The holiday season isn’t complete without a book, or two, or three, to cuddle up with on the couch and enjoy with a hot cocoa. Here are the books we’re picking up to spark our imaginations by the fireplace.
Several years ago, I read Aberystwyth Mon Amour, Malcolm Pryce’s laugh-out-loud spoof of hard-boiled detective fiction, in which the often-bizarre action takes place in a small Welsh seaside town. To my delight, this turns out to be only the first of a six-part set. So I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Last Tango in Aberystwyth, in which a suitcase intended for a Druid hitman falls into the wrong hands.
I’ve recently read The Stand by Stephen King. It’s one of my sci-fi-loving fiancé’s favorite books, and he got me a copy so I could read it and we could discuss it together (romantic, right?). I found it engaging but kind of creepy to read a novel about a wickedly deadly pandemic. Moreover, The Stand‘s superflu is a lot worse than COVID-19 because it has almost no incubation period and kills 99% of the time! Plus there’s a creepy devil-like figure out west in Vegas planning to take over the US (and beyond) and the remaining survivors, and he can haunt your dreams and figure out what you’re up to. How in the world will a small band of survivors in Boulder stand against him? The story turned out a lot more positive than I thought it would, and the characters were developed well and made you root for them. But I’m glad to move on to something less dystopian–and less disease-centered–next!
A couple of years ago, I got a gift copy of John Henry Newman’s Waiting for Christ: Meditations for Christmas and Advent, edited by Christopher O. Blum. If I can find it, I’ll be reading it daily again for this Advent and Christmas—Blum did a nice job trimming down the sermons so they are very vibrant and direct. Newman was a great preacher. I am furthermore still attempting to read our own Introduction to Sacramental Theology: Signs of Christ in the Flesh by Rev. José Granados, DCJM, although if I can get any reading done in this busy season it’ll be a minor miracle. Also my daughter wants to read 24 Christmas Stories to Welcome Jesus as she says she’s too old for the Little Ones version we’ve read in past Advents.
I’ve been reading one of Shusaku Endo’s many novels, Volcano. Like many of Endo’s novels, it’s an examination of Japanese Catholicism and postwar life, and an attempt at understanding how the uncomfortable “western suit” he wore at his baptism can be reshaped into something authentic to him and his culture. The story features a greedy city councilman who wants to build a resort on the slopes, the retiring director of the local weather station whose legacy depends on the mountain remaining dormant, a naïve Japanese priest who wants to build a religious retreat in the area, and a bitter French ex-priest who desperately wants the mountain to blow up and prove him right—and, of course, the titular volcano, whose potential explosion (or lack thereof) looms over the novel and its characters.
I’m excited to pick up my first Agatha Christie novel, The Man in the Brown Suit. My only other exposure to her work is the 2017 film adaptation of The Murder on the Orient Express (which is underrated and had an absolutely STACKED cast!) so my whodunnit know-how is pretty limited. I’m looking forward to seeing how many more antics there are with young, amateur detective Anne at the helm instead of an experienced PI like Hercule Poirot.
I am currently captivated by Janet Soskice’s The Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels. Part biography and part travelogue, it is primarily an account of how two intrepid Victorian ladies, identical twins, discovered in 1893 a Syriac version of the Gospels that had been sequestered in an obscure niche of St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai. Margaret Gibson and Agnes Lewis (both née Smith), staunch Scottish Presbyterians who had relocated to Cambridge, mastered several languages, both ancient and modern, as well as the use of the camera to photograph manuscripts. Especially enthralling are the sisters’ travels on camelback in the Middle East, their rugged resourcefulness in the quest for and the study of ancient manuscripts, and Ms. Soskice’s descriptions of the personalities and rivalries of the Cambridge patristic scholars of that day.