Summer Reading Series: Eliese Callahan

Katie Warner interviews Catholic readers and writers about their reading habits and asks for their book recommendations in various categories. 

First, who are you?

Eliese Callahan – wife, mom, homeschool teacher, head gardener, cook, chauffeur, etc.

When and how do you read? 

I used to own a Kindle and used it sporadically, but I enjoy the physicality of real, “flesh-and-blood” paper books, even if occasionally they present a challenge. Think one-volume editions of Lord of the Rings — oh the wrist strain! — or the time recently when Patrick found me and the baby both asleep with the book I had been reading resting on top of the back of his head. I read most consistently at bedtime, but I have been trying to make an effort with this newborn period (baby no. 5) to read whenever I sit down to nurse, instead of scrolling social media or watching Netflix, although I admittedly indulge in those as well. Additionally, as a mom (and particularly as a homeschooling mom), I do a lot of reading throughout the day to the kids.

Share a reading tip or hack that you’ve found helpful in your own reading life.

I use the library heavily and have an extensive “for later” digital shelf on my online account, which helps me remember books that looked promising. Somehow a digital TBR (to-be-read) stack is much less guilt-inducing than a tangible one. On our Well Read Catholic Instagram account, we follow lots of publishers – both Catholic and secular. Frequently I’ll see an intriguing new release posted that I’ll then look for at the library. We also follow people whose reading tastes are compatible and who also like to post about books. Other than that, I highly recommend having a mother who loves to read all kinds of books and who happens to work in a Catholic bookstore. When it comes to reading to the kids, I have this idealistic vision in my head of them all sitting around me quietly, enraptured, as I read to them at bedtime. But that basically never happens, especially since the 9- and 7-year-olds share a room with the 4- and 2-year-olds. I’ve found the best time to sneak in little bits of read-aloud for text-heavy chapter books is when everyone is strapped into car seats — specifically, when we’re in the parking lot waiting for preschool drop-off or pickup. I can’t necessarily keep the youngest ones quiet, but I can at least keep them immobile.

Recommend one of your favorite books in the following categories and include a brief description of why you chose it:

A spiritual classic: I Believe in Love by Fr. Jean D’Elbee.

It took me forever because it’s so rich with spiritual insight that you can really only digest a chunk at a time — a must if you love St. Thérèse and want to delve into the spirituality of the Little Flower.

Modern Catholic bookA Call to a Deeper Love

The compiled correspondence of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin. Intimate snapshots via letters of the lives of two saints and a saintly family I greatly admire. If Zelie could raise a willful toddler like Thérèse and they both became saints, then I guess we all can hypothetically do it. Also, A Song for Nagasaki by Fr. Paul Glynn, which is a biography of Takashi Nagai, a Japanese convert to Catholicism who survived the bombing of Nagasaki. Finally, anything by Msgr. Ronald Knox.

Non-Catholic book: Jayber Crowe by Wendell Berry.

Exquisitely lovely telling of the life of an ordinary man. Berry captures the beauty and dignity of daily human life like no other. Hannah Coulter is another excellent Berry novel — you can’t go wrong — but I prefer Jayber Crow. Also, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

An author you love: Willa Cather, P.G. Wodehouse, Mark Helprin, Wendell Berry, J.R.R. Tolkien

Something for the kids: Once Upon a Time Saints by Ethel Pochocki (several books in this series); Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls by Caryll Houselander; The Life of Jesus graphic novel from Pauline Publishing; the Saints Chronicles graphic novels from Sophia Institute press

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