Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Sunday, February 18, 2018

cram halfI love books. It began when I was a child with trips to the small library near the town beach. Later, whenever one of us girls was sick, my dad would bring home a hardcover children’s book. For days, I’d immerse myself in other lands, in The Swiss Family Robinson, Little Women, The Secret Garden. Before I knew it, the sickness was gone.

Here are a few books that I particularly enjoy. First, books for adults . . .

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah, fiction: Anya Whitson is a cold, disapproving mother whose husband has just died. Her husband extracted a promise from her on his deathbed that she would tell their daughters the story of her life. Thus unfolds the slow telling of a life unfamiliar to her family. Fifty years earlier, Anya Whitson survived the Siege of Leningrad, a siege ordered by Hitler during World War II. Lasting 872 days, it was the longest-lasting siege in recorded history, resulting in the deaths of over a million people. This book interweaves the mundane life of a modern family in the Pacific Northwest with the unspeakable horrors of a long-ago war across the globe. While difficult to read in places, I found this book remarkably inspiring as a testament to the strength of the human spirit, and reconciliation in a family.

Heart Sounds – 12 Catholic Doctors by Janice Steinhagen and John Howland, M.D., nonfiction: This remarkable yet unheralded book tells the stories of 12 Catholic physicians in New England. Each chapter profiles a physician in his or her own words, describing how each tries to live the faith in the practice of medicine as well as in the world. There is a surgeon who was chastised by the hospital where he’d been employed for decades, on the grounds that he was treating too many impoverished children free of charge. A sleep specialist relates how he became Catholic in college against the strong objections of his parents, and the high price he paid. A child psychiatrist tells how she treats the very poor, often looking to the Blessed Mother for wisdom. These are ordinary people living their faith in extraordinary ways. It inspires me to do the same.

The Shack by William P. Young, fiction, and a New York Times best-seller: The Shack is a novel about a man wrestling with God following the kidnapping and murder of his young daughter. The book starts slowly but picks up in intensity as the man revisits the site of the murder, and there encounters a God he does not recognize. The Shack is not a theology text and, because of that, some elements may sit awkwardly in the Catholic mind. Nevertheless, it offers profound wisdom about a relationship with God, and the art of forgiving the unforgivable.

Chronicles of Narniaby C. S. Lewis, fiction: These seven books tell of the enchanted world of Narnia, a magical land full of mystical creatures and epic battles between good and evil. Four British children travel to Narnia to become its kings and queens in order to help conquer the cruel White Witch. These sweet and exciting stories appeal to children of all ages, and draw adults into their deeper meaning.

And for children . . .

The Wizard of Oz series by L. Frank Baum, fiction: The Oz books, so much better than the classic movie, tell of the magical land of Oz, beginning with the adventures of Dorothy, the scarecrow, tin woodman, and cowardly lion. In addition to the Munchkins, the books introduce us to people made entirely of china, and to the fierce Kalidahs that have bodies like bears and heads like tigers. These stories are absolutely enthralling for children of any age.

Mud Puddle by Robert Munsch (or any Robert Munsch book): The sweet tale of a girl who is continually beset by a mud puddle that jumps on her. Ages 1-8.

The Lost Sheep by Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen (as well as other books in their “Stories Jesus Told” series): This is an adorable rendering of the parable of the Lost Sheep, with clear text for the young child, and hilarious illustrations for the adult curled up beside him or her. The book is out of print but can be found on Amazon or eBay. Ages 1-7.

Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer. She is the author of Do Bad Guys Wear Socks? Living the Gospel in Everyday Life.