I learned about Link+ which means all the book on my list that I contemplated buying are now are in my hand. It has been a good month.
What I read this October
for pleasure, stress relief and Flannery O’Connor said of Joseph Conrad, “I keep reading them hoping they’ll affect my writing without my being bothered knowing how.”
Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset
Long, occasionally gripping, this is a biography of a woman the modern reader and thinker will struggle to understand. Undset undertakes the momentous task of presenting her to the modern reader to try to make her accessible. I knew Catherine was a force to reckoned with, she was a laywoman of the third Dominican order who longed for solitude and prayer but whom God called to daily active life, first through serving those in her household, then the Church in the world. Her courage was radiant as she risked her safety and life to embolden the men who were supposed to be leaders. This little woman with an indomitable spirit, so needed in our times today. Undset introduces us to the woman, the location and the times, eventually giving way to long summaries and passages from her letters.
“This strange woman and the intense life she led, hovering on two wings, as she herself had once expressed it, over the abyss between time and eternity; she touched both shores, but was never allowed to lie down to rest on either of them.”
The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
A meditation on death by illustrating for the reader the growing awareness of the end of life on the main character who has never had a thought beyond conformity to society’s expectations and pleasure. The life of pleasure isolates the person but in the end, nothing beyond relationships, a little pity and true meaning matters. This built my self-esteem for tackling Russian literature in the future. Few characters, distinguishable names, short page count. I would read it again.
The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor by Flanner O’Connor
This work took me some time as it is the complete collection of O’Connor’s stories, which must be taken in small doses. One can see her growing brilliance with the written word as she strove to capture the most elusive of fictional escapades, grace acting on nature. Ordinarily, she illustrated the action of grace by showing man’s violent effort to resist it. Towards the end of her short life, she tackles the affirmative action on grace, when man gives way and opens the door, ever so slightly. One wonders what masterpieces she would have written had she lived longer.
Most stories contain unsavory characters with unsavory actions, violence and death, including the deaths of children.
Study and Professional Development
Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons by Flannery O’Connor
A fun, quick romp through O’Connor’s humor and jaunt as a cartoonist using block printing. O’Connor peers into the irony of college and committee life to the amusement of those who have lived it.
The Presence of Grace and Other Book Reviews by Flannery O’Connor
A compilation of O’Connor’s tightly written reviews written for the diocesan newspaper. Her insults are better than her compliments and her compliments were hard-won. Most reviews are written in under 300 words and regard books we have never heard of. It makes for a great study in review writing and midcentury Catholic books. Best for deeper study in O’Connor’s work, the casual reader will derive more benefit from Mystery and Manners.
Deep Work by Cal Newport
The book itself is focused on developing deeper focus and the reading requires it. Some publishers prefer to see shorter chapters so we, in our distracted lives, can feel we accomplished something. Newport’s long chapters demand focus, though it not an academic work. He argues the value of deep work as something that enriches life, upholds the things that actually matter most to us, and is the way to get ahead in a economy that rewards a small percentage of “knowledge workers.” What do you actually want to accomplish? Will incessant email and social media checking get you there? Usually not. Newport argues for a better way with practical steps on how to improve your capacity for Deep Work.
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
It feels like a board book for adults. This short, illustrated work presents the central idea that nothing is original so we should study the masters, then develop our own voice. It is an important message in a saturated market. Inspiring ideas for individuality with a strong foundation.
Building the Benedict Option: A Guide to Gathering Two or Three in His Name by Leah Libresco
Reviews forthcoming. Suffice it to say, the book is worth the cover price for the Catholic woman as Libresco explores how laypeople to establish deeper Catholic communities and rebuild the body of Christ. The power lies in the laypeople during these dark times.
What I Read and Put Down
No duds this month, I’m happy to say.
I looked through How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen and Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript by Chuck Sambuchino both recommended by Jane Friedman (author of The Business of Being a Writer). Great reference books, but were not relevant to current projects, so I skimmed and returned. I’m keeping them on my list for when I do need them. I might purchase a copy of Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript down the road.