Tag Archives: Saint Augustine

Whatcha Reading…? 1/28/2019 Book Update

Back in 2016-2017, I used to do an occasional “Whatcha Reading” update. Basically, when I find myself buried in avalanche of current reads, I like sorting them out on here. 

Now, I know what you are thinking! “BUT WHAT ABOUT THAILAND?!” I promise I’m still here. The thing is, due to certain circumstances, I spent the weekend at home. And really, the most exciting thing I accomplished was laundry. I’ve strained my brain to make laundry an entertaining story, but mostly it involved me lacking the correct change and making strategic visits to the convenience store to get more. Mostly I read. And as I’ve decided to tackle several rather long books courtesy but my new Kindle, a “Whatcha Reading” update is the best way I can describe my weekend.

Without further ado, I present you my current reads: Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas, Ethics by Aristotle, The City of God by Saint Augustine, Pamela by Samuel Richardson, and Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy L. Sayers. (And lest you think my reading involves only intellectual works, I must confess I recently finished To Catch A Bad Guy by Marie Astor, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joane Flunke, and The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Cruise – all as horrible as they sound.) As you can see, I’m working through the As on my Kindle. 

Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas is 95,666 pages long. I’m 1,520 pages in –  about 1%. I do not plan on finishing it this year…or next…or maybe the year after. But the work played an instrumental role in developing Western thought so I figure it is worth the long term commitment. 

Ethics by Aristotle…I am not sure what I think about this one yet. Obviously, I’m familiar with Aristotle’s theory of virtue as the mean between two extremes. He jumps around quite a bit, however, between personal application of virtue and civic virtue. His explanation of justice I found particularly intriguing. Mostly I feel like I miss as much as I understand. But I find his method of explaining things helps me better understand Aquinas. (Similar formatting of arguments.) 

I purchased my copy of The City of God by Saint Augustine instead of getting the free version and I am amazed the difference a good translation makes. I am not particularly far into the book but I’m quite intrigued. It begins with a seeming history lesson about the barbarians who sacked Rome but did not touch the Christian churches. Amidst this strange beginning, Saint Augustine weaves several points about human suffering. 

Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson was published in 1740 and I’ve been dragging myself through it since last July. Though a remarkable literary achievement for its time, I find the entire work slow and irritating. But I’m also stubbornly determined to finish it since it was a ‘first’ for many literary tropes we use today. (And Jane Austen read it.) 

Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy L. Sayers is incredibly good so far. I find it easier to grasp than her work about the trinity, The Mind of the Maker. In this book, she tackles Christian doctrine. She continues to emphasize the creativity of God and the importance of creation for human identity. I’m convinced this one will end up an immediate favorite. 


2018 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 1

I read 255 books in 2018! Here are some of the best:

Confessions by Saint Augustine

Augustine of Hippo is one of the great church fathers of the Christian faith. Confessions is his memoir, testimony, and prayer to God. It is beautiful and difficult. I should have read it long ago. But honestly, even at 25 I felt intimidated and pretentious picking up a book by a church father. Imagine 15-year-old me doing it. But 15-year-olds should read this book. And 25-year-olds. And 85-year-olds. Augustine is not as scary as he sounds. Confessions is an incredibly readable and beautiful book. It is a love letter to God. I found it challenging and profound; I will definitely be coming back. This is one of those books that calls for multiple re-reads.

The Ugly Duckling by A.A. Milne

To read the synopsis is to know the entire plot of this one-act play: a king and queen want to get their ugly daughter married, so they have her beautiful serving maid take her place when a prince comes calling. Little do they guess the prince decides to try the same ruse! Though short, this is a very sweet story and an immediate favorite. The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye (a favorite children’s book of mine) does a fun job retelling it. Very good for a quick read.

Good Brother, Bad Brother: The Story of Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth by James Cross Giblin

With a title like “Good Brother, Bad Brother” I expected a picture book aimed at children. Then, when the book arrived, I realized it was 244 pages and not aimed at children at all. This is a full-fledge biography! I went through a phase in high school where I was all things obsessed with the Lincoln assassination and this book landed on my to-read list courtesy of that obsession. My memory has dimmed somewhat as to the actual assassination but this book’s focus on Edwin Booth filled in many fascinating details I’d either forgotten or never knew. Edwin was himself a remarkable man forced to forever live in the shadow of his infamous brother. This biography does an excellent job showing Edwin in a positive light (his acting, overcoming alcoholism, love for his daughter) while also not shying away from his flaws (failed theater, failed marriage, etc.) I definitely recommend this one as a fascinating look at John Wilkes Booth’s brother and as the biography of a remarkable actor basically forgotten by history.

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, JR. by Clayborne Carson

A fascinating book and great audio with snip-its from Martin Luther King Jr.’s actual speeches. I especially liked what it had to say about organizing. It contains good tips, such as: pick a target, don’t protest generally. (Very Saul Alinsky.) Like most people, I assume, I am most familiar with MLK’s work in the South and was fascinated to learn about his efforts in Chicago. His methods and goals seem to have shifted at that point and perhaps not been as effective. It left me wanting to learn more.

Mr. Malcolm’s List by Suzanne Allain

So, you read Jane Austen. And she’s great! Classic, even. But possibly not an author you want to curl up with on a rainy afternoon. Then you discover Georgette Heyer. She is romantic and clean and everything you were looking for. However, eventually you run out of Heyer and you can only re-read those books so many times. (Trust me, I know.) Where do you turn next? I recommend Suzanne Allain. From a technical standpoint, Mr. Malcolm’s List isn’t a perfect book by a long shot. It plays fast and loose with historical detail (all that first-name calling!) and comfortably relies on some scandalous behavior. But It. Is. So. Fun! And best of all, it fills that Regency craving without causing you to blush. I found it unexpectedly funny and sweet. While reading it, I often flipped back to re-read scenes just for the pleasure of it. Quite a delightful book.

Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff

Speaking of funny…Stuff Christians Like caused me to laugh so hard that people kept staring at me on the bus. I seriously could not keep it in. The book gently satirizes many parts of Christian culture we take for granted. Though the book is starting to feel ever so slightly dated, I was continually delighted by how dead-on accurate it was. It also ends on a more serious note, combining humor and grace in a way that leaves the book more than just another funny read. It has depth. Mostly, though, I recommend it for a good laugh!