By Maureen Wittmann
The current political climate is, well, how do I put this? Um, not so civil.
I've been a political junkie since my teen years. My twenties were spent as an activist. My husband was the Republican candidate for U. S. Congress in Missouri's First District in our thirties. I thrived on political debate through my forties. But this year is different. I've been avoiding political discussions as much as possible. I've even vowed to keep political posts off my personal Facebook page.
When my mom was in her sixties and seventies she made the conscious decision not to follow the news anymore. To just live her life and do her best to serve God in her little corner of the world. I scolded her and couldn't understand that drop-out attitude. I felt strongly that we all need to be involved in politics in some fashion. Today, I'm wondering if, as usual, she was right, and I was wrong.
No, I'm not planning on completely dropping out of the news cycle. However, I don't want to be bombarded with nonstop political television ads and I certainly don't want to spend my valuable time watching cat fights online. Or worse, participating in them.
So, what is one to do when ignoring television and social media? What else? Curl up with a good book. Perhaps with a box of chocolates and a glass of wine too. That's my plan at least.
If you'd like to join me, here are few titles that may help get the two of us through to November 8th. I tried to choose a wide variety of genres. Most have little in common with the others. That's how I like to read -- a little bit of everything, jumping from one genre to the next. Some are light, fun reads and others are quite serious. Some are short, easy reads and others are quite lengthy. However, there is one common thread (IMO) -- each is a read that will prayerfully give you hope for this world and the next.
Click on the book title for reviews and ordering information. FYI -- these are affiliate links. If you purchase a book, I get a little love from Amazon so I can buy even more books and hide away even longer from reality. (I have a feeling I may want to do that even more after this election is over.) If you have a book that you think should be on this list, please share with us in the comments (and why!).
Beautiful Mercy: Experiencing God's Unconditional Love So We Can Share It With Others
Let's start our reading with a little mercy. Given to me by a priest friend, this reader is from Dynamic Catholic to celebrate the Year of Mercy. It's a compilation of short, engaging stories from several great Catholic authors including, but not limited to, Archbishop Chaput, Scott Hahn, Lisa Hendy, Jennifer Fulwhiler, Fr. Larry Richards, all brought together by Matthew Kelly. Inspirational advice that also gives us the practical tools we need to live a life of mercy. I suggest buying it used as there is an abundance of copies so you can get it for as little as a penny plus shipping and handling.
Jack Claymore For President by Dwayne Pugh
Okay, I know the point is to ignore politics. But, remember, I'm a recovering junkie. Besides, this really is not a political book. It's just a plain, fun, romantic comedy. In fact, it is the inspiration for the blog post in the first place. The whole time I was reading Jack Claymore for President I was thinking to myself, "I wish someone would make this into a movie." It's self published, written by a friend of a friend. It's not highbrow literature, but I don't care, I really enjoyed it. And, hey, if you order the Kindle version, it's only $2.99!
A Song for Nagasaki by Fr. Paul Glynn
This is a beautiful story that reminds us of the goodness that exists in the world and in individual human beings. A Song for Nagasaki is the true story of Takashi Nagai, hero of Nagasaki. Nagai was a pioneer in radiology research who had put his career at risk when he converted to the Catholic faith. When the A-bomb was dropped at the end of World War II, he searched the rubble for survivors and to help save their lives. He knowingly did this at great risk to himself. Due to over exposure of radiation, he contracted leukemia. His final years were spent bringing physical and spiritual help to the people of Japan. This is a story that will raise your heart and give you hope.
The Awakening of Miss Prim: A Novel by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera
I have not read this book yet, but it comes highly recommended by Joseph Pearce (Homeschool Connections literature professor) so it's sitting on my reading table waiting for me at this moment. It's not light reading, but challenging reading. What better way to ignore politics than to be caught up in a deep, intellectual yet moving romance novel? From Prof. Pearce, "The Awakening of Miss Prim, takes the reader out of the messy world in which he finds himself and places him in a charmed world of elevated culture and simple pleasures."
Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger by Gary Michuta
I love apologetics and I love Gary Michuta, so it's about time I get around to reading his magnus opus. A prominent Catholic author once told me that Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger is the best book on the topic of the Deuterocanonical books. It's well documented and scholarly, so I suspect it may be a little dry for some people but, personally, I love that kind of stuff. It's a terrific opportunity to truly understand why Catholics have "extra books" in their Bibles, in addition to being a distraction from the incivility of the presidential campaigns.
The Hidden Power of Kindness: A Practical Handbook for Souls Who Dare to Transform the World, One Deed at a Time by Father Lawrence Lovasik
This book has been on my shelf collecting dust for a good number years. It came highly recommended by several friends and it's about time I brush it off and read it. I think focusing on kindness is especially needed during this tumultuous political climate. Perhaps it is even more important with the rise of social media, where kindness ofttimes appears to be completely forgotten. We can change the world with a little kindness, one person at a time.
A Girl of Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter
When I asked online for a book suggestion, a friend wrote, "Really enjoyed A Girl of Limberlost ... It was just happy to read and took me away from all the stress!" So, I went immediately to Amazon to read the reviews. I was hooked and put it on my Kindle, adding it to my "Ignoring Politics" folder. In a nutshell, it's set in 1909 and our heroine is Eleanor, a poor, abused, yet fiercely determined, young woman who just wants to go to school. As one reviewer wrote, "a Midwestern Cinderella story, but with no glass slipper and plenty of moths".
Rapunzel Let Down by Regina Doman
One reason Rapunzel Let Down makes this list its that it is a story surrounding the son of a U.S. senator. Also, because it shows how ugly the world can be and, yet, there is also beauty and hope. It is important to note that Rapunzel is also known as Regina Doman's "controversial novel". It is part of her Fairy Tale Novels series. Other books in the series were written with teens in mind. However, Repunzel is written for adults and certainly not for children. Please be forewarned, it contains a good share of sensitive topics: teen sex; abuse; rape; homosexuality; and more. However, these topics are viewed through a Catholic lens and are resolved before the book's end. It's a cautionary tale, based on the original Grimm's Fairy Tale (not the watered-down, safe version of today), that shows clearly the very serious consequences of sin. To top that all off it is a captivating read and a page turner.
The Woman Who Was Chesterton by Nancy Carpentier Brown
Another biography. This one is on the wife of G. K. Chesterton. Nancy Brown, noted Chestertonian, worked tirelessly researching Frances's life, including traveling to England to visit the Chesterton home, so she could share with the rest of us the beautiful love story of the Chestertons. I think to really know Gilbert, we need to also know Frances. She was Gilbert's biggest fan and she did everything she could to support him in his vocation as a writer, from tying his shoes to taking dictation for him. In turn, Gilbert had great love and respect for his wife. The Chestertons are a good example for the rest of us. I'm about a third of the way done with this one and looking forward to jumping back into it.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Let's finish up this Top Ten with a classic. You can't go wrong with Jane Austen when looking for a book to curl up with and escape the real world for a while. Pride and Prejudice, a romantic comedy written two centuries ago still delights, perhaps because it's the ultimate happily-ever-after story. Some things are timeless. Even in a world consumed by technology, human nature hasn't changed all that much since 1813. I think this time around, I'll listen to it on audio. PS When you're done with Pride and Prejudice, don't stop -- pick up Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Miss Austin's other books.
Five More Books
Because I have such a hard time whittling down lists (which is why I have fourteen bookshelves in my house!), here are five more titles for you ... just in case you want to keep reading after November 8th.
The Rosary: Keeping Company With Jesus and Mary by Karen Edmisten
When I received this little book in the mail I thought to myself, "Sigh. Yet another book on the rosary." I know that sounds terrible, but in my defense I do have a whole shelf full of rosary books. It was a sigh wasted -- I love this book, a short, easy read. Mrs. Edmisten not only taught me about the history and the beauty of the rosary but she touched some deep emotions. I found myself at moments, when Karen talks of her fallen past and staunch atheism, with tears welling up in my eyes.
Left to Tell by Immaculate Ilibagiza
I was privileged to hear the author, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, give a talk many years ago. A talk that left me changed forever. This is a story of hope, healing, and great forgiveness. It is hard to read at times as the atrocities committed against fellow human beings is beyond the greatest horror you could imagine. It is not for the faint of heart, so be forewarned. Immaculate witnessed her own brother brutally murdered, lost most of her family and friends to the genocide, and yet forgave. A lesson for the rest of us.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
This title is a complete departure from the rest of the books listed here. I am not a horror fan, yet Dracula is one of my favorite books. If you haven't read it, give it a try. You'll be struck by the underlying Catholic themes. The teens in my high school reading group chose it last year as one of their selections and they picked up on the Catholic imagery too. For example, Dracula (evil) cannot enter your home unless you invite him in. Of course, he needs to trick you into the invitation. Like sin, he is disguised in a welcoming, attractive package and you only recognize him for what he truly is after it's too late. But you can fight him back with strong determination and divine help.
The Way of a Pilgrim
An online friend recommended this book to me. It's a story about a Russian pilgrim and is about silent prayer in the Orthodox Christian tradition, namely, the "ceaseless" prayer or the so-called Jesus prayer. I've read a number of positive reviews in the Catholic press and I'd love to learn more about Eastern traditions, so The Way of a Pilgrim is going on my to-read pile.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
I listened to this book via Audible over the summer as I traveled to and from conferences. While a it contains an underlying story of redemption, hope, and the potential of strength in the human spirit, it is also a troubling story. It contains graphic violence that was difficult for me to digest. It is the true story of Louis Zamperini, a young thug turned Olympic track star and then later a World War II airman, castaway, and POW. I recently learned there is a young adult version that does not go as deep into the brutal details of Louis's physical abuse as a captive - that may be an easier version for the sensitive of heart to read. Yet, like Left to Tell, this is also a story of great forgiveness. How Louis survived the POW camps, much less came to forgive his captors is inspiring.
So, there you have it.