Friday, January 31, 2014

A Book Post to Fill Space

It is the last day of January and I have not yet filled my goal of two posts per week, nor have I made as many posts as last January.

So I will write about books, which are handy, but which I have always felt rather shy about posting about.

Books Read in January:
The Lost Gate and The Gate Thief  by Orson Scott Card

Quite enjoyable new fantasy series I picked up on a whim at the library. Looking forward to reading the third.

Areopagitica by John Milton. Read on Diary of an Autodidact's recommendation. I really enjoyed it. 17th and 18th century English political writings are sort of weird comfort reads for me. Despite the hopelessly obscure title, it's an excellent defense of freedom of the press whose arguments foreshadow many later incarnations and a sterling example of the kind of gentle and reasoned argument that seems to be forever gone from politics.

The Year of the Boat by Lawrence Cheek. This was for the church's book club (a selection strongly influenced by the utter lack of old people with Alzheimer's, which featured too prominently in some of last year's selections). On the one hand I felt considerable sympathy with the struggles of a clumsy wordsmith to construct something in the real world. And who does not love a sailboat? On the other hand, I found it full of the sort of pretentious navel-gazing I would expect from a suburban Seattleite. Who cares if your wooden boat building is a morally significant activity? You are not a significant person. Just build the boat and stop angsting over it.

Books Still In Process at the end of January:
The Living Page by Laurie Bestvater. This is my schoolteacher read, as recommended by Brandy at Afterthoughts and others on Charlotte Mason lists. It's about using notebooks in education. I'm only mediocre at notebook use. For one thing, I can never find a pen that matches and then I get annoyed at the mismatched pen color. But I am trying to start my own commonplace book again and we have actually done some quite nice work in timeline books this year.

The Nothing that Is. I think Diary of an Autodidact's suggestion, also. History of the concept of zero. I always enjoy books about math that don't require me to do actual calculations.

Our Culture, What's Left of It. by Theodore Dalrymple. Classic curmudgeonliness for modern times, and in a culture where people still confuse change with progress, a good dose of curmudgeonliness is always necessary. I saw this on someone's blog, but I forget whose.

The Well at the World's End, by William Morris. Saw this mentioned on a Facebook discussion of influential fantasy novels. Slow to start and sometimes that 19th century faux medieval language gets old, but increasingly gripping as it goes on. Some amazing writing and characterization under the quaint words. I may do a full blog post on this one, when I get to the end. It makes me want to reread George MacDonald's Phantases, a book of similar vintage that I read a long time ago and probably wasn't ready to understand yet.

Paradise Lost, by John Milton. Since I had the Milton volume down anyway, and since we are reading about his era in school, I thought it was time to tackle this. Long poetry intimidates me and I'm not so good at reading it; I start skimming and then I realize I've read twenty lines and have no idea what's going on. However, there are certainly some striking lines in here and vivid pictures (and a bewildering heap of mythical allusions; however, no one could have figured the place of sin so vividly and nastily without them). I haven't decided if he paints Satan too much the hero; I think he rather realizes it, but also realizes that all good things come from God and Satan couldn't do much if he didn't retain many admirable qualities after his fall. But we'll see how it unfolds.


Diary of an Autodidact said...

Your comments on "The Year of the Boat" are hilarious.

I'm glad you enjoyed Areopagitica.

Brandy Vencel said...

You know what? It was only when I realized that I COULD mismatch my ink that I fully took to commonplacing.

I think I just verbed a noun.