The Catholic Reading Challenge
By Mike and Jess Ptomey
The Catholic Reading Challenge Nov 02, 2020
This was our first time reading Waugh's short stories, and we really enjoyed them. Our discussion of these brief tales went in a lot of interesting directions, as we found that Waugh has a lot to say to use folk living in a world steeped in modern sentiments and philosophy.
On this episode we are talking about our September stories written by late 19th century author, Kate Chopin. Chopin's stories involve themes that challenged many social conventions of her time, but they also remain themes of significance for our time as well. We talk about marital relationships in "The Story of an Hour" and racial prejudice in "Desiree's Baby."
Edgar Allan Poe
We're talking about the stories of a master in this episode: Edgar Allan Poe. We selected "The Masque of Red Death" and "The Black Cat" for our reading community this month. They are entertaining stories to read, especially if you don't mind the darker bent of his themes and style. But they are also quite relevant to culture and times that we are currently living through. (By the way, we mention on this episode that we will go to one podcast episode per month for the rest of the year. We are still keeping to two story selections.)
Guy de Maupassant: "Ball-of-Fat"
While our first story this month was more lighthearted, with an emphasis on plot twist, this second one illumines heavier themes of human nature common to all times and all peoples. Our discussion of "Ball-of-Fat" invites us to consider how we overlook the darkness within our own souls and our justification of injustice to others in our lives.
Guy de Maupassant: "The Necklace"
This month we are reading stories by the French, prolific short story author Guy de Maupassant. In this episode we are talking about "The Necklace." Listeners may very well have read this story back during high school English class. If not, or if you don't remember it, then you will get a good sample of Maupassant's mastery at plot structure and twist. This story also includes one of his common theme of social class differences and distinctions.
Edward P. Jones
This month we read two stories by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward P. Jones: "An Orange Line Train to Ballston" and "Gospel". Both share some common themes, and in this podcast episode we talk about how those themes reveal truth about the human experience, particularly truth about the human experience in Southeast DC. Jones is writing about his hometown and the people who call it home along with him; and for many readers, it may be a view of the city and its people they have never witnessed or acknowledged.
For May we decided to discuss both Eudora Welty stories in the same episode. So here is our chat about her style of southern writing in the two stories we read this month: "Old Mr. Marblehall" and "Why I Live at the P.O."
James Joyce: "The Boarding House"
We are continuing our literary stay in Dublin, as we discuss "The Boarding House" and all that lives in this story: a meat cleaver, a "big imposing woman", and a young boarder given only one option for restitution.
James Joyce: "Araby"
We are talking about James Joyce stories in the month of April. Join us as we are transported to Dublin and get a peek into the lives of some people who live here. In this episode we are discussing "Araby," a coming of age type of story that deals with romanticized expectations and the disillusion that often comes when reality falls short of them.
Ernest Hemingway: "In Another Country"
We are finishing up our March Hemingway selections with his short story "In Another Country." We talk about Hemingway's economy with words and his open door for redemption, despite what many perceive to be dark in his stories. We also draw some comparisons to this unique Lent and Holy Week that God is inviting us to walk during this unprecedented time in our country and the world.
Ernest Hemingway: "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber"
We have all been thrown out of our normal routines with the presence of the coronavirus. As we adjust to a change of life rhythms during this pandemic quarantine, we find ourselves in a Lent we didn't choose for ourselves. We are talking a little about that and a lot about Hemingway on this episode. We are thankful that we have time with stories and books, as well as this medium to continue and share about them during an unprecedented time of social isolation.
E. M. Forster: "The Machine Stops"
Did you know that this amazingly prophetic dystopia was first published in 1909? On this episode we are discussing the masterful insight that Forster had regarding the trajectory of technology and the modern notion of progress. Join us as we touch on just some of the symbols in this story that might actually make you think of a few current conventions and social norms at which we don't even blink an eye.
E. M. Forster: "The Celestial Omnibus"
Our short story author for the month of February is E. M. Forster, and in this episode we are discussing his masterful "The Celestial Omnibus." Listen along as we contemplate what this story means for how we are to live as human beings, how we are to respond to beauty in the arts, and what it means to look with wonder at the world. Are we living like the boy or Mr. Bons?
Flannery O'Connor: "Parker's Back"
We are rounding out our discussion of Flannery O'Connor's short story themes and talking about a story that is a favorite for a lot of people: "Parker's Back." Tattoos, traveling evangelists, burning bushes, icons and religious images, the Christ-haunted South -- lots of good stuff gets covered in this one!
Flannery O'Connor: "The Displaced Person"
We kick off the first podcast of 2020 with our discussion of the first Flannery O'Connor story selection for January: "The Displaced Person". We talk about the characters and symbolism in this story that is indicative of O'Connor's writing and why her crafting of people and place is so "real." Among various other themes, we discuss how this short story master portrays "grace" and how such literary images can impact our lives and faith.
A "Great" Book: Gorgias
Mike and Jess close out the first season of the podcast, and 2019, with a great discussion of Plato's dialogue, Gorgias. They touch on topics related to goodness, justice, rhetoric, and the ultimate condition of the soul. It's a conversation about an ancient book that couldn't be more relevant to our current times.
Great Books and a Great 2020
So what happened to the podcast in November??? Mike and Jess talk about that, great books, and the great list of short story selections that they are working on for 2020 on The Catholic Reading Challenge. They share some of C. S. Lewis's *fantastic* words of wisdom on reading the classics, and chat about their vision for reading (and talking about) nothing but short stories in the podcast community in the new year.
Episode 20: Church Doc St. Athanasius
Mike and Jess talk about the book they both read this month: On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius. They share why these early Church fathers gave such good homilies and why the truth they spoke is what we really need to hear today.
Episode 19: Church Docs
In the month of October we are reading "a book by a doctor of the Church." Do you know all 36 doctors of the Church?? Neither do we. Jess is even trying to make some up. Here's a list; so you don't make the same mistake. Also, we are previewing the podcast season for 2020 -- it's going to be good!
Episode 18: Re-reads Wrap-up
Mike and Jess share fall happenings...including the exciting pre-release of Jessica's book, Home in the Church: Living an Embodied Catholic Faith. Then they get into what they learned from their re-reads, and how to approach them in the future.
Episode 17: September's Re-Reads Category
Are you a re-reader, or do you feel like your TBR stack is too long to read a book again? Mike and Jess make the case for re-reading books, especially when you know that the book has more to give than you got the first time. They discuss why great books are living things and good friends to be revisited over again.
Episode 16: Brontes & Berry
Mike and Jess chat a bit more about love of poetry and argue for its primacy in education and human formation. They also share some of the poems they read this month from the Bronte siblings and Wendell Berry.
Episode 15: A Book of Poetry
For the month of August we are reading a book of poetry. Mike and Jess talk about why poetry is a language all its own. Get ready! They have lots of suggestions for this favorite genre.
Waiting on the Word (Guite)
Word in the Wilderness (Guide)
The Brontes: Selected Poems
Episode 14: Biography Recap
Mike and Jess share about the biographies they read for the month of July...and thoroughly enjoyed! If you share a love of Thomas Aquinas or Sigrid Undset, then you'll want to hear about these books.
Episode 13: Biographies -- Getting Lost in a Good Story
Mike and Jess talk about July's reading category: biographies. What makes a great biography and a great biographer? They share some tips for picking a biography and a couple of recommendations. They also chat about Jess's recent opportunity to share their family's story of coming into the Catholic Church.
On this episode:
Episode 12: Travel Writing Let-Downs
Mike and Jess talk about the books they read in June. As it turns out, their travel writing selections were not what they thought they would be. They open the episode with a reading tip that applied to their experiences this month and might help you as well. Also...this episode debuts the podcast's new theme music--have a listen!
Episode 11: A Book That Takes You Somewhere
Mike and Jess talk about traveling anywhere at any time with the right book. They share some of their favorite selections for June's category and the authors that have inspired their travels -- in mind or body. Books mentioned in this episode:
Episode 10: Sci-Fi Wrap Up
Mike and Jess chat about their picks for the May category of science/speculative fiction. Jess went with a book by one of her favorite authors that's been on her TBR list for a while, and Mike chose the sequel to an acclaimed classic. They share common themes of the genre and and their personal selections. Perhaps you noticed similar themes in your book!
Episode 9: Why SCI-FI?
Mike and Jess talk about the importance of speculative fiction and science fiction in our reading lives and collective culture. If these genres are new to you or out of your comfort zone, then take a listen for a whole host of recommendations! Mike shares why this is one of his favorite genres and how he is handling his indecision for this category. Jess is going with a pick from one of her favorite authors.
Books mentioned in this episode:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Giver by Lois Lowry
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Hunger Games series
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
World War Z by Max Brooks
The Children of Men P. D. James
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Dune by Frank Herbert
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller
Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson
Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Le Quin
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
1984 by George Orwell
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis
Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
*For some reason, Anchor won't let us hyperlink anymore titles. :(
Episode 8 - Essays: Wallace & Chesterton
Did you know that essays make great bathroom reading? Well, opinions differ, apparently. After settling that important matter, Mike and Jess discuss the essays they read in April by their respective authors: David Foster Wallace and G. K. Chesterton.
Books mentioned on this episode:
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments by David Foster Wallace
Episode 7: A Collection of Essays
Mike and Jess discuss the neglected, yet brilliant, genre of the essay and why we should be reading more of them.
Books mentioned on this episode:
Episode 6: History Books About Wars
Mike and Jess share their picks for March...a little late...but there's a good reason. As it happens, they both picked war histories.
Episode 5: Perspectives on History & Lenten Reading
Did you hate studying history in school? Maybe you weren't reading the right books. Mike and Jess talk about the value of reading histories and why perspective makes a difference. They also share what they are reading for Lent.
Books mentioned on this episode:
1776 by David McCullough
Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich by Norman Ohler
Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam HIgginbotham
The Great Heresies by Hilaire Belloc
The Crusades by Hilaire Belloc
The Civil War (series) by Shelby Foote
Above All by Elizabeth Foss (Take Up & Read)
Word in the Wilderness: A poem a day for Lent and Easter by Malcolm Guite
Purgatory by Dante (Anthony Esolen, trans.)
Episode 4: Southern Picks and the Author's Metaphysic
Mike and Jess discuss the books they read in February, and they find that their authors, and books, share some interesting things in common. Plus...Flannery O'Connor's thoughts on the author's view of reality spark an interesting discussion of the importance of a distinct metaphysic in the novel.
Books mentioned in this episode:
Mystery and Manners by Flannery O'Connor
The Second Coming by Walker Percy
Lost in the Cosmos by Walker Percy
The Women on the Porch by Caroline Gordon
Episode 3: The Southern Greats
Mike and Jess kick of the episode with a tip for your reading life: using "lead measures" to meet your reading goals. Then they dive into one of their favorite categories of this year's reading challenge: novels by Southern American authors!
Books, authors & resources mentioned on this episode:
Deep Work, by Cal Newport
Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
The Women on the Porch, by Caroline Gordon
Wise Blood, by Flannery O'Conner
To Kill a Mocking Bird, by Harper Lee
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
Episode 2: Conversion Stories & Poetic Authors
Mike and Jess discuss their book picks for January's category, "a faith memoir." Interestingly, we picked books/authors with a lot of similarities, though the books are quite distinct themselves. Have a listen as we talk about Tyler Blanski's An Immovable Feast and Sheldon Vanauken's A Severe Mercy. And don't forget to share picks with us on social media. #thecatholicreadingchallenge
Episode 1: The Challenge Begins!
Mike and Jess introduce the podcast and book categories for the year. We discuss some possible selections for our first category: "a faith memoir".
For a free printable of the 2019 reading categories visit Jessica's blog.
Book and authors mentioned on this episode:
Shelby Foote's The Civil War (3 volumes)
Robert Kaplan, Balkan Ghosts
Doctors of the church: Edith Stein, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Therese