Thursday, December 31, 2020

A 2020 Reading Retrospective

Zotero tells me I finished reading 28 books in 2020, down five from 2019, which goes to show that pandemics do not automatically increase scholarly productivity. (On the contrary ... But I digress.)

A few statistics: Of the 28 books, I count 13 novels, 6 popular-level non-fiction books, and 8 or 9 popular and more scholarly books that are more-or-less in my field; six I've read before, eight I read aloud, only one was an audiobook. Remarkably, four of the books were first published in 2020.

Bed-time Reading, in sequence:

Lewis, C. S. The Screwtape Letters with Screwtape Proposes and Toast. New York: Collier Books, 1982. (First read in high school or college)

Williams, Charles. The Place of the Lion. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1933. 

A 1985 Christmas gift from my mother who, for some strange reason, thought her twelve-year-old son might enjoy a novel about Abelard and a Platonic apocalypse. As the blurb puts it, "Reading Charles Williams is an unforgettable experience." A decade later I discovered the copy I had left behind in Africa in a Mombasa guest house, and returned with it to Canada. Thirty-five years later, I read it to my own twelve-year-old daughter.

Speare, Elizabeth George. The Bronze Bow. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961. 

One of a few books I read as a teenager that helped spark an interest in the land of Israel and ancient Judaism. This one, set around the Sea of Galilee, I read several times as a child, and enjoyed re-reading partly because it has some literary merit, partly because of what it says about popular Christian views of first-century Judaism ca. 1961.

Hunter, J. H. The Mystery of Mar Saba. Toronto: Evangelical Publishers, 1940. 

Another book set in Israel that I first encountered in high school. More funny to read now than the author intended [see this review], this evangelistic 'thriller' can claim no literary merit. Its chief value is as a literary artifact for anyone interested in the beliefs of Presbyterian dispensationalists during World War II, the admixture of Christianity and nationalism in the early twentieth century, ex eventu prophecy, or life in British Mandate Palestine. Much of the book reads like a 1930's-era travelogue of Galilee and Jerusalem--no doubt based on Hunter's first-hand experience.

Family Reading (aloud)

Bauckham, Richard. Who Is God?: Key Moments of Biblical Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2020. 

By turns theologically rich and eccentric; sadly not suited for reading aloud to a lay audience.

Jacobs, Alan. How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds. New York: Currency, 2017.

Jacobs, Alan. The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography. Lives of Great Religious Books. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013. 

A moratorium was declared on Alan Jacobs after the second book. If I want to read Breaking Bread with the Dead, I'm on my own.

Warren, Tish Harrison. Liturgy Of The Ordinary. Downers Grove: IVP, 2016.

Too far removed from the 17th century

The Rest

Bryan, Christopher. Listening to the Bible: The Art of Faithful Biblical Interpretation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Collins, John J. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2013. 

Purchased for the appendix on "Personalities in the Discovery and Subsequent Controversies," but the whole thing is worth reading.

Crowe, Brandon D. The Hope of Israel: The Resurrection of Christ in the Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2020.

Garner, Alan. Elidor. London: Collins, 1965.

Glinert, Lewis. The Story of Hebrew. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017. (Fascinating)

Hays, Richard B. First Corinthians. Interpretation. Louisville: John Knox, 1997. (A course textbook; re-read for the 2nd or 3rd time.)

Jipp, Joshua W. Reading Acts. Cascade Companions. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2018. 

A textbook for a second-semester Acts course--stimulating and up-to-date

Laird, Martin. Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation. Oxford University Press, 2006.

Lambdin, Thomas O., and John Huehnergard. Introduction to the Aramaic of Targum Onqelos, 2020.

Martínez Sotodosos, César, and Mercedes Ovejas Arango. Mythologica. Guadix, Granada: Cultura Clásica, 2016.

McCall Smith, Alexander. Portuguese Irregular Verbs. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2004. (Reread)

Murray, Douglas. The Madness of Crowds: Gender Race and Identity. London: Bloomsbury, 2020. (Audiobook)

Potok, Chaim. The Promise. Alfred A. Knopf. New York, 1969. (Excellent)

Tartt, Donna. The Secret History. New York: Vintage, 2004. 

Someone commented that this novel got them interested in classics. I had no idea how long it was when I bought the e-book. I would have preferred more Greek and less murder.

Turner, Megan Whalen. The Thief. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1996.

———. The Queen of Attolia. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2000.

———. The King of Attolia. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2006.

———. A Conspiracy of Kings. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2010.

———. Thick as Thieves. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2017.

———. Return of the Thief. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2020.

Best of: Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series was my 2020 comfort reading. Intelligent young-adult novels set in a world that seems vaguely Byzantine, with real gods.

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