books I read to survive morning sickness

The title's a bit misleading. Nothing about my morning sickness made me pick these books in particular, but as a whole, they helped me limp through the worst of the queasiness (and the IAS).

The year's only half-through and I've read five books, start to finish. I haven't done that in... too long. Feels like I'm back in Mr. Jordan's honors English class for high school juniors. And I like it!

I just started Sophie Kinsella's Twenties Girl, but three chapters in and I'm calling it quits--if anyone has loved another book of hers, please do comment and let me know. Maybe I just didn't pick the right one, or maybe I'm not in the mood for a twenty-something British chick dealing with the shrill, annoying ghost of her great aunt.

Anyway--for What We're Reading Wednesday, I'm reviewing my previous (and mostly recommendable) conquests.

Credit for this pick goes to my wonderful friend (and Catholic World Report editor) Cate. She suggested it after I wrote this post on how hard it is for a modern SAHM to relate to women living out cloistered, religious vocations. I thoroughly enjoyed the rich development of the mostly-female cast of characters. Godden manages to highlight, even emphasize the failings and shortcomings of each woman, turning those very failures into their greatest opportunities for sacrifice and service to the cloister as a whole--and all for whom the sisters pray. Tremendous.

Everyone loves a beach read, right? Especially one detailing the summer wedding plans of a wealthy family vacationing in Nantucket? I found this novel certainly fluffy enough, but too immersed in the current culture of throw-away marriages and hook-ups to be fully enjoyable. I might try another Hilderbrand novel later this year to see if her other best sellers repeat this trend.

One of my few regrets from college is that while I chose the right major for my skill set, choosing that major meant taking fewer courses in the classics (literature, Latin, philosophy). I've read an embarrassingly small amount of Catholic non-fiction, especially by the likes of Lewis, Chesterton, Knox, Belloc, and works of the saints. Whenever I resolve to make up for this deficiency in my adult life, the little Voice of Self Doubt in my head tells me, "Why even try? You won't have a professor to explain it to you. You won't understand it on your own. You probably won't even be able to finish the book. Go back to Elin Hilderbrand."

Well, I gave the Voice of Self Doubt a backhand and plowed through Till We Have Faces. Man. Not only a C.S. Lewis novel, but a novel based on Greek mythology, AND the work he considered his finest? Nothing like starting with something easy and accessible.

But I surprised myself by not only finishing it, but reading a few essays on it, and have continued mulling over its message in my head for months. Lewis raises questions of love, hate, jealousy, possession, loyalty and the blurred spaces where they all meet. Pretty sure I'll be rereading this one again in years to come.

Heh. As expected, loved it. If for no other reason (though there are plenty), worth the read for the "So, are you guys done having kids yet?" chapter.

I listed above that my have-read list of Catholic non-fiction is a short one. Ditto for classic fiction by Catholic authors. I wanted to read some Graham Greene but winced at the idea of getting through The Power and the Glory (assuming there'd be a lot of violence, right?), so I opted for the, uh, book about the racy affair.

Or so I thought! I had seen some of the 1999 movie version, but didn't know then what I know now--that the movie, while somewhat faithful to the book, has both stark plot differences and a great deal more explicit sex than the book. As for the book, wow. The back jacket of my edition had a quote from William Faulkner: "For me, one of the best, most true and moving novels of my time, in anybody's language." Agreed.


  1. Uh, yes to In This House of Brede and The End of the Affair. I would force anyone who's received Confirmation to read both those books, so I guess it's a good thing I'm not pope. Hildebrand's books all have a fairly ingrained idea of the crapiness of marriage. I've read a few of hers and it's in everyone.
    And congratulations! I'm really happy for you and glad you're back!

  2. Oh wow, love love love 1,3, and 5. Love. Also enjoyed #4 but, as much as I love the Gaffigans, it's not quite on the same level. ;-)

    Oh, and I read The End of the Affair b/f watching the movie. Wow. What a crummy remake. The acting was okay, I suppose, but they took out the faith part and added a lot of explicit sex. (There's plenty of sex in the book, it's just subtle.) Poor substitution, methinks. ;-)

  3. Also: for what it's worth, I think Till We Have Faces is one of Lewis' most challenging books, so I really don't think you'll have trouble with his other non-fiction. The literary theory ones may not be interesting to you, but all the classic apologetics and theological ones would be. Remember, he was writing for a broad audience. And Chesterton is totally accessible, as is Belloc. Cut yourself some slack: you've read Pope Benedict! He's tough.

  4. I think my first comment didn't post. :( It said The Power and the Glory is not violent. As with sex in The End of the Affair, Greene knows when to have violence off screen.

    If you'd like something light, I'd recommend Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwin. Colwin is a well adjusted woman of the 80s, and therefore there are lots of affairs and the like in her novels, and, more to the point, they are usually morally neutral if not good for the characters (which is obviously a problem). But Happy All the Time is free of that, and is completely delightful. A true modern comedy of manners ala Jane Austen.

  5. Thanks for sharing this list! I will have to look into some of these!

  6. Re the End of the Affair: I recently watched the older version of the movie (Deborah Kerr and Van Johnson) and I really related to it on a visceral level: especially the crucial scene where he comes back "from the dead." . Then I listened to the audio version read by Colin Firth. It was great. I urge you to check both of those out. Thanks for the post!

    1. Oh my gosh. Colin Firth reading THE PHONE BOOK, let alone The End of the Affair, is most definitely worth checking out. Thanks for two great recommendations!