Friday, October 23, 2009

Two literary tools

I've been playing around with two book-related websites. The first is Amazon, which is so much more than just a place to buy books. I've been posting some old book reviews there - a couple are taken from my old blog, a couple are reviews I wrote for periodicals, and the rest are pared-down versions of book reviews I wrote at college. Anyway, here is my list of reviews on Amazon.

The second website I have been playing with is LibraryThing. I've listed my books there, having imported them from weRead. All the books, that is, that I both own and have read. Anyway, LibraryThing has some great tools on it, and one of them is the capacity to construct a word cloud from any given list. So, here is the author cloud of my personal library.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Kara's September/October Reading

Currently Reading:

The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond by G. K. Chesterton

Mr. Pond is an odd character. He's always saying things that just don't make first. Take this from the first story, "The Three Horsemen of Apocalypse" : "... Grock failed because his soldiers obeyed him. Of course, if ONE of his soldiers had obeyed him, it wouldn't have been so bad. But when TWO of his soldiers obeyed him--why, really, the poor old devil had no chance."

And then there were the two doctors who "came to agree so completely that one of them naturally murdered the other..."

I'm enjoying this book. :)

Her Father's Daughter by Gene Stratton Porter

I've only just begun this title, but expect it will be an enjoyable, if somewhat flowery read. Porter's interest in birds and plants again comes to the fore in this story of a young girl living on the outskirts of 1920's Los Angeles.

Recently Finished:

The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out by Mark Driscoll

This book took me a while to finish, simply because I found it hard to get past Driscoll's tone. I found it both overly familiar--this diminished after the first chapter or so-- and times abrasive. However, now that I've made it to the end, I find myself wanting to read it again. There are many things he says about evangelism and culture that make me uncomfortable. But this is a good thing, because I am forced to ask myself "why?".

One thing in this book that I appreciate is the emphasis on evangelism through hospitality. This is an area I would like to grow in. Here are a few other things I've been thinking over:

"The way to avoid sin is not to avoid sinners but to stick close to Jesus." (p. 40)

"As long as Christians fail to repent of self-righteousness, we will continue to speak of evengelism in terms such as outreach, which implies we will not embrace lost people but will keep them at least an arm's length away." (p. 78)

"Jesus told us that the kingdom will be filled with joy, and so we make it a habit to take God very seriously and everything else very lightly." (p. 187)

My husband has written a review which covers the contents of this book more in depth.

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

A mark of a good book of historical fiction is that it makes you want to read some real history. Even better if a bit of mystery is in the mix. This book fits the bill. It's a criminal investigation held hundred of years after the suspect(s) and victims are dead. On trial: Richard III.

Overall a great read, even though I was quite irritated at some historical revisionism regarding the Covenanters. Seems a bit much to marginalise them as simply political radicals, none of whom actually died for their faith.

From the Holy Mountain by William Dalrymple

A travel book in which Dalrymple retraces the steps of John Moschos, a 6th century monk who traversed Byzantium in its declining years, and then wrote a book called the Spiritual Meadow . I suppose what I liked best about the Holy Mountain was how I could learn ancient and modern history simultaneously. I was fascinated by the accounts of many strange sects, such as the Stylites, ascetics who lived on top of pillars. This book gave me a greater understanding of the difficulties that Christians face in the Middle East, and of the complexity of the issues behind conflict in the Holy Land.

Lincoln's Dreams by Connie Willis

One of the most intense books I've read. Probably wasn't a good idea to pick this up right after finishing Fahrenheit 451! Lincoln's Dreams is the story of a young researcher who meets a girl who is having very strange dreams. He soon concludes that they are not actually her dreams, but the dreams of Robert E. Lee, somehow transferred across the years (an idea I found quite disturbing). He sets out to help her, and soon finds himself in a bit of a predicament. There is a twist to this story that in retrospect I should have picked up on sooner. A very strange story.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

John's October Reading

Currently Reading:

The Compass Rose by Ursula Le Guin

This is a book of short stories that seem to linger in the grey zone between science fiction and fantasy. I'm starting to develop a taste for Le Guin...

Primeval Saints by James Jordan

I've read a fair bit of James Jordan over the years (mostly on the Biblical Horizons website) and he's always stimulating. In this book he looks at the patriarchs in Genesis. My wife read it a while ago, and now it's my turn.

A Passion for Books by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan

A modern classic in the books about books genre. The subtitle says it all: "A Book Lover's Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Love and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for and Appreciating Books."

Scientific Mythologies by James Herrick

This is a true "Science and Christianity" book, but it's also "Science Fiction and Christianity". Herrick examines the interplay between science and science fiction over the past century, and some of the myths that have arisen in both. I think this book has a really cool cover:

Finished Recently:

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John Le Carre

This is a gritty, "realistic" spy thriller, not at all like the James Bond books I read as a kid.

Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport by Richard Mouw

The idea of this book comes from a scene from the 1979 film Hardcore (which I have not seen) in which a Dutch Reformed elder from Grand Rapids attempts to explain the five points of Calvinism to a prostitute at Las Vegas airport. Which raises a whole lot of questions, that this book attempts to explore: How does TULIP relate to everyday Christianity? Is Calvinism more that just the five points? Do we refer to the "Reformed distinctives" when we explain the gospel to non-Christians? I really enjoyed this book up to chapter 8, when Mouw's inclusivism bubbled to the surface.

Travel with Robert Murray McCheyne by Derek Prime

Note the non-standard spelling of M'Cheyne's surname. Still, this is a solid contribution to a worthwhile series. It is a biography combined with a travel guide, which means the reader is treated to some lovely, if somewhat gratuitous, pictures of Edinburgh, Dundee and Jerusalem.

Minority Report by Carl Trueman

I heard Carl Trueman speak in Melbourne a few months ago. Hearing him was great and reading him better. This book has several shorter pieces from his Wages of Spin column on the reformation21 website, as well as four longer pieces. Two themes emerge from his writing. The first is the necessity of studying (and understanding!) church history. Not all that surprising, really, given that Trueman is Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at WTS. The second theme is a bit more surprising: he critiques the "mere Christianity" popular in modern evangelical circles, which thrives at the expense of a robust confessional orthodoxy. Trueman's perspective comes out most clearly in his review of Is The Reformation Over? by Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom. Thought-provoking stuff.