I don’t recall the last time I’ve had so many reading projects going that all excite me as much as these do. So, in the spirit of yesterday’s post about how I’m not reading as much online due to lack of time and my blogging here is going to occasionally look a bit different, here’s a rundown of current reading. I’ll preface this by saying that “current reading” for me means “the book is on my ‘current reading’ bookshelf and is picked up and read in small amounts at least once every couple of weeks.”
So every year for my birthday, my parents get me an Amazon gift card. It’s gotten to the point where I know it’s coming (which they seem to think is a bad thing). But because I anticipate it, I get to enjoy the excitement and anticipation of getting to buy several books, and whichever books I want, at once rather than scrounging through used book stores, as I usually end up doing. Here’s this year’s haul:
A Theology of Reading by Alan Jacobs: I’m not that far into this, but if you want to read someone who is engaging, witty, and challenging on issues of books, reading, language, and communication, I’m not sure I know a better person than Jacobs. His lecture on Christianity and the future of the book is indispensable for anyone interested in these subjects. So I’m really giddy about getting to read this one. Sadly, I’m only a few pages in. (This will be a recurring theme.)
Out of Place and Orientalism, both by Edward Said. I’ve got an essay idea that I think could perhaps turn into something much larger on India in contemporary storytelling (think of Eat, Pray, Love, The Darjeeling Limited, or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), but I decided I needed to read Said before tackling it. I took an intro to literary criticism class in college that blew my mind and was one of the best classes I ever took in the English program at UNL. (If you’re a student there and have a chance to study with Dr. Végső, you must.)
I’ve got a whole shelf full of 16th c. Christianity books I’m slowly working through. My current whim/interest is Erasmus of Rotterdam, the renowned humanist and language scholar. But I also stumbled across a volume on Puritan political theology in the 16th and 17th centuries and have the Cambridge Companion to Calvin that I’m dipping into from time to time.
Alan Jacobs and Rod Dreher have both been singing the praises of Rebecca West’s history of Yugoslavia, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, which of course made it inevitable that I would have to read that. It’s 1000 pages so this will likely be something I come back to off and on for the next year or so, but I’m really excited for it. So far I’ve only read Christopher Hitchens’ introduction to my edition of the book, but that intro has made me hungry for more.
Finally, the two I’m most excited about: I ordered William Cavanaugh’s Migrations of the Holy with my Amazon gift card and thus far am loving it. If you go back and read my review of Katongole’s Sacrifice of Africa (the best book on Africa I’ve ever read), that will give you some idea of Cavanaugh’s critique. I’m going to write more on it so I won’t say more for now, but I will say that if every Christian connected to politics took the time to read Cavanaugh, I have no doubt that the church and the nation would both be much better off.
And lastly, I’ve got a review copy of Rod Dreher’s forthcoming book The Little Way of Ruthie Lemming. I’m one chapter into this (note the recurring theme) but this is where all my attention is going to be focused for the next several days. Dreher is exceptional when it comes to writing comfortable, emotive prose that is easy to follow. And in this book those strengths have met with a story-telling ability that I haven’t noticed as much in his past work to create a really lovely mix. It’s a book I especially relate to because, like Dreher, I grew up as a very bookish, somewhat nerdy kid in a part of the country that didn’t really know what to do with bookish, somewhat nerdy kids. And like Dreher, I left my home thinking I would find something better outside of it. And, like Dreher, I ended up coming back. So as I read his story, I recognize a lot of overlap with my own. I’ll have more to say on this in an online review that will be published in Christianity Today, so you’ll have to head over there when it’s published to read any further thoughts I have on the book. For now, I’ll just say I’m really excited to be reading this and to be reading it two months before it’s released.