After enjoying the Wednesday Wars, I forged ahead to Okay for Now, Gary D. Schmidt’s companion book written from the perspective of the Wednesday Wars’ narrator’s classmate. Doug Swieteck is a different kind of narrator than Holling Hoodhood, partly because his home life and social stratum are different. Holling’s dad is an architect, but Doug’s dad is a working class guy with a big chip on his shoulder. While neither narrator’s home life is warm or promising, Doug at least has a mother who cares…Continue Reading “Recent Reads: A Schmidt-fest and a memoir”

In A Life Observed, author Devin Brown offers a biography of C.S. Lewis for a new audience: “a generation who may know him only through the Narnia films.” Though I don’t fit into this category, I’ve enjoyed this retracing of Lewis’s spiritual development for several reasons. First, Lewis is one of my spiritual mentors. His books have influenced my thinking and my faith in far reaching ways — quite possibly more than any other writer. His ways of imagining spiritual truths are often the first…Continue Reading “A Life Observed”

J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis is the best book I’ve read in a long time. Google the title, or the author’s name, and you’ll discover that it is making news as a treatise on the white working class. Some call it “an explanation of Trump voters.” But I doubt that Mr. Vance would feel comfortable with the title of “explainer.” (There is also no mention of Trump in the book, though in interviews the author is asked…Continue Reading “Hillbilly Elegy”

I’ve had different degrees of success in my reading this summer. For example, though their premises were interesting and they were in general pretty good, I fell by the wayside and failed to finish Simplicity Parenting and Sarum. After waiting weeks for The Nest to become available at the library, the opening pages turned me off quickly by presenting me with a sordid encounter. Nevertheless, I’ve had some success. It’s a Beautiful Day, by Renee and Philip Murdoch, details its author’s healing from traumatic brain injury. An American…Continue Reading “Recent Reads”

We bought Ben Carson’s You Have a Brain: A Teen’s Guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. for our kids. We knew a bit of his life story; someone had given us America the Beautiful a few years ago, and my husband had read it. We had also watched the movie Gifted Hands. His seemed like an inspiring story. We actually ended up listening to the whole thing together in one day on Audible. It was the day of our yearly applesauce making extravaganza back in the fall,…Continue Reading “You Have a Brain”

What then, were the Inklings? Was John Wain right to call them (as we reported on the first page of this study) ‘a circle of instigators, almost of incendiaries, meeting to urge one another on in the task of redirecting the whole current of contemporary art and life’? Were they, rather, just a circle of friends, sharing talk, drink, jokes, and writings? Something in between or something other? The question vexed the Inklings themselves, their supporters, and their detractors during the group’s existence and after…Continue Reading “The Fellowship”

It seems to us that he went from being a formidable atheist to a formidable Christian right away, but he didn’t. There really are about ten years that we really don’t know very much about. When Lewis was in one way God, I think, was preparing him. These are the thirties when he was just venturing gradually into Christianity. He wrote a few poems, but during that time Lewis realized that he would never be a great poet; all the plans that he’d made for…Continue Reading “C.S. Lewis and Bottoming Out”

So you feel like you’ve lived an interesting life, maybe a life that illustrates one of the archetypal American themes — Manifest Destiny, for example. How do you go about writing your life story for public consumption? For Laura Ingalls Wilder, the process involved writing a long, seamless, sequential narrative to her writer daughter, Rose Wilder Lane — complete with personal notes (“You remember the dress…”) and directions indicating an awareness of a public audience that might one day read her story. Some passages are…Continue Reading “Pioneer Girl”

Though I’m neither an especially tech savvy person nor an Apple devotee, lately I’ve been hearing about Steve Jobs everywhere. He seems to be the one people like to quote, especially his comments about designing not the products people want, but the ones people would want if they knew they existed. When my husband watched a documentary about Jobs a few weeks ago and told me about it, that settled it. I had to read this bio by Walter Isaacson. The book offers a readable…Continue Reading “Steve Jobs”

Now 14 years old, this book doesn’t represent cutting edge scholarship on the marriage between Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis. I saw it on the shelf at the library, and as a perpetual student of Lewis I was immediately interested. A Love Observed: Joy Davidman’s Life & Marriage to C.S. Lewis was apparently written to fill in gaps, and correct misimpressions, in the movie Shadowlands. As a former director of the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College, author Lyle Dorsett brings considerable knowledge to…Continue Reading “A Love Observed”