Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Reading Year in Review

There's no secret why there's been a sharp decline of activity here at the Book Den in the last couple of years. For that decline corresponds exactly to 1) the decline in my Mom's health and 2) my assumption of duties as the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church. Both of these factors have meant a substantial reduction in my reading time, let alone the regular "maintenance" of my bookish blog.

Yes, I do still find some time for reading. And I've even managed to drop in a Book Den note now and again. But not enough. Indeed, I notice that the last book reviewed here was Bardelys The Magnificent by Rafael Sabatini. And that came back in August. Yipes! I really am far behind.

So, I'll move into the present by zipping through what constituted my 2009 reading list and the first couple of months of 2010. Sorry that I won't have much time for commentary but I am, alas, already whining about a lack of time, right?

I will not bother to list the theological works that I consult in my sermon preparation -- or the collections of short stories or history texts that I'll pick up when I know I just have a brief time to read -- or the dipping in to favorites like G. K. Chesterton. No, I'll stay with whole books read like Lowell Thomas' Pageant of Life that appears first on my list for 2009. (Claire is the record-keeper, bless her.) This is one of the 5 volumes from the Lowell Thomas Adventure Library and it consists of a superb collection of vignettes from Thomas' amazing career as a journalist and world traveler. There are a lot of stories (all quite brief) in this delightful book that are a treasure to a social historian like myself -- but I also know that these strange and ironic tales please others too for I've seen it in my Mom when I've read them aloud to her.

Also in January '09 I read Seven Secular Challenges Facing 21st Century Catholics by Fr. Val Peter (reviewed here at some length) and Check with Chip on Stem Cell Research by Chip Maxwell (also reviewed briefly at The Book Den here.) In January I also did a Book Den posting about White Nights and The Dream of a Ridiculous Man by Fyodor Dostoevsky as well as something in a much lighter vein, Ozzie by Ozzie Nelson.

In the next couple of months my extra-curricular reading included Cleopatra by H. Rider Haggard and then Guilty by Ann Coulter (a Vital Signs Book It! selection). I also did some re-reading: Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis, The Virginian by Owen Wister and the whole slew of Donald Hamilton Matt Helm novels , 27 in all. That was the second (maybe even the third) time around for the Matt Helm books. It reflects my enjoyment in polishing off whole series of adventure/detective/mystery novels. Other "serial authors" in these genres that I've enjoyed re-reading over the years have been Conan Doyle, John Buchan, Ngaio Marsh, Agatha Christie, and John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee books.

In the spring I very much enjoyed Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, Landfall by Nevil Shute, and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. It was probably my 4th time around with that last one, the first time being in high school.

In the summer there was another Book It! discussion covering The Faith by Chuck Colson, a terrific book that made for stimulating conversation. In those months I also re-read You Know Me, Al by Ring W. Lardner and the J.R.R. Tolkien series: The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. There was also the aforementioned Bardelys The Magnificent by Rafael Sabatini, the Book It! selection of Liberty and Tyranny by Mark Levin and Ninety-Three by Victor Hugo.

Looking at the list, it's clear that our fall schedule must have really been packed because the only books that I see there are Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins, the Book It! reading of Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. By December there was a little more room and I squeezed in The Darkness and the Dawn by Thomas Costain, The Gift of Christmas Present by Melody Carlson, At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon (the first in her series that Claire so loves), and a re-reading of O Little Town by Don Reid. (A Book Den post about that last title was done a year ago.)

So far in this year I've made it through the 1,000 pages of November 1916 by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Doctor Frigo by Eric Ambler, a Whitman Series book from 1942, Ginger Rogers and The Riddle of the Scarlet Cloak written by her mother (no kidding!), Lela Rogers, and The Sea Wolf by Jack London.

Whew! Now that that's over, I can rest comfortably in my bed tonight. Yet I know I should do a more thorough review of at least a couple of these...which I hope to do. Until then, see you over on Vital Signs Blog.