Archived Letters from Interim Director Fr. Howell, SJ

Summer Reading and the Livin’ is Easy

Posted by Pat Howell, SJ on Wednesday, July 3, 2019 at 10:35 AM PDT

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

For years my sister Margaret and I have exchanged reading lists, so when the Washington Post last week published its 100 recommended books for the summer –a book for each age from 1 to 100, I felt compelled to send it along. She valued the list, but took exception to including Ayn Rand and Margaret Atwood. I totally agreed; our sensibilities have definitely converged. Ayn Rand’s libertarian, self-centered, individualistic impulses run totally contrary to Catholic social teaching and the Gospel too, for that matter.

My sister also filled me in on the kids’ books. “I liked most of them. I rented Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry to read to Katie and Sara. They didn’t let me get too far into the book and said they didn’t want to hear any more. Seems that they were reading many short stories in school and they were very saddened at the themes.” 

Here’s my list of books that missed the Post list that ICTC readers may wish to pick up this summer:

Values, Leadership, and the Moral Life

  • David Brooks, Second Mountain: In Pursuit of a Moral Life; read his earlier book The Road to Character, if you haven’t already.
  • Pope Francis. Happiness in this Life.
  • Doria Goodwin Kearns. (featuring Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon Baines Johnson).
  • Helen Prejean, River of Fire. Graduation speaker at Seattle U (2019), and will be back September 9, see below. She writes, as she speaks, with a fiery, passionate voice. Terrific read.
  • Andrew Roberts. Churchill: Walking with Destiny. (c. 955 pages.  A “good read” is never too long!) 

The Embeddedness of Racism in the American Psyche and Soul

  • William David. Jefferson Davis, the Man and His Hour.
  • Eric Foner. Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War. A
  • Gilbert King. Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America. A torturous account of the virulent racism in the USA in the 30s, 40s and 50s.

And for Sheer Delight if your value the language and take good writing as a sacred calling

  • Benjamin Dreyer. Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style

And with this note, dear reader, I take my farewell. As Interim Director of ICTC, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with my colleagues and engaging in the great work of deepening and advancing the Jesuit Catholic mission of the university. I will be at Gonzaga University this coming year on a bit of a “special assignment.” My actual title will be Specialized Senior Jesuit in Mission and Ministry. I’ll keep my same email in case you should wish to reach me. I always value your insights and comments.

I’m happy to report that my new book Great Risks Had to be Taken: a Jesuit Response to the Second Vatican Council, 1958-2018 is generating some favorable comments: “It’s a page turner.” “I haven’t been able to put it down.”  “You brought so much to life. I especially appreciated hearing the voice of Fr. Howard Gray.”  “It’s really a wonderful commentary on the last fifty years, honest, often funny, great stories, and there you were in the midst of it all.” And just this week my friend Fr. James Martin, S.J. included it in his recommended summer reading list. So with that, I come full circle. Enjoy the summer, enjoy your reading, and relish the breakthroughs that the Spirit finds each day.

Patrick Howell, S.J., interim director
Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture