Category Archives: Reading

What Americans Claim to Read

Last week, the Library of Congress opened a new exhibit called “America Reads” to “celebrate the public’s choice of 65 books by American authors that had a profound effect on American life.”

It’s a follow-up to the 2012 exhibit “Books That Shaped America.” At that time, “the Library of Congress urged members of the public to name other books that shaped America and to tell the Library which of the 88 books on the list were most important to them. Thousands of readers responded.”

We, the people of these United States, chose books such as Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, both Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and Anthem, The Book of Mormon, Stephen King’s The Stand, Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, The Cat in the Hat, AA’s Big Book, The Feminine Mystique, and Spock’s Baby and Child Care.

The LOC reminds us, “The volumes featured in the ‘America Reads’ exhibition do not necessarily represent the best in American letters, nor do they speak to the diversity of our nation and the books it produces.” No, but it does speak to the type of people who visit the Library of Congress and respond to reading surveys with what amounts to Boaty McBoatface without the priceless publicity.

The Big Book? Baby and Child Care? How many actual people who put on pants in the morning responded to this survey? It couldn’t be thousands, unless almost everyone picked a unique title, making the three votes for Baby and Child Care a standout choice.

The exhibit will run through the end of the year.

Rare Puritan Books Now Online

To the Right Worshipfull, Sir Miles Fleetewood, Knight, Receiver Generall of his Maties Court of Wards and Liveries: All welfare in Christ IESVS.

Noble Sir:

IT is a truth able to endure the most fiery times & trialls, None but Christ, none but Christ. Ignatius expresseth as much, drawing neare to his Martyrdome, Let come upon me fire, crosse, meetings of wilde beasts, cuttings, tearings, breakings of bones, rendings of members, dissolutions of the whole body, and all torments of the devill, … only that I may gain Jesus Christ. Thus he, intreating the Romans not to intercede for him, and hinder his suffering for the Gospell. And thus the servants of God in these last times, when Romanists have thrust them into flames and other calamities.

Christ is all, and in all, said the Apostle.

The above comes from the first two pages of Christ Reveled by Thomas Taylor (Full title: Christ revealed: or The Old Testament explained A treatise of the types and shadowes of our Saviour contained throughout the whole Scripture: all opened and made usefull for the benefit of Gods Church. By Thomas Tailor D.D. late preacher at Aldermanbury. Perfected by himselfe before his death.)

The John Richard Allison Library in Vancouver has put its collection of rare Puritan works into clear, readable digital editions for free, online reading. Justin Taylor has a list of what’s available. This is awesome, friends. It’s wonderful to be able to see the actual pages of these books instead of stumble through the mistakes in OEM translated ebooks.

Jesus, Were You Anxious?

I’m encouraged to see two of my Advent-themed posts go up recently on For The Church.

  1. The first asks whether Jesus was chomping at the bit to start his earthly ministry. “I don’t think the Lord has the same concept of time I do. Just look at the incarnation. Christ Jesus did not appear to us like Melchizedek in Genesis, an established priest and king of the city of peace. He didn’t walk out of the desert and begin casting out demons like a fabled dragon slayer. He came to us as an infant. He spent years growing into adulthood, asking questions of his parents, learning his father’s trade skills, and studying at the synagogue.”
  2. The second reflects on a great hymn of the season. “Save us, Lord, and all the nations. By your authority, we live. The doors you open, no one can shut, and the doors you shut, no one can open. Lead us through that door to heaven and bring with us the rebels, strangers, hypocrites, and refugees who have exchanged their lives for yours. Lock up the door to misery, for your name’s sake, so that we may rejoice.”

Reading Moby Dick Aloud

More than hundred writers and artists read ten minutes each of Moby Dick last weekend at the Whitney Museum of American Art In New York. The marathon reading event started in 2012 as a biennial celebration, but the Whitney wanted to do again this year. Many participants had not read the novel completely beforehand, which one person said may be part of the appeal.

It sounds like fun and perhaps exhausting, but I doubt they have an edge on the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Moby-Dick Marathon, which “celebrated its fifteenth annual non-stop reading of Herman Melville’s literary masterpiece [in January 2011] with an expanded 3-day program.” Take a look at these photos.

Some read in Portuguese, Japanese, Italian, Danish, Spanish, Hebrew, Russian and/or French, followed by that same passage in English. One passage is read from Braille.  The Seamen’s Bethel hosts the singing of “The Ribs and Terrors in the Whale” and the reading of Father Mapple’s sermon. At the end, a few hardy souls will have stayed for the whole adventure.

Free Material That Could Change the World

Wheaton College has posted eighty-one hours of free videos of Dr. Arthur F. Holmes lecturing on the history of western philosophy. Dr. Holmes has just the right English accent to give his subject the proper authority. Just think about having to learn anything from the farmer in his clip. (via Justin Taylor)

Also The Gospel Coalition has produced its first eBook as a response to an earlier book. Revisiting ‘Faithful Presence’: To Change the World Five Years Later

“In 2010, noted University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter published the landmark book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern WorldOn the five-year anniversary of its publication, we asked eight contributors to engage the book’s thesis and assess its effect on the ongoing interaction of evangelical Christians with the surrounding culture.”

Those contributors are Hunter Baker, John Jefferson Davis, K. A. Ellis, Greg Forster, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Vermon Pierre, Daniel Strange, and Collin Hansen as editor. The eBook is free.

Relishing Not Reading

Dan Piepenbring responds to a “really snotty” piece in The Guardian about avoiding reading anything by a recently deceased author. He says there’s at least one truth that emerges from this snobbery. “There are writers we instinctively, permanently dislike: not only will we never read them, we will quietly relish the not-reading, finding in it a pleasure that can occasionally rival reading itself.”

It’s the nature of the beast, he says. Not that we have to be nasty in our opinions of authors we haven’t read, but we will reject–and even enjoy rejecting–books and authors for scant reasons of our own. And sometimes we miss good writing, which Piepenbring illustrates with his about-face on Michel Houellebecq. Once he enjoyed hating Houellebecq, but now he enjoys his work greatly.

“It took impassioned pleas by not one but several friends to get me to read him—an almost literal conversion effort. People have become Catholic for less.”

What Makes Good Writing?

Barnabas Piper offers the one key component to good writing: playing baseball. (Double-check me on that.)

On that topic, Stephen King says in his widely praised book On Writing, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. . . . If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

He also says, “Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story. Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”

Stories You Won’t Want to Miss

Here are some articles on a variety of current topics.

  1. 50 Books J. I. Packer Thinks You Should Read
  2. Refuting 5 False Theories About Jesus, including theories he was just a pagan myth or violent revolutionary
  3. 9 Truths About a Multi-Generational Church, such as the young should follow and the old should humbly lead
  4. Like bitter foods, like coffee, beer or dark chocolate? You might be a psychopath.
  5. Porn can’t be sold ethically. “The truth is that when a feminist performs the role of sex object in order to transgress and/or reclaim heteronormative constructs of femininity, her audience is excluded from the alleged meaning of her work. Men don’t go to peep shows so that they can self-critically reflect on women’s sexuality and the politics of desire. To ignore this is not an act of radical female autonomy, it’s an act of dangerous and narcissistic irresponsibility.”
  6. Porn and the Gospel, a talk by Joseph Solomon

Are Any Books Banned Today?

Ruth Graham points out the problems with that wonderful literary celebration currently engaging many sweet, ill-at-ease readers across the country, Banned Books Week.

Much of the rhetoric around Banned Books Week elides not just the difference between the past and the present but some other important distinctions: the difference between “bans” from public libraries and from school libraries, and between inclusion in school curricula and general availability in a library. A parent merely questioning the presence of a book on a required reading list is the same, to the organizations that run Banned Books Week, as the book being removed from circulation at the local public library. But the former, I would argue, is part of a reasonable local conversation about public education (even if the particular parental preferences are unreasonable). The latter comes closer to a “book ban.”

We at Brandywine Books hope you are enjoying your Banned Book celebrations. If you’re looking for suggestions, Lady Chatterley’s Lover has always been a great fire-starter. We’ve heard of some bacchants snatching books from tables at coffeeshops or smacking them out of the hands of readers on the sidewalk. Don’t let the reason for the season slip into history. Get out there and ban a book. (via Prufrock)

Losing Wisdom in Attempted Wit

Most Americans, it strikes me, are content with cleverness and snark. The scripts of television shows are rife with one-liners. Our children are raised around a torrent of witty banter, teaching them to become ever more clever in their responses. And, in our ever-increasing desire to appear more nonchalant and funny, something is lost.

That something, it seems to me, is wisdom.

Steve Bezner writes that we have so much content and so little wisdom. Seeking the wise life may be the most counter-cultural thing one could do today.

I See a Future for You in Audiobooks

Loren Eaton offers three reasons for new and established authors to have their work recorded into audiobooks.

“Most audiobook listeners are affluent professionals with plenty of time available during their commutes, and such availability is reflected in the sales numbers. A recent report from the American Association of Publishers shows that downloadable audiobooks are the industry’s fastest-growing segment.”

earphone fish

Commuters are a growing demographic for audiobooks.

 

Why College Students Avoid Literature Studies

“When I was growing up in the Bronx, the local Jewish deli owner, whose meats smelled vaguely rancid and whose bagels seemed to start out already a day old, attributed his failing business to the vulgarization of Bronx tastes.” Professor Gary Saul Morson says the deli owner’s rationale illustrates the same by many humanities professors. Students and their parents have every right to ask why they should subject themselves to literature courses.

“I speak with students by the dozens,” Morson writes, “and none has ever told me that he or she does not take more literature courses because every moment at school must be devoted to maximizing future income. On the contrary, students respond by describing some literature course they took that left them thinking they had nothing to gain from repeating the experience. And when I hear their descriptions of these classes, I see their point.” (via Prufrock)

We Are What We Read

Rosaria Butterfield describes her rejection of lesbianism, three heresies related to homosexuality, and the importance of what and how we read to our worldview.

In short, we honor God with our reading diligence. We honor God with our reading sacrifice. If you watch two hours of TV and surf the internet for three, what would happen if you abandoned these habits for reading the Bible and the Puritans? For real. Could the best solution to the sin that enslaves us be just that simple and difficult all at the same time? We create Christian communities that are safe places to struggle because we know sin is also “lurking at [our] door.” God tells us that sin’s “desire is for you, but you shall have mastery over it” (Gen. 4:7). Sin isn’t a matter of knowing better, it isn’t (only) a series of bad choices—and if it were, we wouldn’t need a Savior, just need a new app on our iPhone.