Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Comments on My 2011 Reading, Part II

The Road is an autobiographical memoir of Jack London's year as a hobo.  He was around 18.  In this lively and often-humorous account, London shares the ins and outs of telling just the right story to get a meal, riding the rail and keeping away from "John Law," what jail was like when he wasn't able to escape, and being a part of a gang of hobos that threatened the livelihood of small towns.  London's a good writer, and this tale is fascinating.

Book 2 of C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy is Perelandra.  It is the temptation of Eve retold and re-set on Venus.  More accurately, the temptation of the first lady of Venus parallels the temptation of Eve, but it is chronologically subsequent to Eve.  Indeed, it occurs in Earth's 20th century.  Professor Ransom of the first book is on-hand to help, though he feels wholly inadequate.  Fascinating insights into God and man.

A few years ago I read the second volume of Bruce Catton's study of Ulysses S. Grant's actions during the Civil War (Grant Takes Command).  So I decided to read the first volume this year: Grant Moves South.  Catton continues to argue that Grant's alleged tendency to drunkenness was a myth and rumor spread by grumblers.  Grant's rise to prominence and his development as a leader are some of the themes dealt with.  Catton reveals that Grant was a great man, and definitely the man for the hour, even as Lincoln was.

Spencer Quinn's Dog on It is a mystery tale told by private investigator's Bernie Little's German Shepherd, Chet.  This is not a dog talking as if he were a human; this is a dog's take on the unfolding events, with all of what we perceive dog psychology to be thrown in.  The mystery is of average quality, but it takes on hilarious qualities to hear Chet tell it.

In Our Man in Havana (Graham Greene), a meek and mild vacuum cleaner salesman in pre-Communist Havana is unwittingly recruited by his native Britain to act as a spy in Havana.  There is a certain amount of humor as he innocently dupes his own employer.  (I've not read anything by Greene yet that I haven't liked.)

I read The Art of Pastoring by David Hansen a second time.  It's my favorite book on the subject.

J. I. Packer's A Quest for Godliness unpacks and explains Puritan theology.  What a gold mine this book is, and spiritually enriching.

The Martian Chronicles reveals Ray Bradbury's mastery of the writing craft.  The movie doesn't do the book justice.  Earth's colonizing of Mars parallels in some ways the advances and setbacks of the Pilgrims and Pioneers here in America.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, by Thomas E. Woods, Jr., is conservative and readable.  It is also a tad bit depressing, because it's focus is negative--debunking all the myths we learned in school.  Didn't my teachers get anything right?  (Of course, they did; but the focus of the book has nothing to do with affirming the truth they taught.  It highlights everything we got wrong.)

In The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, Alan Jacobs says that reading books for the sheer joy of it is a good criteria in selecting books.

Watching Pride and Prejudice with Caty prompted me to re-read the book.  There is a lot of humor in this book.  It's a well-written book.

Ellery Queen's Ten Days' Wonder was a fun mystery to read to Sara, though it is near-steeped in Freud and other early theories of psychology.

I loved, loved, loved Iain Murray's first volume of his Martyn Lloyd-Jones bio when I read it a couple years ago.  But vol. 2 was twice as long (800 pages).  So it took me a while to muster the courage to tackle it.  But tackle it I did in 2011.  Entitled D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith 1939-1981, it details Lloyd-Jones's 30-year ministry at Westminster Chapel, his unique voice in the ecumenism that was sweeping the continent in the 50s and 60s, as well as his several theological emphases.  I was especially interested to read of his friendship and disagreements with other such luminaries as John Stott and J. I. Packer.

A Case for Historic Premillennialism, edited by Craig Blomberg and Sung Wook Chung, is a collection of essays that argues for the pre-millennial, post-tribulational rapture view.  Some articles were good; at least one was boring.

R. T. Kendall followed Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel and pastored there for 25 years.  Since his autobiography was already on my shelf--my parents gave it to me a year or so ago--I could not resist reading it after having completed a read of Lloyd-Jones's ministry.  Initial comment?  How different these two guys were!  Kendall's open embracing of some questionable Charismatic tenets and individuals caused me to read his book with a certain wariness, though on the whole In Pursuit of HIS Glory was quite enjoyable.

Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair is the first in the Thursday Next series.  Not near as good as I had hoped.

Harry Kemelman's Friday the Rabbi Slept Late is a better mystery than Dog on It (but it's not told by a dog!).  This is my second Rabbi Small mystery, and it did not disappoint.  I read this one to Sara.  I can gauge how much Sara likes a book by how often she "demands" me to read to her while she's fixing supper.  I got a lot of "demands" on this one.

I read 100 Cupboards to Anna, and she was hooked.  We're now reading through the second book in the trilogy.  100 Cupboards is a fantasy that reminds me some of The Chronicles of Narnia, and indeed, the author, N. D. Wilson, is a fan of Lewis.  In a nutshell, a boy named Henry goes to stay with his aunt and uncle and cousins in Kansas, and up in their attic he discovers behind the chipping plaster 99 cupboards of varying shapes, sizes, and woods, each of which opens up to different worlds.

On a dare I read Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (C. S. Forester).  Okay, not really a dare; more a suggestion.  Set during the same time (Napoleonic era) and in the same seas as Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey series, Forester's work reads easier because it is far less technical.  But the stories--for each chapter is an individual event in the career-climbing life of young Hornblower--are just as entertaining as O'Brian's.

My first entrance into the world of Agatha Christie many moons ago was A Caribbean Mystery.  Out of nostalgia I re-read it.  Good, but not her best. 

What got me reading Peter Lovenheim's In the Neighborhood was the subtitle: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time.  Here's a guy who spent one night at each of his neighbor's house in order to get to know them better.  What a concept!  (And something I would not want to do.)  Truth be told, many of his neighbors did not agree, though they did agree to meet with him.  And truth be told, he was seeking to do more than just to get to know his neighbors; he was seeking to foster community among his neighbors. 

Decision Points, by George W. Bush, was helpful in getting an inside perspective on some of the big issues of President Bush's presidency, like Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, the war on terror, and the stem cell debate.

Concluded the year with the concluding book in C. S. Lewis's trilogy, That Hideous Strength.  All 3 books are good, but the last is the best.


Jeff Elliott said...

You should use a website like to keep track of what you've read. You can also write reviews and give the books a rating and keep track of books that you want to read. I use it.

Anonymous said...


Dear Kent,

Sometimes there is no comparison between a good book or a Broadway play and the movie. Some say that if you enjoy reading the book, you'll love watching the movie (or vice versa). And, of course, such is not always true. However, in my opinion, I think Hollywood and many theatrical and television companies might fare far better by putting more of the slections you have chosen to read on the big screen rather than the increasing slushing of sludge they splash across audiences everywhere. Hollywoold is long overdue for great, moral improvement -- needing a revival, if you will. And I think you, among other such choosy readers, are one who could well nigh give it to them. --Dad

Kent S said...

I might check goodreads out.