February/March Reads 2019

books, reading

I wish I could say I followed up my dissertatin with serious tomes and plenty of reading, but not so much. I have been burnt out, so it has actually been hard to focus on books at all. I had quite a few start-and-stops and I hardly ever quit a book I have started. All book links are to Amazon, where I make a small commission.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling


I make a point to re-read Harry Potter during the Thanksgiving to New Year season, but I was trying to finish up dissertation work, so Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets did not get finished until post-defense. Ah, it is probably my favorite of the earlier ones. That joke Ron makes after extensively cleaning the trophy for service to the school about it probably being for the person who killed Moaning Myrtle? Priceless.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling


I have the hard copies of all the Harry Potter books except for Prisoner of Azkaban. I keep meaning to buy it hard-copy, but also keep forgetting.

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

I wrote a review of this book a few weeks ago. I still highly recommend.

The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith

I thought The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness was just ok. I think the premise is fantastic. We are all hustling for happiness, but what if being happy is not really the point? What if purpose is? That is an idea, a truth really, I can get behind. But everything was else was just sort of ok.

The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart

In some ways The Grace of Enough: Pursuing Less and Living More in a Throwaway Culture is related to the previous book, but I think it is so much better because it is a look at an individual’s pursuit of purpose in a culture that is constantly screaming more. Moreover, where Esfahani emphasized that purpose can be found in secular life, I think I related to (needed) the Catholic message of this book. I loved it so much, I am reading it again right now. This book was also my #CathoLit2019 read created by the author, Haley Stewart of Carrots for Michaelmas.

Current Reads :

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (of course)

Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration by Benedict XVI

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both by Jennifer Fulwiler

The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis — a quick note on this one. Bruno and I have been reading a chapter or two together out loud in the evenings. We had always wanted to do this, but would be a bit too lofty in our ambitions and pick a big dense classic, but this book seems to work perfectly well for some evening reading after a long day.

What are some of your February and March readings? Anything you particularly liked? Disliked? What are you reading now? I’m always looking for new books to add to my kindle.

On Madonna’s 60th Birthday



I grew up on VH1 Behind the Music. My favorite and most-watched episode was the one on Madonna. Then I watched her Driven episode and Madonna Rising. I wanted to know as much about her as I could. I was around eight, maybe a little older. She was in her Ray of Light – Kabbalah – earthy-self phase. At the time, I wanted to be her. I would practice singing “Ray of Light” to whoever would graciously listen (ears suffering).  Later, I would declare that whatever I ended up doing, I wanted to be the Madonna of it.

I had a very specific idea of what that meant: It meant hard work and no apologies for who you were. I’ve certainly failed both of these standards. I’m sure Madonna does not even reach the “Madonna Standards” all the time (“absolutely no regrets”? — I doubt it). Even at eight years old, it was never the glamorous lifestyle or fame that I wanted. I remember watching that interview of her, when she first began, on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. He asked her what she wanted. Her well-known response: “I want to rule the world.” It was her grit — although, I’m sure I would not have put in those words at the time. Many people I know would not call Madonna a roll model, but she was my first.

I’m not sure I would consider myself a Madonna-fan anymore. After Hard Candy, I quit listening. While I like Madonna’s more self-aware songs, Bitch, I’m Madonna is dreck. I think Camille Paglia has it right. I cannot relate to want-to-be-hip-and-young-Madonna. This is not because I’m old. I’m not at all. I’m 28, only a few years older than Madonna than when she came out with her first album. But I do think I’m more conscious of aging than I was ten years ago. I’m sentimental for the first Madonna I came to love. That was a woman I could grow into: deep, introspective, self-aware, thoughtful, and in a way, literary. Current Madonna is not someone I ever think I could age into. Or, would ever want to.

Still, I’ve been listening to Madonna all day in honor of the woman who showed me what hard work could make possible, who taught me “long stem roses are the way to your heart, but he needs to start with your head,” and that success may not be the be all end all. These are the true blue Madonna songs that I can listen to over and over.

  1. Bedtime Story.
  2. Ray of Light.
  3. Jump.
  4. Human Nature.
  5. Vogue.
  6. Express Yourself.
  7. Frozen.
  8. The Power of Good-bye.
  9. Hung Up.
  10. Drowned World/Substitute for Love.

xo, Ali