It’s that time of the month again, folks, time to review some of the books I’ve read in these past few weeks. This time, I want to highlight two non-fiction gems, as well as a great classic.
1) My Sisters the Saints ~ Colleen Caroll Campbell. This spiritual memoir chronicles Campbell’s life as she struggles with her faith and our culture’s feminism. During a fifteen-year journey, she turned to the stories women of the faith that have gone on before—such as Mother Theresa or Mary, the mother of Jesus—and used the lessons she learned from these women to make important choices in her own life and embrace her role as a woman. Campbell is Catholic, so I couldn’t quite relate when she mentioned Mass, the rosary, or praying to the saints. However, her beautiful story contains truths that can bless, inspire, and guide Christians of all sorts. I loved seeing how these women, most of whom lived hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago, could provide relevant advice and perspectives to modern women today. Campbell’s writing is also a treat—it’s easy to see why she was a successful journalist and speechwriter for President Bush. She weaves the stories of these saints and her own story together without a hitch/ Perhaps her greatest accomplishment is how intriguing she made their lives—it was no history lesson or dry discussion but an exciting component of the book.
2) Love Idol ~ Jennifer Dukes Lee. This is a good one, guys. While it’s intended for women, the truths in it are vital for people of all genders, ages, and backgrounds. Lee discusses our desires to be loved, liked, approved. A perfectionist and accomplished journalist, she found that all those successes and awards still never satisfied her. She finally decided to quit her job and move to a farm with her family, but even there, away from the media and crowds and watching eyes, she still felt that longing to be valued rise up. This book tells her story and what she learned about this longing—this idol, if we’re frank with ourselves. She’s honest, down-to-earth, and relatable, and it was such a relief to realize I’m not alone in my striving for approval. She reminds us of the truth, the truth that we all know but refuse to let transform our lives, the truth that Jesus already loves us, likes us, and approves us. The truth that only His praise matters, only His praise will satisfy, and only His praise remains.
3) Crime and Punishment ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Despite the strange Russian names (Raskolnikov or Razumikin, anyone?) and lengthy political/academic dialogues, I couldn’t put this book down. From the start I was captivated by Raskolinkov’s intriguing and surprisingly realistic dialogues with himself. Then I was caught up in a torrent of suspense that never let up—Will Raskolinkov, commit the crime, and how? Will he be found out? Does anyone know? Who’s on his side? It seems everyone is playing a game, and until the end, you’re not sure whom to trust. And it’s not just the main plot of the murder that provides excitement. There’s Marmeladov, the drunk, his daughter Sonia, the prostitute, Rasklonikov’s mother and sister, his sister’s former employer who mistreated her, the arrogant, self-confident man she’s going to marry, and that police officer you’re not sure what to do with. Dostoyevsky wove everything together smoothly and realistically. He must be some sort of wizard, for you find yourself rooting for Raskolnikov, only to remember that, oh yes, he’s a murderer. Should you like him? But you do, time and time again, almost like how you cheer for Macbeth, another murderer. The book also reminds me of Les Miserables in some ways, with a police officer hunting a criminal, and in other ways I won’t mention of fear of spoilers. It’s called a psychological novel, which hits the mark, for the main theme is exploring why people murder—what’s going through their mind, what their motivations are. Maybe that’s a bit morbid, and to some it might be boring, but I found it fascinating to examine Raskolnikov’s mind and motives. And the ending … well, let me just say that it certainly surprised me, but that’s not a bad thing. Strangely enough, I found beauty—yes, beauty—in this novel about a murder set in a dirty Russian city.