Monday, October 28, 2013

This week at the library: Jesus, bikes, and Greeks


In recent weeks I've finished up an unplanned series of readings on first-century Judeo-Christianity.  Shortly after checking out The Origin of Satan for some historical research, two seperate people happened to reccommend Misquoting Jesus and Zealot at the same time, meaning my head is just swimming with facts on the destruction of the temple. Comments for Zealot will follow tonight.

Outside of those, I read Bruce Thorton's Greek Ways, which defends the primacy of Greek contributions to western civilization. His basis is that while many cultures had similar ideas to the Greeks -- a semblance of science, the beginnings of democracy, and so on -- none of them developed as fully or magnificiently as they did in Greece. Further, while the Greeks were seriously flawed, their limitations were those of the human race, while their triumphs were culture-specific. He draws extensively on Greek poetry and prose to put their ideas and behaviors into historical context, and to argue that ideals of western civilization, like political liberty and religious skepticism, were first expressed in their fullest form in Greek minds.  Being hopelessly biased toward the Greeks,  I don't trust myself to do a proper review, but I was impressed by his research.

Additionally, I read through Just the Two of Us, a travel memoir by Melissa Norton, who with her husband  cycled across North America, from the Pacific to the Atlantic. I enjoyed it well enough, but it wasn't a standout for me, at least not when compared to Hey, Mom, Can I Ride My Bike Across America?  I'd been told that Just the Two of Us contained a lot of information on bike mechanics, but my source must have been thinking of another book altogether;  this is a travel diary, and rather complete at that, with the inclusion of mileage logs. (David Lamb's Over the Hills was bike-info heavy, because it had to be; aside from a dog chasing him, nothing happened on his journey. Compare that to John Siegel-Boettner's trip with middle-schoolers, where they were chased not by dogs, but by tornados!

Yesterday I finished Bill Bryson's The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, a memoir of a baby-boomer childhood. I'd say it's one of Bryson's funniest pieces, but they run together in one long string of belly laughs. More comments on it may follow later.

This week I am attempting to finish, or at least make some progress in, Lewis Mumford's The City in History. After that I have The Consumers' Republic and The Last Humans, and I'm intending on reading a bit more fiction as the year is winding down. I'll probably be resuming Sharpe's series; I believe I left the good rifleman perched at the edge of the Pyrenees, poised to invade France and send Napoleon packing.

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