As we announced a couple of months ago on The Catholic Reading Challenge, we will be spending 2020 reading 24 different short stories by 12 different authors. Each month we will focus on one author, reading two stories by that author. During each of our bi-weekly podcast episodes (on the 15th & 30th of the month) we will discuss the stories in turn.
We are starting our year of short stories with the person who is arguably the master of the genre — Flannery O’Connor. Here are our selections:
Those who are already familiar with O’Connor’s work need no introduction to her. But for those of you who have never read her stories, I would say this: she is probably unlike anything that you have ever read. In fact, for most of us who have grown up in a thoroughly modern (philosophically) world, her writing will probably be shocking. Well, that was her intent. She strategically employed violence in her stories (whether symbolic or physical) to “shake” her audience awake to truth about themselves. We will discuss her methods and common themes this month on the podcast. And we will dive in with our discussion of “The Displaced Person” in our first episode of the new year. Mike and I are looking forward to this discussion!
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.