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Entries in Reading (56)


Oh Frabjous Day!

Calooh! Callay!

I have sitting on my desk, just to the left where I am currently sitting, a completed, printed, and stapled fifteen page paper on Genesis 15. It's all downhill from here on in. I do have (yet another) tedious assignment for my Apologetics class which is due in ten days, and I have some reading for my Pentateuch class that I must finish, but it's time to start thinking about what I'm going to do for the next few months.

My daughter is getting married on July 28th. I know what I'll be doing on that day. Seriously, I must be a very lucky mother, because this is a very low maintenance wedding. My daughter is 29 years old and certainly capable enough, along with my wonderful future son-in-law, to plan her own wedding. We are not expected to do very much. And that's as it should be. It's their wedding.

I have many home projects to attend to: painting my entire living room, which will be a huge job. Painting my upstairs bathroom. Buying living room furniture. Bracing myself for the onslaught of company during the wedding. In all honesty, I'm really looking forward to my brothers coming to visit. We don't see each other often enough. And to have my parents and my brothers here will be nice.

But then there is reading. I have reading plans. It will be a summer of fiction and hermeneuticcs, I suspect. Here is a list of some books I want to read.

Herman Bavinck's Dogmatics, Volume 2 is going to be read along with my morning Bible reading. I have heard such good things about it.

Validity in Interpretation by Ed Hirch. This is a must read for someone wanting to study hermeneutics.

The Hermeneutical Sprial, Grant Osborne. I had this on my wishlist from the time I took hermeneutics, and I finally decided to buy it after using Osborne's commentary on Matthew.

Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament. I will not allow my Greek to be lost. I'm starting Hebrew in September, so I want to keep at it full strength while I can. I am slowly working my way through the Greek NT in my morning reading.

The Two Towers and The Return of the King. For Valentine's Day, I bought my husband a really beautiful edition of the Lord of the Rings triology from The Folio Society. He's finished with them, so it's my turn. I read The Fellowship of the Ring last year right after school finished.

Music at Midnight, a book about George Herbert and his poetry.

I have some books that deal with women and the church. I feel badly that I haven't read them yet. I feel badly that I don't feel a pressing desire to read them. I guess I don't want to turn into one of those women who can't talk about anything else other than women in the church. I'll get to them eventually.

I have no idea if I'll finish all of these. I also have plans to get out and take pictures, something I have no time for lately, but which I miss. I'm hoping to spend the summer doing macro photography, focusing on wildflowers. 

And now, back to the Pentateuch. I'm hoping to finish the book of Numbers by the end of tomorrow and I have a class this afternoon.


In praise of Rabbit Trail Reading

My friend Persis wrote yesterday about "rabbit trail reading." I love how she describes this process. You do need to read the post, but in a nutshell, it's basically finding good books by following rabbit trails. Like Persis, I have found some of my favourite books from reading the footnotes. My habit has become to actually begin reading a book by first checking out the bibliography if there is one. I love it when books have a bibliography because not only does it tell me what has influenced the writer's views, but it gives me ideas for more books on the subject at hand.

There is a time and a place for reading what we are told we must. As a student, I read books because my professors say I should. This semester, my Penteteuch prof has provided a generous list of recommended reading, which he encourages us to make use of. These years of seminary, where I read a lot because I must have been very productive. At the same time, my reading has yielded a wonderful selection of books from the footnotes and bibliographies. That is what the summer reading is for: to follow those trails.

Every New Year's day we take down our Christmas tree and put everything back to its normal position. This year, we decided to move a book case to the other side of the room. That meant taking all of the books out. We took the opportunity to re-evaluate whether or not to keep them or give them away. We gave away quite a few. And this is after I already had two boxes from when I moved the other book cases upstairs to my study in September.

We had company for dinner that evening, and I showed one of my guests, also a book lover, my boxes and invited him to take what he wanted. As my guest sifted through the books, I took note that many of the books were ones that I know I bought because "everyone" was talking about them. On occasion, doing that has introduced me to good books, but in the past couple of years I've had occasions where the books were actually quite mediocre and in some cases, badly written and poorly edited. The books I have found via the rabbit trails have been more enduring. I have had good experiences when friends recommend books, but followng the suggestions of the masses is not always a positive experience.

One of the benefits of reading good books is how it helps us make connections between the various things we read, think about, and experience. Reading with a rabbit trail fosters that practice. Following rabbit trails can have us reading books which are challenging. We may read something which makes us a little uncomfortable. That is okay, too. If we're looking for comfort reading, we're better off reading Christian romance novels, where nothing is a surprise.

We can tend to read in a bubble. As I read people's "favourite reads" posts, I took note that some people had similar titles on their lists (and interestingly, from a common group of publishers). What I loved was reading lists that contained books I'd not heard of before. I read one list where I was not familiar with one title. We need to read because it attracts our attention, not because we want to follow along with the crowd. When I see everyone saying "read this!" my passive rebellion kicks in and I resolve to never read it. Yes, that is cutting my nose off to spite my face. I look at it this way: if such books eventually show up in my rabbit trails, I'll give them a try.


Go deep or go home

A few years ago, I taught the book of John to my ladies' Sunday school class. We used a study guide written by Kathleen Nielson. It was a good guide, but as a teacher, I wanted to have a good commentary to use alongside. I bought D.A. Carson's Pillar Commentary. It was not light reading.

There was much I didn't entirely understand. It's not as technical as a Word Biblical Commentary, but it wasn't a Reformed Expository Commentary (which is basically a compilation of sermon type content). But I like Carson's preaching and writing, and I persisted. There were moments when I would come out from the fog and read something that was so profound, it made the slogging through technical matters worth the effort. That is what I love about Carson's writing: ultimately, he will distill it further to a place where anyone can understand. I think I would benefit from the commentary much more now. As an aside, that is yet another benefit of language studies: you are more able to benefit from some really excellent commentaries.

The books that I found challenging ten years ago don't seem so daunting anymore. And I think that is the normal progression in the Christian life; especially for someone who reads a lot. If I read a lot and never grow I am either not reading carefully enough or I'm not challenging myself. For me, I need to be challenged.

One of the most difficult books I have read in the theological gentre is Kevin Vanhoozer's Is There a Meaning in This Text? It took me months. But I have not forgotten what it was about. There are phrases and principles which remain with me, and I think it's been over five years now since I read it. It was one of the most satisfying reading experiences I've had. It also changed the way I approach reading. I would rather struggle through one difficult book than breeze through four or five books. I want to study the books I read, not just read them.

This coming year as part of my personal devotions, I'm going to start reading through the Greek New Testament. My Greek prof suggested that even seven minutes a day can help us keep our Greek. In addition to reading a couple of verses a day and making sure I understand them, I'm using a commentary on the Greek NT by Martin Culy. This is a challenging exercise, and I welcome it. I think the more we challenge ourselves, the more we learn. 

It isn't just PhD's and academics who are able to read difficult material. Developing reading skills is something we can all do. But it means daring to read something more difficult. If you are looking for a place to find good commentaries which will challenge you, check out Best Commentaries. They identify commentaries according to "devotional," "pastoral," and "technical." Try moving from a devotional to a pastoral commentary.

I think many of us can read more difficult material even if we don't believe we can. But you don't know until you try.


A little pushback on reading plans

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Book lists from 2018 abound, and plans for 2019 are being made. When it comes to reading, outside of what I have to read for school, I'm not a planner. I tried that once. I read what I want to read in the moment. And I'm the kind of reader who wants to read a lot on one subject for a while before moving on. That is why I have an entire shelf downstairs in my living room bookcase devoted to Lucy Maud Montgomery: her novels, books about her, her journals, and critical works about her writing. 

I do write down what I've read, but I don't plan, and I don't really keep count. I have no idea how many books I read last year, and I'm not concerned. My focus is to enjoy what I'm reading. When it comes to reading, I have the time; well, after homework is done, of course.

My husband and fellow lover of reading, however, does not have time. Yesterday, I was reminded why this is. We are both suffering from a nasty cold (well, to be accurate, he brought it into the house and shared it with me) which involves a lot of congestion, snuffling, and drippy noses. He decided to work at home rather than spread his cooties. I was up in my study working on my term paper and studying for my Greek exam.

Aside from a nap he took in the afternoon, he worked all day. He sat in his chair and looked at his trio of computer screens, at spreadhseets, numbers, and other ugly stuff. I worked all day, too, but this is crunch time, so I have to. On other days, I work in the mornings, and do errands and housework in the afternoon. In addition to his work, he answered e-mails. If he's away for any length of time and unable to answer them, he'll have to go through hundreds of them. The benefit of being home means he wasn't interrupted by people coming into his office. When he works at home, I don't bother him. After dinner, when I went upstairs to resume my work, he resumed his, and we both quit at about 10:00. His job generally demands he work a couple hours at home every day, sometimes more.

This is my husband's work life. If he is able to read a few books a year, he is lucky. This is not to say he's not an avid reader. He loves reading. One of my memories of him is early in our marriage when we visited my aunt and uncle's farm and he read through two volumes of Winston Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples while we were there. A couple of years ago, he plowed through (for a third time) The Lord of the Rings Trilogy in a couple of weeks. And when he does read, he's more likely to pick up a scientific book or a fantasy book than a theology book (oh no!), although he seemed very interested in the text for my Penteteuch class next semester.

All that to say this: don't feel guilty if you can't read a huge amount of books. And don't feel bad if you can't read fast. I am not a fast reader, so the likelihood of me ever reading 100 books in a year is unlikely (unless I pursue a PhD and I'm forced to). I would rather read fifteen books in a year and be intimately connected with them than read 50 that I'm only acquaintances with.

Having a busy job that makes your mind exhausted may make it hard to read in large volumes. And it's not unvirtutous or ungodly if you can't manage it. If you want to read more, just do it. But don't feel bad if you can't.


Favourite reads of 2018

I'm procrastinating. My brain needs a break. In the past two days I have done a lot of work. I have finished three papers which I will hand in tonight at Synoptic Gospels. I have yet to finish my major paper. 

I have finished my last exegetical paper, and this morning I have done expositional outlines on Matthew 28:1-20, Philippians 1:1-11, and Philippians 2:1-11. My outlines consist of both exegetical and homiletical outlines. I have do my outlines for Matthew 1:18-25 later today. And then it's time to get my major paper done so I can spend all of next week studying for my Greek final. 

So before lunch, I'm noodling around online. And yes, it's time for those "best reads" posts we love to do.

For what it's worth, here are some of mine, in no particular order.

  • Road to Renewal, Wayne Baxter: Dr. Baxter is my Greek prof and the prof for my Synoptics class. This is a study of prayer. It is subtitled: "Seven Prayers That Will Change You." I think this book could be used in a small group. I want to read it again.
  • The Good Portion - God, Rebecca Stark: This book was the one I most eagerly waited for, and it was as good as I anticipated. She has a way of distilling theology into understandable language without being cheesy or silly. It's a book which could be appreciated by men and women.
  • Linguistics and Biblical Exegesis, Douglas Magnum and Josh Westbury: Learning about language is never wasted time. Part of communicating well is understanding the nuances of language. Communicating well is about more than finding the right words. I found this an excellent introduction.
  • Concise Theology, J.I. Packer: Bite sized pieces of good theology. Packer knows how to communicate. I read this with my daily Bible readings; much better than most daily devotional books.
  • Victoria, The Queen, Julia Baird: I was reading this while watching Victoria on PBS. It was interesting to see the differences. Television definitely likes to gloss over personal flaws.
  • Indian Horse, Richard Wagamese: This book is not everyone's cup of tea. It has some unpleasant aspects to it, but the subject matter is a huge part of Canadian culture: residential schools for Aboriginal children. I was drawn into the story by Wagamese's poignant prose. I read it twice.

I won't finish it by the end of the year, but at the moment, when I have time first thing in the morning, I've been reading Advent by Fleming Rutledge. This woman is an Episcpolian priest and she sounds more orthodox than some evangelicals I know. She's a brilliant writer, and really knows how to get to the heart of the matter