It’s been … a while.
For several reasons, I stepped away from this blog a little over a year ago, and I don’t expect to return to regular posting any time soon since I’m currently making arrangements to go to school in 2020. But I don’t want to let this space go entirely silent just yet, so here is a write-up of some of my favorite things that I read for the first time in 2019.
Until recently, I’ve read very little fiction in the past couple of years. Other than old standbys like the short stories of Chekhov and Borges, the only fiction that really stood out for me this year was C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces.
Unlike a lot of other Christian homeschooled kids, I was never a huge fan of C. S. Lewis’s fiction. Narnia, for various reasons, always seemed overrated to me and his adult-aimed Space Trilogy failed to grab me as well. Even The Great Divorce, which I love as an allegory, is not really much of a novel. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Till We Have Faces, the last work of fiction he published during his lifetime, may be the best book he ever wrote.
Inspired by the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, Till We Have Faces is set against the backdrop of the pagan of empire Glome, where the unattractive princess Orual grows up in self-enforced servitude to her younger, beautiful sister Psyche. So universally loved is Psyche that the people of Glome neglect the worship of their goddess Ungit, and in her wrath, Ungit demands Psyche as a sacrifice to atone for the sin of unfaithfulness. I hope to write a full review some time in the future, but this novel covers a lot of ground thematically, as well as touching on some theological themes that are rather important to me personally. I suspect it will take some time.
Most of my nonfiction reading this year was in the biographical vein—things like Rachael Denhollander’s What Is a Girl Worth? and Martin Mosebach’s The 21—but my favorite was probably Alfred Hitchcock’s memoir in interviews, Hitchcock by François Truffaut. The book is a condensed version of the marathon series of interviews Truffaut conducted with Hitchcock in 1962 (you can listen to most of them here). Beginning with his childhood in England, the interviews cover his entire life and especially his films made in America. Hitchcock is one of my favorite filmmakers, if not my favorite, and so this deep dive into his work and methods is fascinating to me.
I took a sort of break from poetry, and when I returned to it in the last half of the year, I plunged headlong into several volumes at once. Some were enlightening anthologies, like Jane Hirshfield’s Women in Praise of the Sacred and Czesław Miłosz’s A Book of Luminous Things. Others were individual collections, like Writing Poems in the Shadow of Death by indie poet Aaron Everingham and A. E. Stallings’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated Like. Forced to pick just one favorite, I have to go with Don Paterson’s 40 Sonnets. I’ve had quibbles with some of Paterson’s work in the past, but no matter what he’s writing or writing about, he is a brilliant poet, and these sonnets—some experimental, some traditional, all fresh and exciting—helped remind me of why I love poetry so much in the first place.
That’s all for now. Let me know in the comments what some of your favorite books you read in 2019 were. I may not be posting regularly but I promise I read and respond to all comments. 🙂