Part of Lent is about “ordering your appetites.” For those who consider reading to be a deep pleasure, it wouldn’t hurt to bring some order to our bibliophilic hearts…
After college, I have always read books at my leisure, the ones I wanted to, when I wanted to… according to my feelings, which is why I often have 3 titles being read simultaneously. Easy fiction when I feel like escaping or pleasure. Non-fiction on subjects that interest me or for when I worry that my brain is going to atrophy from the rigors of laundry and diapers. Spiritual for keeping on track with my faith. (Currently, these three books happen to be Wise Blood, French Kids Eat Everything and Will to Love). You get the idea. While this is generally fine and it works for me, I think it’s important to develop some discipline every now and again just to make sure we still can. So I’m twisting my 3 books into rigid categories for Lenten purposes and invite you to do the same.
- Read a classic piece of fiction that you feel like you SHOULD’VE read by now or have always WANTED to read but never made time for. At the top of this list for me personally are Les Miserables, The Brothers Karamazov and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
- Read something spiritual that focuses specifically on the life of Jesus, His Passion or the concept of suffering/spiritual poverty. The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ has been on my to-do list for a decade now. I’m making it happen this year, despite not feeling like it. The next item on my spiritual list was to be The Discernment of Spirits but I’m buckling down to put my attention on Christ instead.
- Read an intellectually challenging book of non-fiction. I’m thinking something “boring” or profound that you know think you ought to read but are reluctant to commit the mental energy to. It’s important to stretch our brains… and it’s okay to have to read a paragraph 3 times before you “get it!” Expose yourself to a bit of philosophy via the more accessible philosophers of today like Josef Pieper, (try The Concept of Sin) Stratford Caldecott (e.g. All Things Made New: The Mysteries of the World in Christ), or Roger Scruton (Beauty: A Very Short Introduction). Or read something academically edifying like How to Read a Book (which I think should be mandatory reading for all people, despite my own ‘putting it off’) or A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles.
That’s it! 3 books, 40 days. Commit some time to it every day. Who’s in?
Take the challenge. Spread the word. Read with discipline.
* Regarding point 2, I have some suggestions if you need a place to start:
Life of Christ. Because, Fulton Sheen. Very specifically, (and much shorter) The Seven Last Words.
Happy Are You Poor: The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom. Life changing. A must read for everyone in my opinion… should be revisited every few years.
Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection. The second in then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s trilogy and the most appropriate for this season. Because he was a theologian/philosopher before he was a pope, this book is brimming with both insight and intellectual rigor.
Arise from Darkness: What to Do When Life Doesn’t Make Sense. Fr. Benedict Groeschel, God rest his soul, was a transformative writer/speaker for me as I came back to the faith as a teen/young adult. He is awesome.
I’m in. I really appreciate your book recommendations and I just used your link to buy Happy Are You Poor. I’ve been really struggling lately with how to live Christian poverty while also raising an ever expanding family. We also live in a very affluent area near DC which tends to make me feel less than everyone around me. Ironically it happens most frequently at mass when I’m prone to see myself as particularly shabby looking compared to the other women around me–certainly an issue of pride as I’m sure no one else is paying the least bit of attention to me in my ever the same, one nice church outfit. I think I’ll try to read this with my husband so we’re on the same page.
Thanks for using my link Cristina. I share your struggle with balancing poverty and the material needs (and wants!) of my family; it’s never something that I can fully say I’ve conquered… but keeping at the struggle with faithfulness is what counts. Best wishes in your read and take comfort in the little poor family of Nazareth that changed the world…
I will have to go hunt around to figure out my three. This is a great challenge!
I have tried to read The Intellectual Life by Sertillanger before but didn’t get far. That can be my Intellectually challenging book.
I am already reading the Bible (just started Exodus) and I am also going to join in a Lenten retreat every Sunday in Lent where we’ll be reading Consoling the Heart of Jesus. So those two might have to be my spiritual reading.
Not sure of the fiction.
Consoling the Heart of Jesus is really good Faith… enjoy it!
Awesome! Nothing like the big Russian authors to help us become disciplined readers. 😉
I’m in! I even have titles ready to go.
1) War and Peace–I’ve attempted this on before and have never been able to give it enough time.
2) Death on a Friday Afternoon by Richard Neuhaus.
3) Mere Christianity by CS Lewis– it’s not exactly boring, but not my usual genre, if you know what I mean.