Word of the Week: Omniscience

Book Review Shots: Updates on books read and to-read

By Elizabeth Prata

Time for a reading update!

I am on summer break from my job in an elementary school. I'm a teacher's aide, now called "para-professional." I enjoy summer break enormously and one of the ways I try to 'redem the time' is to catch up on some quality reading.

I set aside a bunch of books to read, and a schedule to read them in. Here's the list of books and my short reviews of each.
  • Bible
  • Biblical Doctrine, John MacArthur et al
  • Competing Spectacles, Tony Reinke
  • Her Husband’s Crown, Sara Leone
  • Idols of a Mother’s Heart, Christina Fox
  • In a Different Key: Story of Autism, John Donovan
  • Internet Inferno, John Michael Beasley
  • It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis 
  • Life of David, RC Sproul (lectures)
  • Lit!, Tony Reinke
  • Margaret Paton Letters from South Seas, Margaret Paton
  • Phantom Rickshaw Stories, Rudyard Kipling
  • Selina Countess of Huntingdon, Faith Cook
  • The Believer’s Joy, Robert M’Cheyne
  • Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennet, Ed
  • Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens

I have added a few books to my original list:

Empty Nest, What's Next by Michele Howe
Mayflower by Nathanial Philbrick
Life of Moses by James Boice

I decided to read Internet Inferno again even though I finished it, it's THAT GOOD.
Books I've finished:

I mentioned that Beasley's Internet Inferno is good. He applies the warnings and commands of James about the tongue to our practices and behavior online. Very clear writing and excellent application of the verses. Highly recommended.

The Phantom 'Rickshaw & other Eerie Tales, is a collection of short stories by Rudyard Kipling, first published in 1888. I always try to include a literary classic in my summer list, and this book was it. I'd found it in a vintage store for $1 and was delighted to try a Kipling. #TrueConfession: I've never read The Jungle Book or any other Kipling.

Kipling is no doubt a literary giant and a master storyteller. He is so good in fact, that this eerie set of stories made me highly uncomfortable and creeped me out. I stopped reading the book at the story about the living dead, it was vivid and put pictures in my mind I didn't want to carry with me. However, the stories are well-done so if you're less sensitive than me I recommend the book. It's little known so you might have difficulty finding it.

It Can't Happen Here is a Sinclair Lewis political novel written in 1935. It's about just how easily a representative democracy (ours) can become a dictatorship. Last summer I'd read Lewis' Elmer Gantry, (1927) which turned out to be the best book I ever read on religious hypocrisy. Talk about chilling, Kipling has nothing on creeping you out. Lewis definitively captured the emptiness and evil of a Christ-less convert turned celebrity pastor. The book was long and a bit of a slog, but I kept with it and I was glad I did. The book still haunts me.

It Can't Happen Here is also a slog, but try as I might I couldn't get through it. Lewis' language is terrific, his turns of phrase and word pictures are unmatched. It's just that there is so much of it. The story slows down and suffers because it seems Lewis was more entranced with his artful turns of phrase than just telling a good story. Gantry was a masterpiece, Happen Here, sadly, isn't. I took it off my 'currently reading shelf.' Maybe next year.

FMI on 4 Lewis books that are better than It Can't Happen Here

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (2018) was a 'can't put down book'. It's everything a well-written, gripping, emotional novel should be. I raced through it. When I wasn't reading it, I wished I was. Recommended.

I reviewed Her Husband's Crown earlier this summer. It was just a 42 page book, a small pamphlet really. It's a practical bundle of advice aimed at pastors' wives but applicable to any women who is a member of a church. Recommended.

My Bible reading right now is through Proverbs, which, being wisdom books, coincide nicely with Lit!, Competing Spectacles, and Internet Inferno.

Ladies, don't feel bad about reading books, even novels. Sometimes I get a twinge, thinking that if I have this time shouldn't I devote it totally to the Lord, and read only the Bible and theological books. Are novels, or even historical fiction, taking away time I could better redeem? Tony Reinke in Lit! answers that. And because I agree with him, lol, I'll post his bullet points here.

  • Fictional literature can help us explore abstract human experiences
  • Fictional literature can deepen our appreciation for concrete human experience
  • Fictional literature expands our range of experiences
  • Fictional literature provides beauty and creativity to be enjoyed

In Owens' Crawdads book I thoroughly enjoyed her atmospheric descriptions of the Low Country, the marshes, estuary, and ocean of South Carolina, and the lushness of her language. The scenery reminded me of a fond memory I have of anchoring our sailboat in the Georgia marshes and hearing the rushes shake as the tide turned, and the owls hooting under the moonlight.

As for the remaining books on my list that I've begun already, I am enjoying them to greater and lesser degrees. I grade them all from a B to A+. More to come as I progress through each book.

Happy Summer Reading!



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