Monday, July 3, 2017

June Reads

Re-Reads
The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
I disliked the book when I first read it, but a sister liked it, it seems a popular classic, and Hamlette held a read-a-along for it, so I decided I'd try it again. Well, I despise this book, probably even more than before.

Fiction
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
I started this awhile back and picked up where I left off. It is a fun enough read, not anything spectacular although near the later part of the story I was laughing out loud, but the ending is less than satisfactory.

4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie
The little girls have been on a Christie reading spree. One of them asked me about something in this one, and sensing an ambiguous ending (which I now realize could put this book in one of my reading challenge categories, yes!), I was intrigued. Of course, the ambiguity didn't end up being all that vague or essential to the story, but I was still fooled (although mostly by Wikipedia, serves me right, I keep saying I will stop being so lazy and unscholarly for serious topics, perhaps I should extend that to fiction!).

Jeeves and the Tie That Binds by P.G. Wodehouse
I think I'm close to the end of the Jeeves and Wooster books. I will have to try to find some of Wodehouse's other works. I frequently turn to the Wooster books as a nice brain break.

The Golden Road (The Story Girl #2) by L. M. Montgomery
I love Montgomery's writing style so much. I love the combination of romance (in the general sense always and sometime also in the specific sense) and coziness in her stories. I like this better than the first book.

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens
I enjoyed this, but I must say, I don't think it is as well-written as the others at least in terms of character development. Some characters are rather stock and the more "developed" ones have
unbelievable endings or changes.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
So many levels of ugh. I wanted to try some classic dystopian novels and had suggested A Brave New World for our family book club*, but then I started wondering what good, what benefit I would get out of these novels? What justification for focusing on such vileness did I have? Why should have force myself to read these novels when I already disagreed with the premises, the worldviews, when I can already see moral evil? When I didn't want to? I decided it wasn't worth my time, and skimmed A Brave New World which confirmed my purpose. Fahrenheit 451 I read earlier and do think a worthy work although not very deep, but that left more room for discussion than many of the novels I was considering. Many of the others are written from a worldview so opposed to my own that I don't even understand their points or cannot agree at all or can find to point of reference. I don't think humans progress; we have technological and scientific building blocks, but we in and of ourselves, our very nature is the same. These novelists try to tie our nature with our accumulated knowledge. Accumulated knowledge is not accumulated intelligence or accumulated morality. Our whole cause and effect understanding misses each other by a mile and a half. I know things won't turn out as Wells novel suggests, and I see A Brave New World start to happen, except everyone thinks it’s great, thinks its improvement, and it’s NOT Marxist (how to people still cling to that absurd theory of class warfare, it’s so incredibly simplistic and expects an abnormal about of individual stasis?!) at all when people of all sorts support it.

Nathan Coulter by Wendell Berry
I'm thinking I'm not going to be a Wendell Berry fan. I'm going to try one more novel another blogger mentioned a couple of times as a favorite of hers (I tried Jayber Crow, but didn't end up finishing it. Nathan Coulter was short, and I'd already been disillusioned), Hannah Coulter, but although I might enjoy that, I don't plan of reading more of his. I think he might be better known as a poet, and he is also an essayist, so I will try a bit of those for varieties sake (especially because I need to force myself to focus more on other literary types). I found a strain of banality and vulgarity and in Nathan Coulter a cold, callous, cruelty that disturbed me. Some people might consider it small, but cruelty starts somewhere, and don't try to tell me cruelty to animals is not tied to people. I don't care if the author is "merely" describing it; that matters too. I was contrasting this rural landscape with that of Montgomery, yep, I'd prefer the latter. I must in honesty state I did enjoy one of his short stories (the first I'd ever read of him).

Popular Non-fiction
Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
I'm not a biography person. I think they are often a dime a dozen and that we really need to understand the era rather than individuals or at least the era before the individual. But I felt that the author researched this quite well, and I found it well-written and enjoyable although I think the author stretched his explanations or interpretations in places. I might add a few biographies alongside my history reading.

The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis—and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance by Ben Sasse
I really enjoyed this book, and I want to get a copy for myself. It reads like a parenting book, but I think that those of this generation who want to change can read it like a handbook. I've heard many of the issues and answers before, but not as a cohesive, gracious, encouraging, inspiring whole. (I usually hear complaints and/or joking (the latter of which is fine by me). And Sasse does trace the root back to earlier generations (the Boomers who raised Gen-Xers and Millennials), but the problem is two-fold. You can choose to learn and grow yourself. You always have to do that whether or not you are raised well. You can be raised well and turn out poorly and you can be raised poorly and turn out well (and kudos to you if you did). You can learn by both negative and positive examples.

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim Marshall
I have had a slight exposure to geopolitics or rather historical geo-cultural-politics, but I've never heard the term or knew that it was a field. I found this fascinating. I do think he overstates the case for geopolitics and significantly understates/undermines the significance culture at times, and I don't agree with his (sometimes simplistic) analyses and assumptions (bear in mind that he is a journalist not historian or policy maker). Nevertheless, this is an easy introduction into this field of study.

Night by Elie Wiesel
I read this for a reading challenge category. I'm glad it was short, and I intentionally sped through it. After my Stalinism class, I always read anything real or fictitious about this period fearing too graphic description and too much information. What I've learned causes me to fill in the blanks. Be careful of reading books without context. And be careful of this book if you are sensitive or if you have background information that causes you to view such books with trepidation.

I wish he had left any philosophical mention of God and humanity out of his explanations. (I don't mean his feelings at the time of his interment; I mean his retrospective thoughts). I think we do need to learn (carefully) about the Holocaust, but I feel so many people (Europeans really seem to have this attitude) of missing the forest for the trees. Knowing about genocides in no way stops them. Having Holocaust museums won't prevent another one. We need to talk about total and absolute depravity and humanity being made in the image of God. He said thinking humans were made in the image of God was part of his mistake. Um, no, ignoring the fact of depravity was. If humans aren't made in the image of God, if there is no morality, then how on earth are you going to label evil as evil? How are you going to say destroying people is wrong?! Ideas have consequences. Saying something is evil is meaningless if evil is a subjective term. This was another massive worldview divide far more serious but similar to the dystopian novels divide. Knowing is pointless without understanding.



*I mentioned how I missed our old church book club. Almost everyone there read; we didn't all necessary read the chosen book, but most people were seriously readers or as the case with me, became serious readers/revived our love of reading. I just feel like we don't have that kind of people now. There only perfunctory readers, people who read the current church Christian book, who read YA novels, etc. Anyway. When I was whining, Mom suggested we do a book club in our family. Of course, it only ended up being the ladies, and we chose Little Dorrit for our first book. I'm hoping we can have a discussion and a movie day (but that mini-series is LONG).






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