Two thumbs up for Free Time: The History of an Elusive Ideal by Gary S. Cross. Nonfiction.
A history of the Western world’s relationship with non-work time, up until the present. Shockingly interesting—the kind of book you keep thinking about. I don’t think I would have read it had it been from an economist’s, a philosopher’s, or a psychologist’s perspective; but the thing that historians have which so often those in other disciplines do not is a much-needed sense of perspective.… >> Read more
Two thumbs up for How God Becomes Real: Kindling the Presence of Invisible Others by T. M. Luhrmann. Anthropology.
It’s really nice to be astonished by something different. This book is—stay with me here—an anthropologist’s analysis of the cross-cultural human ability to make the supernatural or spiritual feel present in our lives by using certain practices (for example: ritual, prayer, meditation, spiritual reading); and about how this is an actual skill, which some people struggle with, and some people do quite naturally, and which can be improved with practice.… >> Read more
A hesitant thumbs up for Trying Not to Try: The Science and Art of Spontaneity by Edward Slingerland. History/philosophy.
Well…huh. I didn’t read this book that long ago, but I must have read it too late at night, because I remember nothing about it except the fact that it is about the concept of wu-wei, “non-doing,” and that it contains a pretty good overview of the differences and similarities between ancient Chinese philosophers.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Eat this Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading by Eugene H. Peterson. Religion.
Although not Christian, I am interested in both lectio divina and all types of translation and interpretation, as well as the history of Christianity, since it is, after all, the history of my ancestors and cultural progenitors. I’ve read little bits of Peterson’s work before (in Take & Read, Spiritual Reading: An Annotated List, not reviewed here as it is indeed mostly lists) and was sufficiently impressed by his intelligence, warmth, and great skill with words, that I didn’t hesitate to pick up Eat this Book.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for An Introduction to Shinto by David Chart. Philosophy.
This was recommended to me as the best introduction to Shinto for the completely ignorant; I agree and will second the recommendation. The author is a Brit by birth, now a Japanese citizen, who has been a devout practitioner of Shinto for many years, and works as a consultant for Jinja Honcho (the largest Shinto organization).… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Anglican Women Novelists: From Charlotte Brontë to P.D. James edited by Judith Maltby and Alison Shell. Literary criticism.
At the risk of sounding facetious: it is a book of short biographies and literary analyses of Anglican Women Novelists; and it is excellent. Does the topic interest you? Then read it. You will discover interesting things, your literary conversations will expand, and you will discover even more authors you want to read.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for All Things Shining: Reading Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age by Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly. Philosophy.
This was a very, very strange book. Imagine this: an attempt at constructing a careful, anti-nihilist, (self-named) polytheist, pro-craftsmanship life philosophy that can be practical in the modern age. Okay, that would be an interesting essay and I would read it.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for A Book of Uncommon Prayer: 100 Celebrations of the Miracle & Muddle of the Ordinary by Brian Doyle.
Plain-language ecumenical prayers in gratitude for everyday ordinary things. Hard to review, because I think you will either love it or hate it. Test paragraph: the first half of “Prayer for Cashiers and Checkout-Counter Folks”:
Who endure the cold swirls of winter from the sliding doors that are opening and closing every forty seconds; and who endure pomposity and buffoonery and minor madness in their customers; and who gently help the shuffling old lady in the ancient camel coat count out the right change for her load of bread and single sad can of cat food; and cheerfully also disburse stamps and cash along with bagging the groceries and even occasionally carting them out swiftly for the customers they know are frail and wobble; and who must sometimes silently want to scream and shriek in weariness and wondering how it is that they are here for eight hours at a stretch; and who do their jobs with patience and diligence, knowing the price of every single blessed thing in the store;…
… >> Read more