12 July 2017

Summer Reads

I suspect the hot/humid weather causes me to read more books, since I spend more time indoors.

My reading life has been very busy, and somehow I have read 34 books this year already (thanks to goodreads for keeping track)!

Here a some of the books I've been reading lately:

The Book of Iona: An Anthology
The Book of Iona: An Anthology
edited by Robert Crawford
I am a bit fascinated by Iona, a tiny island off the northwest coast of Scotland, and the location of the monastery begun by Saint Columba, who left Ireland in exile, landed on Iona, and began his Christian ministry around 563 AD. The place is wind-swept, secluded, and mysterious, and yet it was the heart of Christianity for Scotland and the surrounding areas for centuries. This book is a mix of stories, poems, and journal entries relating to Iona.

Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field
Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field
by John Lewis-Stempel
‘To stand alone in a field in England and listen to the morning chorus of the birds is to remember why life is precious.’ 
Every time I go to England, I end up buying a modern book written about the English countryside, and this past Spring was no exception. This time I read about an English field through each season of a year. The flora and fauna observed by the poetical man who lives there on the edge of said meadow. I admire those who hold onto those traditional aspects of country life; embracing the land and the life and death that is essential to every season.

Murder in the Cathedral
Murder in the Cathedral
by T.S. Eliot
This short book is a play dramatizing the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral (in 1170 AD) by four knights who arrive at the cathedral to do what they feel they need to do for the king. Before the knights arrive, Thomas is approached by tempters (offering him ways out), which he rejects, and then he is warned by many others that he is in danger. Sensing his impending martyrdom, he accepts his fate, and even gives a sermon about being joyful in such a fate. Whether good or bad, he says we should celebrate. The knights arrive, and murder him there in the cathedral, and then turn to all the onlookers and justify their actions in some gaudy speeches.

The End of the Third Age: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Four (The History of Middle-earth, #9a)
The End of the Third Age: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Four
by J.R.R. Tolkien
To read Tolkien is to read glimpses into his sub-created world. This is a supplemental book containing drafts and incomplete alternates for many sections of The Lord of the Rings. As Tolkien wrote his drafts, some of the details didn't make it into the final draft, or, it was greatly modified. Tolkien was well known to be a perfectionist with his writing, so it's not surprising that there are many alternatives and drafts for all his stories. It was very interesting to read the alternative version of Frodo and Sam's return to the Shire, and the tumultuous time of "The Scouring of the Shire" chapter from The Return of the King. There is also an entire ending of the book that shows you life with Samwise, his children, and the sweet domesticity. It seems that Tolkien wanted that ending to be in the final published version, but didn't get it.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
by Reza Aslan
Basically, it is a biography of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, or the historical Jesus. The book recounts the first century state of affairs within the Jewish world, and all the conflicts that arose. Roman rule enslaved the Jews, messiahs declared themselves left and right, and an apocalyptic mind-set filled religious views. Our modern world is very different, and it is helpful and fascinating to learn about what the people of first century Palestine actually did and believed, and how Jesus became well known across the land (it started with John the Baptist, who was the well-known figure. Jesus was not known at that time). Obviously, he writes this book from a distinctly historical perspective, so many things contradict the theology we know to this day, but some of his historical perspectives actually help me understand passages in Scripture, by knowing more about the reason things were done, and why the conflicts arose (such as between Paul and James).

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