Yesterday was a red letter day in my personal history. It was the day, will forever be known as the day, on which I discovered the nun aisle in the Boston Public Library.
A moment of silence, please.
I picked up Unveiled, The Habit, and (this is SO exciting, you think I'm exaggerating but I'm totally sincere here) The Rule of St. Benedict. The latter is the handbook by which Benedictine monks and nuns live. It's about both how to be a religious, and establishes a lot of rules and ideas about how to live in a community, how to turn a group of people into a community.
In honor of this red letter day, here's a rundown of my top five nun books.
1) The Nun's Story, Kathryn Hulme. I've probably gone on about this before. It was a movie with Audrey Hepburn, which I saw on A&E many years ago, which led me to nun books in general. It's a perfect explanation of why and how a person would choose this life--not as a default or an escape, but as an ambition.
2) In This House of Brede, Rumer Godden. This is one of those books that observes the seasons turning and the small dramas of life--will Sister Agnes ever finish her book? How will we pay for the new sculpture Mother Superior ordered before she died? Will the Japanese novices learn our ways? It's just such a warm and comforting story.
3) Lying Awake, Mark Saltzman. A sister in a small convent in California is having visions, which have revived her faith and her passion for her calling. But when she finds out that they're caused by a medical condition, the book examines the question of how science and faith fit together and conflict with each other. But it does this with a practical simplicity, not a philisophical tirade.
4) Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris. I still count this as a nun book, even though it's really not. It's the journal of a woman who spends time as an oblate in a monestary. It's a mixed-gender community, many of whose members are oblates (sort of like an extended retreat--temporary vows). The book talks about the things that a "typical" person who has a full life (and husband) in the World might find for herself in a place like that.
5) Confessions of a Pagan Nun, Kate Horsley. This is a strange but intriguing novel, set up as the diary of an Irish pagan who joins the church. Mostly it's about how strange and foreign the Christianity of the 4th or 5th century is to us. I don't love it, actually, but I learned a great deal from it that I'm glad to know.
Bonus: Nun TV. Brides of Christ, an Australian series (or miniseries) about the lives of one convent in the 60s. With special appearances by a very young Naomi Watts and Russell Crowe!
Now, what's this I've heard about nun blogs?