Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This Week at the Library (19/5)

This week at the library....

Plato's Podcasts is an informal and slightly humorous take on Greek philosophy, operating from the idea that the dozen or so philosophers summarized within addressed the same essential problems that face people today. I enjoyed it, and it introduced me to interesting characters I'd never before met.

The Iron Heel, written in 1907 by Jack London, is a 'future history' novel set in a time where large trusts and monopolizing cooperations have taken outright control of the United States and rule it as a merciless oligarchy. The hero of the work is socialist revolutionary Ernest Everhard, who champions a vision of a better world. This book predates other dystopian works, and introduced some of the devices that would follow it.

The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir made for a much more lighthearted novel, being the story of Elizabeth of England's first twenty-five years.Elizabeth emerges as an independent and outspoken woman in an age wherew such things were discouraged: her character is forged amid times of political and religious violence. As she ages, she must defend herself against those who wish to use or destroy her. Delightful read.

I next read The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World, the follow up to the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler's interesting Art of Happiness. Troubled World focuses on society at large, examining the tension between individualism and collectivism while simutaneously addressing fear, vilence, hope, resilience, and humanist ethics.

Lastly I read Reading Judas: the Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity. I read this in part to see what Judas was about, interested in how his character might be defended. Surpisingly, Judas does not take central stage: that is given to the promotion of a new worldview, one which denounces the god of sacrifice and blood as a 'lower angel' and sees Jesus as sent to deliver the news that the material world is meaningless. The authors see the text as being another voice in the early debate over what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.

Pick of the Week: Iron Heel or The Lady Elizabeth.

Quotation of the Week: "I could learn to be a king," Elizabeth said seriously. "I could learn to order people about."

(She says this when she's four.)

Upcoming Reads:

  • The Life of Birds, Sir David Attenborough. I started but did not finish this last week.
  • Lord Hornblower, by CS Forester because someone checked out Hornblower and the Hotspur.
  • North Korea: Another Country. I know little of the Korean war, and nothing of its context. 
  • Africa: a Biography of the Continent. Sub-Saharan Africa is one of my historical blank spots.

I had intended to read something else from Alison Weir this week, but The Six Wives of Henry VIII is fairly hefty; even I would not venture to tackle it in the same week as Africa.

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