What I’m Reading This Week … er, Month

I pick up books, read them for a while, switch to something else, and come back later, so I never know how long it’s going to take me to finish one. Just for fun, I thought I’d list a few of the volumes currently piled up next to and on my bed.

Weeks ago I bought Shakespeare’s Kings by John Julius Norwich, and I already mentioned it in a previous post. I haven’t made much progress in it. I still find it fascinating and fully intend to finish it, but because I can only handle so much at once, my Shakespeare-related readings have been pushed aside of late in favor of C.S. Lewis and faith-related pursuits.

And speaking of Lewis … 

I am halfway through That Hideous Strength, the third book in his cosmic trilogy! I mostly like it, but I’m still fighting against mild confusion over what is going on, although it’s getting easier as pieces are falling together. The first two chapters … wow. They are … so boring. But I was determined to power through, not only because I’m a little bit of a completist, but also because Lewis himself wrote a preface that basically says “I know, the first two chapters are tedious, but bear with me.” So I decided to trust him, and I’m glad I did.

This book inspired a few interesting tweets from me. If you are offended by a bit of rough language, look away now and never, ever read this blog again.

Tweet1

Tweet2

Yeah. Lewis makes me … emotional. He probably wouldn’t have liked me if we’d had the chance to meet in real life. (Even if we were both INTJs.)

I’m also reading Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley. 
This was a textbook I have owned since my sophomore year of college. I purchased it for Intro to Religion (a class I got a C in, mostly because I hated the professor and didn’t ever know what the heck was going on). I never read much of it, but for years I kept it, knowing that I would want to, eventually. And that time—a time when I am exploring the broader “Church” and attempting to deepen my faith intellectually—is now.

Along the same lines, I very recently started to explore the reconciliation of faith and science, and how Christians and others who believe in God should approach scientific studies and research and evolution and all those really divisive but important issues. I want to better understand … well … everything, really, involving science and God.

To that end, I picked up The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins from the library. Collins is head of the Human Genome Project, and also believes in God and miracles. I thought his book would be ideal for me, because I’m fascinated by genetics; it’s always been my favorite area of science. I’ve only read the Introduction and Chapter One so far, but I am so uncontrollably excited about this book! I’m sure it won’t have all the answers I’m looking for, but it seems to be a good first step. (I have requests pending at the library for other books on this theme.)

The first chapter is his own personal history: his upbringing and scientific education, as well as his journey from agnosticism to atheism to faith. That was interesting enough, but when he talked about the vital role that Lewis’ Mere Christianity played in the process, I got giddy. He seems like a bit of a Lewis fanboy, honestly. The first chapter alone contains quotes from both Mere Christianity and The Four Loves. I’m not complaining.

Last, and least, I’m also reading How to Create the Perfect Wife, by Wendy Moore. I won this book in a giveaway at The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Guide to the 18th Century, and was very excited because it sounded fascinating. It still does sound fascinating, but the execution … well, not so much. I haven’t cracked the book in a while, so I can’t remember specifically what I disliked. But I remember the writing style itself was dry and not all that engaging. There’s also a lot of (to me) superfluous information and overlong exposition. Here is the original description:

Thomas Day, an 18th-century British writer and radical, knew exactly the sort of woman he wanted to marry. Pure and virginal like an English country maid yet tough and hardy like a Spartan heroine, she would live with him in an isolated cottage, completely subservient to his whims. But after being rejected by a number of spirited young women, Day concluded that the perfect partner he envisioned simply did not exist in frivolous, fashion-obsessed Georgian society. Rather than conceding defeat and giving up his search for the woman of his dreams, however, Day set out to create her.

That does sound interesting and scandalous and ridiculous. Except, from what I can tell (because I have been skimming more than actual reading), the book isn’t about that so much as history of educational movements and other social issues, and the personal histories of a million side characters. Any other time, I might be interested in hearing about those  things. But if I pick up a book because it says it’s about a specific person and their weird life, dammit that’s what I want to read about. If I wanted to read about how Rosseau’s Emile impacted 18th-century European society, then I’d get a book about that. This book is still on my nightstand because I want to at least skim the rest of it before I pass it on to a more appreciative home. I haven’t been able to admit to myself that I will probably never get even that far.

So that’s my current reading list. Or at least the most active entries on my current reading list. By the by, if you are interested in acquiring any of these, I’ve linked the photos to their Amazon pages.