The Joy of Sharing Books

My husband and I launched our podcast, The Catholic Reading Challenge, at the beginning of the year, and it has been such a joyful experience. Not only has it brought the two of us together, giving us more intentional time to spend discussing stories and ideas together, but it has connected us with other people who take joy in sharing books as well…but maybe didn’t have an avenue opened before to do so.

I’ve heard from many listeners so far that they are enjoying it as much as we are, and I think what they enjoy most is the communal part of our podcast. I started The Catholic Reading Challenge on my blog two years ago, and it was a fairly standard list of 12 categories of books to read through in the calendar year. I think there were good categories, but the down side was the independent nature of it–reading in complete isolation.

I would blog throughout the year about what I was reading for each category, and ask people to share in the comments what they read. But we weren’t reading on the same schedule, so rarely were people reading the same category at the same time. It was the longing for more sharing that birthed the idea of turning the reading challenge into a podcast, one that was more of a book club. We are only in our second month (and second category) of the podcast, but already I’m having more interactions with people excited to share what they are reading. And that is truly delightful.

I have realized an important universal truth through this experience. Not only do all people love good stories–for as J. K. Rowling has said, “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book”–but they also want someone with whom to share them.

We make time for so many things in our daily life that don’t really fill us with joy. I think there is room for us to intentionally create more space in our daily rhythms for life-giving books and the communities in which to share what we encounter in them. Where can you make room for this in your life? I would add to Rowling’s sentiment: If you don’t like to read, perhaps you have never encountered the joy of a fellow reader.

Copyright 2019 Jessica Ptomey

My Reading Challenge Pick for…”a novel by a Catholic author”

I’m down to the last four categories of my 2018 Catholic Reading Challenge. How about you? I am continuing to share what I am reading for the challenge with you. This was a repeat author for me…and a beloved one!

Category: “a novel by a Catholic author”

My Pick: Gunnar’s Daughter by Sigrid Undset

I fell in love with Norwegian and Nobel Prize-winning author Sigrid Undset last year when I read her epic Kristin Lavransdatter and, about the same time, her biography of my confirmation saint, Catherine of Siena.

Undset is a writer with a profound gift for communicating universal themes of the human experience. Kristin Lavransdatter (both the book and the masterfully-written heroine) still pervades my spiritual imagination; and Catherine of Siena set a new standard for biographies of saints. I’ve written about both books here and here, for last year’s Reading Challenge.

Gunnar’s Daughter, written 10 years before Kristin Lavransdatter and a fraction of its length, is a really quick read…really quick. In fact, it’s a real page-turner. If you have a rainy day and a comfy chair, you might rip right through it. I read it over a couple of days. Here’s the crazy thing though: when I finished, it felt like I had just read an epic! The story and the characters make you feel that way. Though it had none of the intricate layers and extensive plot lines of one of Undset’s 1,000-page novels, the character sketches were none the less thick, real, and lasting in your memory.

If you are sensitive about certain content, read a summary of the plot that doesn’t give the story away. Though rape and childhood death are elements in the story, they are not explicit. (She’s not that kind of writer.) Her characters are such real people — ones that could live during any point in history. I’m just impressed at how much of them she could give me in so few words.

Another interesting element of the novel is that it is set in eleventh century Norway and Iceland, about 300 years before Kristin Lavransdatter’s time period. This is Norway’s pre-Christian era. So you get a sense of how different the religious culture was from a few centuries later during Kristin’s era. In fact, famed king and saint Olav, referenced many times in Kristin, is a character in this novel. Good historic fiction is my favorite way to absorb the history of a time, place, and people.

If you haven’t read Sigrid Undset, this might be a great entry point.

 


What did you read for “a novel by a Catholic author”?

 

Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey

Wonder & Whimsy: “Weekend Coffee”

Now and then I like to share the helpful, enjoyable, and inspirational things that I have come across lately. Perhaps some of these might be just the thing you were looking for…

#1 — Quote from Bishop Robert Barron

I get Bishop Barron’s daily Gospel reflections (which you could sign up for here) delivered to my email. He had a beautiful take on the Transfiguration from Sunday’s Gospel passage:

“The Jesus who is both divine and human is the Jesus who is evangelically compelling. If he is only divine, then he doesn’t touch us; if he is only human, then he can’t save us. His splendor consists in the coming together of the two natures, without mixing, mingling, or confusion.”

#2 — Book Lists!

I am a sucker for a slug line that promises a curated list of books, and I find Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy to have good suggestions and well-organized lists. Ladies, here is one that sparked my interest: “25 Must-Read Classics for Women.”

I heartily agree with many on the list…Little Women, Kristin Lavransdatter, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Anne of Green Gables… How many have you read on the list? How many are on your TBR list?

#3 — “Weekend Coffee”

So, I love good coffee, but good coffee beans are hard on the wallet, especially if you brew them daily. So I have invented “weekend coffee” for myself. 🙂 I had my husband pick me up a bag of Kenyan beans from a local roaster/coffee shop (Vigilante) around the corner from his school. I think it was probably $20 (!), but I deserve that two mornings a week. My new moto: **parent hard-play hard.** (During the week it’s Aldi organic/fair trade for $5/bag.)

Do you have any favorite finds to pass on to me? Post them in the comments, please!

 

Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey