“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” – Cicero
My family celebrates the Feast of the Three Kings with books. As children, we would wake up on the 12th Day of Christmas to find book-shaped packages under the tree, with tags that read, “from Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar.” Movie junkies though we were, we would still eagerly open our books and spend the next few afternoons curled up with our stories.
This was just one of the many ways my mom showed us how to treasure books. Weekly library trips and overflowing bookshelves also helped. We were surrounded, and so we surrendered to the joy of reading.
Life gets busy, and I can go months without picking up a real book. So I recently challenged myself to get back to the joy of reading. As a part of my challenge I will share three books with you each month: a fiction, a non-fiction, and an audio-book (because better than nothing 😉 )
1. Fiction: The Crossing, by Cormac McCarthy
From the author of All the Pretty Horses and No Country for Old Men comes this stunning story of a boy, his brother, and a wolf.
Passages read like this:
“He woke all night with the cold. He’d rise and mend back the fire and she was always watching him. When the flames came up her eyes burned out there like gatelamps to another word. A world burning on the shore of an unknowable void. A world construed out of blood and blood’s alcahest and blood in its core and in its integument because it was that nothing save blood had power to resonate against that void which threatened hourly to devour it. He wrapped himself in the blanket and watched her. When those eyes and the nation to which they stood witness were gone at last with their dignity back into their origins there would perhaps be other fires and other witnesses and other worlds beheld. But they would not be this one.”
And conversations go like this:
“You a very peculiar kid, he said, Did you know that?
No sir. I was always just like everybody else as far as I know.
Well you ain’t.
If you want to read your way into the wildest West, read this book.
If you want to live for a few hours in Old Mexico, read this book.
If you want to gain a tenfold appreciation for the comfort of your clean sheets and cozy socks, read this book.
This book looks into the soul of a sixteen-year-old boy and into the soul of humanity and tells the story of suffering in a way that is surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, hopeful.
2. Non-Fiction: Bakhita: From Slave to Saint, by Roberto Italo Zanini
This is a beautiful story about a beautiful woman. Bakhita was born into a happy and simple life in Sudan in the mid 1800’s. She was kidnapped, sold as a slave, tortured and brought to Italy, where she became a nun and a saint. The story is told in great historical detail, with Bakhita’s own words interspersed as little nuggets of joy.
“[They] introduced me to that God who from childhood I had felt in my heart without knowing who he was. I remembered looking at the moon and stars and the beautiful things in nature and saying to myself, ‘Who is the master of all these beautiful things?'”
This story too is about hope in suffering, and the difficult passages about Bakhita’s torture are only manageable because of the peace she finds and shares with you as you read.
I highly recommend this read.
3. Audio-Book: Everything That Remains, by Joshua Fields Millburn
This is not a story about hope in suffering. Except in the sense that it is a story about finding hope amidst the self-inflicted wounds of materialism, laziness, and apathy.
You may not have heard of The Minimalists, who authored this book, but I’m sure you have been drenched with essays, memes, and posts concerning the idea of minimalism. Everything That Remains can help you understand the why behind minimalism, and in my opinion it offers a lot of truths that can make a home in your life. It is worth a read (or a listen) and a thought. You may not agree with everything it offers (I don’t think I do) and maybe you already live a simple and detached life. But this book might help you understand the minimalism craze a little better. At the very least it is an entertaining story about one man and his journey to and from a purely materialistic existence.
There you go! My two reads and a listen for this month.
What good books have you read or listened to lately? I would love some recommendations!