Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Really Mean It This Time (I Think)

Hi there, reading world. Nice to see you again. This has been the longest, most difficult summer of my life, as I have struggled to recover from three herniated discs in my lower back. It has been a roller coaster - I would have a couple of better days and would believe things had turned around, then would crash again, with pain worse than ever. It was truly awful. Now, however, I have had two whole good weeks (after finding a pain specialist who helped me a lot), and am cautiously optimistic that life is returning to normal (whatever normal is).

Three good things about this wretched time: 1) finding out yet again what a truly special guy I married 10 years ago. Ed has been a trooper through this whole stop and start journey. 2) I have lost a pretty serious amount of weight (amazing what chronic pain does for the appetite - "Do I really want to move off this couch and go get that snack? Um, no." Finally, 3) I got a lot of reading done. I'm so far behind on blogging that there is no way I can do separate posts on all the books I have read in the last three months - I would never catch up. So, am going to do a few posts with just micro-reviews of my most recent books. In a week or so, I should be able to get back to doing a full post two to three times a week.

I've missed you guys! Here are the first few books of the "Summer 2010 Back Pain Reading List":

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Was curious about the whole Stieg Larsson thing. Compelling reading - boy there are some morally bankrupt people out there. Gave me food for thought on topics like isolation, loneliness, and corruption. I plan to read the other two Larsson novels at some point.

The Path to Power - by Robert Caro. This is the first of Caro's Lyndon Johnson trilogy. Excellent bio of Johnson, but also meticulous history of the Texas hill country, Democratic politics in Texas, and some of Johnsons' formative relationships.

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh - excellent comparison of the personas of Guatama Buddha and Jesus Christ, and exposition of how their teachings continue to live and influence our world today. The writing is kind of all over the map without a whole lot of organization or structure, but I don't think our Buddhist friends are all that big on structure.

Purple Hibiscus - by Chimimanda Ngozi Adiche. Heartbreaking novel by the Nigerian writer who brought us Half of a Yellow Sun and That Thing Around Your Neck. Shows us a fanatical Christian who follows the letter of the law but completely misses the boat in terms of the spirit of the law. If you have enjoyed Adiche's other works, you will like this one as well.

Little Bee - by Chris Cleave. YOU MUST READ THIS. The story of a refugee girl from Nigeria who tries to make her way in England. I don't want to spoil it by saying anything more, but it is a must read novel if you like contemporary fiction that addresses the social issues of our time.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - by Mark Twain. Somehow I had managed to live 43+ years without reading this classic. In spite of the use of the "N" word throughout the story (we have to consider the time and context), I loved the book. Huck copes with a moral dilemma that many who are more "educated" than he would not even recognize as a dilemma. Plus there are places where the story is just laugh out loud funny (always a bonus).

Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian - by Paul Knitter. Read as part of preparation for a sermon I was writing comparing and contrasting Buddhism with Christianity. Very theologically broadening - an exciting read.

My Antonia - by Willa Cather. Showcases Cather's beautifully descriptive writing and traces a friendship between a young man and young woman on the Nebraska plain through late childhood and adulthood. Shows us how relationships and respect can be preserved through all the changes that life brings.

Your Inner Fish: a Journey through the 3.5 Billion Year History of the Human Body - by Neil Shubin. Science writing at its best - a delightful romp through the origins of life to the human species as we know it now. If Shubin is to be believed (and his case is strong) we came not from monkeys (at least not at first) but from the single-celled creatures and the most primitive fish that first came to be called life. Fun reading, and we learn something in the process.

The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine - by Benjamin Wallace. Traces the history of a bottle of wine that Christie's auction house sold for over $150,000 in the 1980s. The bottle was reputed to have belonged to Thomas Jefferson, but that could never be proven. Also gives a lot of insight into the wine culture and history of the industry.

Zeitoun - by Dave Eggers. In this country? Really? Discrimination against Muslims sinks to an unbelievable (yet sadly true) during the chaos of Hurricane Katrina (non-fiction).

Orange is the New Black:My Year in a Women's Prison - by Piper Kerman. Memoir of a year
spent incarcerated. Kerman had a brief stint in the fringes of the international drug trade that came back to haunt her a decade later, after she had long left that life behind. Lots of colorful characters and touching stories about how incarcerated women create community and find ways to grow and change even within a system that does everything it can to stamp out their sense of self worth.

Ender's Game - by Orson Scott Card. I'm not normally into science fiction, but this is REALLY good. It raises questions about war and peace and what we expect from our kids. Sometimes our kids understand our common status as creatures much better than adults do. Too bad we squelch that.

That's all for now, more in the next day or so. Happy Reading!

Reverent Reader