74 Tools for Good Living

Mealtime books: March 2018

Goshawks and Good Living

Eating in silence while listening to a book being read aloud is a practice found in Chapter 38 of the Rule of St Benedict. About once a month, depending on their length, we will be posting very short reviews of these mealtime books for anyone who may be on the lookout for recommendations.

Tools for Good Living cover

Michael Casey, Seventy-Four Tools for Good Living: Reflections on the Fourth Chapter of Benedict’s Rule (Liturgical Press, 2014) 

Fr Michael Casey is a Cistercian monk of Tarrawarra Abbey in Australia. He is the author of a number of books on the monastic life, many of which we have had for mealtime reading.

His latest offering, on Chapter 4 of the Rule of St Benedict, is our lunch-time book. Drawing on over fifty years of monastic life and a deep knowledge of the tradition Casey examines in turn each of the so-called “tools” for good living, from ‘do not grumble’ to ‘do not aspire to be called holy before you really are’.

This is a series of free meditations rather than a commentary, and as he himself admits they reflect his thoughts and reading at the time of composition, especially the work of Aelred of Riveaulx.

His didactic style is not to everyone’s taste, but it is solid & searching stuff and would benefit a slow read (as he recommends) by anyone interested in the ethical shape of day-to-day Christian living.

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Helen MacDonald, H is for Hawk (Vintage, 2015)

This is the best-selling, award-winning memoir by author and naturalist Helen MacDonald. Although we have struggled to offer our new guests a synoposis that does this genre-bending work justice, the narrative centres around the death of her father, a noted photojournalist, and her training of a goshawk named Mabel.

Woven into this is an eyebrow-raising biography of the hawker and novelist TH White, a history of falconry and ‘lots of nature-writing’, exploring themes such as grief, gender, class, identity and belonging.

I think Br Philip spoke for everyone when he said it ‘wasn’t what we expected’, and some might find it too self-indulgent. But it is proving an entertaining read at supper and it has been justly praised for its lyricism.