Staff Bookshelf January 2024

In this blog post, we are taking a look at what CUA Press is reading this January— kicking off the new year with new reads! Featured in this staff bookshelf we have a lovely variety of genres, some of which include fantasy, spirituality, historical fiction, nonfiction, and even theology!


I’m currently reading Bloodmarked, the second book in the Legendborn series. It’s a young adult fantasy series about a young girl, Bree, who learns she is actually a descendent of King Arthur during her first year of college. I’ve been meaning to get back to this series for a while so I was happy to see it was available at the library!


First, I’m still working on the medieval Norwegian epic Kristin Lavransdatter, book 3, via Audible. Only 8 hours to go! Second, I just finished Robert Dobie’s The Fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkienwhich isn’t fair to others, because it’s not yet published, but I found all of the remaining typos, so I earned this publisher’s privilege. Some striking insights in there, including into the mystery of Tom Bombadil.

That being donemy bedtime reading has become Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, recommended to me by a Catholic theologian friend. Why is it such an uphill battle to stay connected with children as they reach teenage years and beyond? It’s not an inevitable fact of life. The answer given here is “peer orientation”–seeing same-age friends as the ones to imitate and teach a child what life really is about. As the parent of a budding tween, this diagnosis and its proposed cures are of great interest to me.

Trevor L

I’m reading Carey Newman’s “Mango Tree: The Artistry and Alchemy of Writing” (Friendship Press). Carey is the former director of Baylor University Press and this book distills his reflections on publishing. If you are only going to read one book on scholarly publishing, this shouldn’t be it — given that it is an almost mystical, quasi-spiritual reflection on the publishing process, rather than a how-to guide. It would be like reading Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” in the hopes of learning how to change a spark plug on your Norton Commando. 

Carey’s prose is, at turns, poetic and noetic, and perhaps is best suited as a lectio divina for those in the publishing profession. For those averse to such a style, turn to the endnotes, where there is much useful information to be gleaned, including many fine details about mullets, of the piscatorial, not tonsorial, persuasion.


To please my precocious nine-year-old grandson, I recently finished reading a 416-page novel, The LIghtning Thief,  which is Book 1 of the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan. The premise is that characters from Greek mythology are still alive on earth today. For example, a math teacher named Ms. Dodds is actually Medusa, and Percy, an audacious twelve-year-old, is actually Perseus. Some of the other characters are “half-bloods,” that is, sons and daughters of Greek gods who mated with human beings. A camp to train them in their special skills is located on Long Island. There are six highly entertaining novels in the Percy Jackson series, from which my grandson has imbibed an immense quantity of mythology. He even sports a T-shirt with the logo for “Camp Half-Blood.”

Trevor C

I’m reading She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan. It’s an epic fantasy book that loosely traces the life of Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming dynasty, but in a Mulan-type twist, imagines Zhu as a girl who has disguised herself as a boy. This allows Parker-Chan to explore how Chinese and Mongol culture are defined through gender but ultimately weakened by insisting upon rigid gender roles. The novel moves through other point-of-view characters who highlight this theme, a Mongol prince who is disdained by his family for being concerned with administration instead of the traditional Mongol nomadic warrior lifestyle at a time when the Mongols no longer maraud on horseback but rule over set territories, a eunuch who is not seen as a man, and a cis woman whose value is not perceived by anyone except Zhu. 


Zadie Smith – The Fraud – Based on real historical events, The Fraud is a dazzling novel about truth and fiction, Jamaica and Britain, fraudulence and authenticity and the mystery of “other people.” 

She’s one of my ‘must read’ authors anything she publishes I’m going to read. And most of her work is tremendous! In my humble opinion of course!

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