Sunday, December 27, 2009

Playing Catch-Up: Now Reading

Since I last posted about my reading material, I've read a couple of books and am almost done with a third, so I think I will just hit the two that I've finished now in this one post.

The History of God by Karen Armstrong: This book, frankly, blew me out of the water. It's been recommended to me a number of times through the years by various fellow bookworms, and I finally got around to plowing through it (although, on a personal side note, I think the doctors were a little confused when I was reading it while waiting for my surgery last week). Armstrong's book is a fascinating journey of the human perception of the divine in the three major monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Beginning with the earliest appearances of religion in ancient Mesopotamia, Armstrong shows how the Jews first developed the local polytheistic traditions into a blend of polytheism and monotheism, to a strictly monotheistic faith; then how Christianity developed out of that, and how Islam developed tangentially to both of those. She traces the traditions of the three faiths as they went through periods of mysticism and reform, of political strife and religious disagreement, right up through the Enlightenment and the development of atheism and fundamentalism as dominant thought patterns on religious matters. Always from an academic perspective, with theological, historical, and philosophical perspectives, Armstrong does a superb (and challenging) job of showing how, regardless of what you personally believe about God, whether God actually changes or not, human perception of the divine has shifted radically over time. While God has, in general, been an enduring concept, we have not all always thought about God in the same way-- and in my estimation, we probably never will. It's a challenging way to think about faith, but a fascinating one.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: The old children's classic, which I thought I would pick up purely in the interest of seeing how it compares (in March) to the new Tim Burton movie. I can guess right now that Tim Burton will make the film way more trippy than even Lewis Carroll could have imagined, but the book is so nonsensical to begin with, it would provide Burton plenty of material on its own. Wacky stuff-- but an excellent book.

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