week eleven: maintaining sanity

reviews, summer 2018

Here’s the problem with living on a ranch: sometimes it’s really dull.

This week was miserably hot and–what might be worse–fairly slow. I had things to do in the mornings, but after moving a little water and doing a few hours of yard work, I’d be more or less done with work until the evening, when I moved those same, miserable wheel lines again. This lack of joie de vivre, the mundanity, can become oppressive, even to an introvert like me.

So, to keep my mind busy and sane, I read. And listen to podcasts. And I’ve found some really good ones, which I will now pass on to you.

  1. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. This is a biography, but it’s one of the best biographies I’ve ever read in my life. One of the reviews of this book said that it “reads like a novel,” and I can confirm that that’s absolutely accurate. I didn’t know much about Bonhoeffer–other than what one of my profs, who is obsessed with Bonhoeffer, mentioned in passing–nor Germany during the period between World War One and World War Two, but that is no longer the case. I enjoy history and nonfiction, but I’m a novelist at heart, and this book filled that void while teaching me so much. Also, I now want to go read every. single. thing. that Bonhoeffer ever wrote. He’s amazing. Eric Metaxas is amazing. Read this book.
  2. The Pilgrim’s Regress by CS Lewis. (What? Me?? Read everything CS Lewis wrote that I can get my hands on??? Wild.) As always, Lewis is brilliant and relatable (in somewhat concerning ways) and makes me step back and study myself and my faith. Having never read the full version of The Pilgrim’s Progress, I wasn’t sure how I’d handle this book, but my lack of knowledge wasn’t an issue. (Some of my other reading from the past school year came in handy, though. You’ll really appreciate this book if you have a working knowledge of Western philosophy. The critique means that much more.) If you like Lewis, allegory, character development, and someone critically looking at the world and the journey of faith, you will love this book.
  3. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield. This book (a memoir, one of my greatest weaknesses) was a hard read for me, not because it was difficult to understand, but because it was challenging to my identity and the way I view my faith. I’m still processing it, and I suspect I will be for a while. Rosaria is relatable in many ways (she’s a former English prof!!), so her struggles and critiques echoed in my soul. It’s not a long read (unlike the Bonhoeffer book), but it’s a heavyweight in its own way.
  4. The Artist’s Daughter by Alexandra Kuykendall. This is also a memoir, and probably the lightest book I read this week. It also called me out a bit (pride? rule-following? hello, ego!) but made me smile. If you’re looking for something thoughtful to read in the sun, I’d suggest this.

As for podcasts:

  1. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. I love history, and I love learning about things in-depth. This podcast delivers on both those fronts. Each episode is, at the minimum, three hours long. My dear father introduced me to it, and I have to say, having now binged several series within the podcast: it’s fabulous.
  2. The Economist Radio. I don’t always agree with their stances, but I can listen to this program with the sense that they’re working hard to give me an even view of the news. Also, being a British magazine, they’re a little more internationally focused. If you want thoughtful news, this is a good place to start. (If you’re really dedicated, you’ll do lots of outside research on each topic, but that’s a lot of work, even for born researchers, comme moi.)
  3. Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. This podcast is a Harry Potter podcast–if it was also a philosophy/semi-theology podcast that took place in a literature class. It’s fascinating and thought-provoking, and I enjoy it very much, whether or not I agree with their conclusions. If you like the boy wizard and didn’t fall asleep in English class, you’ll enjoy this podcast.

Happy reading and listening! These books and podcasts (along with the copious amounts of music I listen to) have kept my brain from idling. Enjoy.

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