August Read: “The Pope and the CEO” by Andreas Widmer

About four years ago I heard a great interview on the radio. The most energetic and interesting guy was being interviewed about his newly published book concerning his memories as a Vatican City Swiss Guard. Everyone involved with the interview was enjoying themselves so much and the questions and answers were so interesting that I had to buy the book.

Widmer shares his memories of John Paul II and the examples of leadership he learned during his time serving the pope many already refer to as “John Paul The Great.”

I’m looking forward to jumping into this read.

Here’s a great link to a review of the book, including some of the points outlind by the author- https://catholicbusinessjournal.biz/content/book-review-pope-and-ceo-written-former-swiss-guard

July Read: “Hild” by Nicola Griffith and “Divine Vintage” by R Heskett and J Butler

Getting greedy this month, I’m hoping to finish two books. I used to finish some books in two days, then I got a job, got married, and had kids. I like to tell myself I traded in one kind of crazy fun (hours of non-stop reading, woo-hoo!!) for another (grading papers, saying stuff like “don’t lick your brother’s hair!”**)

This month I’m reading two books, and one has to get back to the library before the end of July or I get late fees. I hate late fees, but always end up owing them to the library… I nobly tell myself “it isn’t a fine, it is my donation to a fine institution” to take the sting out of my day-late-dollar-short character.

2Q==So, this month I want to read “Hild” by Nicola Griffith, a novel about a 7th century saint… what might her life and times had been like? A lot of research and a ton of imagination went into this story, and I am really looking forward to reading this book. (Photo at left is from Amazon.com and links to their page)

2Q==-1The other book is the non-fiction “Divine Vintage- Following the Wine Trail from Genesis to the Modern Age.” by Randall Heskett and Joel Butler. I love learning about food chemistry, history, and origins, and this book includes all three, heavy on the last two. (Photo at right is from Amazon.com and links to their purchasing info for this book)

Enough posting, I’m going to get reading.

**True story: those words really did come out of my mouth about 15 years ago.

June Read: The Alchemist- Finished, and Loved It!

“If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better. Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings, confident that God loves His children.
Paulo Coelho The Alchemist p.103

What a nice, uplifting, positive book! A fast read, but deep. Pick this book up to join Santiago, the Andalusian shepherd boy as he travels from Spain to the Pyramids of Egypt to discover his treasure.

Here’s quite a Life Nugget, if this doesn’t sum up what it feels like to start making your own decisions in life, I don’t know what does:
“He still had some doubts about the decision he had made. But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.” (p. 68)

So, keep making those good choices. You know which ones they are- the healthy ones. All the little good choices you make are like streams of goodness leading to your river of what is your very own ocean Overall Good. Been making bad choices lately? Little choices that are not healthy? Big ones, maybe? They are draining your ocean of Good. Fill yourself with what is good. Be carried away by currents of goodness.

One of my most favorite parts of the adventure is the story that the alchemist tells Santiago just before the two part ways (page 156 in my book) and begins with these words:
“I want to tell you a story about dreams,” said the alchemist. The boy brought his horse closer…” My. Favorite. Part. If you have the book, go look it up, right now!

And my favorite line from the book:
“Today, I understand something I didn’t see before: every blessing ignored becomes a curse.” (p.58)

Does Santiago’s quest end with riches and treasure, as the Gypsy woman, the king, and the alchemist all suggested? You have to read the story to find out. One of my last favorite lines from the book was this:

“(Because) wherever your heart is, that is where you’ll find your treasure.”

Get into a good book!
Get into a good book!

June Read: The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

The Girl had to read Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist” as a freshman English summer assignment. She racked up several more novels over her high school career and frankly, I probably have not read half of them myself even though I have been quite a reader over the years. The Boy received his summer assignments recently and once again, “The Alchemist” is on the list. There’s got to be something to this story if both of my kids have had to read it…

Originally published in Portuguese in 1988, and almost thirty years later, I am looking forward to traveling the pages along with Santiago the shepherd boy as he searches for treasure in his adventures. I love a good adventure!

I just need to get it read quickly because when The Boy finds out, he’s surely going to decide that he needs to begin his summer assignment…

Click for the Amazon link to "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho
Click for the Amazon link to “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

Finally Finished My May Read: “The Screwtape Letters,” by C. S. Lewis

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts, Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.”
C. S. Lewis, from “The Screwtape Letters”

CS Lewis
CS Lewis “The Screwtape Letters”

I finally finished a book that I started several years ago. Can I perhaps tempt you to read it, too? (LOL… OK, I’ll stop). In “The Screwtape Letters,” Lewis provides much food for thought, and the main thought of the book is Temptations.

C. S. Lewis, well know for his Narnia series, is almost as famous for his theologic essays and stories. In “The Screwtape Letters,” we read correspondences between the earthly tempter and demon “Wormwood” and his under-worldly advisor, “Screwtape.” The whole of the story focuses on Wormwood’s need for advice as to how to best lead his assigned human astray from “The Enemy,” God.

In one letter, Screwtape shares with Wormwood: “…as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.'”  This really struck me, and I stopped reading to think… reminded of how the modern screen conveniences, in particular, allow me to become easy pickings for my own personal demons. Good grief, that could be me looking back at all the hours I spend wasted in front of a TV, smartphone, or computer. Sobering, to say the least.

Screwtape then closes this letter with what many of us will recognize (in reverse, of course)… how many times have you heard this idea preached from the pulpit? Or maybe you’ve read it in a book:

“But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.”

May Read: C. S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters”

CS Lewis The Screwtape Letters
CS Lewis “The Screwtape Letters”

Ever start a good book but never get around to finishing it?

“That’s just crazy talk,” say all the bibliophiles. I know, I know…crazy!
The first time I picked up C. S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters” life just got in the way of my finishing it. I still have the book and intend on starting over from Chapter 1 tonight.

This time I picked up the book, I noticed to whom it was dedicated: J. R. R. Tolkien.

Happy reading, all!

CS Lewis
CS Lewis “The Screwtape Letters”

“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough
or a book long enough to suit me.”

“You are never too old to set another goal
or to dream a new dream.”

“We meet no ordinary people in our lives.”

C. S. Lewis

April Read: “The Lost Continent” Review

In 1989 Bill Bryson drove throughout the United States on a quest to find the quintessential American city. He referred to it as “Amalgam, USA” and the quest became his book “The Lost Continent.” He did find many beautiful spots in the U.S. but sure doesn’t hold back when he is disappointed.  Heads up- this is not a children’s book, too many four letter words (well placed, too, I stoop to crass humor…).

I enjoyed this read, but I offer a couple cautions-

  • If you are an American, read only if you have a healthy sense of humor and can take a joke about your country.
  • If you are not an American, Read this book if you want to read an ex-pat’s biting description of the USA, but please take most of it with a grain of salt. Please?
  • He’s a timid traveller here after living abroad, but uses his wit in his defense. Two quotes (of many examples) to illustrate: “A sign beside the highway said ‘Welcome to Mississippi. We Shoot to Kill.’ It didn’t really. Just made that up.” On New York City’s Times Square- “New York frightened me… I felt a personal gratitude to everyone who left me alone. I wanted to hand out cards that said, ‘Thank you for not killing me.’
Travel books and Bryson's commentary on his travels
Travel books and Bryson’s commentary on his travels

Reading this book kind of makes you want to tour the States- not because his descriptions of beautiful scenery and fascinating people draw you in, but instead because you want to defend them! It would be satisfying to visit the New England states he hated and send him a postcard detailing the fine sights that you were able to view, in contrast his perspectives of a New England with never ending strip malls, a slow witted South, a monotonous Midwest… etc. Remember- he’s a comedian, and if you are going to laugh at one region he details, you have to be able to take it when he sticks it to your region.

Bill Bryson’s “The Lost Continent” is funny. I liked it, but definitely not for everyone.

Two by Bryson... on the only uncluttered flat surface in my home right now.
Two by Bryson… on the only uncluttered flat surface in my home right now.