What Are You Reading Now? Please Join The HogPro Survey!

by John on April 22, 2012

On our drive north to Cedar Rapids for Pascha services last weekend, we listened to the second ‘Underland Chronicle‘ by Suzanne Collins, Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane, and the clan’s love for Ripred the Rat grew and grew. We didn’t have the third Chronicle, Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods, or we certainly would have listened to that on the drive home (more in the coming week on Gregor and what the story structures and messages of these books tell us about Hunger Games). We settled on Alan Cumming’s recordings of Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan, a SteamPunk trilogy that my son Timothy loved as much for the book’s illustrations as the bizarre story line.

It was good enough that after eleven hours on the road we drove around Oklahoma City lest we have to unpack the car before the chapter we were listening to ended. Cumming is brilliant — wonderful Scottish, English, and Austrian accents — but the story is just about as engaging as a re-telling of The Guns of August can get. I added the second and third books of this series, Behemoth and Goliath, to the already dangerously high pile of books I’m reading — and thought I’d ask you all what you’re reading today. To encourage you to share your current favorite along with a line about why you’re reading it or how you learned about it and your yay or nay recommendation, here are the titles on my list, below Westerfield’s three wonderful books:

Half Magic by Edward Eager. A book loving friend from Wichita who loves Wind in the Willows so much it reads it every year after Pascha told me his favorite book as a child was Eager’s Half Magic, a book I’d never heard of. I ordered the beautifully illustrated hardcover 2004 ’50th Anniversary’ edition via fetchbook.info (a penny for the book, $3.99 for postage…) and found myself reading it straight through. The author began to write because of his frustration in being unable to find anything as good as E. Nesbit’s classics — so he wrote American stories in the same style. I enjoyed it enough, much more than enough, to order the sequel, Magic by the Lake.

Indiana Jones and the Philosopher’s Stone by Max McCoy. I learned that Wikipedia had an article on ‘Alchemy in Art and Entertainment’ with a subsection on literary alchemy and checked it out (hey, I’m quoted! I’d be thrilled except it was from an online version of a talk I gave ten years ago…). Near the bottom of the page, cartoons and comics with alchemical themes are mentioned and the one that caught my eye was ‘Indiana Jones and the Iron Phoenix.’ I couldn’t afford that (though I learned later it could be had cheap in an anthology) but found this Bantam paperback. Given it’s title, subject matter, and publication date, I thought I’d check it out for a penny and postage. I’ve enjoyed the few chapters I’ve snatched here and there; the writing is much better than I expected and I find myself craving movie theater popcorn as I read. But, no, not even a hint of a connection to Ms. Rowling’s Stone. Not even a little moss.

Elements of Faith by Christos Yannaras (Chestos Giannaras). I’m writing up a brief introduction to my wife and daughter Sophia’s cookbook, which is largely an explanation of both why the world needs another cookbook and how ‘right eating’ is properly an extension or echo of the Eucharist (for an introduction to the introduction, go here). A year or so ago the Wind in the Willows sage I mentioned earlier, one of the Wichita sages at Eighth Day Books, introduced me to Yannaras via his very short but mind blowing lecture The Church in Post Communist Europe. Reading other essays available online, I decided to splurge on his Elements, which is sub-titled ‘An Introduction to Orthodox Theology.’ I confess to being unable to read more than five or six pages at a time because it takes me a few hours to put myself back together. Highly recommended, especially for those longing for a stretch both edifying and dam bursting.

Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You by Mardi Grothe. This a lot more fun way to study chiasmus and Ring Composition than Douglas’ Thinking in Circles, Lund’s Chiasmus in the New Testament, Welch’s Chiasmus in Antiquity, or even the wild Bible Wheel by McCough. I confess to wondering at the author’s name, which is right up there with Jerry Mander or Ima Hogg in the “Arrest those Parents!” category, but the collection of pithy parallels makes that easy to overlook. From the sublime “”Earthly things must be known to be loved; divine things must be loved to be known” (Pascal) to the strangely relevant “Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age” (Victor Hugo), this book is a treat on several levels. Buy it as a gift for a friend and read it before wrapping.

There’s more but let me hear what you’re up to! Don’t we always learn about our best book finds from friends we trust? I look forward to the delightful things I am about to learn about from you, just as I was pressed to read Twilight, Chaos Walking, and Hunger Games by HogPro All-Pros. Thanks in advance for sharing titles and stories.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

JOdel April 22, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Yes, Edward Eager was a considerable loss. He died far too young, in his 40s, after producing only seven novels (and I think one picture book) for kids. All of them books quite clearly intended for *reading* children, for they all are loaded with references to other well-loved books. From the hilarity of ‘Knight’s Castle’s mash-up of ‘Ivanhoe’ to the clusters of book recommendations that just get tossed into the narrative. All of his characters *read*.

Betty MacDonald’s Mrs Piggle-Wiggle books are from much the same vintage. But there was a real bonanza of splendid children’s books — and children’s *fantasy* books that was waiting to go off like a rocket over the ’60s and ’70s. I’m really unsure on just what it was that provided the signal boost, but suddenly there were all kinds of fantasy stories coming out for the children’s market (YA hadn’t quite made it off the drawing board at that point, although the term may have already started appearing.)

PotterMom05 April 23, 2012 at 7:22 am

Speaking of “vintage” children’s fantasy, I just finished “Little White Horse” which has seen a resurgence in popularity because of it’s influence on JKR. I absolutely loved it and bought a copy for myself so I can read it whenever I want, and share it with my kids. Required reading for all Potter fans.

Kat April 23, 2012 at 7:46 am

Doesn’t surprise me that Alan Cumming did a brilliant reading – he’s brilliant at pretty much everything.

I’m working on my required reading for classes with the Mythgard Institute right now (which means oodles of Tolkien, Lewis, and Rowling herself) but books on my personal to-read list are: Frankenstein, The Half-Made World, Mistress Masham’s Repose, the second Chaos Walking book, and Roger Lancelyn Greene’s Tales of the Norsemen.

Summer Mythgard courses will include early Arthurian literature (Geoffrey of Monmouth, Malory, Chretien des Troyes, the Mabinogion, Tennyson) and Modern Fantasy (Le Guin’s first Earthsea book, Gaiman’s Stardust, Martin’s Game of Thrones, Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, Nix’s Sabriel, and Butcher’s The Summer Knight.)

Jennifer Neyhart April 23, 2012 at 10:20 am

The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit – because to say that C. S. Lewis is my favorite author is a bit of an understatement and I remembered Lewis mentioning enjoying reading stories by E. Nesbit in something I read one time. I read Phantastes by George MacDonald because Lewis described that book as having baptized his imagination. I enjoy reading books that influenced Lewis, can you tell?

Rochelle April 23, 2012 at 10:51 am

I’m currently making my way through Oliver Twist, which is somehow my first taste of Dickens. I’m loving it, even though his language is understandably more verbose than I’m used to. I’m also making my way through Darke Hieroglyphicks and my to-do list once I finish that book includes a long list of hermetic novels, including re-reading Lewis’s space trilogy.

I read Half-Magic several times as a kid; I’m trying to remember now, from my office, if I still own it. If I do, it will be back on my reading list for the year. If I for some strange reason got rid of it, I’ll probably be buying it back.

Alison April 23, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I have no current favorite books, because my reading for the last few weeks was all related to my term paper for a graduate church history class, and while parts of it was hugely interesting, I don’t really think anyone else would be that interested, and none of the books struck me as the type that would good reading for a general audience (which is sad, because I think Phoebe Palmer could make a good topic for a more “general interest” kind of biography really…)

D.V April 23, 2012 at 1:15 pm

making my way thru the Silmarillion, by Tolkien, aided by George Shipley’s commentaries and rueing my inability, unlike acient Finns to keep all the names, lineages and events clear in my mind

revgeorge April 23, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Jennifer, it’s really a shame you posted because now there’s another blog I need to follow! ;) One cannot get enough C.S. Lewis for my money.

As for the survey, well, it’s always hard for me to answer “what are you currently reading” questions since I usually have a dozen or so books going at once. I’ll just throw a few out that I’ve read lately or am currently reading.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Just finished & completes my reading of the Austen corpus.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by You Know Who. Almost done. And I love the eBooks! Glad they are finally out.
And Hell Followed With It: Life & Death in a Kansas Tornado by Bonar Menninger.
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C.S. Lewis. About a quarter way through.
Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. by Kevin DeYoung
A Little Book on Joy by Matthew Harrison
And a whole slew of Sherlock Holmes pastiches.

Travis Prinzi April 23, 2012 at 6:44 pm

I’m currently reading A Game of Thrones. People at work keep telling me I need to watch the show. Of course, I can’t do that without reading the books.

I admit, I was hooked in just a few pages. My time to read is scarce right now, so I’m only about 5 chapters into book 1. His writing is a little clunky and forced at times, but mostly it’s engaging. I think I’m going to like these books a lot.

Rebekah April 23, 2012 at 9:35 pm

I am half-way through The Giver by Lois Lowry. It is really good! I am getting into the Dragons in Our Midst series by Bryan Davis, and I am also reading Order of the Phoenix and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I recently read Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee, which was awesome! And I’m almost finished with the New Testament.
Two books I can’t wait to check out are Frank Peretti’s newest, Illusion, and a book I only just heard about called The Christian Imagination, edited by Leland Ryken.

Nicole April 24, 2012 at 12:01 am

I’m currently reading The Book Thief by Mark Zusak, Geraldine McCaughrean’s retelling of 1001 Arabian Nights (which is magical), and The Stout-Hearted Seven by Neta Lohnes Frazier (about the 7 Sager children who were orphaned on the Oregon Trail, adopted by the Whitmans and orphaned again during the The Whitman Massacre.)

I recently finished Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and have been dying to find someone with whom to discuss the layers of meaning. There were way too many religious and symbolic elements to be random: Nicodemus, the leader of the changed, intelligent rats who don’t age (reminded me of Twilight), the fact that there were 71 animals in the original experiment, the same number as in the Great Sanhedrin, etc. Although, there is a potentially more sinister read if you link it to a particular Brother’s Grimm story, but then I’m sure I’d be accused of reading way to much into children’s literature. ;-)

Another book I’ve finished that Hunger Games always calls to mind is Inner Compass by Margaret Silf. The two books are nothing alike, and yet they are similar. Inner Compass is about Ignatian spirituality. It is a simple, yet profound, book. At one point she talks about freedom and distinguishes between “freedom from” and “freedom for.” I think of this often when considering Katniss and the people of Panem. It is an excellent, contemplative read.

Jennifer April 24, 2012 at 6:34 am

Ah yes, I like “The Christian Imagination, edited by Leland Ryken” as well.
And of course I am also in the middle of several other books:
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
The Sisters Grimm #1: The Fairy Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley
(just to name a few!)

miles365 April 24, 2012 at 6:38 am

I’m trying to read my way through most of C.S. Lewis’ stuff this year, but lately I’ve been taking a break to read some lighter fare. Turned to books I enjoyed reading (and still enjoy rereading from time to time) as a kid. So I’ve been reading Island Of The Blue Dolphins by O’Dell, Peter Pan by Barrie, Time For Andrew by Hahn, The Castle In The Attic & Battle For The Castle by Winthrop, Libby On Wednesday by Snyder, My Side Of The Mountain by George, and even the first Boxcar Children book by Warner. I’ll probably delve back into Lewis next week.

Kathleen April 24, 2012 at 8:57 am

I don’t feel so weird being in the middle of so many books after reading all these posts!
just finished:Hunger Games again, The 5th Games of Thrones book(waiting for the next one to be written), lots of Cesar Millan books(I know, doesn’t fit in but I am raising a new puppy), Brave New World and 1984(re-reads)
now reading: Great Expectations(after enjoying the cliff notes version on Masterpiece PBS), HP and the SS, HP for Nerds, The Pursuit of God
in stack to start: Ameritopia, No, You Can’t, and probably several from this thread.
I love posts like these because I always come across something I have never heard of before!

Kathleen April 24, 2012 at 9:13 am

oops, it is No They Can’t, plus I am reading Intellectuals and Society by Dr. Sowell.

Lynn April 24, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I just finished Neal Shusterman’s Skinjacker series. The first in the series is called Everlost, the second is Everwild and the last is Everfound. He is an interesting author and my son discovered him after one of his books were assigned for summer reading. He then got me to read some of his books too (Bruiser and Unwind).

SteveB April 24, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Right now I’m rereading The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I’m thinking about reading the most recent volume of A Game of Thrones soon. However, it seems like every time I start liking a character in the series, that character immediately dies. I also plan on rereading Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit soon. I’m also planning on starting Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton next week.

I also just finished reading The Indian in the Cupboard to my 6 year old grandchild. It took her awhile before she started liking the story but by the end she loved it. I enjoyed it too.

Amy B April 24, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Just got finished reading “The Magicians” by Lev Grossman – as part of “The Sword and Laser” bookclub on Goodreads.com. It was…eh. One of my most interesting observations: anyone who would claim that the Harry Potter books are unChristian, I would point them to this book and ask them to mark the contrast.

Debating whether or not to read the next book in the series, “The Magician King.” I am somewhat intrigued by the story, but the characters are so flat and unlikeable, I am not sure if it is worth it.

Louise M. Freeman April 24, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I just finished Journey to the Center of the Earth, in preparation for a trip to Iceland.

John April 24, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Too funny! I started it today; the Oxford World Classics translation I’ve been waiting on finally arrived and I’m loving it.

Do you think it’s alchemical? I’ve been told it is, but, as always, I’m curious about your thoughts. What on this travel adventure would give anyone the impression the story is about personal transformation?

Louise M. Freeman April 24, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Well, it certainly starts with an alchemist. And there will be periods of hot and dry and cold and wet. Plus lots of fire at the end.

I’ll be interested in seeing what you think. Perhaps because this was my first book-on-tape, it reminded me most of the Doctor Doolittle adventures my father used to read me.

I can’t see that either protagonist transformed much.

John April 24, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Are the heroes Harry and Hardwigg or Axel and Lidenbrock? The former is a famous bowdlerized version that only recently has been supplanted by complete and faithful translations…

Hollie April 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm

At the moment I actually have like 3-4 books going. Besides the obsessing over THG, I am actually trying to really explore Science Fiction more. So this last week I checked out the book I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore. My husband and I actually watched the movie and I really enjoyed the plot so I was excited to see it was based on a book. I have several Orson Scott Card books after this one I am wanting to read.
Then I have on my nook waiting for me Nana by Emile Zola, a literary classic. It’s been really different than some of the other classical literature I have read. I am trying to expand my horizons beyond Austin, the Bronte Sisters, and Louisa May Alcott. I even have Edith Wharton lined up after I read this one.
I also have an Audio book going right now as well. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I love how he writes! It’s like music and it’s so smooth and easy to understand.
Finally, in hard copy, my friend has loned me a book caled Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? by Nancey Murphy a respected Theologan. It explores the issue of dualism vs moanism. I don’t know when I will have time for it but It will be put in there somewhere…
Anyways thanks so much for all your post. I have really enjoyed all the information and opinions posted on this blog.

D.V. April 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm

actually looking at all these interesting ideas reminded me of a book that my daughter loved years ago by Allison Uttley, ‘ A Traveller in Time. ‘

Justin April 25, 2012 at 9:51 pm

My mom actually put together a literature course for me this semester based of your book Harry Potter’s Bookshelf. I read a chapter or two from it (which so far I’ve really enjoyed) and then read a book from one of the author’s you talked about. First I read Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers, then Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I loved your chapter on gothic fiction, and though I only have to read Dracula for that (which I started today) I think I’m going to read Frankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde as well. Later on I’ll be reading excerpts from Gulliver’s Travels, The Canterbury Tales, and The Brothers Karamazov, and also The Secret Garden and A Tale of Two Cities. I’m excited for all of them. Your insights have opened new doors for me.

And after your chapter on gothic fiction, I want to write a gothic story.

PotterMom05 April 26, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Amy B I had the same experience with the “Magician” series. I read the next one but then stopped for the same reason you mentioned- I actually didn’t care what happened to any of the characters. They could have all been killed at the end and I would not have blinked twice. I read the “Magician King” in hopes that there would be an uplifting trajectory, but I wouldn’t recommend it. There are so many other good books to read. Just check this thread, lol

Arlene April 27, 2012 at 5:58 am

Hi John – I’m currently reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander in preparation for our trip to Scotland to see you at St. Andrews. Safe trip and see you there!!!

Louise M. Freeman May 1, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Shifting gears a bit, I am starting Galaxy Games: The Challengers by Greg Fishbone. Greg was my writing partner some years ago on the Superguy website, a shared-world interactive superhero parody site.

It looks so far like a fun read, aimed at the Gregor and Percy Jackson-age market. Will let you know what I think.

Fr Isaiah Mary OP May 3, 2012 at 11:40 pm

I just finished “The Curseworkers” trilogy by Holly Black. “The White Cat” and “”Teh Red Glove” were honorably mentioned by a few noteworthy lists, of which, naturally, I remember not. :) However, the concept is fun.

Imagine a world where magic exists. Okay, easy enough. Now, imagine that it is illegal. With a brush of a hand, there are some who can break you bones, give you luck, manipulate your dreams, change your emotions, or even transform you. Cassel Sharpe, the protagonist, is the only member of his family who does not have any powers. His emotion-worker mother is a con artist, and her brothers work for the mob. Because ‘working’ is illegal, there are only one of two places to go with this type of magic, both of which lead to crime. Interesting read!

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