Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kara's February Reading

Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller

Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner

Two spiritual autobiographies that made me think. The first is by a man who ended up a Christian, in spite of early experiences of Fundamentalism gone bad. He challenged my ideas of what evangelism and friendship with non-Christians should look like. This must be the sort of book Kafka was talking about: "I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn't shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place?" (read the rest of the quote here)

I loved Girl Meets God. In it, Lauren Winner tells of her conversion from Orthodox Judaism to Christianity. She brings home to me the truth that following Christ costs something. I appreciated how her story is neither glib nor saccharine, and how she doesn't gloss over the many intellectual struggles she had along the way. I hope to read more from this author--Mudhouse Sabbath next, I think.

For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

I've been vaguely familiar with aspects of Charlotte Mason's education theory for some time now. Things like reading aloud, narration, and nature study. But I've wanted to learn more. So I was happy to find this introduction to her thought on our shelves. I found myself arguing with the book as I read, and even after finishing I don't really understand the ideas behind the method.

In spite of this, I did glean some helpful things. I appreciate the admonition to parents to not act like they have all the answers, and to make sure that the children know that their parents are under authority, too. Of particular interest to me was the idea that I can help children now, even if I don't have any of my own. Being willing to listen, perhaps reading aloud to a child in the neighbourhood.

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

I was deeply disappointed in this book. After seeing and liking the movie, I expected a book that revelled in the delights of chocolate while exploring themes of prejudice, friendship and hypocrisy in religion. Well, I got the themes. But not much chocolate. Which is almost infuriating, considering the book's title! I was left feeling a bit depressed and confused. I couldn't identify with any of the characters at any meaningful level. Who was I supposed to feel for? The snooty, prejudiced townspeople? The rootless chocolatier who dabbles in witchcraft? The fanatical priest with a hidden past? The story seems to be saying that life is better when we throw away prejudice, help those in need, and do what we like (never mind what society thinks). Maybe there's some element of truth buried somewhere in there. But when I reached the end of the book, I was thinking of the emptiness and futility of life without Christ.

The Flying Inn by G.K. Chesterton

Great for someone who already likes Chesterton, but not for anyone else. Too episodic. He's not really much of a novelist. Lots of speeches, poetry and story all mixed up together.

The "Song of Right and Wrong" is often quoted at our house.

Monday, February 15, 2010

John's February Reading

Currently Reading:

The Unprejudiced Palate: Classic Thoughts on Food and the Good Life by Angelo Pellegrini

This book, first published in 1948, is a memoir/reflection on cooking and eating by an Italian immigrant to the US. He reacts angrily to the culinary élite who suggest that "excellent meals require exotic and unavailable ingredients, endless hours in the kitchen and a lifetime to perfect" (page 10). Instead, Pellegrini extols the virtues of simple fare and growing one's own vegetables.

Unpopular Opinions by Dorothy Sayers

This volume contains some of Sayers' best pieces, such as "Christian Morality" and "A Vote of Thanks to Cyrus". Most of these I'd read before - indeed, several of them are reprinted in Letters to a Diminished Church, which I bought a few years ago. That latter volume, however, was terribly edited, and inexplicably omitted the first half of the address "Creative Mind". Anyway, I particularly enjoyed reading "The Gulf Stream and the Channel", which muses on how Britain's geography may affect its culture.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

This is my third Austen novel, having read Emma and Pride and Prejudice. So far, it seems to have an inordinate number of introductory chapters.

The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister

I received a review copy of this book through Book Sneeze. Stay tuned for a full-length review.

Finished Recently:

Visit the Sick: Ministering God's Grace in Times of Illness by Brian Croft

This is the second book I have read in DayOne's inexpensive and helpful Ministering the Master's Way series.

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Kara is reading this series aloud to me - this is the fourth book we've read.

Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller

I really like this guy. This book left me wanting more.

Four Gospels, One Jesus: A Symbolic Reading by Richard Burridge

This book compares the four biblical gospels. Burridge takes as his starting point the traditional portraits of the Evangelists: Matthew is traditionally represented by a man, Mark by a lion, Luke by an ox and John by an eagle, as pictured in the Lindisfarne Gospels:

Burridge, however, give these representations a new twist: he considers these images as ones the evangelists use of Jesus. Thus, Mark portrays Jesus as a lion who bounds across the stage - "the lion bounds on, roars, and bounds off again, calling us to see him, in Galilee, somewhere." Luke, on the other hand, portrays Jesus as an ox, plodding steadily toward being sacrificed.

Although it can be overdone, we do need to recognise the differences between the gospel accounts, and avoid flattening them out into one "Life of Christ" narrative. I learned a lot of things in this book about the subtle differences between the gospels. For example, whereas Luke uses the words "joy" and "rejoice" numerous times, in Mark's gospel they're only used once each - in 4:16, when the seed on rocky ground receives the word "with joy," and in 14:11 when the chief priests rejoice over Judas' betrayal. That is to say, Mark's theology is one of "suffering and darkness".

Friday, February 05, 2010

Kara's January Reading

These will all be in the category of Finished Recently, as the month is already over...

The Paideia of God by Douglas Wilson

This is a collection of essays on classical education. Not the sort of book to spend a lot of time mulling over, rather, more bits to fit into my growing concept of Biblical education. Best essays: Title, and one discussing whether the Reformed faith and Classical education are necessary counterparts.

One Flesh: A Practical Guide to Honeymoon Sex and Beyond by Amelia and Greg Clarke

This is the first book I've finished from my list of books to read in 2010. As I read it, I asked myself whether I would recommend it to someone preparing for marriage. I've concluded that it wouldn't be my first choice. There's too much detail in some places (i.e. discussion of various positions-- possibly overwhelming, I think, for newly-weds) and not enough detail in others. I would have liked to have seen more discussion of what to expect on the wedding night, and how to prepare. Anyway, for pre-wedding reading about love making, I would recommend selected chapters from Ed Wheat's Intended for Pleasure.

My friend Sherrin has written a more detailed review of this book here.

Asterix the Legionary

My first Asterix comic. And so far my favourite. I knew I had to read these when John started making little jokes, and then remarking that they were "from Asterix". Since the "Legionary", I've also read Asterix in Spain, Asterix in Britain and Asterix the Gaul. I like the funny names and wordplay.

The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht

If I ever need to trail a pickpocket, survive a trip down a waterfall, get out of a locked car trunk, or cross a piranha-infested river, I'll know what to do!

Paddington Marches On by Michael Bond

Not the best, but still fun revisiting a childhood favourite.

Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church by Philip Yancey

Another from the 2010 list. This one made me think. At times, there was so much food for thought that I had to put it down for a few days, just so I could digest it all. Often I found myself getting uncomfortable; other times I began having a spirited debate with some of the ideas promoted by authors Yancey discusses.

In the past year, I've learned not to be afraid to ask hard questions. Soul Survivor gave me many to ponder: What sorts of civil disobedience are Biblical? In what ways has the Church alienated people unnecessarily? What does it mean to love sinners? And many more. This is an important book for me, one I'm still thinking about weeks after I finished reading it.