I’ve formed a stack of interesting books in the last five months to read, toting some of them with me for our wintering season in Florida and adding a few selections after discussions with Floridian friends. Today, I introduce to you my new series, a book inspecting and reflecting series, “The Roaming Reader.” My stack represents a variety of genres and topics, yet the variety is still quite limited — based upon my interests and vetting standards. (Now, you wonder what my vetting standards are, so an entire post may be needed, someday, or I’ll simply spoon out my points as we go. We’ll see.)
First, I simply want to present to you the titles and authors comprising this short but heavy stack of eight works. Then, we’ll take note of a warning given to us from another source. Finally, I’ll set up the next post in which we’ll begin to consider two of these books.
Have you read some of these? Maybe you’ll want to explore one of these before I give you my take. Here’s the stack:
- The Roots of American Order, by Russell Kirk.
- A Gentleman In Moscow, by Amor Towles.
- Is Atheism Dead?, by Eric Metaxas.
- Liturgy of the Ordinary, by Tish Harrison Warren.
- Everything You Need to Ace Math in One Big Fat Notebook (Workman Publishing).
- A Concise Guide to Conservatism, by Russell Kirk.
- The Mill River Redemption, by Darcie Chan.
- Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook (1950). (What? A cookbook? Yes. Of course, I don’t read it as I do a novel. But this one is truly amazing to me. A dear Floridian friend who is 92 years vibrant has one in her collection.)
Actually, I have a few more, but these eight will keep us plenty busy for now. I’ll be doing most of my writing about these books after we return home from Florida, but I’ll get a start on it now while we’re still in the warm breezes. I may also intersperse some observations about our southern adventure within my literary observations and may connect book observations to personal and world events. Oh, my!
We’ve been warned, indeed, “admonished” from an ancient book, expressed in its conclusion:
“And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.“ (Ecclesiastes 12:12 NKJV).
The NASB 1995 translates this text this way: “But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.”
The Bible always admonishes us that our devotion of priority is to God Himself. Thinking, studying, and communicating in all their forms do not complete or balance us. Thus, when book studying is singular and obsessive (ivory tower living), it “wears you out” (New Living Translation).
Maybe you don’t need this warning. I do.
While Judaism and Christianity are called religions “of the book” (“people of the book”), the Bible, the root of our Judeo-Christian foundation provides more than cerebral experience (a knowledge base). Our biblical roots are meant to nourish a practical and muscular people where concepts manifest themselves in good and right living. The righteous living of the individual produces justice. (Unfortunately, we confuse “righteousness” with “self-righteousness” rather than its true relationship with justice.) In order for book learning to lead us not to physical exhaustion, weariness, and uselessness, reading must foster doing — growth.
The New Testament book of James explains. “Even so [check the context], faith, if it has no works is dead being by itself” (James 2:17). The text continues, “But someone may well say, “You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (verse 18). The chapter concludes, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead” (verse 26).
What does faith have to do with word-concepts or reading? The apostle John answers: “Faith comes by hearing [or reading]… the word of God/Christ” (Romans 10:17). The mother of faith is understanding. Faith must have content — the “what” of “what I know” and “what I believe.” Faith involves feelings but is not built upon them. Faith is born within a humble, hearing heart (the seat of the mind, emotions, and will). Then an informed faith acts upon belief/insight.
By now you can tell that the beginning of my vetting process for all my reading — whatever the genre, the source, or the size — is a comparison of any work to my primary authority, the Scriptures which shape my worldview. Biblical principles provide universal and eternal wisdom, guiding me through any reading experience. Something permanent exists. The permanent interprets the passing.
When I walk into a Barnes and Noble bookstore, I am overwhelmed by print options, by ideas, marketing images and displays, and by the shear expanse. At first my heart patters with excitement, and then, even in such a high and wide space, I am struck by the overwhelming clutter. Ecclesiastes 12:12 hits me like a 2 x 4. It’s a 12 x 12.
So, we narrow the scope and quantity, trying to keep all things, all ideas, in perspective. For me, I aim to operate from my given vantage — my “bias,” my worldview. While I’ll read literature outside my worldview, I’ll evaluate it by my worldview. Even my choices of reading pass through a vetting prism.
I chose the first book on the list because I was researching this author, Russell Kirk. I was interested in his doctoral dissertation and his ideas about “order.” Order is a framework- shaping concept that runs through my doctoral project and the big Bible study I’ve written. Kirk’s Roots of American Order has consumed the majority of my reading attention this past month. (We’ve been in Florida for six weeks now, and when I’m not focusing on time with friends or recovering from exhaustion, I’ve been thankful for my reading time.)
You may roll your eyes at the thought of reading a fat book on history, culture, and politics. However, I get excited. I found Kirk’s volume utterly fascinating. I laugh at myself for liking this kind of book, in light of the option I have here in my retirement years to just enjoy the treats of life– good food, pleasant walks, lounging in the breeze under a palm tree, viewing the vistas as I ride high in our Ford Lariat 150 (while we can still afford the gas), chatting with friends, meeting folks here and there. Ahh. A game of Mexican Train. Bare feet on a sandy beach. A YouTube, “how to” video.
But self-serving indulgence is as wearying as reading for reading sake with no outlet. One becomes like the Dead Sea — all input and no output. Then, someone comes along to mine the minerals of the sea, to put them to good use. As a retired woman, I want to mine the minerals of my sea and put them to work. To demonstrate my faith by my works.
Ironically for me, with my set of limitations, my work is not physically muscular, but more in the realm of encouragement through words, hopefully through sound thinking that helps you to sort through your life and your walk of faith.
That all said, in our next post I’ll give you a tour of The Roots of American Order by Russell Kirk along with some of my responses. The second book I want to consider is The Mill River Redemption by Darcie Chan. The first is a tome of nonfiction and the second is a paperback of fiction.
The Roots of American Order will provide a backdrop and to some degree a framework for grappling with a number if not all of the books on this list. We’ll begin with Kirk’s concept of order. What is order? This provides an ideal start for this new series, The Roaming Reading. Come roam with me.
Good to see your email. I truly wish I had time to read, but my reading time is consumed by the Bible. However, I listen to podcasts while I walk, and I started to listen to Is Atheism Dead?, by Eric Metaxas. I will be anxious to continue!!
We hope you and Paul are doing well. We just finished another virtual trip to India and it was incredible. We are about to have our victory celebration!
Please pray for our family. Our oldest son, Oliver, has a brain tumor and he will have surgery on April 7th.
Blessings to you and Paul! Mary