I picked up The Good Pope: The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church, by Greg Tobin, because it looked interesting.

But I also had some trepidation. A friend whose opinion I really respect put it down after a few chapters for reasons that aren’t mine to share.

Then the email about the blog tour mentioned possible controversy.

And you know what?

I really enjoyed this book.

I never really liked history. I’m still a bit grudging about it. In fact, it’s because of my husband that I’ve become more and more interested in it–he made me read The Frontiersmen and I haven’t looked back.

It was The Frontiersmen that made me see history as a story, one that happens to be true. It made me appreciate presentation as an essential part of catching my attention: a well-written story grabs me, whether or not it’s history or fiction.

The last history book I really enjoyed had to do with a pope, too, and it kept me turning the pages, too.

Who knew that a biography of John XXIII, the pope before Paul VI and one who was pope for just shy of five years, would grab my attention? But it did, plain and simple.

It’s not a really long book, but my first mistake was being exhausted when I sat down to read it in the evenings (tis the season). When I read it in my awake and alert state, I found it interesting to the point of wanting to know what was next.

I can’t speak to whether there was an agenda behind this book: I heard rumors to that effect, and I can only deduce that I am not smart enough to catch on.

Like many others, I’ve heard of John XXIII through a quote I credit my pastor with using. When asked how many people were working in the Vatican, John replied, “About half of them.”

Yeah, it made me laugh. It still does.

Another quote that made me want to read more about John XXIII is one that I found on a card when I became parish secretary almost nine years ago (I now work from home, but then I went in to the office everyday). It was a reminder to me of the best way to do business:

See everything; overlook a great deal; correct a little. 

Reading about John XXIII made me smile. He sounds like the kind of pope I would have loved. He was an earthy sort, if I understood this book correctly, but he also set his mind and used his diplomatic talents to work with both sides.

And I understand why he was called the Good Pope, why people loved him. I can sort of apply how I feel about Benedict XVI: here is a guy I feel is speaking to me, directly to me.

John was approachable, he was what we would call “good people.” (Yes, plural even for singular. Don’t ask. Accept.)

This book made me want to read about Vatican II, something I never thought would happen. Maybe I’ll pick up a book about that council (ha! maybe not!)…I’ve never wanted to read about it before. Though I’ve heard about how great it was, it’s all been sort of blah-blah-blah to me.

All in all, this was a book I liked. I recommend it.