Two had been in process for awhile. One was my "fun reading" for this week of quiet.
#38, the fun book, was One for the Money by Janet Evanovich. I read this because Julie D. at Happy Catholic says "read Janet Evanovich" every time I ask for book suggestions. So, finally I did! This is the first of the Stephanie Plum series of novels, featuring the aforementioned Ms. Plum as she becomes a bounty hunter and skip chaser for her cousin Vinny. What makes this book good is the sense of place that it has. It is so firmly grounded in New Jersey, you can practically smell it. And you can see the cast of characters developing: plucky heroine, mom who doesn't understand why she doesn't get a safer job ("They're looking for a shampoo girl down at the beauty salon. Maybe you should apply."), the long-suffering father, the crazy grandma (whose social life revolves around the viewings at the funeral homes).
In some ways it reminds me of John MacDonald's Travis McGee novels, or Robert Parker's Spencer novels--character is more important than plot. While I wasn't as sold on Stephanie Plum as I was on Travis or Spencer (yum!), I'll read more in the series. And I must admit, it made me laugh out loud more than once.
Book #39, The Ball and the Cross by G. K. Chesterton, was this month's reading group book. The novel was GKC's 2nd novel, and originally appeared in serial form in the newspaper. It is part fantasy, part theology, part allegory. It chronicles a fight between 2 Scotsmen--MacIan, who is Catholic, and Turnbull, who is an atheist. But they are notable because they are almost the last people in the world who think truth is worth fighting over. Through the novel they run into the justice system, the media, followers of Eastern religions, Lucifer himself, people who help, people who hinder.
As in all of GKC's writings, there are paradoxes, puns and sentences that beg to be underlined or written down in a book of quotations. The woman (and her father) that Turnbull meets and (I think) falls in love with are described thus:
Both the father and the daughter were of the sort that would normally have avoided all observation; that is, all observation in that extraordinary modern world which calls out everything except strength. Both of them had strength below the surface; they were like quiet peasants owning enormous and unquarried mines. The father with his square face and grey side whiskers, the daughter with her square face and golden fringe of hair, were both stronger than they knew; stronger than any one knew. The father believed in civilisation, in the storied tower we have erected to affront nature; that is, the father believed in Man. The daughter believed in God; and was even stronger. They neither of them believed in themselves; for that is a decadent weakness.
Good book. Glad I read it.
#40, God and the World by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now, of course, our dearest PBXVI) was my long term spiritual reading type book, which I finished today after several weeks of reading. It is a book length transcript of a three day interview with journalist Peter Seewald (who also did Salt of the Earth, which I have just gotten in). This is a great book for reading a little at a time. It's question and answer format makes it easy to read and think, read and think.
I could give you a million excerpts from the book, but I'll tempt you with just this:
The attitude of kneeling ought never to be allowed to disappear from the Church. It is the most impressive physical expression of Christian piety, by which, on one hand, we remain upright, looking out, gazing upon him, but, on the other, we nonetheless bow down.
And then again, this:
Being able to preach is a gift, a special grace, and Saint Augustine always had great respect for the simple pastors who need a book in order to work out what to say in a sermon. He said: It is not originality that is important, but humble service. If another person's book helps someone to preach the Word to men, that's very good. We will be thankful when God raises up a great preacher, but we should also learn to be humble enough to listen to a lesser preacher.
Recently a parish priest in a large German city told me that he had come to his vocation by the particular agency of a priest who was actually bereft of all exterior gifts. He was a hopeless preacher, a dreadful singer, and so on, and yet under his care the parish really blossomed. In the end four or five priestly vocations were awakened in this city parish, something that happened neither under his predecessor nor under his successor, both of whom were far more capable. We can see here how the humble witness of someone who does not have the gift of persuasive speech can itself become a sermon, and how we should thank God for the variety of gifts.
I have several other Papa Ratzi books in the wings. Don't know which I'll start next.