"It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, the glory of kings to search it out."
Musings on our world from a Trinitarian view
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Bible in Ninety Days
There is a group of students and other church members up here that, on Sunday, are starting to read the Bible through in ninety days, taking one week off. Should any of you be interested, let me know, and I'll forward the schedule to you.
Chesterton: Manalive: slightly inferior to The Man Who Was Thursday, but only very slightly, and it is most definitely worth reading. Very short, very, very good.
McCarthy: The Road: Very dark, very descriptive. Without giving anything away, it is a father and son traveling through a post-apocalyptic world (horrifically reminiscent of Mordor). Pretty good.
Tolkein: Lord of the Rings: Words fail me. Somewhere around my fifth time through, I simply died. These books are true, in a very profound sense of the word.
Lewis: Chronicles of Narnia: Books that, as Frank Churchill said of Emma's fiancee, "I would not presume to praise". Read them. Repeat as necessary. It's necessary far more often than you might think.
Chesterton: The Man Who Was Thursday: I Read this one in two days. Just great, and despite his disclaimer, I still consider the large man to be somewhat like God. Thrilling read.
Dorothy Dunnett: Lymond Chronicles: easier to start than the Niccolo books, and only six in this series. What can I say? I consider Dunnett to be the best taleweaver that I have ever read, and would be hard pressed to change my mind. If you read no other books (other than Tolkein, Chesterton and Lewis), read these. You will be amazed.
Dorothy Dunnett: House of Niccolo: The first book in this series of eight took me three attempts to get through. When I did, I was astonished. I didn't pick up a book by any other author for about six months. This is one of the best series that I have ever read. Historical fiction, and absolutely world-class. These books will be around five-hundred years from now.
Lewis: Space Trilogy: Just great. That Hideous Strength started in the typical British nothing-is-allowed-to-occur-in-the-first-fifty-pages manner, but then never really lets up. "It's very shark?!"
Tolkien: Unfinished Tales: As brilliant as I expected from the master. Dostoevsky would have loved Narn I Hin Hurin. I did.
Hugo: Les Miserables: Great stories. Yes, that was plural intentionally. Read the bloody abridged version if you don't want twenty pages on the sewer systems of Paris and forty on Waterloo with no relevance to the story. Was he paid by the word, with a bonus for pointlessness? Still, if you can make it past his desperate and rambling tweakeresque garrulousness, a very worthwhile and surprisingly uplifting read.
T. S. Eliot: Murder in the Cathedral: there is no excuse for not owning this and knowing it at least passably. It is an absolute delight to read; one of the best books I have ever read, the best play that I have ever read.
John Donne: Complete Poems and Selected Prose: His Holy Sonnets are just great. His love poems are generally very good, with a sting in the tail. Prose has interesting titles: "That Women Ought to Paint ... A Defense of Women's Inconstancy ... Why Hath the Common Opinion Afforded Women Soules?" and so on. Very worthwhile.
G. K. Chesterton: The Ballad of the White Horse: "We know he saw athwart the wreck The sign that hangs about your neck Where one more than Melchizedeck Is dead and never dies." How did I live over two decades without reading this? The heavens are opened, and I am forever lost. Magnificent. About King Alfred.
Eliot: Four Quartets: Magnificent and evocative. I understood little, but loved what I understood. He is somewhat of an acquired taste, but very worth acquiring.
T. S. Eliot: The Waste Land: Eccentricy is like an accent--it's what the other person has. Eliot is not eccentric, but insane. This book is brilliant. I think. Hard to tell, really. If his target readers were humans, I don't think that I've met them. I've read this shy of twenty times, and am no nearer to understanding it than the third time (when I successfully translated the German).
C. S. Lewis: Poems: If you don't own this, repent and buy it. Read it with caution, as he didn't even agree with everything he wrote, but for the love of God, read it.
C. S. Lewis: Spirits in Bondage: He published this at the ripe old age of nineteen. Had God not saved Him, he would have been damned with a vengeance. This book is a mixture of screams at God and escapist longings. Brilliant, and very worth reading over and over. Even when he is wrong (the whole bloody book) he is beautifully wrong.
Alexander Pope: Essay on Man: First read when I was sixteen, and I cannot stay away from it. Shattering to any semblance of pride, and taught me more about the Sovereignty of God than I have learned since. Easy read, and immensely worthwhile.
Book Log: non-fiction.
Calvin: Institutes: Wow. Twenty-seven? If I didn't know I was reading his thirty-somethingth revision, I would commit suicide. Brilliant. Absolutely worldclass; a must read.
Leithart: House for my Name: Magnificent information, prose is somewhat thick. Worth working through it the way that Owen is worth the effort. Just astonishing, and the prose isn't at all bad, just not great.
David Hunt: What Love Is This? This is Hunt's critique of Calvinism. Except where he says what Calvinists believe, I agree with the entire book. He says that we believe heresies, and are therefore heretics. Don't know that he ever met a Calvinist, though he does once get a position right--there will be people in hell because God didn't save them. Funny how that's just kinda the position of all orthodox Christians. He would have failed my rhetoric class. Loaded questions, straw man arguments, fallacies of distraction; I had expected better. Oh well.
Tom Wolfe: From Bauhaus to Our House: quite informative and effective. If you're interested in architecture, it will thrill you. If not, do what I did: read it like a sleeping pill.
P. J. O'Rourke: All the Trouble in the World: "Sorry Al (Gore), for calling you a fascist twinkie and intellectual dolt. It's nothing personal. I just think you have repulsive totalitarian inclinations and the brains of a King Charles Spaniel." That was from the intro. The book is hilarious and very informative (particularly on famines), but with reservations. There is cussing (though quite sporadic) and a few inappropriate spots. Worth reading, but probably not more than once.
Aristotle: On Rhetoric: Brilliant, the way a sewer system is brilliant: well thought out, well designed, but you wouldn't want to spend a lot of time there.
Plato: Gorgias: Very interesting, but shows the fundamental flaw in the highest form of humanistic altruism that can be found: it operates from the assumption that good deeds almost always give pleasure to the doer, and people are fully capable of doing good deeds. The problem is captured, at least partly, by Tozer: "as water can never rise higher than its source, neither can deeds be purer than the motives that cause them" or something to that effect. If you are doing good for the sake of pleasure, the day will come when there will be no pleasure in it. Good must be done for the pleasure of another, and the only way to know that what gives the other one pleasure is actually good is if that other one is God, Good Himself.
How to Read a Book: Ignoring the fact that if you didn't know how to read a book this should be the last book for you to pick up, if you actually followed the advice of this book, you might read another hundred books in your lifetime. Extremely impractical, though some worthwhile information in it.
How to Read Slowly: read it fast, or not at all.
Cicero: Ad Herrenium: Quite good. Frightening in places, as one of the world's greatest orators of all time is telling you how to manipulate massive numbers of people to do your bidding. Leaves you thinking the FBI should track the people who buy this book, not those who make pipe-bombs.