Monday, June 9, 2008

'Way Behind on the Reading Challenge

I have a couple of books I was hoping to include, but I remain "almost done" with them. Here are some others, though. Many of them are church book club books:

#5. Water for Elephants. This was a wonderful, suspenseful book about a depression era circus. It's an adventure story and a love story, and a story of loyalty and loss. I have to admit, though, that I didn't catch the reference to the Biblical story of Jacob wrestling with the angel that is supposed to be there. I'd appreciate comments from others about this.

#6. Atonement. Some members of our book group thought it was slow, and that "nothing happened." (They admitted, though, that it sped up considerably in the second half.) I myself was, at least by the end, fascinated with the way the author played with the idea of story and reality, and the way The Trials of Arabella (the author's adolescent story) returns with a new layer of meaning at the end.

#7. Take This Bread. I found Sara Miles' story and passion fascinating. I didn't agree with everything in terms of her interpretation of the symbols of the church (does having the baptismal font at the entry to the church make it a barrier? I didn't think so), but really liked how she connected food, hunger, vocation and faith.

#8. Purple Hibiscus. This was our May book for my church book group. One woman walked into the room that evening and announced, "I hated this book." The theme of both domestic violence and political violence in a prominent family in Nigeria was disturbing. But it was also affecting. We ended up having a discussion of depth, both about domestic violence, and about the role of faith in both condoning and condemning it.

#9. Praying in Color. I've posted about this previously. I highly recommend this book for cultivating a creative and passionate prayer life.

Addition: #10. Redbird. You never really finish reading a book of poetry, but this is Mary Oliver's latest, which I have had at my bedside all spring. My favorites so far in this volume are: Of the Empire, Maker of All Things, Even Healings, and We Should be Well Prepared. So far... the operative word.

I'm looking for a quote from an interview with Ian McEwan that I read when we were reading the book Atonement. I remember being fascinated by his contention that one of the uses of fiction is to help us to learn to empathize with others, and that empathy is one of the chief skills we need to learn in order to live a moral life.

I never thought about it that way before. To me, it seems that the audience for fiction is diminishing, and if McEwan is right, that is a troubling trend. On the other hand, I suppose that there are other ways to learn empathy as well.

I'm also thinking: I might have to read a few really short books.


Chorus said...

I loved Water for Elephants too, but I didn't recognize the biblical reference either.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I've thought about reading Water for Elephants but just haven't done it yet.

I have to say that I really disliked Atonement. Being a fiction writer myself (one with far fewer credits than McEwan), I did not buy his ending at all. In fact, it infuriated me. But it does make for interesting discussions.

Diane said...

oh, Ruth, I had real mixed feelings about some of his McEwan's revelations at the end; don't want to say too much, here. But the way the little story came back and it turned out that her sister, not her, was the heroine: that was quite a re-interpretation.

RevDrKate said...

I've been meaning to tell you how much I love Praying in Color. I have been having a wonderful time doing all sorts of meditation and prayer. The only problem is I'm going broke buying pens now!

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

way to go diane! i thought of taking up the reading challenge... but did not. i guess it's not too late to dive in... but wow... that'd be what 2 books a week? yowzers.

fiction is great. don't ministers dwell in reality too often... we need the escape i believe...

Ivy said...

Thanks Diane. Our church has a book club and I forwarded these ideas to one of the leaders. Peace.

gartenfische said...

What an interesting idea that fiction helps us empathize with others. I think it's true. It helps us walk in another's shoes.

zorra said...

I just made my list and was sadly surprised at how few books I've completed this year. So many books, so little time.