Hard to believe we’re already halfway through January 2013. I took a little bit of a break from reading and research over the holidays, but now I’m back in the swing of things. So many books to read and movies to see, so little time, right? Here’s what I’ve come across lately:
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey directed by Peter Jackson — I’m an admirer of J.R.R. Tolkien, so naturally, like millions of others, I went to see the film adaptation of Tolkien’s 1937 precursor to The Lord of the Rings. I liked the movie overall, but it seemed a bit out of proportion to the book, especially as the first installment in a movie trilogy. That’s Hollywood marketing, I guess. After all, who’s to say a work of literary fiction can’t expand beyond its original form in the hands of a creative and well-financed filmmaker? I don’t have to like it, but I admit there’s something to that approach.
- America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation by David Goldfield — A nontraditional yet persuasive take on a defining period in American history. Goldfield sees the civil war as America’s greatest failure, noting that “the United States was the only country to require a civil war in order to abolish slavery” and points to the influence of what he calls “evangelical Christianity” into the nation’s political debate as the primary force that polarized society. One provocative quote from the book: “Flexibility, adaptability, and humility, the strengths of Abraham Lincoln and the message of his Second Inaugural, did not suit the absolutes of evangelical Protestantism. Living a life of uncertainty with respect to one’s mortal soul is considerably more uncomfortable than the evangelicals’ certitude of eternal salvation, but it is likely to be more compatible with a democratic society and a political process that depends on accommodation.”
- The Sacred Journey by Charles Foster — Loved this accessible book on pilgrimage, one of the “seven ancient practices of the Christian faith.” It took me back to my 2001 pilgrimage to the north of Spain, reminded me I can adopt a pilgrim mentality in my daily life, and made me want to make pilgrimage to Ireland or Jerusalem in the future.
- A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice by Matthew Fox — What if compassion were a way of life instead of simply a sentiment? Fox explores this question and challenges readers to reconceive our ideas of progress, time, space, and the economy in light of the Resurrection of Christ. The “Kingdom of God” for Fox is not a place or a object, but a verb.
- John in the Company of Poets: The Gospel in Literary Imagination by Thomas Gardner — This book uses poetry to challenge the assumptions and enrich the perceptions of readers of the Gospel according to John. Gardner writes, “Following along as these poets imagine what it would mean to eat the flesh or Jesus or drink his blood, we gain access to a way of thinking everywhere called for by the text but not fully articulated in exegesis alone.” Features poems by Wendell Berry, Emily Dickinson, John Donne, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Kathleen Norris.