Saturday, December 19, 2009

This Week at the Library (19/12)

Books this Update:

  • Living Buddha, Living Christ; Thich Nhat Hanh
  • With the Old Breed, Eugene B. Sledge
  • When Religion Becomes Evil, Charles Kimball
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Jeff Kinney

Although I finished my term papers last week,  Finals Week brought with it finals papers. The last, I am happy to say, has been submitted.  The week started off with Living Buddha, Living Christ, a short work that compares Buddhist mindfulness to the Christian concept of living within the "Holy Spirit" of the trinity. The book serves Christian audiences with an interest in meditative practices best, giving them a way to make the practices work inside their own tradition.

I next read Eugene B. Sledge's Pacific War memoir With the Old Breed. I've been repeatedly encouraged to do so, as Sledge taught at my university and his memoir is highly regarded. I soon found out why, for it communicates the misery of fighting and living conditions for US Marines during the conflict in such an effective style that the haunting images stay with me after finishing the book. Sledge's emphasis on the lives of the fighting men, and he paints a resigned and bleak picture, but one that demands the reader's attention. This is appropriate reading for holidays like Armistice or Veterans' Day.

I then moved on to When Religion Becomes Evil, a straightforward book examining the causes of religious brutality. The author has a varied perspective: he grew up in a Jewish/Christian home, trained in a Baptist seminary, and has done most of his life's work working with Muslims in the middle east. I was impressed by his tone: although he tends to focus on the theistic religions in talking about "religion", his treatment is fair. I never felt as though he were judging others from his Christian viewpoint or refraining from discussing the evils that religion does just to be polite. It's a definite recommendation.

Lastly, I "previewed a book for my niece" and read Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. It's children's literature, obviously, aimed at older elementary school children who are on the cusp of feeling awkward. The book is written as a diary, with a font resembling a child's handwriting, and delivers a first-person account of said wimpy kid's summer, in which he falls in love with a high schooler, fights with his best friend, schemes to get money, and tries to stay in the house as much as possible to play video games. He has a dry sense of humor at times, one that amused me greatly. Although there's not much of a story here, it's a diversion that may make it easier for younger children to grow accustomed to reading larger books.

Pick of the Week: With the Old Breed, Eugene B. Sledge.If you're at all interested in the Pacific War and soldiers' lives, I'd call it a must-read.

Potentials for Next Week:

  • Black Edelweiss, Johann Voss. I'm knee deep in this one: it's stunning so far.
  • The Triumph of Caesar, Steven Saylor: I finally gained access to this one and look forward to seeing Gordianus again, although I'm not too happy to see the series end for now. (Saylor isn't officially done with it, but he won't return to it until after his Roma sequel is finished.)
  • China Marine, Eugene B. Sledge.
  •  The Gangs of New York, Herbert Ashbury. Ashbury has written a book on San Francisco's early history, and I'm considering reading it. I wanted to get a handle on his style, though, and went with a more accessible book first.

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