Reading in the dog days of summer

"Sitting down with a book is my idea of the perfect activity for the dog days of summer."

Sitting down with a book is my idea of the perfect activity for the dog days of summer.  This summer I have set myself the goal of reading through Dante’s  “The Divine Comedy”.   The “Commedia” (as the Dante scholars call it) is not a work of literature that I want to approach without some guidance, so I have been watching lectures on it to help my understanding.

Fortunately, not every book requires the guidance of a scholar.  Nor would I want every read to require such extensive effort.  That would lessen the pleasure of finding a patch of shade, stretching out and reading for the sheer enjoyment of it on a blistering summer’s day.

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, providing the book is well researched. I always turn to the back of the book to check the bibliography and the author’s acknowledgement before I select a piece of historical fiction. I have no problem with artistic license; I just want to know where and why an author has altered the facts.

Kimberly Cutter’s “The Maid”, a novel about Joan of Arc, is a realistic portrayal of Joan’s life from the time she first hears voices until she is condemned to death.  Initially I was lukewarm about this novel, but after listening to Mary Himes interview Cutter on “Tapestry” I had a better appreciation for the book. Or maybe I was just impressed with Cutter’s dedication to her subject. Prior to putting pen to paper, Cutter retraced, on horseback, Joan’s historic journey to meet Le Dauphin.

My book club always reads at least one classic work of fiction each year. This year we tackled “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov, a novel that I first encountered in university. This thought provoking and funny book has entire websites devoted to it. While some readers may want to delve deeply into its political, economic, social and cultural contexts, the novel can be read for its highly original and macabre story – the devil’s visit to Moscow.

I am a fan of well-written biographies; for me, this means that the author does more than merely provide a chronological retelling of events. I like something that integrates facts, events and analysis. Robert K. Massie’s “Catherine the Great: A Portrait of a Woman” fits my criteria for a well-constructed biography. This biography reads like a novel, and in Massie’s skillful hands Catherine comes to life.

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention something in the theology/spirituality category. Father Ronald Rolheiser has written a series of meditations on the Eucharist. It discusses Eucharist as a mystery central to the life of faith and it considers the many ways in which Christians understand Eucharist. As always, Rolheiser writes in plain language and illustrates his insights with story. “Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist” is a must read for those who seek to deepen their understanding of Eucharist.

Louise McEwan is a freelance religion writer with degrees in English and Theology. She has a background in education and faith formation. Her blog is Contact her at

Just Posted

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Trees blown over by a windstorm in forest owned by Anderson Creek Timber. Photo: Anderson Creek Timber
Timber company logging near Nelson raises local concerns

Anderson Creek Timber owns 600 hectares of forest adjacent to the city

Keith Smyth, Kootenay Savings director at-large joins children from the Kids’ Care Centre at St. Michael’s Catholic School. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay Savings continues credit union’s tradition of giving

Funding totalling $48,250, is going to a wide array of Kootenay initiatives

From left: Karl Luedtke (West Arm Outdoors Club), Dale Williams (BCWF), Molly Teather (FLNORD), Gord Grunerud (West Arm Outdoors Club), Eugene Volokhov (Grand Prize Winner), Casey McKinnon and Lex Jones (Jones Boys Boats). Photo: Tammy White, Whitelight Photography
Balfour man lands big prize from angler incentive program

Eugene Volokhov of Balfour is now the proud owner of a sleek 18-foot Kingfisher boat

“I want to see the difference in the world, embrace it, celebrate it … ” Photo: David Cantelli/Unsplash
A new way to say ‘Hello’

“Inclusion, you see, is NOT about making us all the same.”

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

The Coquihalla Lakes washroom is getting upgrades. (Submitted)
Coquihalla to get upgrades to aging washrooms

The Ministry of Transportation is providing $1 million in funding to upgrade 3 rest areas

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

Most Read