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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

#60 - You are What You Love - James K. A. Smith

Title:  You Are What You Love
Author:  James K. A. Smith
Genre:   Non-fiction   264.001
Publisher/Date:  Brazos Press/2016
Dates read:   8/12/17 – 9/16/17
IBSN:  978-1-58743-380-1
Pages:  207

“Who and what we worship fundamentally shape our hearts.  We may not realize, however, the ways our hearts are taught to love rival gods instead of the One for whom we were made.  And while we desire to shape culture, we are not often aware of how culture shapes us.  In You Are What You Love, a popular speaker and award-winning author James K. A. Smith helps us recognize the formative power of culture and the transformative possibilities of Christian practices.”  This blurb is from the back cover.  

I quote it because the book is hard to read and even harder to review.  Our pastor decided to do a series based upon the book You are What You Love.  He did a great job in getting the ideas across to us through his weekly messages.  Through his insight of his material, his gift of summary, and a couple of short videos, he delivered the messages in good order.

For example, one Sunday we got to see in a video about the Backwards Brain Bicycle.  It seems a fellow named Destin Sandlin created a bicycle with an important hitch.  When you turned the handlebars right the front wheel turns left, and vice versa.   He went around the country, encouraging people to ride the bicycle.  People found that it takes practice to master the crazily-designed bike.  Little kids, like Sandlin’s son who had already learned to ride a regular bike, seemed to catch on right away.  It only took him two weeks to master the “backwards bike”.  Adults had the hardest time, simply because riding a regular bike, had become second nature to them.  “Only with extraordinary effort did Sandlin learn to ride the bike -- after eight months of practice!  Old habits die hard.”

The idea behind this metaphor is to show that a person who wants to become more Christ-like in their actions can do so by practice.  

St. Paul puts it this way.  To put on Christ is to clothe ourselves in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  See Romans 13:14 in the Holy Bible.  These virtues take practice, especially if you haven’t mastered them by the time you’re an adult.  Spending an hour and a half on Sunday morning in church is not enough time to change the habits of our hearts that are immersed in our daily, secular activities.   

Another reviewer puts it this way.  “In this wise and provocative book, Jamie Smith has the audacity to ask the question:  Do we love what we think we love?  It is not a comfortable question if we strive to answer it honestly.  Smith presses us to do so and then shows us the renewed and abundant life that awaits Christians whose habits and practices – whose liturgies of living – work to open our hearts to our God and our neighbors.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

2017 Reading Challenge 10 to TRY


1.  Read a book by an author of color - Another Brooklyn - Jacqueline Woodson  (4/10/17 - 4/16/17)
2.  Read a GRAPHIC NOVEL OR COMIC Book - Monster Mash - Jennifer L. Holm (5/26/17  - 5/29/17)
3.  Read a book from a new-to-you genre - The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman (7/19/17 -7/27/17)  genre - Magical Realism
4.  Read a collection of short stories or essays  - Patriotic American Stories - various authors (8/5/17 - 8/15/17)
5.  Read about STEM (fiction or non-fiction) - The Fourteenth Goldfish - Jennifer L. Holm (6/12/17 - 6/15/17)
6.  Read a book Published Since 1942 - Shared Glory - D. M. Ulmer (5/16/17 - 5/31/17)  pub. 2014
7.  Listen to an AUDIO BOOK - The Son - Philipp Meyer (3/16/17 - 3/23/17)
8.  Read a book recommended by KCLS staff - The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 - Christopher Paul Curtis (6/27/17 - 7/4/17)
9.  Read a DEBUT - Kiln Zone - Sharmon Badget-Young (6/1/17 - 6/16/17)
10.  Read a book by a PNW (Pacific Northwest) AUTHOR - A Reader's Book of Days - Tom Nissley (1/1/17 - 9/11/17)

Monday, September 11, 2017

#59 - A Reader's Book of Days - Tom Nissley

Title:  A Reader’s Book of Days
Author:  Tom Nissley
Illustrations:  Joanna Neborsky
Genre:   Non-fiction  809.9339
Publisher/Date:  W. W. Norton/2014
Dates read:   1/1/17 – 9/11/17
IBSN:  978-0-393-23961-1

Sub-titled:  True Tales from the Lives and Works of Writers for Every Day of the Year. 

Mr. Nissley has done a wonderful job of recording minutia in this read.   Like he says you can read it cover-to-cover or start with your birthdate, like he did, or open at random or seek out your favorite names in the index.  I did a combination of all of these trying at first to read each date as it occurred on the calendar.  Then I fast forwarded and read a number of days at once.  It’s fun to wallow in the obscurity of the facts.  For example, did you know that Harper Lee was given, as a gift, money and the wherewithal to write a book and that her first choices for To Kill a Mockingbird (that book) were Go Set a Watchman and Atticus.    

Tom’s research goes back to before St. Augustine who in 387 invented the modern autobiography with his Confessions.   On June 18, 1982, at age seventy in Ossining, New York; age eighty in Franklin Park, New Jersey; and age ninety in New York City, respectively, John Cheever, Granville Hicks, and Djuna Barnes died.  Another obscurity is recorded on July 7, 1938, when F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote to his daughter, Scotty, with lots of reading advice that reading Sister Carrie is as easy reading as a True Confession. 

Each month begins with an essay about the month.  He asks “(But) is August august?”  Then he recommends certain books to read for the month.  This is my second year in reading or listening to these suggestions.  I usually like to listen to the selection so go through the public library’s inventory looking, first for it on compact disc.  It’s almost time to decide what I’ll enjoy in 2018.  I’m thinking Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum for next September.  Some of his monthly seven or eight mini-blurbs I’ve already read, such as The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (September) and Peyton Place by Grace Metalious (October) and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (November.)

Each day starts with a couple births.  March 8 -- 1931 John McPhee (Coming into the Country, Oranges), Princeton N. J. 
And deaths.  January 28 -- W. B. Yeats (The Tower, “The Second Coming”), 73, Menton, France
July 10 -- 1993 Ruth Krauss (A Hole Is to Dig, The Carrot Seed), 91, Westport, Conn.

The small sketches are delightfully done by Joanna Neborsky.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

#58 - The Guns of August - Barbara W. Tuchman

Title:  The Guns of August
Author:  Barbara W. Tuchman
Genre:   Non-fiction 940.4144
Read by:  John Lee
Originally Published:   1962
Publisher/Date:  Tantor Media 2011
Dates listened to:   8/15/17 – 9/10/17
CDs/Hours: 15/19
IBSN:  978-1-4526-0140-3

This book can be perceived as heavy and therefore, swallowed, in small portions or you can consume it over a longer period like the amount of time in which it actually takes place.  Yes – the month of August is primarily what Tuchman writes about in her narrative of the beginning of World War I.  I like the way it begins, actually in 1910 with the death of King Edward VII of England where all his relatives gather who are also world monarchs.  It sets the stage for how and why WWI began.

Tuchman does a great job.  She explains that long before the war began and wanting to improve upon wars of the past, Field Marshall Alfred Schlieffen had written his plan, in part, based upon his knowledge of how Hannibal conducted his war efforts.   We don’t know if it was a good plan to begin with or just poorly executed.  In any event, communications were critical and not having reached the electronic age decisions had to be made regardless of what a commander originally instructed his men to do.  When you had five armies, as Germany did, it was difficult to communicate with each commander in a timely manner who sometimes took matters into their own hands.

When Russia entered the war some three weeks after Germany, France and England did, they were without the wherewithal to feed their troops.  Needless to say, this added to low morale.  Each country seemed to have a problem in some way in poorly fighting this war.  Within a month, the Battle of the Marne found Germany defeated which was the ultimate fate of this huge country as those four weeks in August stretched into four years.  

Since this book was recommended by Tom Nissley of A Readers Book of Days I quote "It only added to the aura surrounding Tuchman's breakthrough history of the first, error-filled month of the First World War that soon after it was published John F. Kennedy gave copies of the book to his aides and told his brother, Bobby, "I am not going to follow a course which will allow anyone to write a comparable book about this time [called] the Missles of October."