Wednesday, March 11, 2015

My Reading List

The close reader of this blog, taking the extra five seconds required to troll the outside columns and coming upon the list of “Books I’m Reading,” will note two odd intruders among the usual pile of Serious Catholic Tomes.

In particular, this list of “Books” that I am “Reading,” which is a “gadget” provided for bloggers by Goodreads, includes The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr and You Are Your Own Gym: A Bible of Bodyweight Exercises by Mark Lauren.

What gives?

First, a clarification. I am not reading any three of the aforesaid SCTs in the way you would a page-turner.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius is a text assigned for (surprise!) the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I am taking the 26-week layperson’s version in Boston, though I’m missing three weeks for the Spring Croquet Tour.

The Story of a Soul is a re-read and my current Kindle book. I often choose Kindle versions to (a) fill my heart with good stuff for the voyage to dreamland and (b) not wake my wife.

The Imitation of Christ is another old favorite, which I read aloud to Katie first thing in the morning. Our family of four has always had a tradition of reading aloud to each other—especially Katie and I to our daughters when they were little. Today, she sometimes likes me to read aloud to her. Currently, we are reading one short passage as a meditation to start each day.

But so Mary Karr and Mark Lauren. Where do they fit in?

As I wrote yesterday, I hope to be teaching an adult ed course on memoir this fall, and I am choosing seven texts. These include One Boy’s Boston, the subject of yesterday’s post, and The Story of a Soul. Having read Karr’s amazing account of growing up dysfunctional in West Texas, I couldn’t think of a stronger contrast to the childhood stories of Samuel Eliot Morison (Boston Brahmin) or Thérèse of Lisieux (French Catholic). I am loving The Liar’s Club more than the first time.

The book of so-called bodyweight exercises is the real outlier here. There’s a simple reason for its being on my list: When your adult daughter gives you an exercise book, it’s reasonable to assume that she is sending you a message. Like—All this walking you’re doing, Dad, it’s great. But have you heard of muscle mass? Have you heard that it’s an issue for people, um, your age?

If you’re my age you may remember the Royal Canadian Air Force Exercises, popular in the late 1960s. This short book claimed to offer a jet pilot’s physique to anyone investing just eleven minutes a day. Well, of course, the physical fitness industry has been growing on steroids for half a century since then. Mark Lauren is a former Navy Seal or some sort of special-ops dude and his book is not for the faint of heart or muscle.

In “only 30 minutes a day” Mark Lauren will teach you how much pain a person can inflict on himself without either gym equipment or hand-held weapons. Because I want to tell my beloved, well-meaning daughter that I have at least tried the book, I did the first session on the upper body this morning.

The results are good news, bad news, and (sort of) good news.

Good news: I feel muscles I forgot I had.

Bad news: I can’t raise my arms.

Good news: Tomorrow’s session is for “legs and core.” So I’m hoping to survive at least one more day.

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