My reading is starting to slow down a little this week. I blame much of it on having a ton of homework in my Greek Class. It’s good stuff, but parsing and translating these Greek verbs and participles is quite a lengthy process for me still.
This is also a week where, with the exception of one book, all the book titles are short. I considered that to be a strange coincidence.
Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul. I was reading from a book on hermeneutics, and the author recommended Knowing Scripture as a great introduction to the topic of studying and interpreting the Bible for laymen. I could not resist reading it as I’m trying to do some hermeneutic reading to prepare for a hermeneutics class this semester. In this book, Sproul discusses public versus private interpretation of the scripture and genres of scripture. He, most importantly, explains eleven rules for approaching the scripture and interpreting it. These rules and his explanations take up over half of this slim volume.
Many of my friends, who are avoiding works of reformed theology, might find themselves given this one a pass because of Sproul’s well-known identity as a reformed author. I would encourage you not to pass this work by on that basis. This is a basic and highly well-reasoned how-to study the Bible. There is very little in this book that non-reformed protestants will disagree with, and the writing itself is Sproul at his best.
Stonewall by Jean Fritz. The children and I have enjoyed most of the reading we have done about the American Civil War, and at this point we decided to bridge into a little nonfiction about the war because the historical fiction that we’ve read has so captured our imagination.
A true favorite of my thirteen year old’s is With Lee in Virginia. Lee and Jackson are two of the more focuses historical characters in Henty’s book, and Henty really captures the tension between being a supporter of rights for black people and being a part of the Confederacy. It’s a smartly nuanced story, and I recommend it. Because Jackson intrigued us so much in With Lee in Virginia, I remembered that I had a biography of him on my unread shelf (bought in 2013!), and pulled it out.
Stonewall, on the other hand, is a biography of Thomas Jackson, one of the leading men on the Confederate side of the war. Fritz paints a careful picture of Jackson, showing both his disadvantaged childhood and his unhappy adulthood leading into the war. She shows him as a man always striving for glory, for victory and for pride, but concerned that this might not be pleasing to his God. Jackson is a walking mass of contradictions, and so heroic, yet so fallible at the same time, that it was impossible not to feel affection and gentleness toward him.
I do confess that this book was far more interesting for both my thirteen year old and I than for the other children. I don’t think this is a book that you should necessarily just pick up unless you’re already interested in the war. Jackson is far too odd a character and there are far too many detailed battle descriptions for those who do not already have an interest in this portion of history to enjoy the book.
Calypso by David Sedaris. David Sedaris is often by turns funny and by others bittersweet. He spends much of this book talking about the beach house that he and his partner buy somewhere along the Carolina coastline. He opens this house up to his family and they spend vacations together there, and thematically, much of the book discusses his family relationships. He is bittersweet and deep when talking about his sister’s suicide, his mother’s alcoholism and his aging father. Then, he turns around and talks about how he has a lipoma tumor cut out (by a non-surgeon) on book tour because the surgeon wasn’t going to let him keep the tumor and feed it to a special turtle at the beach. Seriously.
Several times I found myself laughing out loud as I read these essays. From the Fitbit running his life to the stories of his sisters and him shopping as a hobby on vacation, I could laugh and ruefully relate to myself and my own family. Some of the humor is dark, but some of the reality of growing older is too, and for that I found myself smiling far often than frowning as I read these stories.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman. I had seen the previews on Netflix and I had seen the multiple memes on social media, so I found myself curious about Bird Box. I am not always a fan of horror, so I stayed away from it until I saw the book on sale for Kindle last month. It only took me a couple of weeks to get around to the book, and when I did I was pleasantly surprised.
Marjorie and her two young children are living in an abandoned house, shirking in fear from creatures who they can’t see. Well, perhaps they could see them, but they wear blindfolds to keep themselves from seeing the creatures and going insane. Majorie is trying to be brave enough to take her children to a “safe place,” but will they make it? Will the creatures get them?
This book is told in alternating chapters between the present day and Marjorie’s past, showing the reader how Marjorie and her children got into the position that they are in and what happened to the world around them. There is an element of horror here with the unknown creatures and all the darkness, but this really is more of an apocalyptic novel than a horror story. I enjoyed this story, but will probably eschew the Netflix film because I think it might have a bunch of jump scares, which would make me feel incredibly nervous. My main complaint with this book is that I had a bunch of unanswered questions at the end of the book. I would have liked to have seen more of the creatures perhaps or for the end to have carried on a little longer to see what Majorie and her family experience when they get to safety.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Eleanor Oliphant seems to be socially inept. She’s awkward. She does not have any friends, and her co-workers treat her, almost to her face, with scorn. Still, she seems clueless and fine. Until, the weekend rolls around and she drinks two bottles of vodka all alone in her apartment over the weekend. Eleanor Oliphant may be many things, but she is not completely fine.
Over the course of the book, Eleanor finds some people who are patient and willing to invest in her life, and through her relationships with just one or two people, she begins a process of healing. This process involves confronting her past and will eventually save her life.
This book is laugh-out-loud funny, and tragic at the same time. I loved seeing how Eleanor’s tough shell and completely different take on the world was cracked. I keep thinking back to this book and contemplating out important our relationships are to us, and how difficult it is for us to be able to interact with the work in a healthy way when our relationships are broken.
This one is an early contender for my top ten books of the year, and it is a five star read for me (as well as my first finish for February).
Number of Books Read: 24
Favorite Read of January: I went back and forth on this one, and I think my favorite read for January was Calypso. However, Harry’s Trees is a very close runner up!