This is rather ludicrous. I have A Tale of Two Cities on my desk, right next to my computer, with my bookmark inserted at the end of Chapter 1, and although January 31st is looming ever closer, instead of picking it up and plodding through Dickens, I’m blogging.
Like, I never blog unless I have absolutely nothing else to do or unless there is some earth-shattering thing to say. But suddenly this evening it is of immense importance that I blog, even to the point of abandoning Dickens for the sake of blogging.
So instead of reading a book, I’ll write about books.
I’ve been thinking the last couple months that I haven’t read near as much as I should. Since I buy abou 5 books (on average) from Amazon every month, and probably read about 1 a month, my “to read” pile is growing much faster than my “already read” pile. Like most people, I always make excuses and tell myself that “next week I’ll have time to read that book” or “I’ll read that on my next vacation.” Yeah right. The only book I actually read while on vacation was Tess of the D’Urbervilles and I bought that one while traveling, I didn’t bring it with the intention of reading it. Anyways, I’m always trying to think of ways to fool myself into things I should do, so my latest ploy has been to write up a 3 month schedule of reading, with 1 book per week. Well, on Tale of Two Cities, Atlas Shrugged, and Brothers Karamazov I’m allotting 2 weeks, which is pretty darn generous. My theory is that I’ll realize I can’t just put off all my books until the last week of March, so I’ll be more apt to read 1 every week if I know there will be another one due the next week. It has worked.
I not only read my assigned books, I read 5 extra. That makes for a total of 8 books this month. All but one of them are books I own, books which sit quietly on my shelfs, silently begging me to pick them up and read. I’m excited to see more of them stacking up in my “already read” pile. Makes me feel good.
Anyways, in the spirit of procrastination and trying to avoid Dickens, let me list the books I have read with a brief review of them.
1) Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor. I have this love/hate relationship with Flannery O’Connor’s fiction. Technically, it isn’t hate, it is just an “I don’t get what you’re talking about” feeling versus a “That’s the most profound thing I’ve ever heard” feeling. This book was a collection of her essays and speeches, primarily on writing. They are much more accessible than her fiction. You don’t have to wade through artificial legs, nasty grandmothers, serial killers, and all that interesting stuff that makes Flannery O’Connor well, Flannery O’Connor. There are some really great comments she makes on writing and it has really inspired me to seek out authentic, real-life characters and plots in my own work instead of settling for anything less.
2) The Capitalist and The Entrepreneur by Peter Klein. While some of this was over my head, I appreciated the main theme: being an entrepreneur can’t be found in a magic formula or secret recipe. It is about knowing what consumers want, when they want it, and what price they are willing to pay for it. It brings to mind the Hayek vs. Keynes Round Two video where Hayek says, “put the wrenches away, the economy’s organic!” In contrast to the mechanical motor Keynes demonstrates, Hayek reminds us that the economy isn’t some circular flow or machine, it is comprised of millions of individuals trying to achieve their goals. And the entrepreneur is a fundamental part of that desire to obtain our ends. We can’t do everything and make everything. We don’t want to take risks. We don’t want to wait 5 years to get the first paycheck from a new invention. But the few that are willing to wait and risk everything are vital to the free market.
3) 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson. Since this is the first of a trilogy, I can’t really say how I liked it. I don’t know how it ends. But the plot was good, and the writing superb. I’m always looking out for modern people who can write well, and N.D. Wilson can do it. I read this mostly because I was thinking I might assign it to one of my sisters to read in their literature class. I’m also always curious to read anything remotely like C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia. I’m curious to see how other people portray both their Christianity, their imagination, and their commitment to good writing.
4) Manalive by G.K. Chesterton. I had to rush through this one because my sister was waiting to read it for her literature class, since the library has failed for almost a month to procure a normal, unabridged book copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (first they sent the movie, then I said I wanted the book, so they sent a comic book version, we’re still waiting…). I thought it was quite good. I couldn’t quite describe it. It is like a happy Dostoevsky, because the main character, nicknamed “Innocent” reminds me so much of Prince Myshkin in The Idiot. The theme is that this one strange individual encounters several people who seem confused, and sometimes threatened, by him. His joy, his vivacity, his simpleness of mind, and his passion for life seems to unnerve them. While it didn’t have much of a plot, as my sister pointed out, I liked the theme and thought it was quite good. G.K. Chesterton conveyed his ideas, the setting, and the characters very well. It did verge on the absurd (actually, I think it plunged into the absurd a few times) but this was only to make the reader realize what a glorious, beautiful world we have been given.
5) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. When I saw a used copy of this for sale at the library, I was intrigued and decided to read it. I know it is considered a “classic” so I wanted to read it to know if I should assign it to my sisters or not. I didn’t care for it much. I didn’t think the style of writing was very good. There were a few excellent parts, but overall, it was mediocre. The ending was weak. Spoiler alert: I knew how it would end as soon as one of those ladies told the girl about the one thing she had that It didn’t have. I got this sinking feeling and as I read on, I knew it was going to be that way. Of course, it would be Love that would overcome It. I mean, it doesn’t get much more cliched than that, right? I was hoping there might be something redemptive about the love, something that hinted more at the sacrificial nature of love, that love isn’t just a feeling we get or words we say…but I didn’t find anything like that in there. The whole idea and plot was pretty good. I liked the integration of some math/physics into the story, that was interesting. I also didn’t like that when the protagonists were being told about the battle between Good and Evil going on in the universe and they were asked to name some figures from Earth’s history that represented the Good/Light, one of them mentioned “Jesus” and then in the next breath, “Ghandi” and a score of other people. For being a supposedly Christian book (I think?) this idea isn’t exactly Christian. The whole premise of Christianity is that Jesus wasn’t a good man, He was the Son of God and our Savior who came to sacrifice Himself to satisfy the justice of God so that all those who might believe would be saved. To name Jesus and Euclid as being examples of Good on earth totally ignores the fundamental nature of Jesus: He was God and Man. He, the Eternal Lord of the Universe, “became flesh and dwelt among us,” and you can’t say that about Ghandi or Euclid.
6) Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I wasn’t very impressed by the one other book I read by Piper called Think. Don’t Waste Your Life was better. I liked his message and felt like it had a little more depth than Think, but I still am not impressed by Piper’s style of writing. His ideas seem to be captured in this mundane, casual style of writing.
7) The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I’ve been curious about this since I was down South this summer and all the elderly ladies were talking about it. According to them, it is a very accurate portrayal of life in the South during the 60’s. Because of that, I thought it would be worth reading. I liked some things about it, but I didn’t feel there was much character development. When a young lady tries to create her own identify and “grow up” by buying short skirts and low-necked dresses, you have to wonder how much she’s really learned or matured. The style of writing was quite good, I thought, considering that it is not only a modern book but also hugely popular. I didn’t like some of the language used, so if you’re going to read it, be aware there is some bad language.
8 ) Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. I never got into the whole Rebelution movement, I guess because it came rather natural to me to always be striving to do new things. It wasn’t (and isn’t) a revolutionary idea that young people need to apply themselves and actually start using their minds instead of just entertaining themselves. So although it was preaching to the choir for me, it was good. I’ll probably have my sisters read it in the next couple years. And I think I’ve gotten stuck in a “I’m so busy with work” rut lately, so the book did inspire me to not give up and to try to manage my time better so I have an opportunity to do more hard things.
And that brings us to…A Tale of Two Cities which is still patiently sitting beside me. Don’t get me wrong, I like Dickens. Great Expectations was great. So was Oliver Twist. It is just that I’m a little daunted by such a big book with so much going on. And I have to really concentrate because Dickens apparently never learned how to write a simple sentence. His sentences run for paragraphs and paragraphs (ok, not quite that bad) so it takes a lot of effort to keep my mind on going with the sentence.
I can’t think of anymore excuses, unless I go through my entire library and give reviews of every single book, so I must go try to get through another chapter tonight. 🙂