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What I read in March and April 2018

Perhaps the title of this post should be “What I read from cover to cover in March and April 2018”. I have been struggling with a couple of biographical/autobiographical books. One was tedious, because of the number of direct quotes from the writings of the people in the book, each with a superscript to send the diligent reader to the notes. I found it broke up the text, making it difficult to read. The other had so many references to film and television personalities that I was somewhat lost. I have lived most of my life without watching much television and would far sooner read than watch a film.

As I don’t like making unfavourable remarks about books, I shall not be telling you which books they were.

By contrast I have read three books (coincidentally all in American English) which I enjoyed so much that I have returned to part or all of them.

The first was The Daniel Prayer: The Prayer That Moves Heaven And Changes Nations by Anne Graham Lotz (daughter of the late Billy Graham).

The reasons that I read it were that the Ladies’ Bible Study Group I attend is studying the Book of Daniel and the first email I received from Bible Gateway (after this blog was listed on Bible Gateway’s Blogger Grid) advertised The Daniel Prayer. I could not resist the synchronicity and bought it from my local Christian bookshop. Anne Graham Lotz is a first-rate communicator. The paperback book is light and was my book of choice for long-distance  train travel.

The second book I finished was And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Housseini. I found it in the library and read it from cover to cover in two days. The story is woven very skilfully and requires the reader to pay close attention. Although I felt as if I had followed all the threads, I waited a day or two and read it again more slowly, savouring the descriptions and picking up more of the nuances. It is the best novel I have read in a long time. (I have previously read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by the same author.) The differences between UK and US English are perhaps most marked for everyday items. For example, rocks in the UK are large. We call small ones (and pebbles) stones. Skipping rocks must mean skimming stones, but I only realised this on the second reading.

The third book I read was lent to me by a friend after I enthused about the first book. It is Why? Trusting God when we don’t understand by Anne Graham Lotz. It is a little book, which may be read at a single sitting, or kept to hand to read a section at a time and really digest the contents. It is based on a chapter from John’s gospel, but also refers more than once to the Book of Daniel.

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What I read in February 2018

This post is both later and longer than I expected. My expectations for February were that there would just be two books in this post. However my plans to spend time with family and to get out and about were disrupted by a winter bug. Reading was one of the few things I was capable of for a couple of weeks. Fortunately I had a supply of books, which I wanted to read or reread.


The Wild Places  was written before the other books by Robert Macfarlane, which I have read. I began reading it in January. It took me a little while to work out what the map at the beginning was about. At the end I also appreciated the inspiration for the illustrations around the map. The style of writing is superb. Although I have travelled extensively around Great Britain, the only place in the book, which I have travelled across is Rannoch Moor. To me as a passenger in a car this large open space seemed vast, but Robert Macfarlane puts its full extent in context as he describes walking in this wild place.

There was some synchronicity around my reading mainly in connection with The Wild Places. I travelled on a train with the engine John (Longitude) Harrison on the day I read in The Wild Places about his invention. The Highland Clearances were also mentioned and the Irish Potato famine. It is not long since I read a book about the Highland Clearances. It is important that the injustices of local history are not forgotten. The Lake District in 1802 was mentioned in connection with Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s night walks. Dove Cottage tweeted on 6th February 2018 about Dorothy Wordsworth and snow in 1802. (Samuel Coleridge Taylor and the Wordsworths were some of the Lakes poets and I have another related book on my “to read” pile.)

Coleridge was described sitting in Greta Hall in Keswick – a place I visited when it played host to part of the C-Art exhibition a few years ago.

In the chapter entitled Storm Beach there was the description of a hawk’s silhouette and warplanes. As if to order on Twitter a peregrine falcon was compared with a bomber in flight. Unusually I found a word, which I had to look up – sigil (a seal or signet).

Mystical Circles by SC Skillman could hardly be more different. This is a novel about a community led by a very self-confident individual. Personally I like to read novels without having learned much about the story beforehand. This is a well-written, well-plotted tale. There is plenty to think about including ideas about synchronicity. It would make a good book for a reading group to discuss. I shall add A Passionate Spirit to my “books to look out for” list.

Beauty for Ashes

Beauty for Ashes

Beauty for Ashes is a booklet of poems mainly written by people from the Cockermouth area in support of Poverty Swap. One contributor is Martin Halsall, who was poet in residence at Carlisle Cathedral and wrote Sanctuary. The booklet includes children’s poetry about hoping and helping. It is illustrated and makes a useful addition to my poetry shelf.

Hons and Rebels: Hons & Rebels by Jessica Mitford (20-Jun-1999) PaperbackC. S. Lewis: A Biography
Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford is an autobiographical work, which I bought second-hand. The Mitford family was one I was aware of from childhood due to the literary endeavours of (in particular) Nancy. Hons and Rebels is a good read. Some of the events in it are real eye-openers. I suspect there is an element of exaggeration to make a good story even better. There is also tragedy, which is not dwelt upon unduly. It is a window to a different world in the years before WWII. It was published with the title Daughters and Rebels in the USA.

C.S. Lewis A Biography The classic life of the author who created Narnia by A.N. Wilson was a book I received for Christmas along with the first book in this post. Hubby and I had watched the film Shadowlands in the autumn. This book provides a dispassionate account of the real-life events surrounding the film. There is much about the life of academics between the two World Wars and afterwards. C.S. Lewis died on the same day as Aldous Huxley and President John F. Kennedy. His life was not typical of his contemporaries. It was interesting to learn more about his associates.

 

Destiny’s Rebel by Philip S. Davies is a book I have already read and reviewed. Davies has attempted to create a series about another universe similar to the Narnia books. I enjoyed reading this book more the second time than the first. I think I suspended my critical faculties and enjoyed the exciting story. Although I am not good at remembering details of plots, I came to it without the desire to get to the end and know the whole story, but just to enjoy it.

Destiny’s Revenge by Philip S. Davies is the second in the series. It is set six months after the first, but much has changed and the characters have learned from their earlier experiences. I enjoyed it more on a second reading. The third book, Destiny’s Ruin is due out in September. I hope I shall remember what has already happened, when I read that. The genre is YA (Young adult).

More synchronicity is that for the writing group I attend our books to discuss at the March meeting are to be written by authors whose first or last name begins with D. I had been intending to reread Philip S Davies’ books, but had not deliberately looked for an author beginning with D.

There is also some synchronicity around a book, which I bought in February and have only just begun. I failed to win it in a Twitter giveaway, but bought it from a bookshop, because it was such an attractive volume. It transpired that the original author, Evelyn Underhill, influenced C.S. Lewis. I had not heard of her until this year. The book is Evelyn Underhill’s Prayer Book.

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What I read in January 2018

I reached the end of just one book in January. For Christmas I received the story behind the film I wrote about in an earlier post. Jane Hawking’s book about her marriage to the physicist, Stephen Hawking (who developed motor neurone disease at an early age) runs to almost 500 pages in paperback. Travelling to Infinity includes childhood reminiscences, details of family life, where apparently insurmountable problems are dealt with, the connection between medieval Spanish poetry and early scientific discovery, trips abroad, relationships with friends, family and extended family as well as Stephen’s achievements.

Travelling to Infinity

Travelling to Infinity

I found the book very interesting. The author appears to be very unassuming, honest, resourceful and likeable. (A friend of mine lived near her years ago and liked her very much.)

It was interesting to see how the film-makers had taken true life events and presented them in a more condensed and sometimes spiced up way.

I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone, who can find the time to read it.