Reading My Way Through the Virus

Like many others are experiencing, lockdown has given me extra time. My talks and retreats have been cancelled. No more lunches or parties off our property. The upside of this deprivation is that besides writing more books, I’ve been able to read more. Here are a few:

A retreat on images of Mary in art awakened in me an interest in art masterpieces. In our convent library I found the weighty book Sister Wendy’s 1000 Art Masterpieces. Besides beautiful colored paintings, the book contains Sister’s insightful comments about the artist and the work. I was surprised how many promising artists died young. This made me grateful that I’ve lived so long! Because of the length of the book, I only managed to study four or six artists a day. My next challenge: a book on the lives of composers.

I came across the classic book Love Is Eternal by Irving Stone in our Village library. It was a fascinating read about Mary Todd Lincoln that taught me much about her husband too. One interesting tidbit was that on the day Mary and Abe were to wed, he didn’t show up and disappeared from her life for at least a year! Also, I learned that before the two married, Mary was courted by Stephen Douglas, Lincoln’s rival in debates.

Last week a Sister handed me the book Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie and recommended it. Currently I am wading through that thick paperback and Russian history. I always wondered who Rasputin was.

Another friend gave me Sue Monk Kidd’s latest book, The Book of Longings, about the wife of Jesus. When I first heard of this book, I resisted reading it because it contradicted what I believe about him. However, I enjoyed it as pure fiction and especially relished the author’s imagination and fine writing.

As a judge for book awards, I was privileged to read and rate about twenty books. The one that stood out for me was Overdue: A Dewey Decimal System of Grace by Valerie Schultz. It is an account of the author’s experiences serving as a prison librarian. Cleverly the chapters are structured on the Dewey Decimal system. The book opened my eyes to what life in a prison was like and helped me view the inmates as fellow human beings.

For lighter reading, I became acquainted with Louise Penny, author of a string of mystery novels. Several people had mentioned her books to me. I took one from our library and as I returned home, two sisters with me in the elevator saw it in my hand and said I should really start with the first book in the series. A little later Sister Mary James knocked at the door and handed me the first book. (Sisters do such things.)

I read a charming short story a friend wrote about a boy who learns not to judge people. I expanded the story with pictures into book-length so that it could be published and appear on Amazon. It is entitled Crazy Old Anderson by Richard Harcar.

I also reread and revised my own book: the short booklet Time to Say Goodbye: My Grief Workbook for children and their parents and grandparents. It’s due to come out sometime this year if all goes well. The original version is on sale at Twenty-Third Publications.

• So, what’s on your bookshelf?

By the way, Our Sunday Visitor offers 18-minute talks that present new ideas for reaching this generation. You can explore them at

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