Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Reading List Meme

The Darwin Catholic posted a list of six recommended books for summer reading, hoping to start a summer reading list meme. Here's mine..

Watershed Reads:

1. The Lord of the Rings or The Silmarillion, by J.R.R Tolkien (or better yet, both!).  I think Brandon would second me on this one, but in addition to The Lord of the Rings as one the watershed reads, I would add The Silmarillion, which covers the epic history of Middle Earth, from creation to the lead up to The Hobbit. How epic? Well, the entire events of the LoTR only occupy a single paragraph out of the 300 or so pages. I especially enjoyed the “Ainulindal√ę” and “Children of Hurin” chapters. And if you thought the Battle of Pelannor Fields a massive battle, wait until you read about the War of Wrath in the First Age. We may never see a cinematic version.

2. The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I read this the summer before my senior year of high school. Two aspects stand out to me from the Karamazov tale, first, the harrowing results of living a nihilistic philosophy (as Ivan says, “Without God all is permitted”). The other is the Grand Inquisitor chapter. I guess I can also recommended Crime and Punishment, which features a similar plot where a nihilistic character attempts to go “beyond good and evil” by committing murder.

3. The Divine Comedy, by Dante. If I had to decide which of the three books had the most pivotal impact on my life, I’d pick the Inferno. After reading Dante’s tale of the journey through Hell, I immediately began to puzzle over the justice and love of God, which led me to reassess my so-far simplistic thinking of God. Thus, I began studying philosophy and theology, discovering Thomas Aquinas. Also, I should mention Ed Feser once said the Divine Comedy is a kind of sci-fi for Thomists!

Waterside Reads:

1. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I just finished reading Bronte’s tale of “Plain Jane” this past spring, finding it an enjoyable yarn of one spirited woman’s quest to overcome the constraints of Victorian society ("I am not an automaton!"). There’s also a love story (with the eccentric Mr. Rochester, who dresses like a gypsy at one point) and some gothic, horror imagery (red room) thrown in for good measure. You won’t mind at all that this is a “girl’s book.”

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling. By far my favorite of the seven HP books, Deathly Hallows concludes with the final battle between Harry Potter and Voldemort. I should mention the Christian themes that run through this book, especially regarding the right way to face death (the “death eaters” vs. the “order the phoenix”).

3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. The dystopian future developed in this book, the soma, the artificial reproduction, and so forth, looks less fantastical and more prescient given our current post-sexual revolution era.

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