Here are some things I read in the last month. I’m also tracking everything I read in 2018 (the good, the bad, the weird, don’t judge me) on my brand-new Goodreads account.
Not of This World: A Catholic Guide to Minimalism ★★★★★
(I received a free copy from the author. All opinions are my own.)
First of all, this book is very practical. Sterling breaks down all the steps for minimizing your home into bite-sized pieces. There are lists and worksheets available on her website, and a challenge group on Facebook.
Where this book blows other minimizing books out of the water are her points on changing your mindset.
Decluttering is an action. That’s why we can feel caught in an endless cycle of stuffing & decluttering. Not of This World encourages a fundamental heart-change towards charity, detachment, and stewardship. Sterling showcases piercing quotes from Saints, as well as a rich collection of scripture verses on man’s relation to things.
I’m giving away my copy as the first of 12 monthly giveaways on Instagram.
Paris in the Present Tense ★★★★
Jules Lacour is a 74-year-old adjunct music professor at the Sorbonne. He’s haunted by his past: born to Jewish parents in Nazi-occupied France, mourning his beloved wife, regretting his failure to pursue commercial success. He’s also confronted with the troubles of the present: his terminally-ill grandson, the sharp rise of anti-Semitism in France, and his embarrassing infatuation with a grad student.
This is a book about lost loves, long lives, and above all, music. You can hear chords between the lines.
This book is similar to another bestseller I reviewed in May, All the Light We Cannot See. They are both set mostly in France, from WWII. Similar writing style: poignant and detailed. Similar themes of impossible love at first sight. But Paris in the Present Tense is both sadder and more beautiful.
My only reservations against giving a full five stars are the length and the ending. It’s a long book at 400 pages but often feels even longer. Some of the protagonist’s monologues were unreasonably long.
I also disagree with the ending. No spoilers, but while it made sense from Jules’ perspective, I was disappointed in him nonetheless.
The 12 Week Year ★★
“Results are not the attainment of greatness, but simply confirmation of it.”
This was my introduction to periodization. Not just quarterly goals that add up to annual goals, but setting priorities for 12 weeks as if it’s all the time available. The author has novel ways of viewing time, achievement, and goal-setting.
It’s also 50% longer than it needs to be. The author is clunky, repetitive, and could use better editing to pare down. It’s particularly galling when a time-management book wastes my time frivolously.
I’m trying to read more moral fiction this year. Brideshead always makes the lists for best Catholic fiction, so I decided to find out why.
The delightful dialogue is my favorite aspect of this book. I recommended it to my husband because the pacing and sparkle of the dialogue remind me of his favorite movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel.
The lovely dialogue is often at odds with how sad the plot becomes. But the tragedy adds to the rich depth of the book. Most depictions of Catholics are either the crazy priest or the sainted prig. Waugh has Catholics of all true human variety, and terrific themes of redemption.
Many people consider Brideshead too sad. I read so many sad books in the winter doldrums, that this one hardly raised a blip on my radar.
What have you read lately? Can you recommend any good fiction? Here are some more Quick Lit reviews: