Summer officially started last week, which means the annual sale on beach paperbacks has begun. But since many of the quick-read bestsellers are not exactly the best “food for the soul”, I’d like to recommend these five books to all of those seeking to go a bit deeper while catching rays.
- Mr. Blue by Miles Connolly-This short and simple book has life-changing potential. It depicts a “modern-day St. Francis” from the perspective of someone who, though he doesn’t entirely understand him, falls in love with him (not in the romantic sense- clarification is necessary these days). Mr. Blue is a deeply religious person who, like St. Francis, chooses to live in poverty. He is filled with child-like joy and wonder, though at times one catches glimpses of an intense soul hidden within-making him very much like G. K. Chesterton. I would highly recommend reading this book slowly and thoughtfully, but with a light heart, really taking time to allow Mr. Blue’s adorable innocence and stunning depth to change your outlook on life for the better.
- The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis– Hold on as C.S. Lewis takes you on a very unusual bus trip, a trip from Hell to… well, almost Heaven. This brilliant book gives a unique take on the afterlife, presenting Paradise, Hades, and the place in between in a way so unique, fresh, and different that you will never see life, death, and God’s mercy in the same way again. Lewis once again succeeds in creating a beautiful, vivid, and mind-blowing novel that will have you both laughing and crying the whole way through.
- Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Edward Sri– My Mom had my brother and I read through this book last summer, and I am so grateful that she did. Throughout the pages of this book Edward Sri takes apart Blessed John Paul II’s legendary Love and Responsibility, discussing the importance of friendship, the different kinds of friendship (hat’s off to Aristotle), the different kinds of love, what thoughts are sinful, what thoughts are natural, and how relationships between men and women should be handled in light of the Church’s teachings. This book changed my attitude towards my relationships with those around me, teaching me the correct way to view them, and how best to grow them. It also was very comforting to learn that some of the temptations, feelings, and questions I had been experiencing were not abnormal or wrong, but to be presented with the best way to handle them. I would not hesitate to recommend this to everyone from teenagers on up, whether you’re married, called to the religious life, or still discerning, this book is something everyone who spends time with people (hence-all of us) could profit from reading.
- “Leaf by Niggle” by J.R.R. Tolkien– Okay, technically this one is a short story, not a whole book. It can be found in The Tolkien Reader, all of which I loved, but this particular story is light and easy enough for summer, but spiritual enough to make a big impact. It would serve as a great companion/follow-up to The Great Divorce, for it also depicts Purgatory, in a sense, and in the vein of It’s a Wonderful Life, illustrates the immense impact one small person can have on those around them. I constantly find myself thinking and referring back to this tale which tells of one small painter and how a dream he thought was unfinished found it’s completion in the most beautiful way possible. And, while you’re at it, check out the other selections included in the book, especially the brilliant essay “On Fairy-stories”, a timely message concerning fantasy, how it should be written, and what impact it has.
- Collected Stories by O. Henry– This is a collection of the most well-written, ironic, precious, humorous, and delightful short stories ever to be found. From the well known “The Gift of the Magi” to one of my personal favorites “Springtime a la Carte”, each story’s surprising ending and heart-capturing characters are sure to secure a permanent place in the memory. Read them aloud with your family or friends, or enjoy reading them yourself. This is a collection which will surely be pulled from the shelves too often to collect dust.
I hope that all readers try at least one of the titles on this list, for each and every story is delightful, and has the potential to improve the lives of those who read them, or at the very least bring a smile to their faces! Happy Summer!