Between Heaven and Mirth
By James Martin, SJ (HarperOne, 2011)
Perhaps I am not the best person to review this book. Although not completely humorless, I have been told that I am not particularly funny. And I do have a disposition that has earned me the occasional nickname “Negative Norma.”
Learning to Die in Miami
By Carlos Eire (Free Press, 2011)
In 1962 Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 children evacuated from Cuba by Catholic parents who believed Fidel Castro would be ousted within months. Those evacuees still living are now grey-haired Cuban-Americans. Eire has written a compelling memoir of that era’s repeated losses (the “dying” of his title), and of what he ultimately gained.
The Harrow & The Harvest
Gillian Welch (Acony Records, 2011)
Gillian Welch has described the 10 songs on The Harrow & The Harvest as “10 kinds of miserable.” And that’s pretty accurate. The characters here find themselves mortified, exiled, overdosed, and finally laid to rest “with a pistol in my vest.” These are 21st-century original songs planted firmly in the American old-time folk tradition, the kind that Bob Dylan once described as brimming with “despair . . . sadness . . . triumph, [and] faith in the supernatural.”
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius (Weinstein, 2011)
Those not captivated by Michel Hazanavicius’s silent movie must have a tin ear where their heart should be. In this dazzling black and white romance about the fall of a silent matinee idol, Hazanavicius has mixed Top Hat, A Star Is Born, Singing in the Rain, and Citizen Kane, fashioning a Hollywood epic as American and universal as any modern film in a heartwarming cocktail shot through with grace, wit, and charm.
Journey to the Common Good
By Walter Brueggemann (Westminster John Knox, 2010)
In this compact study, biblical theologian Walter Brueggemann traces a remarkably similar pattern of cause and effect between the crises in today’s world—chronic war-making, ecological destruction, economic injustices—and the defining events in Jewish tradition.
Party of One
By Beth M. Knobbe (St. Anthony Messenger, 2011)
If you are single, this book needs no justification. Though the majority of us inhabit that category innocently for the first two decades of life, if a third decade waxes and wanes, you find you have some explaining to do. And if you manage to close a fourth decade without a partner, the range of responses often moves from pity to suspicion. What’s wrong with you that no one’s popped the question?
The Ides of March
Directed by George Clooney (Columbia Pictures, 2011)
As the title suggests, George Clooney’s cynical drama about a presidential campaign is a tale of loyalties and betrayals, both personal and political, and of the hollow victories achieved through these various treasons.
The Roots (Def Jam, 2011)
The Roots are famous now as the house band on The Jimmy Fallon Show, but they’ve been legend among America’s better-informed music lovers for a couple of decades. They emerged in the early ’90s as something of a novelty—a rap music act that was really a band, playing real musical instruments and playing them with skill and sophistication.
How to Go From a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in 95 Difficult Steps
By Christian Smith (Cascade Books, 2011)
Thomas Kuhn’s 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions argued that scientific inquiry depended on frameworks of assumptions that he called “paradigms.” Periodically, the process of inquiry uncovers “anomalies” in those frameworks that lead to their being overturned.
By Brett C. Hoover (Riverhead Books, 2011)
Don’t let the fuzzy slippers on the cover fool you: Brett C. Hoover’s book Comfort: An Atlas for the Body and Soul is less spa-getaway and more philosophical inquiry that delves into a pervasive, little-critiqued cultural value.