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The books I read in March 2022

Each month I have a goal to read five books on a variety of topics and from different genres. Here are the books I read in March 2022. If you click on the title, you’ll go to the longer post on More to Come. Enjoy!

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate (2016) is a fascinating and controversial work by German forester Peter Wohlleben. For those who want to criticize his science, there are experts available to make that case. Others simply appreciate how much Wohlleben’s love for the forest comes through this work as he explains his observations on the processes of life, death, and regeneration. Wohlleben uses his gifts for storytelling to help build new metaphors to inspire a public that too-easily forgets what every schoolchild knows: plants are living beings.

Taking Tea with Mackintosh: The Story of Miss Cranston’s Tea Rooms (1998) by Perilla Kinchin is an engaging and lovely look at women’s history, tea culture, and design in turn-of-the-century Glasgow. The book is filled with beautiful historic and contemporary photographs of tea rooms, furniture, and paintings designed by preeminent Scottish architect Charles Rennie Macintosh and his wife, the artist Margaret Macdonald. But beyond the design eye candy, I was especially taken with the story of Catherine (Kate) Cranston, the owner of a chain of Glasgow tea rooms. Kinchin uses the backdrop of the temperance movement and the suffragette-influenced culture of the tea rooms to paint the intriguing story of how Cranston built a business empire by serving both men and women in spaces designed by leading-edge architects and designers of the period.

Raven Black (2006) is the first in the Shetland Island mystery series of author Ann Cleeves. I was quickly brought into this story of lonely outcast Magnus Tait, who stays home on New Year’s Eve and becomes the prime suspect when the body of a murdered teenage girl is discovered nearby the next morning. Inspector Jimmy Perez has his doubts about how quickly the community comes together to point the finger at Magnus, and in his work to unravel the true tale we find out a great deal about the Shetland Islands and this small, isolated community. The ending was certainly a surprise and Cleeves cleverly wraps up this story by pointing to future mysteries to come.

American Dialogue: The Founders and Us (2018) is an insightful work by historian Joseph J. Ellis. I returned to read the sections on the law and James Madison during the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. Madison’s greatest achievement was recognizing that the Constitution presented a “framework for debate” and that “argument itself became the abiding solution,” an understanding — supported strongly by Thomas Jefferson — that provides the springboard for Ellis’s strong and sustained attack against the misconception of “originalism” as most proudly practiced by Antonin Scalia and described by Justice William Brennan as “arrogance cloaked as humility.”

Jesus the Forgiving Victim (2013) by priest, theologian, and author James Alison is a fascinating book, unlike almost any other I’ve come across on faith. It flows from the insight into desire associated with the great French historian and philosopher René Girard and focuses on the non-moralistic nature of Christianity. Grace, not laws or morals, is the theme that he explores through twelve insightful essays. Alison is best known these days for his firm but patient insistence on truthfulness in matters gay as an ordinary part of basic Christianity in the Catholic church and beyond, and for his pastoral outreach in that sphere.

Enjoy reading!

More to come…


NOTE: For blurbs on the books I read in January and February, click on the links.

Image: Open book by lil foot from Pixabay.


  1. Sarah Gordon says

    I have read a good bit of James Alison, and I find him sensitive, sensible, and incredibly smart. I also love Rene Girard.

    • DJB says

      Thanks for the note, Sarah. Alison spoke at our parish a few weeks ago, and I had the same impression in person that you have from his books. DJB

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