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.