Tuesday, January 03, 2006

mini-bookshelf

(OK, a lot of minis today)

Snapshots of what I've been reading lately (and it's a lot):

The Constant Princess by Pihlippa Gregory: Very good novel about the life of Catherine of Aragon and her marriages to both Arthur, Prince of Wales, and Henry VIII after Arthur's death. Thrillingly paced and elegantly written, the novel takes us from Catalina's childhood in Spain to her 'trial' before the peers as Henry VIII attempts to overthrown his marriage to her and take up with Anne Boleyn. If you like historical fiction, especially British historical fiction, snap this up. Gregory's books are always meticulously researched, and the 'fiction' is really in the character's thoughts and deeds, but most of it is corroborated with solid scholarship (she always lists her sources at the end). Good stuff.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton: This novel won the 1921 Pultizer Prize and was made into a 1995 movie (I think) starring Winona Ryder, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Tells the story of Newland Archer, a lawyer in 1870s upper-crust NYC society who marries May Welland, a nice but rather intellectually dull girl, whom he is happy with until he is captivated by her divorcee cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska. Wonderfully written with luminous prose, this book is a great exploration of desires, social manners, and societal constraints, as well as a desire to do one's duty. Excellent.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion: Explores how we deal with grief and suffering as she recounts 2003, a harrowing year where she lost her husband and almost lost her daughter twice to strange illnesses and medical mishaps. Good psychological exploration of death and loss and how we deal with it. Also religious undertones--she's Episcopalian, her husband was Catholic...so that plays into it a bit.

Now for a Catholic book.... The New Anti-Catholicism by Philip Jenkins: Discusses the idea that Catholic prejudice is so ingrained in American culture and media that if you mention it to anyone, you're seen as oversensitive and a little nutty. Gives numerous examples of anti-Catholic bias in the culture as well as a history of Catholicism and anti-Catholicism in America. I didn't agree with all his points, but I agreed with most of them. A fairly good representation of the problem we face (and I especially enjoyed the political parts).

The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith: Great fiction series, book 5 in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. If you haven't read this series already, go out and buy them. They're mystery books, but they're so much more than that, with explorations into morality and societal norms, as well as great African settings. Precious Ramotswe is a private detective in Botswana who takes on many varied cases with the help of her assistant, Grace Matuski, and her fiance Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. Great books, quick reads, and very enjoyable. The sixth book, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies is out in hardback, but I haven't read it yet. :)

I think that's it for now...I'll let you know when I've got more, and of course I'll give you fuller reviews on the Catholic theology/ apologetics/ etc. that I'm reading (still working on The Confessions ...sigh)

3 comments:

rover said...

Ok, that's a lot of books. I thought my plate was full with two. I'm currently halfway through "The Confessions," and am loving it. However I have to admit that there are some sections that I read three times and am still saying "Huh?"

Emily said...

Yeah, Augustine's good at that. I think that's part of my problem--I'm used to reading analytically and taking notes, and I can't make it through his logic sometimes, so I have to read much slower than normal. It's dragging me down a bit. But I have enjoyed the parts I've...um....understood :)

RichelleKZ said...

Hi Em. I really want to read "The Year of Magical Thinking." Can I borrow it from you? Thanks!