Wednesday, June 10, 2009

This Week at the Library (10/6)

Books this Update:
  • Gump & Co, Winston Groom
  • The Quiet Game, Greg Iles
  • The Faith Club; Ranya Indiliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner
  • Buddha, Karen Armstrong
  • Asimov on Astronomy, Isaac Asimov
I came upon Gump & Co accidentally: it happened to be on display in the fiction area of my library, and I spotted it while headed for The Hobbit a couple of weeks ago. It is a sequel to the 1995 book Forrest Gump, which was somewhat different than the movie it inspired. Although the book is described as "satire", I read it more as a straight humorous novel that uses Gump's interaction with elements of the 1980s and 1990s as its fodder. The book begins sometime after the conclusion of the first book and movie, but things have changed. Gump is completely broke and sweeping floors in a strip joint when the book begins, although he will soon be spotted by an old schoolmate and asked to play for the New Orleans Saints. From there, Gump will stumble his way through the 1980s and early 90s, with humorously awkward results -- Gump accidentally invents New Coke, covers an entire town in pig poo, and crashes the Exxon-Valdez, for starters.The book is written from Gump's point of view and in a crude, colloquial way.

I read a recommendation next. Greg Iles' The Quiet Game was described as being somewhat like John Grisham. The description is somewhat apt in that part of this book is a legal thriller involving political corruption at the highest levels of US government influencing jurisprudence in a small town in Mississippi. This legal story ties in a number of other stories -- main character Penn Gage's struggle to come to terms with his wife's death, his father being blackmailed, the return of his first love (who will play a greater role in the book than simply "love interest"), and a few others. There's a lot going on in this book, and it makes for an incredibly riveting story.

Following a growing interest in comparative religion, I decided to read The Faith Club: a memoir written by three women who met on a regular basis over the course of several years to discuss their faith. You might think this an unenjoyable book for a secular person such as myself, and I did as well -- but I was surprised by the book. It is less a book about religion and more a book about three women exploring what spirituality means to them within the context of the traditions they were brought up in. I found the book enjoyable and touching in ways.

Next I read a sharply written biography of Buddha, titled aptly Buddha. Karen Armstrong does a good job of introducing the world that Siddhartha Gautama was born into and telling his story within that greater context. She explains his struggle to find freedom from suffering, his realization of the noble truths, and the development and early attitudes of his first disciples. I would recommend it to anyone interested in either Buddha or Buddhism.

Lastly, I enjoyed a little science with Isaac Asimov's Asimov on Astronomy. The book is a collection of essays on various topics within the general theme of astronomy. Some are straightforward explanations of questions people might ask (how the moon manages to rotate but only presents one face to Earth), but most are his playing with questions he asks himself -- like how a planet in a two-star solar system might see those two suns, and how those two suns might influence the development of mythology and science. Set within the text of the essays are brief profiles of astronomical phenomena or astronomers.

Quotation of the Week: "God, I'm trapped in a Southern gothic novel!" - character Caitlin Masters on page 205 of The Quiet Game.

Pick of the Week: The Quiet Game, far and away.

Next Week:
  • The Third Degree, Greg Iles
  • God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question -- Why We Suffer, Bart Ehrman
  • The Third Jesus, Deepak Chopra (No, this isn't a joke. I know he has a reputation, but I'd like to read him for myself and this looked to be fairly benign.)
  • The Journey of Man, Spencer Wells.
  • Further Along the Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck.

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