A Year In The Making

The year has come and gone in a maddening whirlwind of days weeks and months… as I attempt to quantify some trifle of a year`s worth of study and contemplation, I can only sit in silence with a mind that is flush with wonder.

Inasmuch as the voices and laughter blend into a dulcet cacophony of discordant harmony, so too doth the words effuse into a spectral parade of idea and impulse. I cannot hold it all in, and so I must sigh…

…here follows my Reading List of anno Domini MMVII:

January

Bound For Glory by Woody Guthrie

Guns, Germs, & Steel by Jared Diamond, Ph.D.

Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare

The Book of Genesis

The Courting of Marcus Dupree by Willie Morris

February

How Children Learn by John Holt, Ph.D.

The Epistle to the Romans

The Exploits of Xenophon by Geoffrey Household

The Near East: 10,000 of History by Isaac Asimov

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

March

Beowulf (a Graphic Novel) by Gareth Hinds

Gilgamesh The Hero by Geraldine McCaughrean

The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare

Passionate Minds: The Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment by David Bodanis

The Exodus

The Friar and the Cipher by Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife

April

Discipling Music Ministry: 21st Century Directions by Calvin M. Johansson

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

The Book of Ezra

The Life of Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare

William Blake: The Gates of Paradise by Michael Bedard

May

The Book of Nehemiah

The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship by Paul F. Bradshaw

The Tragedy of Coriolanus by William Shakespeare

June

Chesapeake by James Michener

Some of My Best Friends are Books by Judith Wynn Halstead

The Book of Joshua

The Tragedy of Cymbeline by William Shakespeare

July

1st, 2nd, and 3rd Epistles of John

Pericles, Prince of Tyre by William Shakespeare

Napoleon Bonaparte and the Legacy of the French Revolution by Martyn Lyons

On the Blue Shore of Silence by Pablo Neruda

August

A Midsummer Night`s Dream by William Shakespeare

A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

The Book of Jonah

September

Measure For Measure by William Shakespeare

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

The Book of Ruth

October

Blankets by Craig Thompson

Epistle of Jude

The Brethren by John Grisham

The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare

November

A Study In Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Chesapeake Bay in the Civil War by Eric Mills

King John by William Shakespeare

Matilda Bone by Karen Cushman

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

The Book of Isaiah

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper

December

The Gospel of Matthew

The Gospel of Mark

The Gospel of Luke

The Gospel of John

The Winter`s Tale by William Shakespeare

The Favored Few

Here is a sampling of some of the more “favored” works I read over the span of this past year. All the same, I do not mean to necessarily imply that these are a the best – only that, as I look back in remembrance, it is my reading of these works that hold the fondest recollections.

The Courting of Marcus Dupree by Willie Morris

This was the topping on a comparatively good month of reading for me (January). While I expected a scathing and scandalous indictment of the South, and the madness of schoolboy athletic stardom, I was pleasantly surprised to discover an elegant saga of Southern Gothic literary-journalism.

Morris weaves in the specters of the past with the startlements of the present-day`s culture and creates a winding tapestry of poetic beauty and sadness – all rooted within the warm black earth of the Mississippi Valley, under the high Friday night lights.

Though Marcus Dupree`s life became one of “what might have been” the innocent beginning of his wandering odyssey can be found within these pages.

grade: 90%

The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship by Paul F. Bradshaw

Whew! I read this quickly and devoured it whole, but I have recently begun going back over it and re-reading it a bit more carefully.

It is a delightfully dense book, written in an erudite (yet plainspoken) style. Bradshaw explores the history of the developments of Christian liturgy (that is, the order of worship) especially those in the early centuries. What he finds is that instead of a single contiguous line of the development of traditions and rituals, there is a diversity of observances.

Handily crushing the presumptions of a distinct “apostolic” tradition in the early church, Bradshaw explores the variety of initiation and Baptismal rites as well as those of the LORD`s Supper found in the young Church… and much more!

Like I mentioned earlier, my initial reading was very quick and I know I skimmed over a few parts here and there – all the same, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in solid historical research into the traditions of the early Christian church.

grade: 100%

Chesapeake by James Michener

I could not encapsulate this giant work, to my own satisfaction, with a few pithy paragraphs other than to highlight it at its barest components.

`Tis an epic concerned with the lives and deeds of several Chesapeake Bay families over a span of about 500 years. Well-researched, thick with minute historical-cultural detail, and bursting with philosophical and theological dilemmas – not least of which is the issue of slavery from impressively defined moral/political/religious perspectives.

At times, it can become somewhat monotonous and overwrought but I have often found that diligence with Mr. Michener is often handsomely rewarded… and there is simply so much here, that anyone should be able to find a tangent of the narrative to appreciate.

Recommended for any with an above-average interest the history of Chesapeake Bay (especially if they intend to move there soon), or historical novels in general.

grade: 95%

Blankets by Craig Thompson

Wrapped tightly within the Winter landscapes of a Midwestern snowfall, Blankets delves deep into the raging pathos of familial strife, adolescent angst, and even inculcated religious conviction. An embellished autobiography, the author brings the story of his younger years to life in all of its terrible and beautiful agonies.

I do not know what to say about this book. On a certain level, it was one of the most extraordinary Fiction works I have ever read. Ever. While on another level, it seemed a trifle clichd in the sense that the author makes no attempt to bring resolution to the narrative – as if to imply that life itself has no such solid resolutions.

All too often when forced into the sort of moral/ethical or situational crises that make or break a person`s character, the protagonist (and by virtue, the author) simply gives up and starts anew in another direction, giving no explanation or rationale as to why this must be. In this sense, perhaps, it is all the more authentic to the particular folly of adolescence. I guess I just wish the author had more to say.

However, it is precisely the emotional veracity of the story combined with the delicate artistry of the illustrations that so consumed me. I can vouch for the realism of the story because elements of it are suffused within my own life and the lives of people I know and love. At times I was actually amazed that something so eerily similar to my own life had happened to someone else – at practically the same time.

Recommended for anyone who was in high school during the early 1990s and fell in love, or grew up having to share a bedroom with a younger brother, or was raised in a religious home and later struggled with their faith… conversely, I would also caution any potential readers to be aware that there is also some objectionable material – including drug use, sexuality, and profanity. Not to mention, an abundance of lousy theology.

grade: 90%

A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

A glib and jaunty memoir of Hemingway`s days as a “young artist” in Paris. [Insert clever literary reference to a “portrait of the artist as a young man” here.]

While both overtly self-aware and self-mythologizing, much of the real Ernest Hemingway comes across underneath the bluster and excess.

Hemingway reveals a surprising tenderness in his recollections, and a personal vulnerability that gives the reader a sense that they might have a reasonable understanding of the man behind the words – not unlike listening to a congenial old man recollect his “bygone days” over a cup of coffee.

Crass at times and vulgar in others (it is, after all, Hemingway), A Moveable Feast is one of the better-written and personally expositional memoirs I have ever read. A spectacular portrait of a distinct time and place.

grade: 80%

Last year, I remember being furious that I had only read a single work of Shakespeare – fewer even than the number of books by pop-horror “writer” Stephen King I had read (The Stand and On Writing).

Verily there was a serious reckoning made o`er these last twelve months insofar as “the Bard” is concerned, for I read at least one work of his each month.

With that said, I shall now leave this remembrance to the past… turning now my eyes towards the days that come. There are many more words to be read, many promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep… and miles to go before I sleep.

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