Sunday, June 01, 2014

Recent (Eclectic) Reading

The latest stack of stuff on my bedside table (or piled in the living room, or on Kindle, or wherever....)


The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

This is a charming little novel that my friend, D., recommended. It's about a brilliant scientist who appears to have Asperger's syndrome (read here and here for more from the author about how he approached that and why.) He embarks on a project to find a wife who is perfect for him, convinced he can do so using a perfectly designed questionnaire. The fact that Don Tillman doesn't know he is a fine candidate for a diagnosis of Asperger's (not even after he delivers a lecture on the subject) makes for first person narration that is touching, amusing and insightful. Parts of the story veered into territory I'd not predicted, and I'm happy to report I was happy with the book's twists and turns, both expected and unexpected.

Angels and Saints: A Biblical Guide to Friendship with God's Holy Ones by Scott Hahn

I received a review copy of Scott Hahn's latest from Image Books. It's a beautiful book that is a reminder that we are really -- truly, madly, deeply --  surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who care about us, and that our relationships with them are personal and peculiar, unique and intimate. Just like family should be, no?

Best part? The story about Assisi.

That's what it's all about.

(Image has a blog tour going on this week -- some of the hosts are doing giveaways, so be sure to check out the line-up.)

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg

My friend D. recommends the best stuff. She's the one who introduced me to A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table (which introduced me to THE CHOCOLATE CAKE) and my love for that book led me to order my own Mother's Day present read this one, too.

Delancey is a memoir recounting the creation and opening of a pizza dream -- namely, Wizenberg's husband's restaurant. Initially, it was to be his restaurant, but it inevitably and painfully became a joint effort. The book delves -- but does not delve too deeply -- into the friction that the business generated in Brandon and Molly's marriage. But to be honest? I'm kind of glad it didn't delve any deeper. The points were made -- subtly and gently but honestly -- that marriage can be hard, that enormous changes early in a marriage (such as opening the type of business that has a frighteningly high failure rate) can be terrifying and stressful. I've read a couple of reviews of the book that criticize Wizenberg for not going into more detail ("Marriage is in the title! We're entitled to the dirt!") but I say hurray for Molly for not putting brutal honesty above her most important relationship. There is plenty of humility and personal revelation but I don't need every detail. (Memoirs are funny and tricky, I think. When I consider writing a memoir -- about my conversion, what Atticus and I have gone through ... I usually just ... shudder. Too many hurtful, painful things in the past. Anyway....)

I loved reading about the process of opening the restaurant. It fascinated me -- Brandon's obsessive investigation into pizza, his road trips to test pie here and there and everywhere. I loved that when he and Molly first dated, he took her to his favorite pizza place and confided that he'd once taken a date there and decided he could never have a relationship with that woman because she'd hated the place, she just didn't get him. (I find that incredibly cute.) Molly, however, got it.

I was also interested in seeing an intriguing and kind of sad dynamic at work: two people who love to cook, had loved cooking together at home, open a restaurant and find that they have lost (because they are too consumed by the business, and by cooking at work!) one of the things they've shared and cherished, one of the things that brought them together. I'm not sure that was (or ever will be, as long as they remain restaurateurs) resolved, but it must be working out, as Delancey is still thriving in Seattle.

But that's just sort of the way life works, isn't it? None of us seem to end up becoming the thing we once thought we'd be.

Which leads me to my next recent read....

Jennifer Fulwiler's Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It 

Yeah, I can relate.

Grew up atheist? Check.
Circuitously ended up on a quest for the truth about existence? Check.
Horrified to find that quest pointing to Christianity? Check.
Quoting C.S. Lewis? Check.
Even more horrified to find the quest dragging one in the direction of Catholicism? A hundred-thousand checks.

I had to laugh at the opening -- so great, because I, too, had an altar call-ish sort of experience in childhood (Jen's was at summer camp, mine involved a friend in seventh grade repeatedly dropping notes in my locker that read, "Jesus Loves You!" I was annoyed -- with my friend and with Jesus.) The parallels outwardly end there, as we had vastly different experiences before conversion, but many inward parallels remain and had me nodding my head: endless questions, intellectual struggles, wrestling with doctrine, embarrassment at the possible outcome of the hunt, dismay (for better or for worse) at explanations and answers about the Catholic faith and all of its implications. And finally? Assent and sweet relief.

If you've ever read Jen's blog, you know that her book went through several incarnations before this -- its final, poignant, lovely, and funny form -- and I think it's clear that she found the story arc of her life.

And finally...

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman

I'm only halfway through this one and I'm having troubling staying focused on it. I keep getting distrac

Nah, not really.

I love reading about how our minds work, and the many, many things that interest me about this book will probably require a separate post.


  1. I should read The Rose Project. :)

  2. I just read Atheist to Catholic and was very moved by your chapter. Conversion stories are so inspiring and when they are also well written it is very moving. Your journey and your writing are beautiful. If you ever do write that memoir, I'll be right there at the front on the line to buy it!

  3. Colleen, thank you! That's very kind. I'm so glad you enjoyed Atheist to Catholic. That's as complete as the story has gotten publicly.

    Maybe someday I'll write it all and just change names to protect the guilty. I could call on my Scottish heritage: "The conversion of McLaren McEdmisten goes something like this...." :)