Sunday, December 30, 2012

My 2012 Top Book Reads

Here are a few of the what I consider some of the significant books I have read this past year. They are not in any particular order.

The Aeneid by Virgil:

A friend whose knowledge of literature I respect had recommended reading Virgil. Also one of my favorite quotes from Willa Cather's "My Antonia" mentions the poetry of Virgil. I picked up a copy of a reprint of a respected English translation at Barnes and Noble, and worked my way through it. Given the beauty of some of the passages in the English translation, I wish I had taken Latin so I could read it in its original language. It is an epic story and an exposure to classic literature is not complete without reading "The Aeneid".

O' Pioneers! by Willa Cather:

"O Pioneers" along with "My Antonia" and "The Song of the Lark" comprise a trilogy of Willa Cather's more prominent novels. I was captivated by Cather as an author a number of years ago when I read "My Antonia". I have seen the movie adaptation of "O' Pioneers", and for some time have had this on my list of "must read" books. I was not disappointed. Cather's description of the prairie and the interplay between the land and the immigrant pioneers that settled on it is exceptional. I am now looking forward at some point in this coming year to reading "Song of the Lark".

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D. A. Carson:

I consider this my most significant theological read of the year. It is a relatively short book, but in my mind of significant importance. Carson discusses how God's love becomes distorted, what it means in a Biblical context to say God is love, the issue of God's love and God's sovereignty, and concludes with a discussion of God's love and God's wrath. In that last chapter there is a very helpful section where Carson deals with the love of God and the intent of the atonement.

Prison Nation by Jenni Merritt(Kindle Edition) and Kingdom by Anderson O'Donnell (Kindle Edition):

The first dystopian novels I ever read were George Orwell's "1984" and A. Huxley's "Brave New World". There were a few others along the way, but it has been a number of years, even decades, since I have seriously revisited the dystopian genre.

A dystopian novel takes a specific trend or cultural current in society and follows that trend or current to a logical extreme. This challenges the reader to look at those trends and currents with a more properly critical scrutiny. To write a dystopian novel in a way that makes it "realistic" and "believable" takes some real writing skill. Both of the above titles meet the challenge.

"Prison Nation" will challenge your view of "law and order" issues. Of the two titles, it is the more Orwellian.

"Kingdom" challenges the governmental-industrial complex and the extremes of DNA research and DNA manipulation. It is in some respects reminiscent of "Brave New World". I need to warn you that "Kingdom" gets an "R" rating for language and sex. As such, I do not give it a full unqualified recommendation even though it is of a relatively high literary quality. Read at your own discretion.

The dystopian genre is not one I would ever want to fixate on. The genre by definition can be pretty dreary and bleak. Some dystopian writings such as "1984" don't leave the reader with any thought that there may someday be hope for positive change in the bleak new world order. "Prison Nation" and "Kingdom" in contrast do leave the reader with a faint glimmer of hope that something better will eventually come; think "V for Vendetta". Though the genre is not one to fixate on, it is a literary genre worth visiting every now and then.

The Aristotelian by Steve Poling (Kindle Edition):

I want to also mention my friend Steve Poling's first published work "The Aristotelian". In this short novel Poling explores the influence of Mycroft Holmes on his younger brother Sherlock. Steve has since also published a Sci-Fi collection titled "Finding Time" (available on Kindle) which is on my "to read" list for this next year.

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