To set the scene, we were sitting down to watch the first installment of the HBO series John Adams. The movie is prepped, Peter has his popcorn in hand en route to his mouth. Next to him I'm growing increasingly overwhelmed. I began thinking about how much I'd like to reread the book John Adams by David McCullough. I gazed longingly at it on the bookshelf. Then, on a lower shelf I noticed the Complete Works of Mark Twain which I'd also like to read, and which is thick enough to double as a mattress. Then my thoughts shifted to a book that I was reading earlier that afternoon in which the author made the point that an ambitious reader might read only 2,600 books out of an estimated 28 million that will be published during her lifetime. I quickly became overwhelmed! So I blurted out:
Leslie: "I'm dismayed!"
He was understandably exasperated that my announcement came at just the moment we were to commence our relaxing Saturday evening movie.
L: "There are so many books to read and so little time!"
P: "...? Whatever. You read all the time. You can read a lot of books."
L: "I know but there are so many that I'll never get to read!"
P: "Who cares?"
And can you believe that, far from sharing my dismay, he continued eating popcorn and pushed the play button as if he didn't have a care in the world? This must be a bibliophile problem (not to be misconstrued as an actual problem.). I suppose not everyone can always have her nose in a book or many important things would never be accomplished. For example, no new books would be written.
Here are the books that I did get to in August:
Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand. You must read this. I can't recommend it enough. It's the true story of Olympic runner and WWII airman, Louis Zamparini, who crashed in the Pacific, survived 47 days on a life raft and then a few years in a Japanese POW camp. The man is still alive. His story depicts the best and worst of humanity. Without giving away too much, the final scenes of him running through Nagano are a breathtaking picture of triumph and redemption- I definitely cried! I'm still thinking about it and I finished it three weeks ago.
Through the Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. I love Elisabeth Elliot and would pretty much recommend anything that she's written. This wasn't my favorite of hers but it's well worth reading. It's the story of her first husband and his martyrdom at the hands of an indigenous Ecuadorian tribe- a tribe that Elisabeth Elliot and the sister of another martyred man later went to live with as missionaries. It's a very good story of God's grace in the midst of tragedy.
Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger. This is the story of a missionary to Hong Kong. She left England when she was 20 and went to work among a horribly impoverished population of drug addicted criminals. She tells a lot of amazing stories of God intervening in their lives. Many of them turned from drugs, murder, theft, and by God's grace, were able to escape the cycles of depravity swirling around them. I have to say, as amazing as a lot of the stories were, it was also very repetitive as a book. It was generally the same story each time.
Grendel by John Gardner. Do you remember Grendel from your high school reading of Beowulf? This has been on my bookshelf for a long time and I'm trying to go through those books and either clear them out or keep them (I only keep the ones I really love that I'll probably reread.) This one I'm going to clear out. Though it wasn't a bad read. I'd actually say it was a fascinating read. It's highly philosophical- some of which I picked up on, a lot of which went over my head. I don't think I'll be reading it again. (I have to be discerning when I'm only going to get to read approximately 1 out of every 10,000 books available during my lifetime!)
Beowulf. Having read Grendel, I wanted to reread Beowulf as I didn't remember anything about it, but I do remember liking it. It's a good story but I think it's probably best read in an English course under the instruction of someone who is familiar with both poetry and Old English culture. I'm pretty sure some of its "enduring greatness" was lost on me.