Thursday, August 19, 2010

Summer Reading 2010

Reading is good. Reading in the summer by the lake is really good. Reading good books is even better. Here's a list of some of the books I've read while relaxing at the lake - either I started them, or finished them, or started and finished them. Be sure to let me know what you've been reading, maybe I'll give your book a try.

Redemption, by Leon Uris
My mom really likes WW2 stories. So I've read my share of them, influenced by mom's interests. But I also grew interested in WW1 stories. WW1 was the reason we had a WW2. Uris sets up his massive novel about the struggle for Irish independence from British tyranny to also retell the Battle of Gallapoli - an infamous tragedy of that first world war. Oh how history messes with my preconceived notions about why the world is the way it is today. Life is just so much more complicated then we want it to be. Redemption is easy to read, the story flows smoothly, but watch out - your heart will break and your brain will ache.

Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2, by Steve Stockman
As a fan of U2, I was intrigued by this book. The spiritual nature of U2's lyrics is obvious, and they've been a source of inspiration and strength to me. The book delves into the stories and events thoughts behind the songs and spirituality of U2, of Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam. If you have been influenced by U2, you'll be inspired by the stuff that Stockman writes about the band. If you are interested to learn more about how to be a Christian who impacts culture, read this book.

The Blind Side, by Michael Lewis
A fascinating exploration of how football evolved around the role of the quarterback and the need to protect his blindside. The story focuses on how a really rich Christian businesswoman finds a poor, abandoned boy who turns out to be a genius at left tackle. The sociological observations, the role of religion and sports and wealth and love in our culture, all makes for a thought-provoking book.

To Tame A Land, by Louis L'Amour
I've been a L'Amour fan since middle school. I've got a ton of his books, and I found one at my folks place I'd never read before. About a boy whose riding west with his pa, his ma had died out east. His pa dies, he's abandoned, and then a man takes him under his wing for awhile. The boy grows up, becomes a marshall in a town overrun by corruption. Come to find out, the man who'd mentored him all those years ago is the one instigating the corruption. Whoops, I gave away the climax of the story.

The Lessons of History, by Will and Ariel Durant
I read these chapters: History and the Earth, Biology and History, Race and History, Character and History, Morals and History, Religion and History, Economics and History. I suppose I got about half way through the book. Fascinating, fascinating points of view on how the world works, why things are today the way they are, and some thoughts on what to do next. Written about forty years ago, it's still a pertinent read for today.  The Durants patiently explain how the geology of the land predetermines so much about what can happen to that community or country. The racial issue, as contentious as ever, gets an evenhanded exploration - which is a cause for discomfort. The role of morals and religion - he comes across a bit jaded, but then he's a student of history and not an idealist. Economics is everything today, and what Durants have to say about capitalism and all the other alternatives should be put in the hands of everyday citizens.

Tolkien: Man and Myth, by Joseph Pearce
The Lord of the Rings was pretty much the only thing I read through middle school and high school. Of course I did read lots of other stuff, but every year I'd read through the Trilogy, sometimes twice a year. As familiar as I am with the story, I'm also intrigued by the author. I'm a few chapters into the biography, and it's been a rewarding experience. Tolkien was a strong Roman Catholic, I've learned more about how his theology shaped his story. He also was a gifted story teller who also understood the role of myth in communicating great truths to society. Which is why his trilogy is still so popular. His ideas on myth apply to the writings of Scripture also; Tolkien's contributions are challenging me in deep ways.

The Bible According to Mark Twain: Irreverent Writings on Eden, Heaven, and the Flood by America's Master Satirist, edited by Howard G. Baetzhold and Joseph B. McCullough
Not everything in this collection is easy to read, but what Twain pens about Eden in particular is both profound, hilarious, and disturbing. He has thought about the first stories of Genesis much more deeply and thoroughly than pretty much any Christian I know. Twain is not to be dismissed. There is much to be gleaned from his writings. He and I come at Jesus from different perspectives, but we both care about people and how He gets presented.

Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community, by Wendell Berry
If there was ever anyone who soaked up the Gospels and then explained how modern society got into our mess, Berry is the master teacher. Not only does he clearly show how the mess was made, he makes a compelling case for what a renewed society could look like. The diagnosis is severe, and the remedy is costly, but the alternatives are cancerous. Berry's observations make me angry and frustrated - he's able to put into words what I see around me, he makes sense to me. But am I courageous enough to make the changes I want to see in the world, changes that Berry charts out, changes I know I ought to do?

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