Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Bringing the Reading List Up to Date

It is an early Friday morning and I’m sitting in a Panera’s restaurant in Branson, Missouri while a cool and gentle rain falls outside.  It has been doing so for hours. That's great for creating a pensive mood for Day Five of our annual working vacation here in the Ozarks.  More important, the rain has provided needed relief from the unusually dry climate the area has experienced in recent months. Sadly, that lack of rain has muted the brilliance of autumn a bit -- that beautiful, awe-inspiring burst of colors that we've come to expect just hasn't materialized. But we're not complaining. It's still very pretty, very peaceful, and we have had a very enjoyable time.

The blog post that is most overdue is this one for The Book Den.  This morning I grabbed my reading list and written one of my “catch up” posts in which I list the books I’ve recently read but with minimal comments.  The last such post appeared way back in July. Yipes. 

Here they are.

* Into the Volcano by Forrest DeVoe.  I don’t remember just where this book came to my attention but, in graciousness to that source, I hope I never do. I did finish this espionage story but just barely.  Please don’t bother with this one or anything else by this author.

* Run Silent, Run Deep and Dust on the Sea by Edward L. Beach.  Both of these WWII-era submarine novels are well worth the read but the first is of really special value.  They are full of adventure, tension, detailed information on submarines and naval warfare strategy, plenty of human interest, and featuring remarkable writing skills from a real-life submarine commander.  Recommended.

* The Four Just Men, Council of Justice, The Just Men of Cordova, The Law of the Four Just Men, The Three Just Men, Again the Three Just Men, The Green Rust, and The Angel of Terror  by Edgar Wallace.  Thanks to Kindle, a reader who enjoys fine books from years gone way by now has a chance to enjoy them...and at a truly astounding bargain as well.  All of these Edgar Wallace books (none of which I could have afforded because of their rarity) came in a collection provided through Kindle for only 99¢.  Cool, huh? That’s the kind of opportunity that Kindle frequently provides.  Wallace’s books, by the way, were bestselling thrillers on both sides of the Atlantic in the early 20th Century.  Therefore, reading them provided not only the fun of well-written mystery novels with a political twist, but the added advantages which older literature can provide – delightfully different styles and perspectives, richer vocabulary, history provided by first hand commentary, and the absence of those things that so often make modern books morally objectionable.

* The Lancashire Witches by William Harrison Ainsworth.  This is another long out-of-print book (1849) that I probably couldn't afford even if I could have found a copy somewhere.  But through Kindle I purchased (again for 99¢) a whole gang of W.H. Ainsworth novels.  I enjoyed this one very much.  There was a lot of history, a lot of interesting perspective on the witch craze in Pendle Forest in the year 1612, and a lot of insightful comment and fine writing.  Now, after this Ainsworth novel, I tried a couple others in the collection but couldn’t make it very far in either one.  But The Lancashire Witches was an unusual and profitable read.  Recommended.

* The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers is an exceptional novel written in 1942, a tense thriller about a Communist escapee from a Nazi concentration camp. It is a profound, moving novel that explores the nature of German politics, the soul’s yearning for spiritual as well as physical freedom, the loathsome and fearful force of violence, the sublimity of heroism exhibited by everyday people, and much more.  This was one of the Notting Hill Napoleon’s monthly selections and the discussion over the novel was exceptional.  Highly recommended.

* Prepare by J. Paul Nyquist.  This is brief but excellent theological work written by the current president of Moody Bible College in Chicago.  The general subject is the persecution of Christians – how and why it happens, how it has increased dramatically in recent decades (including the West), the critical necessity to grasp the biblical teaching on persecution, preparing for it, and praying for revival.  Highly recommended.

* The Lone Star Ranger, The Young Pitcher, and The Mysterious Rider by Zane Grey.  Here are three more historic novels that came in a giant collection of Zane Grey novels available through Kindle at a remarkably cheap price.  The first two were enjoyable but I don't think I would recommend them. And the third? Definitely not. It was tedious, predictable, and poorly written.

* A Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer.  This is a genuine classic, the book which launched Claire and me into pro-life ministry almost 35 years ago.  Re-reading it is always a moving experience for us with fresh applications that are always relevant.  This time around a few friends read it with us (Matt, Allen and Quint) and the subsequent discussion was tremendously stimulating.  Highly recommended.

* Knight Without Armor by James Hilton.  This is one of the most dramatic and enjoyable reading surprises in recent years.  It’s not just the fine writing and the interesting plot twists – one rather expects that from the writer of Random Harvest, Lost Horizon, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips – but it was also the setting (just before and during the Russian Revolution), the amazing historical detail, and one of the most intriguing, unusual, and wining love stories I’ve ever read.  The discussion of the Notting Hill Napoleons over this one was really fun.  Highly recommended.

* Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis.  This simple but compelling account of the first months of the U.S. Marines’ fight for the island of Guadalcanal in 1942 is a must read for those interested in military history.  Recommended.