The A Catholic Misfit Reading List from 2018

Every year, I set a goal of how many books I intend to read, and every year, I fall a bit short. The goal for 2018 was 12 books. One per month – and yet, I fell shy of my goal. It wasn’t an overly ambitious goal. In fact, it was barely modest.

Oh well. There’s always next year! I’m increasing my goal, too. There’s no good reason why I don’t read more – plenty of lame excuses, sure, but no valid reasons. There are books in the queue and my ‘want to read’ list on Goodreads (my account is here), and the only thing stopping me from reading them is me. I also have this bad habit of reading multiple books at once – at last count, it’s at 27 – I’ll eventually finish them, it just takes awhile.

Below are the books I read/completed in 2018, in no particular order:

Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami

Japanese poet/author Haruki Murakami published his Q&A’s and conversations with famed former Boston Symphony conductor Seiji Ozawa over a two-year period, discussing music, opera, conducting, performing, the whole ball of wax. You’re the fly-on-the-wall in this book, listening in on conversations between two cultural geniuses. As a classical music aficionado, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

Nethereal (Soul Cycle #1) by Brian Niemeier

A space opera science fiction novel, with some weird ideas and imaginative world building. When it’s good, it’s great. It lags in several spots, where it gets a bit meh. Exposition was inconsistent, but I’m hoping the subsequent novels improve (a four-part series) on the themes, character development, and ideas.

The Abolition of Man by CS Lewis

I may reread this in 2019 – short, but deep. Lewis explores courage, honor, and the virtue of recognizing the objective reality of the good, true, and beautiful beyond how they make us feel. Lewis’ profound wisdom shows why he remains one of the 20th century’s greatest writers.

The Noonday Devil: Acedia, the Unnamed Evil of Our Times by Jean-Charles Nault

Whew, this book was fantastic, yet tough to read – because I see how acedia has crept into areas of my life, insidiously, without even noticing. Acedia, or sloth, is not laziness, but the sin of being weary of the good, of what’s virtuous. It’s the pointless busyness to avoid doing what’s necessary for salvation. The exposition into the Desert Fathers and St Thomas Aquinas is in depth, and the final section of the book deals with defeating acedia in your particular calling/vocation. May reread it in 2019.

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown

[My Goodreads review] I fell in love with Brene Brown after watching her ‘Vulnerability’ TED talk, and thoroughly enjoyed her book “Daring Greatly”. Brene’s style is easy on the ears, and I appreciate her authenticity and command of her research and conclusions. I can see us flinging back beers and having a laugh filled evening – she is that approachable.

As was this book. She presents the readers with challenges: to be courageous in your own skin; to be “fierce but kind”; to lean in to your pain and joy, and not be ashamed of either. This book has given me more to think about, and to identify where in my life and in my relationships changes have to be made. I’ll go back to this as I do with “Daring Greatly”.

No Shred of Evidence by Charles Todd

You had me at “an Ian Rutledge mystery”. This series of Scotland Yard mysteries, set in post WW I England, is Agatha Christie with better characters and fewer adverbs. Ian Rutledge is a broken man, stricken with “shell shock” that he must keep secret, which manifests itself as the “voice” of the Scot lieutenant he was forced to execute at the Sommes during wartime, living in his head, taunting him. A complex character suffering with his condition, all the while solving baffling crimes. I listened to this on Audible, with Simon Prebble as narrator – he did a fantastic job, and brought every character to life.

The Gatekeeper by Charles Todd

What can I say – I like this series. Again, listened on Audible with Simon Prebble. I have yet to be disappointed with any Ian Rutledge Mystery novel.

Through Darkest Zymurgia!: A Ripping Yarn by William H Duquette

[My Goodreads review] A modern Victorian tale of exploration with equal parts humor, whimsy, subtlety, and magic, combining to produce a fun tale of wit and adventure.

And beer!

N.B. – Will Duquette is a fellow member of The Catholic Conspiracy, writing at Zymurgia House. Check out his other blog and other books!

Monster Hunter: Vendetta by Larry Correia

The ultimate in brain candy fun, at least for me – a privately held company unwillingly working in conjunction with a secret US government agency to hunt down monsters, boogeymen, and evil creatures of every stripe. Not for everyone – violent, liberal use of profanity. But creative and funny. This is the second in a series. Adding Book 3 to my 2019 list.

Can We Be Friends? by Rebecca Frech

[My Amazon review] Rebecca’s book on finding your people and making/being friends is timely in an age where loneliness, despite the immediacy of social media, has become epidemic. Reading the book is effortless, as if you’re sitting at her kitchen table or neighborhood bar, chatting over a cup of coffee or a couple beers. An enjoyable, worthwhile read – and I hope she gets around to writing more books!

n.b. – Rebecca is also a fellow member (and co-founder) of TCC, writing at Backwards in High Heels. Check out her blog, too!

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PARISH REPORT: Alleged Advent Wreath Vandalism Ruled as Pinterest Fail

[ACMPress] DAYTON – After a thorough investigation, Dayton police have ruled that a destroyed Advent wreath at Our Lady of Essential Oils parish was the result of a Pinterest fail, and not a deliberate act of vandalism.

“Forensic evidence points to an extremely poor attempt to recreate an Advent wreath seen on Pinterest, than to a deliberate act of vandalism,” Detective Seymour Heere told ACM Press.

Ms. Moira Loess, a longtime member of the parish, had made the wreath and donated it last Thursday. When the church was opened Friday morning for Mass, the wreath was found scattered across the sanctuary. Police were called in to investigate.

Ms. Loess was devastated, but is glad no one purposefully harmed her wreath. “It’s a relief knowing me and my wreath are not victims in the ongoing war on Christmas.”

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Boston Area Parish’s Nativity Scene Puts Jesus in a Cage

This isn’t the parish creche – image usage rules don’t allow me to post the actual nativity scene.

Just when you thought Christmas couldn’t possibly be politicized more, a Boston-area parish has told everybody, “Here. Hold my beer”.

Their nativity scene depicts the baby Jesus inside a cage. 

CBS Boston has the story (images at the site):

DEDHAM (CBS) – It’s an unconventional take on the nativity scene at St. Susanna’s Parish Dedham. The baby Jesus is in a cage, the wise men are closed off by a wall.

For the parish, the crèche is meant to be thought provoking. “We try to take a picture of the world as it is and put it together with a Christmas message,” said Pastor Fr. Stephen Josoma.

That message this year questions “peace on earth”, since Jesus represents migrant children being held at the southern border separated from their parents.

The wise men are the caravan of migrants behind the border wall. They believe it’s very much the message of Jesus. “Jesus was about taking care of one another. This is not the way to take care of one another,” said Fr. Josoma.

Parishioner Phil Mandeville says Jesus was no stranger to politics. “Christ was political, he was hung on a cross for making political statements and bucking authority and that’s exactly why he died,” Mandeville said.

This has to be the dumbest nativity scene ever. And there have been a lot of dumb nativity scenes over the years. I always thought the Christmas message was to change the world, not represent it. Come on, the Holy Family weren’t immigrants – they returned to Joseph’s hometown of Bethlehem because of the census decree. They belonged there. Kinda like when you or I go visit family over the holidays. And the Wise Men represent the caravan of migrants? That’s weird – I thought they came bearing gifts, not seeking asylum or jobs. And what gifts are caravan migrants bearing, exactly? 

I get that the pastor and parish want to raise awareness to an important current issue, and are attempting to be provocative with their creche. You’d think, though, that God taking on human flesh, coming as a babe, to save humanity from sin and death, was provocative enough. Apparently that’s not so important for some Catholics.

Catholics like Fr. Josoma and Phil Mandeville.

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PARISH REPORT: Priest Installs Mirror in Adoration Chapel to Attract Millennials

[ACMPress] SEATTLE – The pastor at Our Lady of Virtual Reality announced this morning he’s made a major change to the parish’s perpetual adoration chapel, in hopes of attracting the millennial crowd to the church.

“I’m super excited about this,” Fr. Ken Seeted told ACMPress. “I installed a huge mirror at the front of the chapel, with the goal of bringing in the younger crowd. I want them to experience this holy, sacred time of perpetual adoration.”

Most of the parishioners ACMPress interviewed weren’t aware their parish even had a perpetual adoration chapel.

“I’ve been attending Mass here for Christmas and Easter for about ten years now,” one man said. “I never knew!”

“I went inside once,” a woman admitted, “and to be honest, I thought it just was the kneeler storage room.”

Fr. Seeted said several parishioners have told him they’re looking forward to the change. “They want that personal worship experience, so I’m going to give it to them. I believe in helping people on their faith journey, to enter into a deeper relationship with the person most important to them, without feeling judged. And who knows? Maybe the Boomer Generation will use it more than anybody!”

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