I definitely have attention issues when it comes to reading. If you walk into Mimi’s and my one bedroom apartment, you will see piles of books on the coffee table or my bedside table or even the bathroom (yes, I like a good story while I, uh, multitask). I like owning books because I often like scribbling my own notes and underlining when I can. Looking around you might think, “whoa, this man sure reads a lot”. Not exactly. I often start a book, lose my mood for it, then get gifted another one, start that one, then move on to another one I really wanted to read. Based on my mood of the moment, I’ll go back and forth between three to six books at time.
Currently, I’ve narrowed it down to three sure winners, and I highly recommend them for very different reasons.
My “man book”
Often in my repertoire of reading lists are books about being a man/father/husband/brother/son. Great books that have fallen in this list in the past are Gut Check by Tarek Saab, Be a Man by Fr. Larry Richards and of course Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. All three of these past books were read together by a Catholic brotherhood group I take part in called The Armory. Every two weeks about five to ten of us Catholic men in our 20s and 30s get together and discuss our current book, the Gospel, and our daily lives, all over a couple beers.
This time around we’re reading a book called The Spiritual Combat and A Treatise on Peace of Soul by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli. What I like about the book is that it hits me in the face. It doesn’t waste any time in telling a man what he needs: God. Here’s a line I’m still reflecting on:
The man who has a deep distrust of himself and places great confidence in God is not at all surprised if he commits a fault. He does not abandon himself to confused despair; he correctly attributes what has happened to his own weakness and lack of confidence in God.
Whew! Like I said, hits you in the face. The chapters are literally only two pages long in this book, and I think it’s intentional because each one feels like a novel in itself. I like the small bites to chew on while I’m literally chewing on my oatmeal at breakfast. It mentally prepares me for the day.
My “Entertain Me” book
I like to have different books for different moods, and if I want to relax Spiritual Combat isn’t it.
I need a breather. During lunch or when I’m stressed, I used to get on Facebook or watch a YouTube video or sports highlights, but when you’re in front of a computer screen for most of your workday like me, I found the last thing I want during my breaks is another screen. This is why a good book, especially a light entertaining read, is one of my most prized possessions. Because I love basketball, Coach K’s The Gold Standard (about his journey with the 2008 USA Olympic team) and Five Point Play (about his journey with my childhood favorite 2001 Duke Championship team) were books I just soaked in. There are so many books one can love out there; I suggest finding one to replace screen time if you haven’t tried it yet.
My current “Entertain Me” book is New York Times Bestseller Dad is Fat by Catholic comedian Jim Gaffigan. If you haven’t seen any of Gaffigan’s clips, that’s a must because this man is hilarious, and so is his book. Mimi (who occasionally reads some of my books) and I were just laughing this morning at a scene in this book. While waiting to pick up his son at pre-school, he makes fun of some child’s “self-portrait” that includes “a toilet paper roll jutting out of the top area of the leg.”
At that point, [his son] Jack arrived with his teacher.
TEACHER: Oh, you saw Jack’s artwork.
ME: [Beat.] I did.
JACK: It’s my penis.
ME: I recognized it.
Teacher: We encourage the kids to express themselves about their bodies without any shame or guilt.
Me: Good, good.
Teacher: You’re welcome to take it home.
Me: Oh, I can’t wait to show Jack’s mom.
We literally laughed out loud at this. Actually, I laugh out loud at almost every page in this book. If you like funny, this is definitely a must buy.
My Information book
I often like to read books that feed the mind. These books in the past have been Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell or Boys Adrift by Dr. Leonard Sax. These are great books that make me think differently about what’s going on in today’s world.
A book I just finished is called Delivered: True stories of Men and Women who turned from Porn to Purity by Catholic apologist Matt Fradd. This is by far the best book I’ve read about porn because it tells about the effects of it in honest ways from a variety of different perspectives: a couple who got into the industry, a women who was addicted, a man who was addicted, a counselor who now works with addicted men and women, and more. Even I who feels well-educated on the subject felt moved by the stories and learned a lot. And that’s just it; if we’re ever going to win this war against the porn epidemic that’s ruining lives and families, our hearts must first be moved. The stories from this book that can do that.
Here’s anguish from one of the stories:
How many times had I prayed for forgiveness, on my knees even, in the solitude of my bedroom, but had never heard God’s voice? Every time I watched porn, masturbated, or had sex with a woman, I was seeking satisfaction, but every time I found only shame. No matter how many times I “confessed” it privately, I never found God’s mercy, never received the
assurance I so desperately desired.
The book is good for anyone going through the addiction to see they are not alone in specific struggles with porn they think they are only dealing with. This book is also good for those who want to understand the epidemic or maybe better understand their husband or wife who might be in the trenches of this temptation. Highly recommend it.
To wrap up, I think reading is a lost art. I think staying still in silence is a lost art. I think doing both of these things without a screen in front of us is a lost art. Facebook, YouTube, ESPN, TV shows, Netflix, even video games aren’t bad in themselves, but when they consume hours (plural) of our free time? We must wonder: how did people survive before iPhones, computers or TVs? And hey, if your resolution is stop all screen watching all together, more power to you. Just don’t stop reading Catholic Fried Rice.