their lives, but it is way more than that.  It’s a journey through the second half of the 20th century with its declining faith and one person whose example stands against it.  I haven’t posted on this novel here yet, but I intend to do so.

Seven of the eight non-fiction works have a theological element to them.  Two of the books I would classify as confessional memoirs.  They are autobiographic and focus on a particular element of their lives.  Both books were religious conversion stories.  Derya Little’s From Islam to Christ tells of her conversion from growing up with Islam in Turkey and becoming Roman Catholic.  Robert Hugh Benson’s Confessions of a Convert also speaks of a conversion to Roman Catholicism, he being an Anglican priest and son of an Anglican Archbishop at the turn of the end of the 19th century.  Both took the reader through their theological reasoning and personal emotions.  Four of the non-fiction books were theological discourses.  Robert Cardinal Sarah’s The Power of Silence discussed the need for silence as a means to communicate and understand God.  G. K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man identified the importance of man and Christ in the shaping of human and salvation history.  In Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics, Daniel Ali—also a convert to Catholicism—provided a handbook of the differences between the two religions.  Scott Hahn’s Joy to the World provided a wonderful exegesis to the Christmas narrative.  The final non-fiction was a self-help book by Dr. Janet Bond Brill, Blood Pressure Down on how to lower one’s blood pressure, as the title states.  It’s becoming an issue for me.

I only read five short stories this past year as opposed to my usual twenty-four.  Actually last year I only read eighteen, so my trend is toward fewer short stories.  That’s a shame because I get so much diversity from reading so many different writers.  I need to try to do better on that.  With only six, I won’t go through a whole lot on what I thought of them.  I’ll just rate them as exceptional, good, ordinary, and duds.  “Behind the Veil” by Iraqi writer Dhu’l Nun Ayyoub, was ordinary.  “The Call of the Cthulhu” by H. P. Lovecraft was also ordinary.  “Hard Times” by Ron Rash was good.  “The Dead” by James Joyce was exceptional.  “Arrangement in Black and White” by Dorothy Parker was a dud.  “Flowering Judas” by Katherine Ann Parker was good.  So the winner of the best of the short stories read this year is James Joyce’s “The Dead,” a classic and one of the best works Joyce wrote.

I read five books out of the Bible this year.  I am counting The Book of Isaiah and The Letter to the Hebrews twice each because of two different translations.  As those who have read my blog may know, I am trying to read through the Bible both in King James Translation (to get a feel for the English language of the time) and a contemporary Catholic translation (to get the most comprehension of the work).  The fifth work from the Bible read this year was The Gospel of Luke and since I had read this before I only read it in RSV translation.  We are in the C lectionary year for readings at Mass, which means the predominant Gospel readings will come from Luke.  So the book club read the entire Gospel up front as a way to prepare us for this year’s readings.  We did this last year with the Gospel of Mark.

The book club also read two papal documents.  We read Humanae Vitae, a papal encyclical which had reached its fifty year anniversary, from Pope Paul VI.  The book club also read the Letter to the Corinthians by church father Pope Clement I.  Pope Clement I was the fourth Bishop of Rome and held office from 88 to 99 AD.  

On the list of currently reading but unfinished are three reads from the past I have not gone back to this year: Goldworthy’s Julius Caesar, Lawrence’s The Virgin and the Gypsy, and the selected writings of Hildgard of Bingen.  The art book on Fra Angelico’s work and the biography of St. Dominic were added this year, and every so often I will read a few pages.  Also added was Mike Aquilina’s The Fathers of the Church, which is a survey book of good portion of the church fathers.  This is a book we’re reading at my parish Bible study this year.

As you can see, almost everything I read these days is related to Catholicism in some way.