Friday, December 28, 2012

Reading Year in Review 2012

Sixty-seven books. (12 audiobooks, 20 Kindle)

Best non-fiction: Unbroken by Hillenbrand tied with Helmet for My Pillow by Leckie (both about WWII)

Most enjoyable new authors: Connie Willis in her WWII time travel series and Scottish novelist, O. Douglas

Most powerful classics: Paradise Lost and Moby Dick (These don't really count because I'm still reading them, but I wanted to counterbalance the depressing list of books that follows.)

Least exciting classics: Don Quixote, and three others

My two favorite books of the year were re-reads:  Wind in the Willows and The Dean's Watch

Thanks to the Classics Club Challenge (and to the fact that most of the books were free on my Kindle), I read 14 of the 50 books on my list.  In spite of the challenge to read meatier stuff, I succumbed to reading some fluffy vintage fiction that was also free on Kindle so it was an up-and-down (but good) year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Wish List

I loved this idea from Risa at BreadCrumb Reads who listed books she would like to receive for Christmas.

My wish list at Amazon is a mile long, but it includes many items of interest that are not necessarily books I'd like to own.  In recent years my library has been drastically reduced and I've written a little about why in two posts here and here.  All this to say, physical books have a much looser hold on me than they used to.  

BUT if I had to choose a handful of books that I really wanted, these would be on the list:


1) Towers in the Mist by Elizabeth Goudge - because you can never have enough Goudge.
2) Handbook on the Pentateuch (2005 edition) by Victor P. Hamilton - because I love teaching the Old Testament and this was one of the men who helped to ignite my interest in it.
3) On the Shoulders of Hobbits by Markos - because I read Return of the King and The Hobbit in 2012 and fell in love with Hobbit courage.

Books that I've read (and loved) and would like to add to my library (in gorgeous hardcovers, of course!):


4) Trollope's Barsetshire series
5) Middlemarch by George Eliot

Merry Christmas to all my fellow book lovers!  What titles are on your wish list?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Paradise Lost on Kindle

Dear Literary Purists,

Please do not hate me for posting this link.  Today (12/17/12) is offering a free copy of John Milton's Paradise Lost in Plain English.  I have wanted to read Paradise Lost for years, but have been extremely intimidated by it.  This version finally gave me the courage to get started AND I HAVE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH THIS GREAT WORK OF LITERATURE.

The original text is included in short paragraphs, followed by a brief summary "in plain English".  Milton is bowling me over with the beauty and power of his prose, but I would only be understanding half of it if I couldn't occasionally look over at the paraphrase.  Highly recommended.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.   Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat:  it was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort. . .   This is the story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected.  He may have lost the neighbors’ respect, but he gained - well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.

So begins the delightful story of Bilbo Baggins and his escapades. Even though Bilbo asserts that he has no use for adventures (“Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things!  Make you late for dinner!”), he embarks on a journey with Gandalf and thirteen dwarves that will change him forever.  Since I had just finished the Lord of the Rings trilogy I couldn’t help but recognize their similar themes: greed, villainous foes, a hopeless quest, a returning king, a definitive battle, an adventure that lasts a year, and unimpressive hobbits who astound everyone with their faithfulness and courage.

However, it probably wasn’t a good thing that I read this after The Lord of the Rings because it seemed so light in comparison.  Still, because of it’s lightness, this would make a great family read aloud.  In fact, with dwarves named Ori, Gori,  Balin, Dwalin, Fili and Kili, the book BEGS to be read aloud.  

On second thought, the "lightness" of The Hobbit makes the ending of the LOTR trilogy all the more amazing. Because the hobbits have matured through suffering, they are able to save the shire from evil influences, something the untried hobbits are unable to do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Quotes - G. K. Chesterton on Doctrine

On early Christianity:  It was no flock of sheep the Christian shepherd was leading, but a herd of bulls and tigers, of terrible ideals and devouring doctrines, each one of them strong enough to turn to a false religion and lay waste the world. . . . The idea of birth through the Holy Spirit, of the death of a divine being, of the forgiveness of sins, or the fulfillment of prophecies, are ideas which need but a touch to turn them into something blasphemous or ferocious. . . .  This is the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy. . . . It is the equilibrium of a a man behind madly rushing horses, seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic. (from Orthodoxy)

When the journalist says for the thousandth time, "Living religion is not in dull and dusty dogmas, etc.," we must say, "There you go, wrong at the very start." If he would condescend to ask what the dogmas are, he would find out that it is precisely the dogmas that are living, that are inspiring, that are intellectually interesting.  Zeal and charity and unction are admirable as flowers and fruit; but if you are really interested in the living principle you must be interested in the root or the seed. . . . . The dogmas are not dull.  Even what are called the fine doctrinal distinctions are not dull.  They are like the finest operations of surgery; separating nerve from nerve, but giving life.  It is easy enough to flatten out everything around for miles with dynamite, if our object is to give death.  But just as the physiologist is dealing with living tissues so the theologian is dealing with living ideas; (from The Thing)

(Culled from The Truest Fairy Tale)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien

I didn’t think I liked Return of the King as much as The Fellowship and Two Towers, but later decided it was the most heartwarming of the the three - even with all the battles.

What can equal the tenderness of Sam carrying Frodo when neither of them had any strength left?   Or Sam’s courage when all seemed lost?

But even as hope died in Sam, or seemed to die, it was turned to a new strength.  Sam’s plain hobbit-face grew stern, almost grim, as the will hardened in him, and he felt through all his limbs a thrill, as if he was turning into some creature of stone and steel that neither despair nor weariness nor endless barren miles could subdue. (p. 259)

Some of the most touching scenes from the book were not in the movie: Aragorn’s actions in the Houses of Healing, Faramir falling love with Eowyn, Merry and Pippin becoming the heroes of the Shire after feeling so small and inadequate in the battles for Middle Earth.  

There are powerful scenes too:  When Frodo extends grace to Saruman (and receives Saruman’s  curses in return), when Gandalf arrives to save the day, and when Aragorn is crowned.  His coronation is described in almost biblical language:
But when Aragorn arose all who beheld him gazed in silence, for it seemed to them that he was revealed to them now for the first time.  Tall as the sea-kings of old, he stood above all that were near; ancient of days he seemed and yet in the flower of manhood; and wisdom sat upon his brow, and strength and healing were in his hands, and a light was upon him.  And then Faramir cried: Behold the King!” (p. 304)

Gandalf has the best quotes in the book, especially when encouraging the men (elves and hobbits too) to fight against impossible odds:  “It is not our part to master the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till.  What weather they have is not ours to rule.” (p. 190)

You don’t have to be a believer to enjoy The Lord of the Rings, but the themes of faithfulness and hope in the midst of tribulation enriched my faith.