As a dedicated bookworm, there are times when I feel the need to share my literary discoveries. What follows is a list of a dozen books I've recently read or am currently reading and a brief reaction/review on each of them.
1. Unplanned by Abby Johnson and Cindy Lambert – This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Author Abby Johnson was once a director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas. After watching a live, ultrasound-guided abortion, she experienced a dramatic change of heart and is now a leading pro-life advocate. Along with narrating her experiences, Abby provides a behind-the-scenes look at the deceptive tactics of Planned Parenthood. Highly recommended.
2. Murder at the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes by Ann Margaret Lewis – The three short stories in Murder at the Vatican showcase the brilliant detective skills of the famous Sherlock Holmes, but they also feature the wisdom of Pope Leo XIII, who appears as a main character in two of the three tales. The third story stars another well-known detective, G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown. This is an enchanting book that encourages the reader to learn much more about Leo XIII.
3. The Craft of Theology by Avery Dulles – In The Craft of Theology, Avery Dulles explains his concept of “post-critical theology” and discusses the relationship of theology to the modern world. This is not an easy book, but it is worth the effort for anyone interested in the theological disciplines.
4. Athens and Jerusalem: The Role of Philosophy in Theology by Jack A. Bonsor – I have to admit that certain chapters in this book drove me crazy because of the author's uncritical acceptance of the historical-critical method. On the other hand, the book offers a good explanation, complete with helpful examples, of the relationship between philosophy and theology.
5. Harry Potter's Bookshelf by John Granger – I love all of John Granger's Harry Potter books, but this one is becoming a special favorite. Granger discusses the Harry Potter series using the “iconological” method of interpreting literature and its four levels of meaning, surface, moral, allegorical, and anagogical. The results are fascinating. Along the way, the author explains the impact of the English literary tradition on the Harry Potter books, featuring several classics as diverse as Jane Austen's Emma and Bram Stoker's Dracula.
6. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – This is one of the classics that I always intended to read and never got around to, but now I'm slowly working my way through it. It's an exciting story, but it doesn't hold my attention quite as much as I had hoped. Still, I'm glad to be reading it.
7. The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma – This enchanting book chronicles the “Reading Streak,” during which the author's father read aloud to her for over three thousand consecutive days, from the time she was nine years old until she left for college. The book is a wonderful tale about growing up with reading and the importance of reading books together as a family. Highly recommended.
8. Introduction to Christianity by Benedict XVI – Despite its title, Benedict XVI's Introduction to Christianity is not for new Christians or those exploring the Christian faith for the first time. It is a rather difficult, intense, scholarly treatise about the fundamental truths of the Christian faith, and it is well worth the effort needed to read and comprehend it.
9. Repotting Harry Potter by James W. Thomas – James W. Thomas, a college English professor, addresses this book to the serious re-readers of the Harry Potter series. He goes through each of the seven books, pointing out fun facts and deep meanings readers may have missed the first time around. This book is just plain fun.
10. Reasons to Believe by Scott Hahn – In Reasons to Believe, Scott Hahn explains elements of Catholic faith using what he categorizes as natural reasons, Biblical reasons, and royal reasons. This book is a must read for all Catholics, especially those who teach the faith to others or who must respond to difficult questions about Catholicism.
11. The First Apology by Justin Martyr – I'll admit that Justin Martyr's writing will seem rather dry and difficult to most people, but it also offers a fascinating glimpse into early Christianity. Pay special attention to chapters 65, 66, and 67 on Christian liturgy. Justin's description of the Christian sacraments and worship will sound very familiar to modern Catholics.
12. Letter & Spirit Volume 3 edited by Scott Hahn and David Scott – The Letter & Spirit journals are collections of scholarly essays about Biblical theology. They are not easy reading, but they are deeply meaningful, fascinating, and rewarding.