Friday, September 15, 2017

Surprisingly Short Classics

I recently downloaded Lady Susan by Jane Austen and was astounded to see it is only 82 pages long. The next day I began The Jungle Book and was surprised at its modest length. Naturally, I felt compelled to make a list of works by classic authors that are about 100 pages or less. I linked to Kindle Free titles whenever possible, so without further ado, here is the list. . . .

A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (77 pages)
Aesop's Fables (this version is 104 pages)
The Call of the Wild by Jack London (68 pages)
The Dead by James Joyce (80)
The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy (54)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (61)
Elements of Style by E.B. White (the only non-fiction title here, 93 pages)
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (94)
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (117)
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling (89)
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (74)
The Man Who Knew Too Much by G.K. Chesterton (87)
Metamorphosis by Kafka (50)
Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck (73)
O Pioneers (101 pages)
Rikki Tikki Tavi by Rudyard Kipling (73)
Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving (25 pages)
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (90)
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (103)

Also, each Shakespeare play can be read in 2 to 3 hours.

Abe Books has a similar list here.

Did I miss any? Please feel free to make suggestions in the comments.

Blessings,

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney

How should Christians view the pleasures this world? Is it really true that “the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace?”  Not according to Joe Rigney. He sets out to prove that Christians, more than anyone else, experience joy in this life because they recognize each blessing as a gift from God.

Rigney spends the first eight chapters establishing a theological basis for understanding the goodness of God. Only then does he specifically address the topic of “Christian hedonism” (a phrase he borrows from John Piper) vs. biblical self-denial. I happen to like theology and stuck with Rigney till then, but I can see how many people could wish he’d just get to the point.  
He talks A LOT about the trinity in this book, which at first seems off-topic, but I eventually warmed up to the oft-repeated theme. Rigney describes the giggles of his young son while being tickled. This tickle fight is high theology – a parable of a glory that existed before the world did. Fatherly delight is at the heart of reality. (“This is my beloved Son.”) My one year old will forget it, but in a sense it’s the most spiritual thing I can do for him. My delight and pleasure in him can leave a mark on him that will outlive the sun.
Because the Father loves to give good gifts to His children, we are free to enjoy and relish His goodness. Pleasures become sinful when we go beyond delighting in them to putting our hope in them. In this way even good things like family, sex, vocation, etc. can become idols. Christians are world-affirming at the same time as they are world denying. They know that their ultimate hope is in Christ, but that does not keep them from savoring His goodness in this life. Christians celebrate creation because it was made by God, but they treat it lightly because it’s NOT God.

A very thought-provoking book.
P.S. While Piper defends his use of the term "Christian hedonism" here, I still struggle with its negative and self-centered connotations.

Blessings,

Friday, September 1, 2017

Books I Read In August

I had another good month of reading. I worked hard to finish up several long audiobooks, but it was worth it. From least favorite to best here are the titles:

Thrive by Arianna Huffington, self-help book, reviewed here
Blue Fairy Book by Lang (audio), children's lit, reviewed here
Lady Susan by Jane Austen, reviewed here
Island Refuge - better than average CF, reviewed here
Far and Near - suspenseful CF, book four in a series, reviewed here
The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children, reviewed here
The Loveliness of Christ by Samuel Rutherford, reviewed here
The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney (audio), non-fiction, review forthcoming
Climbing by Rosalind Goforth, missionary bio, reviewed here
The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story by R.L. Stevenson, reviewed here
Oxford Book of Christian Verse, classic poetry, reviewed here
The Religious Body by Catherine Aird, excellent cozy mystery, written in 1966
A Bride Goes West, fascinating memoir of Nannie Alderson in the 1890's, review forthcoming
Watership Down (audio) realistic fantasy by Richard Adams, reviewed here

Blessings,

Friday, August 25, 2017

Watership Down by Richard Adams

I can understand why Adams initially had a hard time finding a publisher for this book. The protagonists (rabbits) seem too infantile for grownups, but the subjects (war, totalitarianism, threat of extinction, etc.) are too heavy for children. But I'm glad he persisted.

I confess that I have tried to read Watership Down a number of times and have given up, but when I saw it available as an audiobook via my library, I decided to give it another try. Ralph Cosham's outstanding narration was what I needed to help me persevere.

Fiver is a gentle rabbit with a sixth sense. He warns the other rabbits of upcoming danger to the warren, but only a few believe him. He, his brother Hazel, and a few others make their escape before it's too late. The novel shows the many challenges they face in finding a new warren.

Intermixed with the drama is plenty of humor, gentle wisdom, small kindnesses and lovely writing. The cherry on the cake is that each chapter begins with an appropriate literary quote.

The rabbits have their own language (a tractor/car is a "rudado") and their own mythology (their world was created by a being called Frith.) The characters are well-drawn, especially Fiver who reminds me of Frodo as a reluctant hero. Big Wig is a large, tough rabbit who softens as the story goes along. He is the only rabbit who takes Frith's name in vain, which might offend some, but I found it hilarious.

And what's not to love about animals who enjoy a good story? The main character in their tales is El-ahrairah, a Robin Hood of sorts. These stories within a story were exceptionally entertaining.

P.S. As I was writing this review I popped over to Wikipedia to make sure I had all my names straight. I was flabbergasted to read that feminists hate this book because the female rabbits are basically breeding factories. It never entered my mind to be offended by this book. (In fact the females are so important to the future of the warren that all the males risk their lives for them.)

Blessings,

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children by Stormie Omartian

Fifteen years ago, while raising four young sons, I read The Power of a Praying Parent. It challenged me to pray specifically for the Lord’s help to overcome their weaknesses and for the Lord to be glorified in their strengths. I adapted a few of Omartian’s prayers for each boy and have used them off and on through the years (in between extemporaneous prayers.)

Now that my children are grown, I was feeling the need to update those written prayers. So I was pleased to find The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children when I was on furlough. While I don’t agree with every bit of Omartian’s theology, I greatly appreciate her encouragement to keep praying and believing for God’s best for our kids.

She begins the book with a chapter on parental guilt as an impediment to faith-filled praying, which I really needed to hear. Assuming that you and I have done the best we knew how at the time we raised our children, and knowing that we were not perfect parents, we can trust that our children can still be taught by the Lord today and for the rest of their lives. They can learn the things we didn’t teach them – or didn’t teach them as well as we should have – and they can unlearn things we taught them that were wrong. . . . Whatever wasn’t perfect about the way we taught our children, God can redeem. But we need to pray for that to happen.

The following chapters deal with prayer concerns such as growth in wisdom, financial stability, sexual purity, health, marriage, and child-rearing. After this book had been out for several years, Omartian saw that many young people who had grown up in Christian homes had wandered from the faith without really seeing the danger. So she added a new chapter on prayers to help your adult children to see their need for God.

I guarantee that anyone who doesn’t recognize their need for the Lord is trying to fulfill their needs in some way that is empty. And they are becoming hooked on it and obsessed with it to the point of idolizing it to numb them to the voice of God speaking to their heart. They are missing all that God has for them. . . . One of the greatest gifts we can give our adult children is to pray they will have the understanding that they need God and that without Him they can do nothing great or lasting. . . . Being an intercessor for your adult children’s lives helps them to have a great ability to not only hear from God, but to respond to God as well. (pp. 231-233)

A good quote: Prayer is not telling God what to do. Prayer is partnering with God to see that His will is done. The confidence we have in approaching God is that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, then we know that we will have what we asked of Him. (1 Jn 5:14-15)

Omartian’s words encouraged me to be faithful and specific in my prayers. A very helpful book.

Blessings,

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Oxford Book of Christian Verse by Lord David Cecil

If I had two lives, I would have a separate blog highlighting classic poetry. (In 2013 I even had a contest to choose a name for a poetry section of this blog that never materialized.) The thing about good poetry books is that they take a long time to read and savor. So they don't lend themselves to my book-a-week book blog format. Maybe there is a poem-a-week in my imaginary future...

I've been reading the The Oxford Book of Christian Verse for over a year and have enjoyed the rich theology and beautiful language. My copy was printed in 1941 so it mercifully avoids any modern rubbish. (Not all modern poets are bad, but that's a subject for another post.) It starts with Chaucer, works through 600 years, and ends with T.S. Eliot.

I underlined many a delightful turn of phrase (George Herbert calling prayer "the soul in paraphrase" and John Milton calling the Magi "star-led wizards" for example). Andrew Marvell describes how affliction turns us back to God by writing that we are "shipwrecked into health again."

I loved the astounding economy of language used by Richard Crashaw as he described Christ's birth:

Welcome, all wonders in one sight!
Eternity shut in a span.
Summer in winter. Day in night.
Heaven in earth, and God in man.
Great little one! whose all-embracing birth
Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heav'n to earth.

Christian poetry tends to be sentimental and this anthology was collected with the distinct purpose of avoiding such fluff, which means that it must be read slowly and carefully. Occasionally I had to visit an online poetry site to clarify an author's meaning.

This is a lovely book, but it cannot be appreciated by those who want a "quick poetry fix." These devotional selections are meant to make you pause, think, and even pray. As such, they can't be read in a hurry.

Blessings,

Friday, August 4, 2017

Books I Read in July and Thoughts on Kindle Unlimited

In spite of a stressful and busy month, I read quite a bit in July. It was partly because I needed an escape between big events, and partly because I decided to take the plunge on a free trial for Kindle Unlimited. Although it was free, I felt I "had to get my money's worth" by reading as many books as possible within the 30-day period. (Weird, I know!)

From least favorite to best here's the list: (The freebies are marked KU.)

Pax by Sara Pennypacker - politically correct children's book (reviewed here)
The Living Room - CF novel by Robert Whitlow (only 100 pages)
Christian Theology - textbook by A. McGrath (200 pages only, review here)
Miracle Morning - self-help by Hal Elrod (reviewed here) KU
Small Kindnesses - novel by Satya Robyn (reviewed here) KU
Divine Design - non-fiction by John MacArthur (reviewed here)
The Cozy Life non-fiction by Edberg (reviewed here) KU
The Same Stuff as Stars - kid's lit by Katherine Paterson (reviewed here) KU
Katherine, When She Smiled - romance by Harmon (reviewed here) KU
Shoulder the Sky - light fiction by D.E. Stevenson (reviewed here) KU
The Magic Apple Tree - non-fiction by Susan Hill (reviewed here) KU
Vittoria Cottage - light fiction by D.E. Stevenson (review here) KU
Music in the Hills - light fiction by D.E. Stevenson (review here) KU

I got halfway through two audiobooks (Things of Earth - non-fiction by Joe Rigney and The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang), but I'm not really enjoying either of them so it's been a slog.

I'm glad I did the free trial for Kindle Unlimited because now I know IT'S NOT WORTH $10 a month. Yes, I was able to read half a dozen titles on my TBR list, but almost all the other available titles are fluff. Amazon is not dumb. They are going to make you pay for anything that's worth reading.

 Blessings,