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Entries in Reading (45)


Reflecting on getting a good soaking

This past number of weeks, I've spent a lot of time reading the book of Esther as well as reading about the book of Esther. I have to say it's been one of the most edifying experiences I've ever had. I want to be as prepared as I can for teaching this book, so I'm erring on the side of too much reading as opposed to not enough. I feel like Esther (the book, that is) and I are great friends now. Next soaking? The book of I John.

This principle of being saturated with a topic, with being intimately acquainted, has fed my soul so much. I think that soaking myself with other topics is a good idea. Sometimes, I suspect my reading has mirrored my reading of the internet: jumping from place to place based on what sounds good or what is the next "must read" that is being touted. Somewhere in this home of too many books, I'm pretty sure I have enough material to soak myself in other topics, not just I John. 

Hoping for a good dousing soon.


Summer reading plans 

I'm always interested to see when others share their summer reading plans. I plan on doing some reading that will take me away from my usual selection of theology.  I share my plans for the three people who read here regularly.

Yes, these are books about Canada. In addition to Justin Bieber and poutine, we have history. And it's okay to like it!

Canada:  A Portrait in Letters, Charlotte Gray.  This book contains a portrait of Canada through letters. From the Amazon description:

In Canada: A Portrait in Letters, renowned biographer and popular historian Charlotte Gray weaves together more than two hundred letters written by Canadians, both famous and ordinary. These priceless documents are accompanied by a visual narrative of one hundred illustrations, including maps, sketches, and photographs. Adding her own notes and commentary, Gray creates a captivating portrait of a country, rich in diversity and hope, once a backwater of the British Empire, that has matured to take its place among the world’s cultural and economic leaders.

Mennonite Women in Canada: A History. Marlene Epp.  I had Epp as an instructor when I studied Mennonite history in university. I find the study of Mennonites interesting because it also touches on the history of immigration.  This is about women, a group that is often not represented in historical accounts. 

Making Ends Meet:  Farm Women's Work in Manitoba, Charlotte van de Vorst. I never knew my paternal grandfather well, and I wish I had. The ancestors on my father's side were immigrants to Manitoba from Belgium, and I've always been curious about their lives. Two years ago, I visited the location where my father's mother lived as a girl. I'm sure this book will give a little glimpse into what life was like for my great-grandmother. She had a short life, dying in childbirth when my grandmother was two years old.

Perspectives of Saskatchewan, Jene R. Porter, Ed. Saskatchewan is the place of my birth, and the place where my two sons were born.  Again, my mother's ancestors were immigrants to this country, settling into Saskatchewan from North Dakota on her mother's side, and from Germany on her father's side.  Survey books like this are an invaluable source of other reading material through the wonder of footnotes and annotated bibliographies.

As you can see, my interests in history are more along the lines of the social aspects, the people. Accounts of politics and accounts of war are many in histories of all countries, but it's these little details that interest me. And as you can see, I'm being modest in the number of books I choose. There is no way I have time to finish ten or fifteen books in the summer without sacrificing the nutrition of my family, the cleanliness of my home, and my marriage.


Favourite Footnote Find

One of the places I get the best suggestions for books is in the footnotes of other books and in suggested reading lists.

Quite a few weeks ago now, I read Rosaria Butterfield's book, and enjoyed it immensely. She had an excellent selection of resources to consider. One of them was Kevin Vanhoozer's book Is There a Meaning in This Text? which is a discussion of how current literary theories have affected how we read and interpret the Bible. I thought this book sounded good when I had a peek at Amazon.

It's one of the most thought-provoking books I've ever read, despite it not being a light read. I could have helped myself by reading an introductory work about literary theories in general first. Despite the work, it's worth the effort to read this book. It has opened my eyes in ways I did not expect and caused me to see how even without thinking consciously of it, I have incorporated postmodern deconstructionist approaches to reading.

The book is divided into two parts, the first describing how postmodern theories work and how they affect how we read the Bible.  The second part is Vanhoozer's response to the issues.  I'm almost at the second part of the book. I want to understand everything clearly before I move on, so I'm reading slowly.

Yesterday, I read this and agreed with this:

Do Christian ministers, teachers, and other students of the Bible really need to make the effort to understand deconstruction and other types of postmodern interpretation? I believe they do... We have an obligation to be intellectually honest, even charitable. Too many critics have written off deconstruction without really taking it seriously, that is to say, without taking the time to understand it. Nothing is to be gained by burning straw men.

I don't think we do ourselves any favours by ignoring the reality that postmodern literary theories have influence how reading is regarded. While many say postmodernism is on its way out (I don't know enough to comment on that), its effects are still seen. The phrase, "what does this bible passage mean to me" is evidence of that. As Vanhoozer says, I think being able to correctly understand a dissenting view while not embracing it is a good thing.

This book is definitely not an easy read, but it's worth the effort. It is sharpening my thinking in ways that can only be good in the long run as I read Scripture and read what othe people have concluded about it. 


The year of deep over wide

I have been reading various articles about reading and reading goals for the year.  Of course, there is always the question of what is better, reading widely or reading deeply.  I think the goals can vary, depending on what I'm reading and what I'm trying to learn.  Because, ultimately, I read to learn. Some people read faster and can manage to read and retain more than others.  I was reading this past week and I actually felt myself hurrying along.  I didn't like that feeling.  I reprimanded myself for being in a hurry.  I think a good book can be savoured and I need to worry less about finishing that magic number of books.

There are some books that require note-taking, and I will jot things down chapter by chapter.  Some books I read without a pencil because a simple, quick read is all I need at that moment.  And some books are quite simply more difficult to read.  Right now, I'm reading Is There a Meaning in This Text? by Kevin Vanhoozer.  I am not nearly as familiar with literary theory as others may be, so this is a slower read for me.  I want to really think about what he's saying, because the issues surrounding reading, writing, text, and meaning are pretty crucial for those of us who believe that Scripture - a text - is the basis for truth.  

I am also reading Jaroslav Pelikan's book The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition.  Michael Haykin's promise in his own book Rediscovering the Church Fathers was that reading Pelikan wasn't easy, but that the book is "a gem." I'm beginning to see what he means.  I cannot rush this book, either.

Reading goals, then, are not always the same from year to year.  I don't read nearly as many books as some people do.  I don't have the free time to read four or five books a week.  I have a husband to spend time with, kids to visit, and lessons to teach.  Right now, I'm more interested in tips for improving concentration. Maybe next year my reading goals will be different.

My point in all this is that we don't assume that reading goals are the same for everyone.  If you have a goal to read a certain number of books, go for it.  I tend to focus on the titles more than the numbers, and if the titles are such that getting through only ten books this year is possible, then I hope I will have benefitted greatly from them. This year is going to be the year of deep over wide.  When the year is over, I want to remember more of what I read rather than know that I've read much. 


Book envy

When I homeschooled, there was a phenomenon (probably still exists) called "Curriculum Envy."  That occurred when a homeschool mom went on a parent message forum and saw all the wonderful success of someone else's curriculum. In all likelihood, for homeschool moms today, Facebook is probably a venue for such conversations.  I can't imagine how hard it is for homeschool moms today to avoid curriculum envy.

It was the classic case of "the grass is always greener." I was always on the lookout for the perfect curriclum or resource, and I admit to buying some real lemons in the curriculum department because of someone's endorsement.  Homeschool resources are very personal and their success has a lot to do with the parent teaching, the child, and the dynamics of the homeschool environment.  But I gave in more than I would like to admit.

Reading can lead one down a similar path.  I was removing the protective covering from dusting my bookshelves yesterday, and I realized just how many "impulse" book purchases are living there.  They are books that are probably really good, and I do plan to read them at some point, but I see that many of them are becaue "everyone" is reading them, and they're "must read" books that will change my life forever.  One cannot be a follower of social media, whether it is Twitter or Facebook, and not be sucked into the vortex of good books about to be released, or online book clubs just starting up.  Just this morning, I had my attention drawn to four instances of such things, and it's not even 9:00 a.m.

We have to use discernment and stewardship in making reading choices.  Quite simply, we can't buy everything.  Part of being a good wife is being fiscally responsible with our resources. And we definitely cannot use "well, it's on my Kindle" as an excuse for continuing to purchase.  No, those books don't take up physical space, but they still cost something.  As an aside, I find that having my Kindle has actually made me less aware of how much I spend on books because I don't see them.  That's another post, I think.

It can be overwhelming to sift through it all. The number of books directed to women alone is staggering at times.  There's help and encouragement for women of all shapes and sizes. That being said, though, I have not seen a lot of books out there encouraging women who mother adult children.  There are lots of helpful books for women stuck in the trenches of toilet training, temper tantrums, and the feeling of domestic drudgery, but I've yet to come across some helpful advice for women who are learning that parenting means "step back and watch."  Any takers out there for writing such a book?  Yes, I know; you're playing with your grandchildren.  Well, if I had some, I'd play with them instead of writing a book, too!

I'm hoping to be firm about my reading plans for this year, and avoid reading things just because someone says I should.  I'll read the reviews, and make a note, but in the meantime, I'm going to flee from book envy. It's starting to get hard to dust around here.