Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Christmas Books 2016

For four of the five years since I started this blog, I have made a short post about the books I received as gifts for Christmas. In addition to being fun, it also serves as a teaser for the reviews to be written in the upcoming year. As usual, I try to link the reviews to these posts as I write them.

Here are the past editions:

Here are the ones I received this year:

This one is a gift from my wife, and a book I have wanted to read for a few years now. Alas, our local library didn’t see fit to purchase it. A few years back, the author came to speak to our local bar association, but I had a schedule conflict I couldn’t move, and missed it. Bummer. Anyway, Clara Foltz was the first woman admitted to the practice of law in California, and was one of the pioneers of the role of the public defender. I don’t know more than the outline of her life, so I am really looking forward to reading this one. 

Speaking of feminists, my wife found me this book, which is a biography of Dorothy Sayers. I have loved Sayers since I first read a short story in high school, and continue to read and enjoy both her fiction and nonfiction. I have always loved strong women - particularly the witty ones - and Sayers fits the bill. I think everyone should read her essays on Feminism, collected as Are Women Human? which I reviewed here. You can also read my review of Have His Carcase, one of her murder mysteries.

This was a gift from my sister-in-law and her husband, both of whom are math PhDs. This book explores how math is the language that the universe speaks, the underlying reality. While I am no mathematician, I was reasonably good at algebra and trigonometry and enjoy math. I just went a different direction after high school, and never went beyond the basics. I have read and reviewed a few different math related books.

  1. The Irregulars by Jennet Conant

British spies in America during World War II. That sounds interesting. This book is about the young Roald Dahl and his role in this intelligence ring. Say what? I was not expecting that, to say the least. I have a dark and dry sense of humor, so I have always enjoyed Dahl’s books for kids, but I had no idea he was a spook. Although that makes sense, come to think of it. For what it’s worth, Patrick O’Brian was also a spy turned author.  My wife found this book for me at a library sale. It appears to have been read through page 47, but not beyond. 

  1. Good Intentions by Ogden Nash

This is my fifth book of Ogden Nash poems, all in a matching set from Little, Brown, and Co. I am guessing they are first editions - I’m not sure there are subsequent ones, actually. I read and reviewed The Private Dining Room a few months back. Nash isn’t exactly grand high literature, but it is delightfully witty and silly in the best possible way. 

This book was a gift from my brother-in-law, who has made a yearly habit of giving me interesting books. (I still need to read the book from last year, on Jack Kerouac, because I realized I needed to at least read The Dharma Bums first, so I had an idea of the author’s works first.) Of the various topics my brother-in-law and I have talked about, one has been urban design. He currently lives in San Francisco, having lived previously in Reno and San Diego, and commuted via bicycle in all but the worst weather in each place. (We’ve also hiked together on numerous occasions, such as our Half Dome hike a few years ago.) 

One of the most revolutionary books I have read in the last five years was Noll’s book, The Civil War As A Theological Crisis. Among other things, this book made clear just how disingenuous the Evangelical claim that they were the ones who ended slavery was. If anything, it was the opposite, with the theological forerunners of Evangelicalism (and their hermeneutical approach) being the most committed defenders of slavery. (And later, Evangelicals largely opposed the Civil Rights Movement - another fact largely covered up.) I was interested to read Noll’s take on what I consider to be a serious problem with modern day Evangelicalism, which is outright hostility toward intellectual and academic pursuits. Peter Enns has pointed out, the problem is that perceived theological needs dictate that dogma is to be defended rather than truth sought out. (I would add, in light of the last election, that political dogma is even more dear to many Evangelicals than theological dogma…) 

  1. A Really Cool Poster

This one isn’t a book, but I decided to include it. My mother-in-law is an English major, currently making the world a better place by teaching Special Ed in a remote, underserved community. This year, she introduced me to the Good Tickle Brain blog, which had an amusing election series (featuring campaigns by Shakespeare and Marlowe). One of the coolest things this blog has done is create a flowchart for “Which Shakespeare Play Should You See?” I am now the proud owner of this poster, thanks to my mother-in-law. 

  1. More Really Cool Posters

From my friends Peter and Patty, who have hiked with me. These should go well with my National Parks and Monuments series.

Anyway, here’s to 2017. May it be filled with books and theater and natural wonders.


  1. I've been wanting to read The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind for a long time. One of the things that dawned on me in the past two years or so is just how profoundly evangelicalism rejects the intellectual realm and the impact that has. Once you realize it goes WAY beyond "creation vs. evolution," the horse is out of the barn and there are things you can't unsee and it's just...well, if you'll pardon my language, f***ed up. Because when you're raised on it and then you learn how things really are, it creates a profound feeling of betrayal and a lack of trust that's really impossible to describe to people who haven't yet realized the extent of the problem. And I wasn't nearly as deep in it as most of my friends, because I mostly attended a mainline liturgical church growing up (all my evangelical exposure came through homeschooling).

    On that note, I read Enns' Inspiration and Incarnation last year as part of that reading challenge. Then right after I posted on FB that I would review all my readings challenge books on FB, I realized I had just promised to discuss Enns' views on the Bible in public and how much of a...erm...ruckus that could cause...

    1. I too have Enns on my list. Considering that certain people at my [open minded for an Evangelical] church were offended by my posts on Le Toupee, I'm not sure I want to know the response to an Enns book. I think Rachel Held Evans nailed it as well with her post The Scandal Of The Evangelical Heart that as serious as the anti-intellectualism is the anti-empathy trend. Check your brain and your conscience at the door...

    2. Well, now you can see my FB, so you'll get to witness the response to an Enns book firsthand! Isn't that exciting. :-)

      I'm saving Enns for last. I can buy myself at least a little time while I finish Why Societies Need Dissent...

    3. I shall have my popcorn in hand.

      Why Societies Need Dissent is fascinating. Great book.

  2. Happy New Year, Tim! A couple of new feminist works to read this year. By next year you'll be reading The Second Sex.

    So, which Shakespeare's play should you see?

    1. Shakespeare will likely depend on what plays are being done by the various theaters we frequent. For certain, we will go see Romeo and Juliet at Empty Space. (The older kids saw it several years back at Bakersfield College, but they were pretty young, and the younger kids haven't seen it at all.)
      I am also eyeing Richard II down at the Old Globe in San Diego. I've read that play, and it is fantastic. The Old Globe is pricey, but production values are outstanding.
      My wife will probably attend the Utah Shakespeare Festival with a friend. We may or may not get out there. Our big trip this year will be viewing the eclipse, so we may be too busy. Last year sure was a good one, though, for live theater.

    2. Based on your reviews, you did see a lot of live theater in 2016. I was clueless about the 2017 eclipse. I looked it up and one of the best viewing spots is in Oregon. Maybe you could add on a trip to Ashland. If you get a chance, I recommend seeing The Encounter when it's in LA,

    3. Just to follow up, we did see Romeo and Juliet at The Empty Space. But also The Merchant of Venice at Theatricum Botanicum (boy, isn't that one relevant...), Richard II at The Old Globe, and Hamlet at Bakersfield College. Not a bad year...

  3. Looks like you got some interesting reading. I may look some of these up to see more about them.

    Last year I mostly read "Letter from America - 1946-2004" by Alistair Cooke (one of my favorite secular writers). My husband and I are reading it together now, out loud. It is a collection of Cooke's talks on the BBC by the same name and it gives a very interesting view of America over a long period of time from a British immigrant who is, of course, changing himself during those years. It is quite fascinating - plus I enjoy dry British humor. :-)

    Happy new year to you and yours.

    1. Happy New Year to you and yours as well! I probably need to find some Alistair Cooke. I too an an unabashed Anglophile (take a scan of those authors that have the most reviews on my blog if you doubt this...) and I love dry humor. I think I may have read a few short bits by Cooke at one point or another.