Monday, August 08, 2011

Bibliophilia, Books #11-20

Ah, the overly sophisticated way of saying that I'm addicted to books. I enjoy it, too-- I love being able to sit down and read for pleasure so much that I've hardly been writing. Will return to that soon, I'm sure... Anyway, for your enjoyment, here's the list of books #11-20 that I've finished this summer. This list marks the completion of my summer reading goal, but I'm sure I will continue on and possibly hit 25 by the time Labor Day rolls around.

11. The Language of God - Francis Collins
  • A decent book all things told, written by the head of the Human Genome Project. Found the science excellent, the theology subpar, and the fusion of the two agreeable. Too much C.S. Lewis. Called the Gospels 'eyewitness accounts' of Jesus's life. Worth reading, but disappointing for someone who was hoping for a little more solid theology. For a more in-depth review, see my Divine Science review.

12. Murder at the Watergate - Margaret Truman
  • I love Margaret Truman mysteries because, well, they're murder mysteries set in DC. I've read three so far, all with the same basic central characters and a revolving plot of supporting characters, and all have been excellent. This one, centered around Mexican corruption and murders that result from it, turn domestic politics into foreign affairs seamlessly. An excellent, and very fast, read.

13. The Bible: A Biography - Karen Armstrong
  • A biography of the world's most printed book, from ancient Israel's Torah to modernity. I love the way Armstrong writes about religion, with a historically-minded accuracy and fairness, and a believer's reverence. Though this book moves quickly and doesn't dwell on events that you might expect, this is actually a strength. It makes its point very effectively: if you thought you knew how to read the Bible, you are probably both wrong and right; but either way, half of the significance of the Bible is how it is read and interpreted.

14. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The tales of the greatest detective in the world never fail to entertain. I'm deeply ashamed that I never made it all the way through all of Doyle's famous Sherlock Holmes tales until now, but my favorite remains “A Scandal in Bohemia.”

15. The Magicians - Lev Grossman
  • Billed accurately as Harry Potter and Narnia for grown-ups, this darker fantasy novel follows the discontented young Quentin Coldwater as he makes his way into the world of magic through his admission to Brakebills College (think Hogwarts, if it were a college instead of a boarding school) and his search for the magical kingdom of Fillory (think Narnia, but more violent). A phenomenal read, especially for people mourning the loss of their childhood via the end of the Harry Potter movies.

16. Peace Like a River - Leif Enger
  • This book, recommended and loaned to me by my boyfriend's mother, took me a while to get into. Maybe partly because of my time constraints for reading, maybe because I found The Magicians shortly after starting it and got hopelessly distracted by my longtime love of fantasy, maybe because it didn't get really interesting until about halfway through. But I wound up reading the first half of the book over two weeks, and the second half in a day. It wound up being a good story. I suspect it will mean more to Midwesterners (like my boyfriend and his family), but I enjoyed the intertwining of faith, adventure, family, and a touch of romance that made up this story.

17. Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Power, and Print - James McGrath Morris
  • Continuing my apparently ongoing recent fascination with the great figures of the early twentieth century, this biography of publisher Joseph Pulitzer draws on recently uncovered sources, the likes of which most historians can only dream. Morris paints a picture of Joseph Pulitzer as an immigrant with brilliant political and journalistic instincts whose rise to power was only eclipsed by the onset of blindness. He did not hesitate to show Pulitzer in all of his many, many flaws, making this a fair portrait of a character who is not easily liked, but not unsympathetic either. An excellent biography.

18. Measure for Measure - William Shakespeare
  • One of Shakespeare's best plays, in my opinion-- Measure is entertaining but thought-provoking, raising timeless issues of justice, sexuality, and morality. It helps that I've seen this play performed, so I was able to picture things in my head as I read the play, but even without that, I think I would have loved reading it. It's a comedy, to be sure, but definitely one of Shakespeare's darker comedies.

19. Gods and Generals - Jeff Shaara
  • Written after The Killer Angels but set in the years preceding it, this sequel by the son of Michael Shaara carries the story forward well, but does not quite live up to the storytelling ability of the father. That being said, it was still a lot of fun to read, and the comparatively few inadequacies can be chalked up to the fact that where The Killer Angels takes place over three or four days, Gods and Generals tells the story of five or six years-- a few years before the war began, and then the first two and a half years of the war, including Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. An excellent work of historical fiction.

20. The Luxury of Daydreams - Amy McVay Abbott
  • It's hard to know exactly how to review a book written by someone you know without letting your bias creep in, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Luxury of Daydreams. Amy's writing style is humorous and sincere, beautifully phrased and entertaining. It will certainly be most enjoyed by people more familiar with the Midwest and mid-life situations than I, but all the same, Amy tells many wonderful stories that can be appreciated by people in most any location or stage of life. As someone who is not too far away from that age, I especially appreciated her “Letter to My Seventeen-Year-Old Self.”

No comments: