Monday, March 13, 2017

The Latest Chapter: Reading Through 2017

We’re only a couple weeks into March but I’ve already been blessed to read several exceptional books this year.  I have already mentioned a few in my last “catch up” post (Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, C. S. Lewis’ Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, Edna Ferber’s Ice Palace, Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Hamlet), but I’m pleased to list a few others that I've read since then that carry my enthusiastic recommendation.

Trustee from the Toolroom by Nevil Shute.  This 1960 novel was the February selection of our book club, the Notting Hill Napoleons, and the consensus from our group was overwhelmingly positive.  It’s rather rare for a popular novel written by a non-believer to contain such insight and inspiration for the Christian activists who make up our literary group, but Shute’s story of a middle-aged, introverted machinist being drawn into a dangerous journey to achieve a seemingly impossible goal did exactly that for us.  A common conversation theme between a couple of my friends (John Malek and Pat Osborne) is the need to be faithful to God’s call, including the unspectacular, dull, and seemingly insignificant details of ordinary life.  In fact, our recent reading in Randy Alcorn’s Happiness and Tony Evans’ Kingdom Man have made these matters frequent in our early Thursday morning coffee at Panera restaurant. Well, Trustee from the Toolroom demonstrated a remarkable clear and provocative picture of how those virtues can be lived out.  It's easy for me to give it 4 stars.

* Kingdom Man by Tony Evans.  This was easily one of the best books I have read in this line.  Thoroughly biblical.  Practical.  Acutely relevant insights. Effective illustrations.  Challenging on many fronts.  I began this book back in December and read it more slowly and more carefully in order to spend an appropriate time in thinking through the book’s applications in my life.  I heartily recommend you taking a similar approach.  4 stars.

* Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak.  It had been many years since I had read this epic novel of revolution, suffering, injustice, and, throughout these cruel upheavals, the highs and lows of romance.  The novel is historically accurate, as far as it goes, and so the reader must face the extreme violence, hypocrisy, power lust, revenge, and mindlessness which was the Russian Revolution.  For these reasons (and because the novel is 523 pages), it’s not an easy read.  However, this time around, I also found it rather difficult reading because of the tragic weaknesses of the protagonists.  One might find them sympathetic characters. But, truth be told, they are not very likable nor can one find reasons to respect, let alone emulate, them.  However, for those interested in seeing the horrors the revolution represented (and that it created for later generations), then Dr. Zhivago remains a valuable read.  3 stars.

* Among my reading for mere entertainment are what I call “popcorn pleasure” books. Those are fast-paced, quick reads, usually in the adventure or mystery genre. Some of my favorites in this category are Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm series.  I go through the whole set of 27 novels every few years and I started them again in February. So far, I've put a half dozen behind me this year.

* Finally, besides the read-through-the-Bible regimen Claire and I are following, there are two other books I’ve been reading these last few weeks. I’m not close to being done with either one but both are proving excellent.  They are Randy Alcorn’s Happiness and a collection of obituary columns written by William F. Buckley, Jr., A Torch Kept Lit. More on these in the next “catch up” list.

Happy reading.