On My Reading List: June 2017

Keep-Calm-and-Read-a-BookI feel like it’s been a while since I did one of these posts, and looking at the impressive pile of books that I’m working my way through the sad news is that there’s a great deal that’s worthwhile but nothing that really grabs me.

The Bible: Is it terrible to say that the Bible doesn’t ‘grab’ me? It’s not that I don’t derive spiritual nourishment from my (almost) daily discipline of Bible reading, but if it was always a thrill a minute it wouldn’t be a discipline. Part of the reason is that I’m rationing the Gospels and Epistles in order to focus on the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible, which I’ve just finished) and the Histories (the section which follows on from the Pentateuch, which alternates between dramatic narrative and tedious roll-calls). 1 and 2 Corinthians, which includes the famous ‘love is patient, love is kind…’ passage, and which I allowed myself recently, was less of a chore.

Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman: One of the most defining works of American poetry, Whitman reads like a cross between Gerard Manley Hopkins and T. S. Eliot, both of whom he pre-dated. I’m still warming up to Whitman, but that isn’t unusual for me with poetry, especially free verse. Whitman is very fond of lists (’Poets to come! Orators, singers, musicians to come!’; ‘Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbulent, feeble, dissatisfied, desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men, rejected by men…’ You get the idea), to which I’m still getting accustomed.

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame: This is a childhood classic which I didn’t read in childhood, and while I can see the magic I can’t feel it. The animals all live in houses and wear clothes and use boats and cars and the like, and yet avoid humans and possibly try to eat each other. Also, with the exception of one brief mention of a minor character’s mother there don’t appear to be any female animals, nor do any of the animals appear to have jobs or do housework. Twenty-five years ago none of this would have registered and I would have been utterly enchanted. Now, I’m mainly just enjoying the English countryside scenery-porn.

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Thus Spake Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche: I was expecting to really dislike Nietzsche’s most famous work, in which he proclaimed ‘God is dead’, but thus far I’m just mildly bemused by the pseudo-religious tone and complete lack of anything resembling rational defence of his aphorisms homilies. It will be interesting to see whether he manages to get to the point where I take him seriously enough to be offended.

Trustful Surrender to the Divine Providence: This one’s on loan from the Significant Other, who comes from a staunchly Catholic background, so it’s slightly off my usual mainline Protestant beat, but since he’s pretty good at picking stuff that I’ll actually enjoy I’m keen to see where this one goes.

50 Economics Ideas You Really Need to Know, by Edmund Conway: I was lucky enough to be low enough on the financial food-chain (renting, with minimal savings and no dependants, and more or less at the start of my working life) not to be too badly affected by the 2008 credit crunch, but I saw what it did and the ongoing effects and I’d rather like to have a better understanding of how it all works, so I grabbed this off a market stall a while ago. With its short sections and engaging tone it’s one of my favourite reads this month.

The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemmingway: Told from the point of view of an American reporter living in inter-War Paris it’s fair to say Hemmingway was writing what he knew here, ‘The Sun Also Rises’ has a similar descriptive beauty to James Joyce’s ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’, with a subtle sense of melancholy of which I have yet to identify the cause.

It’s fair to say this little lot will keep me busy for the month. What are you reading?

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