This month’s reading list consists of more interesting contemporary works than heavy literature, with a couple of heavyweights for balance.
Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, is a carry-over from last month. Although the story is exciting and the characters engaging the language, while lyrical, is dense, so it’s taking me a while. It’s interesting to see the treatment of Jewish characters: I suspect from his tone that Scott was progressive by the standards of his time, but I shall emphasise ‘by the standards of his time’ and leave it there.
Mrs. D is Going Within, by Lotta Dann. Dann’s first book, ‘Mrs. D is Going Without’ opened up the experience of an alcoholic going dry to me, through the eyes of New Zealander Lotta Dann, and her second book is giving me similar insight into an ‘ordinary’ Kiwi’s journey into the world of mindfulness. She’s got me interested, and I’m planning on reading more, and maybe giving it a go.
The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir, is one of the heavyweights I mentioned. The world has changed a lot since 1949, when de Beauvoir first published what became the foundational text of Second-Wave feminism, and it’s fascinating to recognise the genesis of modern ideas in her words. I’m already noticing, though, that in advocating for women de Beauvoir seems to display a certain disdain for the feminine, and a sometimes rather low view of women in general.
Tales From Shakespeare, by Charles and Mary Lamb. I bought this vintage book at the market a few months back and am dipping in and out, with a focus on plays that I haven’t read or seen. Each synopsis is short and sweet (and by ‘sweet’ I mean ‘bowdlerised’), so it’s not nearly as heavy as it looks and sounds.
10% Happier, by Dan Harris, is one of the books referred to by Lotta Dann (see above). In the early noughties, Harris was a jetsetting television journalist with a drug habit – until he started suffering panic attacks on live TV. With his career on the line he started searching for an answer, and stumbled onto mindfulness.
Epiphany: A Christian’s Change of Heart and Mind Over Same-Sex Marriage, by Michael Coren. With a title like that, how could I NOT be intrigued? Up until a few years ago, Coren was a well-respected Catholic conservative working in Christian media – until he made a few comments suggesting that perhaps Uganda’s policy of executing men convicted for homosexual activity was a bit brutal and extreme. The knee-jerk reaction of many in conservative Christian circles (he received death threats and lost contracts) prompted him to ask some hard questions about what his own Christianity should look like.
The Bible. Mindfulness, feminist philosophy, and gay marriage? Where is this Christian girl going? Ultimately, to the place I return no matter what: to the Bible and my knees in prayer. With only a few books to go I’m still on track to finish by the end of the year. Having just finished the epistles 1, 2, and 3 John (most famous for 1 John 4:8 – ‘God is love’) I’m now back to the Histories with 2 Kings, which tracks the decline and fall of Israel and finishes with the Babylonian exile.
What are you reading this month?