Staff Bookshelf October/November 2023

In this blog post we highlight what the CUA Press was reading in October. Featured in this staff bookshelf we have a delightful range of genres spanning across medieval folklore, magical realism, historical classics, religion, romantic comedy and more! Just like a bowl of leftover candy after Halloween, we have a lovely variety of bookish flavors on the table!

Trevor L

I’m reading The Mabinogion — the collection of medieval Welsh tales from the Red Book of Hergest and/or the White Book of Rhydderch — as translated by Sioned Davies. Fun stuff, as these include some early stories involving King Arthur. And yes, there are dragons, shape shifters, and even a large knight dressed all in black (who, alas, does not say “‘Tis but a scratch”). If I may cavil, though, the book would be more enjoyable to read had the publisher followed the shining example of CUA Press and put footnotes at the bottom of the page.   


I am reading Lanny by Max Porter. It’s a magical realism book set in England about a young boy who is shunned because of his connection to nature among other things. There’s also a bizarre creature named Dead Papa Toothwort who narrates at times and the lines on the page are sideways?! I don’t understand it and I’m sure by the time I finish I still won’t understand it. That being said, so far I recommend it if you want something really weird to read!


I’m on to book two of Kristin Lavransdatter (see last month’s post). It could alternatively be titled, A Series of Unfortunate Events in Medieval Norway. But it’s worthy of its sterling reputation.

With my daughter, I’m reading her The Story Girl by L. M. Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame. Currently the young characters are reckoning with the end of the world, which was announced in the local paper to take place at 2pm the following day.

Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end.


I am reading Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. Many may recognize this as (what I consider to be) the 90’s occult classic film Practical Magic starring Sandra Bullock, but the book came out two years prior to the film, in 1995. The book, like the film, follows three generations of women in the Owens family, who happen to be witches, in modern day Massachusetts. The Owens sisters, Sally and Gillian, are forced to endure their family curse of misfortune and blame in their town, causing them to become estranged; unlike the other generations before them, as if by magic, they are drawn together again. Featuring eccentric aunt witches, romance, and haunting autumnal scenes. 


Together with my local small faith community I am reading and discussing a book by Daryl P. Domning, a Catholic paleontologist, and the late Monika K. Hellwig, a well known Catholic theologian who was a member of the theology faculty of Georgetown University. The title of the book is Original Selfishness: Original Sin and Evil in the Light of Evolution. Most of it was penned by Daryl Domning, who, after explaining clearly what Darwinian evolution is and what it is not, explores the weighty question of how to interpret the Christian doctrines of original sin and The Fall through the lens of evolutionary theory. If successful adaptation of living creatures to a particular environment requires competitive, often ruthlessly selfish behavior (either individually or collectively as a tribe) in the effort to survive and to procreate, how should we regard original sin? Each chapter is accompanied by a response from Monika Hellwig, offering traditional Catholic Christian perspectives on Domning’s speculations. 

This is not beach reading or even airplane reading! But it is definitely worth the effort!

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