Book Review Friday!

I love reading. I still get a happy little thrill every time I enter a bookstore. Or click on Amazon. Today I wanted to share a few books I've recently enjoyed. Death Comes to Pemberley is one of those delightful, excellently written books which both entertains and educates. When I read well-written prose I can just feel myself becoming a better writer, almost by osmosis. This book picks up where Pride & Prejudice left off while including a delicious murder mystery. The character descriptions and wry humor are simply perfection. Example: "He was a thin, melancholy bachelor, aged thirty-five, given to preaching sermons of inordinate length and complicated theology, and had therefore naturally acquired the reputation of being a very clever man..." (pg. 11). Read this book, it is sure to delight and intrigue you. Plus, you'll feel smarter.

Shirt of Flame: A Year With St. Therese of Lisieux is a book I've marked, highlighted, dog-eared and tabbed. I think I need to read this book at least once a year. Heather King expertly deconstructs the life of St. Therese, a young nun who died at age 24. St. Therese's simple, invisible life belied her intensity of love and purity of desire. I have found great solace in St. Therese's writings and this book illuminates her life in vivid, compelling detail. It is beautifully written and extraordinarily applicable to our own modern lives. I very rarely say a book changed my life, but this one did. I cherish it. St. Therese wrote about "The Little Way"--a spiritual practice that devoted itself to loving God through small, little, everyday acts of love. My favorite quote from St. Therese is: "I wanted an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough staircase to perfection." The only requirement for walking "The Little Way" is desire. It's open to all and especially accessible to those of us who are weary, beaten down and simply incapable of doing anything big for God.

I gotta be honest, at first The Happiness Project got on my nerves. It annoyed the heck outta me. I was like: OK. You're an accomplished writer living in Manhattan with the love of your life. And you're not HAPPY??? But the more I read, the more I appreciated this book. Eventually, I was completely hooked. Gretchen Rubin offers solid, practical advice based on her own, real-life experiment to find and live a happier life. She tries everything from decluttering her house to biting her nagging tongue and writes about it with honesty, insight and humor. Rather than get lost in wonky philosophical ramblings, Gretchen offers practical how-tos which were easily do-able. Thanks to Gretchen, I got back to blogging daily, wrote a simpler to-do list and prioritized early bedtimes. Yes, I'm happier!

As a newly minted runner, I found Running & Philosophy to be an interesting read. I've written about how running has become a religion of sorts for me and this book addresses that very topic. Arranged as a collection of essays, the book feels a bit unwieldy at times--thanks to all the different writing voices--but I still found a lot to chew on, especially in the early chapters. I loved how the writers incorporated Nietsche, Aristotle, Plato and other philosophers into their understanding of running: "Amor fati (love of fate), then, captures Nietzche's highest value: maximally affirming life with a full understanding of its tragic dimensions. Suffering and adversity, instead of being avoided, should be crafted for practical advantage...This is my only life and if I confront it with aesthetic creativity and a full heart it will be quite enough." (pg. 3).

I take this book of poems by Edith Plath and a glass of wine into the bath with me. Ever since I started writing my book, I've been chilled to my bones. It's a strange, somatic response to reliving my childhood. But Edith's poems, wine and a hot bath are my healing balm. Yes, I am restored by depressing poetry. One of my favorite lines from Edith's "Spinster": How she longed for winter then!--Scrupulously austere in its order / Of white and black / Ice and rock, each sentiment within border / And heart's frosty discipline / Exact as a snowflake" Oh, that last bit...heart's frosty discipline / exact as a snowflake...that line has stuck in my head for weeks. How often we dismiss the messiness of love and idolize something more orderly, timely, precise, austere. But then we miss out on love, don't we?