Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer Reading 2010: Books #1-10

It is perhaps indicative of my bibliophilic nature that I consider it a travesty that I have only finished reading ten books so far this summer. After all, last summer I completed 32 books! But this is a different year and I have been working a standard 9-to-5 job every day, plus a handful of other things, and instead of lying on my back recovering from knee surgery I have been out and about in the great city of Washington, DC. With that being said, I am now done with my internship/job and will have some more time to spend on my beloved books. By way of a literary update, here's what I've managed to read through so far this summer.
  1. United Methodism in America (McEllenney)- The first book of many I will be perusing in the name of my senior history thesis, which will likely be about Methodism in the early United States. This was a well-done overview of the history of the United Methodist Church. Not particularly in-depth, but I got my feet wet and picked up a few ideas that I will be pursuing.
  2. Notes from a Small Island (Bryson)- Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors. This is the book he wrote about traveling around England, Scotland, and Wales. He has a very funny tone and style, and is clearly enamored with his subject. An all-around great read that made me want to buy a ticket on the next plane to London or Edinburgh.
  3. The Unlikely Disciple (Roose)- An agnostic college student from Brown University decides, after realizing how little he knows about this particular subculture of American life, to go 'undercover' for a semester at Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Falwell. I appreciated Kevin Roose's ability to critique his subject without unfairly bashing the people he encountered there. A funny yet profound book, along the lines of AJ Jacobs' The Year of Living Biblically. Note that this is not a coincidence; as Roose spells out early on, his project grew out of his time spent as Jacobs' assistant while Jacobs was living his year.
  4. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (Miller)- Donald Miller is another author of whom I am a huge fan. He first gained (some degree of) fame with Blue Like Jazz, and has gone on to write other wonderful spiritual (but not overly religious) books. This is his latest, a quest for understanding and finding one's personal Story-- and learning how to tell a good one. Brilliant-- my copy is well underlined.
  5. The Guinea Pig Diaries (Jacobs)- AJ Jacobs, of The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically, takes on a year of doing different 'experiments' every month. Each chapter of the book focuses on a different one. From living George Washington's Rules of Civility to trying to eradicate all his cognitive biases to becoming 'the perfect husband,' Jacobs' always laugh-out-loud (yet thoughtful) style makes him one of my consistent favorite authors.
  6. Rediscovering Values (Wallis)- I really liked Jim Wallis' first book, God's Politics, and have also been interested by his subsequent books. This is the latest. From his (mainly) progressive Christian point of view, Wallis discusses the Great Recession and critiques the mindset that got us into it...but also offers hopeful ideas as to how we can change in the future.
  7. American Lion (Meacham)- A well-written book about a deeply flawed man. This Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Andrew Jackson, authored by Jon Meacham (the editor of Newsweek) reexamines the presidency of the seventh man to hold the highest office in this country. Most fascinating to think of how relevant the events of Jackon's presidency are in this world today. He dealt with sex scandals, war, racial discord, banking issues, and economic challenges...and for better or worse, consolidated more power in the hands of the Chief Executive than had ever been presumed possible before.
  8. Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace (Nerburn)- A thought-provoking little meditation on the Prayer of St. Francis. Very well written, and I am still mulling over some of the ideas in it (which I think is the sign of a good book).
  9. Eat Pray Love (Gilbert)- A bestselling memoir of a woman who went through a nasty divorce before pursuing a year of traveling and finding herself. Perhaps only appeals to a certain demographic (I was told that I was too young to appreciate it) but I still enjoyed it.
  10. Up in the Air (Kirn)- The recent movie with George Clooney was based on this book, but they are quite different. This one is darker and, admittedly, somewhat stranger. Jason Reitman, the writer/director of the movie, pulled a number of direct quotes from the book, but the plot is a VERY loose adaptation. Still, it is a well-written and interesting book, a portrait of the road warrior. My favorite part of the book was the narrative style-- the main character, Ryan Bingham, just talks to the reader, and you feel like you are really in a conversation and he's just telling you a story. (However, I have to admit that I actually prefer the movie in this particular case. Minus ten book-lovers' points, I know.)