After going over my 2022 reading review, I’m not feeling as confident in the quality of this year’s list, despite having reason to read a lot: in 2023 I went back to school to begin doctoral studies and am reading all the time. Whether or not my recap is impressive, I want to share with you some of this year’s highlights – let me know what was on your list!
Pictured: my mom and I reading together. Between her retirement and my studies, we both spend a lot of time reading on the couch, though not always together. We are joined by my mascot “Ducktoral”, who you can find kicking around my Instagram.
Let’s start with the last novel I read: Elizabeth Graver’s Kantika. Coincidence that I haven’t read a novel since I started studies? Probably not. I blew through this one in a few long August nights. A great story, and written by a Boston College professor. Go Eagles. I read I Have Some Questions for You and The Maidens while traveling – great airplane/hotel reads. They both happened to be suspenseful and dark with ties to academia, but that really is a coincidence.
True Biz landed on my list as a result of a friend’s recommendation, and now I recommend it to you. By a deaf author and about deaf characters, it was written and presented in a way that revealed a lot about ASL and the deaf community that I was unfamiliar with. Celeste Ng’s Our Missing Hearts, set in nearby Harvard Square, was read cover-to-cover on one rainy day on the couch. Total page-turner.
Children of God, a sequel to The Sparrow, was not as good as its predecessor. Read The Sparrow instead. Carnegie’s Maid was a perfectly passable beach read. My Nemesis was fine, but didn’t hold a candle to Miss Burma, also by Charmaine Craig. I barely remember reading Smaller and Smaller Circles. Is that bad?
Memoir and Non-Fiction
I can practically feel the summer sun as I think about all the time I had to read during June, July, and August, when I checked most of what follows off my list. Between Salt Water and Holy Water: A History of Southern Italy was a rare history book that was engaging enough to read when traveling to a place (yes, we returned to Sicily this past summer). Run Like a Pro (Even If You’re Slow) and Built to Move gave me ideas and motivation during high half-marathon training season (I completed my 20th half-marathon in October). Maybe You Should Talk to Someone was moving, entertaining and well-written enough that I didn’t mind all the stories of people not dealing with their problems. A Field Guide to Grad School and How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing got me geared up to start studies, with the later being mostly common-sense but good to read all in one place. Atomic Habits was so common-sensy that I didn’t finish it.
I had a scary bout of trouble with my voice in the late summer (all resolved now, thank heavens), so reading This is the Voice was timely. It begins with a story of vocal damage so severe that I was nearly traumatized; maybe I should read this one again now that I’m well. Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life-in Judaism gave lots of insight for religious educators. Reading about what makes faith “sticky” in another tradition can help develop perspective. Churchy summer reads included Cathonomics: How Catholic Tradition Can Create a More Just Economy, and Band of Angels: The Forgotten World of Early Christian Women; scroll on for more in the “Catholic Stuff” section.
Unremarkable but well-written memoir category: Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret; Class: A Memoir of Motherhood, Hunger and Higher Education; and God’s Ex-Girlfriend: A Memoir about Loving and Leaving the Evangelical Jesus.
Despite my vegetarianism, I wasn’t enthralled with No Meat Required: The Culinary History and Culinary Future of Plant-Based Eating. Sticking with the vegetable theme, local authors Margaret and Irene Li knocked my socks off with Perfectly Good Food: A Totally Achievable Zero Waste Approach to Home Cooking.
I won’t be listing every book I read – here are the highlights, loosely organized.
My work with the Mathis Liturgical Leadership Program at Notre Dame led me to Ann Astell’s intriguing Eating Beauty: the Eucharist and the Spiritual Arts of the Middle Ages. People Get Ready: Ritual, Solidarity and Lived Ecclesiology in Catholic Roxbury tells a local history through an ethnographic lens. Written by friend and former classmate Susan B. Reynolds, it had been on my list for a while and exceeded expectations. Another book with local connections: Formative Theological Education, essays by the faculty of BC’s School of Theology and Ministry. The diversity of approaches is fascinating, and I have the pleasure of knowing that these folks put their money where their mouths are. Three more by BC professors that I can recommend if you’re into that sort of thing: Clare of Assisi and the Thirteenth-Century Church: Religious Women, Rules and Resistance by Catherine Mooney; The Pilgrim Paradigm: Faith in Motion by André Brouillette and Sense of the Possible: An Introduction to Theology and Imagination by Called Keefe-Perry.
Did someone say Jesuit Studies? One of my projects this spring and summer (and again now during this winter break) was to make some progress on some of the classics of Jesuit history since that’s a focus of my doctoral work. John O’Malley’s magisterial The First Jesuits was the first of the year, followed by Javier Osuna’s Friends in the Lord. William Bangert’s biography of Jerome Nadal was a surprisingly engaging read. Marjorie O’Rourke Boyle’s Loyola’s Acts is bold and brilliantly researched, though I wasn’t quite convinced by her thesis. Ignatius of Loyola and the Founding of the Society of Jesus by André Ravier is currently in the top spot of my favorite biographies of Ignatius, but we’ll see if any in the stack I have from the library can displace it!
Of course, there was prayer. The monthly booklets from Give Us This Day are my prayer companions every evening. I was delighted to see that Joe Durepos was the author of this year’s Book of Grace-Filled Days. It’s not too late to grab a copy and pray through 2024.
What I Wrote
Whelp, I just realized that I published NOTHING in 2023. I’m not particularly bothered by that. I wrote a statement of purpose that got me into a PhD program, I wrote a bunch of papers that are the first steps in bigger projects, I wrote outlines for contracted books and courses, and I wrote a few blog posts here: A Story I Couldn’t Tell You, The Deceptive Privilege of Staying Put, and Our Lady of Sorrows.
Just recently I wrote a short reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent for the STM Sunday Scripture Series. Click to watch below.
What I sang!
Unfortunately the calendar section of my website is down (sign up for a non-spammy performance updates list here!- check the box under “updates”), but I had some fun this year covering the role of Servilia in Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, reprising the role of Rose Lennox in The Secret Garden with The Company Theatre, joining the Featured Ensemble for The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Firebird Pops Orchestra, and performing in Reagle Music Theatre’s ChristmasTime. Photo below from ChristmasTime by my sweetie Robert Goulston.
And it’s still the Christmas season, so I can share this self-tape of one of my secular holiday favorites.
You’ll notice all the books in the photo below have library stickers on them! I remain grateful to the Boston College Libraries and the Boston Public Library for making my work and leisure possible. Join me in supporting the BPL Fund if you can.
2023 was something else – career changes for both my husband and I, travel, scholarship, lovely time with friends, and some hard times that are recorded in the pages of journals rather than the pages of blogs. Here’s to 2024 – may yours be joyful and meaningful, and don’t forget to let me know what I should be reading.
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