A Year In The Making

Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. In the last three hundred or so days, I have read many books – some of them quite good.

Following a new tradition that I started this time last year, I have sorted through lists upon scraps of paper (as well as the infrequently updated files I keep within my computer`s rusty transom) and composed a semi-exhaustive inventory of the many texts I have drunk into my mind.

To clarify my use of the expression “semi-exhaustive” I should explain that (in the interest of brevity, amongst others) I have chosen to omit certain types of work from this particular list – for example, I am omitting almost all of the poetry, sonnets, essays and articles I read during the past year, with a few notable exceptions (for personal reasons). Moreover, I also omitted the largesse of my Scriptural studies, choosing only to include Scriptures that I had read for sheer pleasure and in entirety – omitting isolated Scriptural studies and research. In a similar manner did I exclude other various texts that I read selected excerpts from – typically for inquiry of a specific purpose.

While my readings of this past year were each tiny worlds in themselves, I do indeed regret that this list is so pedantically voluminous – for, if I was able to steal away so many precious minutes to read such idle doodlings of the minds of foolish men, how much more so would I have benefited from allotting that time to further study of the Holy Scriptures? Do not these worldly texts pale before the pristine and inexhaustible Living Word of GOD?

May that be my prayer in the coming days – but for now, let me chronicle my readings of this dying year.

Thus follows my Reading List of anno Domini 2005

Scriptures read in their entirety:

Gospels of Luke and John

The epistles of Paul and Peter

The Proverbs of Solomon

The Song of Solomon

The Prophecy of Habakkuk

The Prophecy of Zephaniah

The Prophecy of Haggai

The Prophecy of Zechariah

Other works read in their entirety:

A Narrative of the Captivity by Mary Rowlandson

A Pastor`s Sketches (volumes I & II) by Ichabod Spencer

All My Road Before Me: the Diary of C. S. Lewis (1922-1927) by C.S. Lewis

Amazing Grace: The Story of America`s Most Beloved Song by Steve Turner

American Negro Poetry edited by Arna Bontemps

Can`t Be Satisfied by Robert Gordon

Confessions by Augustine

Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant

Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke

False Hopes: Why America`s Quest for Perfect Health is a Recipe for Failure by Daniel Callahan

Fearful Symmetry: The Search for Beauty in Modern Physics by Anthony Zee

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by John Foxe

Frederic Chopin: Son of Poland by Opal Wheeler

Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H. G. Bissinger

Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Spiritual Life by Lauren Winner

G�del, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter

History of Beauty by Umberto Eco

How Artists See The Elements: earth, air, fire, water by Colleen Carroll

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler`s Ninth Symphony by Lewis Thomas

Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

Longing to Know by Esther Lightcap Meek

Mozart by Peter Gay

Music and the Mind by Anthony Storr

Music: The Art of Listening by Jean Ferris

My Years With Ayn Rand by Nathaniel Branden

Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford

On Witchcraft: Being the Wonders of the Invisible World (1692) by Cotton Mather

Pilgrim`s Progress by John Bunyan

Protestants: The Birth of a Revolution by Steven Ozment

Republic by Plato

Should Babies Be Baptized? by T.E. Watson

Singing My Him Song by Malachy McCourt

Stars Don`t Stand Still In The Sky: Music and Myth by Karen Kelly

The American Crisis by Thomas Paine

The American Puritans by Perry Miller

The Big Questions: A Short Introduction to Philosophy by Robert C. Solomon

The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen

The Godly Man’s Picture by Thomas Watson

The Journal of John Wesley by John Wesley

The One and the Many: Studies in the Philosophy of Order and Ultimacy by Rousas John Rushdoony

The Passion of the Western Mind by Richard Tarnas

The Poems of Edward Taylor edited Donald E. Stanford

The Redress of Poetry by Seamus Heaney

The Seekers: The Story of Man`s Continuing Quest to Understand His World by Daniel J. Boorstin

The Substance of Things Hoped For: A Memoir of African-American Faith by Samuel DeWitt Proctor

The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand

The Works of Anne Bradstreet and To My Husband and Other Poems – both by Anne Bradstreet

Truck: On Rebuilding a Worn-Out Pickup… by John Jerome

War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges

Wittgenstein`s Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument… by David Edmonds & John Eidinow

Worlds of Music by Jeffery Todd Titon

Henry V

The Life and Death of King Richard III

The Tempest

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark… all written by William Shakespeare

The Year`s Best:

A Pastor`s Sketches (volumes I & II)

by Ichabod Spencer

If there are any ministers reading these words, stop what you are doing and go buy these books. Seriously! Stop right this second and buy these books. If you own them already and have not yet read them, then please do me (and those under your care) a huge favor: step away from your computer and go read them immediately. I am not kidding. Go on, then – off with you!

I cannot imagine any text (save for the Scriptures, obviously) that holds as much Biblical teaching and guidance for ministers as these brief volumes.

Packed with the personal chronicles of Ichabod “the Bunyan of Brooklyn” Spencer, these volumes are homespun primers on theology, apologetics, evangelism, church discipline and pastoral care – all demonstrated in “real-life” situations through the sincere and compassionate bearing of the author himself. Utterly relevant, even in our “post-modern” times.

An invaluable work, I give these books my highest recommendation – for any eager Christian that wishes to better serve others, both inside and outside of the fold.

grade: A+

Should Babies Be Baptized?

by T.E. Watson

A funny thing happened to T.E. Watson on the way to Anglican seminary – he was converted to Christianity and rejected baptismal regeneration. In seeking out counsel from the Puritan writers, he was troubled also by the practice of Paedobaptism.

Watson`s unique method of argument is to take quotations exclusively from Paedobaptist authors and allow them to refute each other. The result is a persuasive nonsectarian rejection of every Scripture and argument used by Paedobaptists to defend infant baptism.

Moreover, the often-heard argument that disagreements between Paedobaptists on each Scripture and argument actually strengthens the case for infant baptism from all the Scriptures makes no sense in the light of Watson`s presentation.

A wonderful introduction to the issue for any Protestant – I give it my full endorsement and recommendation.

grade: A+

The Godly Man`s Picture

by Thomas Watson

Truly a portrait of a Godly man, drawn with a Scripture pencil. Watson speaks to his readers as a doctor of the Soul; he diagnoses the illness and makes a Biblical prescription.

Rarely have I come across such a beneficial extra-Biblical resource that so adequately aides the common Christian in his or her daily walk. I give this book my highest recommendation.

grade: A+

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

by John Foxe

Awesome. Simply awesome. A collection of the testimonies of Christian martyrs, spanning the post-Apostolic era to our own modern times.

Uplifting and heart-wrenching, usually at the same time – this masterpiece should be required reading for all followers of the Truth.

May we never forget those who came before us.

grade: A+

The Death of Death in the Death of Christ

by John Owen

Excellent exegesis, excellent argumentation, excellent formulation – just excellent.

No doubt Owen`s rigorous language and congregational leanings might cause perturbance in some – nevertheless, this work is rich in theological exposition.

Indeed, it took me an age to finish – it was, however, worth every long minute.

grade: A

The One and the Many: Studies in the Philosophy of Order and Ultimacy

by Rousas John Rushdoony

Impenetrable. Profuse. Rigorous. …and that is just the first chapter.

I read this work over the passage of this past year (I am currently still re-reading it), and it is still beguiling and gladly enervating. While I can only summarize the work in stating that it deals with the philosophical issues of ultimate Unity and ultimate Diversity – this is but the tip of the iceberg.

This work receives my highest recommendation- specifically for the serious Philosopher and Theologian.

grade: A

The Year`s Worst:

Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler`s Ninth Symphony

by Lewis Thomas

Ugh! To put it quite mildly, this was something of a disappointment. I really must be careful following the reading recommendations of others, as this one was a frustrating read that I eventually abandoned with only a chapter or two remaining. The title is far more interesting than the contents therein.

Recommended for insomniacs.

grade: F

Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Spiritual Life

by Lauren Winner

A girl nurtured in a non-religious home by a “secular Jewish father” and a “lapsed Baptist mother” grows up obsessed with a somewhat mystical intellectualism, intertwined with typical schoolgirl romanticism. The memoir explores the transition from childhood to adulthood in a voice that strains to be sophisticated and learned, but only succeeds in sounding na�ve and gossipy.

The writing style is choppy and reads like a loose compilation of essays, rather than a straightforward narrative. The author`s profound lack of self-scrutiny in thought and deeds reflect a troubling carelessness towards one`s religious life – dreams of “mermaids” and “Daniel Day-Lewis” notwithstanding (see pages 8 and 55-56).

With a faith that is girlishly cerebral (see page 178) and a denomination that is sinking into apostasy, it seems that Winner will indeed make a fine Anglican priestess.

I cannot recommend this book to anyone, as my conscience forbids to me to encourage others in falsehood.

grade: F

The Virtue of Selfishness

by Ayn Rand

Objectivist ethics. Whither goest thou from is to ought, Mrs. Rand? There must be something terribly wrong with a philosophy in which this monstrous ethos is called a virtue.

While I appreciate Ayn Rand`s hostility towards certain “collectivist” perspectives, the idea of humanity as an end in itself is ultimately self-refuting.

grade: D

All My Road Before Me: the Diary of C. S. Lewis (1922-1927)

by C.S. Lewis

Scholar. Intellectual. Atheist. Clive Staples Lewis.

This journal covers Lewis` undergrad years at Oxford in a dry and almost formal manner. Most of the time it is quite slow and (in content) only for the most devoted of Lewis`s admirers – but as a work to itself, gives a scrupulous account and clear portrait of the man that Lewis was for the period of years that it covers.

Recommended only for the most ardent of Lewis fans.

grade: C-

Music and the Mind

by Anthony Storr

Ambitious and far-ranging. The author attempts to answer many difficult technical and philosophical questions within the realm of music – but his uneven and often erratic approach seems to leave more questions than answers.

Nevertheless, such an approach is desirable for someone like myself, who finds many of the author`s conclusions to be dubious, at best.

Recommended only for serious music students.

grade: C

Protestants: The Birth of a Revolution

by Steven Ozment

An interesting and engaging appraisal of the events leading up to, during and following the Protestant Reformation – from a purely secular and narrowly historical approach. While the author`s transparent biases, more often than not, color his perception of specific events – his research and scholarship is top-notch.

Recommended only for serious students of history, interested in a secular perspective on the Reformation.

grade: C+


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