april + may books

1. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

In the span of a month, I had three people (two strangers!) tell me this was their favorite book, so I took that as a sign I should read it. The novel chronicles the forbidden young love of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, the latter whom eventually marries another man, a doctor, after much persuasion from her father. Márquez contrasts Dr. Urbino—a modern, rational man—with the wild and emotional love of Florentino Ariza, who remains devoted (albeit with quite a number of trysts) to Fermina Daza, even into old age. I don't know if I would say Love in the Time of Cholera is my favorite book, but definitely worth the read.

2. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison

I'll let Toni Morrison sum it up: "These speculations have led me to wonder whether the major and championed characteristics of our national literature—individualism; masculinity; social engagement vs. historical isolation; acute and ambiguous moral problematics; the thematics of innocence coupled with an obsession with figurations of death and hell—are not in fact responses to a dark, abiding signing Africanist presence. It has occurred to me that the very manner by which American literature distinguishes itself as a coherent entity exists because of this unsettled and unsettling population."

3. Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. by Edward Snow

It has been awhile since I carried around Rilke (Book of Hours) in my bag everywhere I went, and I thought I had 'outgrown' him, worn him out along with every other like-minded student at my college. Duino Elegies reminded me that I will never outgrow Rilke. I keep coming back to these words, especially: "Here is the time for the sayable, here is its home. / Speak and attest."

4.  Putting Art (Back) In Its Place by John Skillen

I was glad to read this delightful and necessary book by a friend and mentor. Focusing on the visual culture of medieval and Renaissance Italy, Skillen argues how art in lived spaces guides communities together into their shared calling. With ample examples and a call for the contemporary Church to return to this model, Skillen evades falling into nostalgia—though at times it seems his target audience is a first-year college student with little understanding of liturgy or history.

5. The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel

A quick, simple read—Heschel writes like a poet: "The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world."

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