I can’t believe it’s the end of September already, but since it is…it’s time for the monthly round-up. Here is my September contribution to Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” link-up.
What I’m Reading:
At first I thought, “Man, I didn’t read that much this month.” But then I remembered that The Goldfinch was 750-unnecessary-pages long and I gave myself a break.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Sigh. I don’t really know where to start with this one. It’s not a bad book. There are some really interesting characters and ideas. I just didn’t love it. It was not up to par with what I expect of a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (It was no Kavalier and Clay). My main beef with this book is that the main character and narrator (Theo Decker) is neither interesting nor sympathetic. Apart from the very beginning where you feel bad for him because of his family situation, he really turns out to be a pretty terrible person, but he’s not even an interesting terrible person. I don’t think all the characters in good literature need to be likeable. But they do have to make me care what happens to them. I did not care about him. Some of the secondary characters, on the other hand, were fascinating. At the end of the book Theo goes into this long tangent where he philosophizes on life in a way that I found really unsatisfying. He ends up saying essentially that life is really difficult and sucky and meaningless but it’s all we have so we should maybe try to find some joy in it. And I just didn’t understand how that was even logical. If life is sucky and meaningless, what possible motivation is there to try to be a good person and find joy? I was pretty frustrated at the end of the book – dissatisfied with both the story itself and the author’s conclusions on life. And it was a lot of pages to read to feel that disappointed.
The Secret Place by Tana French. I love, love, love Tana French. She and Kate Atkinson are my favorite mystery writers, hands-down. This book did not disappoint me. I will say – this was the first of her books that I guessed who the murderer was pretty early on, but I don’t really think it was because it was too obvious. I just had a good gut instinct on this one. The Likeness is still my favorite French book, but I really enjoyed this one.
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick. This is the author who wrote Silver Linings Playbook which I LOVE (the book and the movie. The movie is actually one of my very favorites). It’s told in a series of letters that Bartholomew Neil is writing to Richard Gere. Bartholomew is a 38-year-old man with some sort of social/mental impairment that’s unspecified. His mother, whom he’s lived with all of his life, has recently died of brain cancer and he is alone, unemployed, and without any adult friends except for his priest and his therapist. Richard Gere was his mother’s favorite actor and Bartholomew has become fixated on him as a sort of imaginary friend/confidant who helps him get through life. It’s a funny and sad and endearing book Not on the same level as Silver Linings Playbook, but still a good (and fast) read.
Teach Us to Want: Longing, Ambition, and the Life of Faith by Jen Pollock Michel. This is a wonderful book that I am still meditating on. It’s about building a theology of desire. Michel begins by talking about how mistrustful many Christians are of desire and how early in her adulthood she felt that the right thing or the thing God was calling her to do would necessarily be difficult and uncomfortable. In other words, if it was something she genuinely desired then it must not be God’s will. She goes on to suggest that the sign of spiritual maturity is not how well we suppress our own desires, but how much our desires change to reflect God’s desires. Michel uses the Lord’s Prayer as a frame to hang the many facets of desire and to explore what role desire plays in the life of faith. This book is thoughtful and wise and I highly recommend it.
I am currently reading: Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen (as devotional reading), Crazy Love by Francis Chan with my Bible study, and very slowly working through, Good News About Sex and Marriage which is an exploration of the Catholic church’s teachings on marriage and sex by Christopher West. This month I’ve got my eye on Speak by Nish Weiseth and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (though I’ve been trying to get to that one for a while now). For a more complete list of what I’ve read/am reading follow me on Goodreads or check out my Books I’ve Read page.
According to my Goodreads page I have read 41 books this year. I guess that’s accurate.
What I’m Watching:
I saw Begin Again and Frank in theaters this month. I adored Begin Again. Interestingly enough it is extremely popular in Korea. My Korea coteacher told me she has all the music and listens to it on her way to work and on her way home and before she goes to bed each night. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised since Adam Levine is in the movie and Korea has an inexplicable love for Maroon 5. Frank was weird, which is not necessarily a bad thing for me, but in this case I thought it was interesting but inaccessible. I also watched Philomena which I really loved. Oh Dame Judi Dench. You have done it again.
Before the fall premiers started I was watching Gilmore Girls season 4, the last season I have on DVD, in anticipation of its release to Netflix next month. I also re-visited my love for Ugly Betty and have been watching old episodes of Parks and Recreation with the hubby. Oh, and I’m trying to catch up on Pretty Little Liars but have trouble finding places to watch it. Now that the shows have started up again I will be watching some to all of the following: Parenthood, Nashville, ANTM (Don’t judge), Brooklyn Nine Nine, The Mindy Project (I remind you, Mindy Kaling is my spirit animal), New Girl, Scandal (after we catch up), and who even knows what else.
What I’m Eating:
In July I lost 10 lbs. In August I gained 8. I mean…I accept full responsibility for this. I really don’t have any regrets. But I don’t seem to have quite been able to kick the habit. I blame a lot of that on my discovery of these cookies which literally melt in your mouth. These are definitely my Recipe-of-the-month.
For more recipes and other happy things, follow me on Pinterest.
What I’m Writing:
Here on the blog I wrote about my difficult summer and about praying for the grace to believe when I don’t. In response to the print publication of my Relevant article coming out, I re-posted my response blog to my Lies About Sex article. I wrote about what it means to be sensitive to others and still celebrate and mourn in community. And I wrote about Jill Duggar Dillard’s pregnancy announcement and whether or not things need to be public to be celebrated. And last week I wrote about the time I asked my mom to spank me and how I’m learning that grace isn’t really free.
I had an opportunity to submit a freelance piece for Explore God last week (not published anywhere yet) and am looking forward to contributing to Karissa Knox Sorrell’s “Where I Found God” series this month. I will also be hosting my own series on Sex, Purity, and the Church. I am still accepting submissions for this series. If you are interested in writing on this topic you can contact me at lily.e.dunn at gmail.com.
On the Internets:
This has been a good month for the internet.
Ann Voskamp’s “Why Wait Til Marriage” post was just beautiful and great to read at a time that this topic has been a major part of my work.
This re-post of Sarah Bessey’s “Dear Body” is a beautiful celebration of womanhood and extending love and grace to ourselves.
This essay my sister sent me on the art of listening is both interesting and convicting.
Emma Watson’s Kick-Butt speech about the need for male feminists was, well, kick-butt.
This set of graphs that explain so many truths about Gilmore Girls.
This is absolutely hilarious. “Unsatisfied Women in Art History.” But sorry about all the curse words. I guess.
“18 Kinds of People Who Comment on Recipe Blogs.” And this I read this at school and was laughing so hard my face hurt. I don’t know if everyone will find it as funny as I did (probably not) but as someone who does a lot of perusing of recipes online I see this all the time.
Jonathan shared stories and pictures from our trip home and to Bali over at Two Sore Thumbs. Check it out!
What I’ve Been Up To:
Coming off of a rough summer I have been enjoying and embracing fall. Perhaps this has something to do with the ability to cover the 8 lbs I gained in August with fashionably bulky sweaters and stretchy tights, but hey, I’m not proud.
Really though, the fall is always the best season of the year for me emotionally and spiritually and often physically as well. I love the cooler weather, the colors, the smells and the FLAVORS. (I am eagerly awaiting my order of canned pumpkin so I can start making some fall yummies). I’ve started running again and am hoping to do another half marathon in November. So far I’m only up to 6 miles, but I got some awesome new shoes that make me feel like I’m magical, so I think it’s doable if I can just stop eating pizza and cookies all the time.
On Sunday we went hiking which my legs are still punishing me for, but it’s been really nice to be in the sweet spot for outdoor activities again and we want to take advantage of those kinds of things before it gets too cold.
Korean thanksgiving (Chuseok) fell very early this year so we had a 5-day weekend at the beginning of September which we used for a very quick trip to Japan. We were only there for two full days, but we got a quick taste of Kyoto (which is beautiful) and Osaka. We even saw some real-life geisha! (Geisha is the plural of geisha in case you were wondering).
School started up for the fall, which in Korea is just the second semester of the same school year, so there have been no big changes there although I do have a new coteacher since my original one is out on maternity leave. Yesterday she (the new coteacher) said to me, “Today it is raining and I have had many classes. I will need something sweet.” So yeah, I think this relationship is going to work out well.
I’ve also discovered that my right thumb is apparently delicious. I feel like I’ve been missing out for a long time.