Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Recent reading

A combination of illness and holiday travel has kept me away from blogging the past few weeks, but I've been able to do a little reading in the midst of the chaos.

The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb (2009) is just that: the whole text of Genesis with gritty and often explicit cartoon illustrations. I suppose some might find the graphic illustrations offensive (this is emphatically not a Bible story for the kids), and others might find its exact adherence to the biblical text boring, but for me it opened a new window on a book I'd read over and over again and reminded me how deeply weird many of the Genesis stories are when you don't have a pastor or a book of commentary right beside you to tell you what spiritual meaning you're supposed to take away for your own modern life.

For seasonal reading, I went to Tinsel: A Search for America's Christmas Present (Hank Stuever, 2009). Stuever, a Washington Post staff writer, spends the 2006 Christmas season and part of the two that follow with three families in Frisco, TX (a Dallas exurb), using them as a window on Christmas as it's observed now. His conclusions aren't groundbreaking--as a culture we spend piles of time and money pursuing unattainable ideals and a nostalgic past that never really existed--but it's well-written and absorbing.

In Are Women Human? (1938), Dorothy Sayers posits that society treats men as individuals first, but defines women by gender rather than allowing us to be individual human beings with varied interests, dreams, and vocations. I found it a bit disappointing how much of it still felt relevant to my experience 70 years later--though if anything I feel more pressure from other women to conform to feminine expectations and/or to see myself as a woman first and a person second than from men.

Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language (Patricia O'Connor and Stuart Kellerman) takes on so-called rules that aren't, urban legends of etymology, and the like. As a series of brief essays, it's a good book for the bedside table, the bathroom, or other situations where you aren't looking for an extended, focused read.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Book blogging catch up

As it turns out, finishing one job and starting another eats all of your time, both for reading and for blogging about it. I've only managed to finish two books in the past two weeks.

Waiter Rant (Steve Dublanica, 2009) is yet another book from a blog, this one the story of a man who drifts into a career as a waiter. Apparently his blog is mostly humorous restaurant war stories, but the book is a little bit of that plus meditation on how the author, who started out as a Catholic seminarian, ended up where he did. Since I've been wrestling with the question of vocations/mission in life vs. finding reasonable satisfaction in a day job myself, I enjoyed reading someone else around my age dealing with the same questions.

The Kingdom of Carbonel (Barbara Sleigh, 1961), is the second book in the Carbonel trilogy of children's books about a girl and a boy who find themselves involved in the intrigues of Cat Country in 1950's England. A good read if you enjoy Narnia and/or Harry Potter