pile of assorted novel books
pile of assorted novel books

Today is my first day back at work after a few weeks of summer vacation (yes, it’s summer here in the antipodes).  It involved a bit of flying (gliders), some fly-fishing, a lot of hiking/backpacking, and even more reading.  I thought I’d share some of the titles I read over the last few weeks. 

The 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom: The Von Igelfeld Triology — Alexander McCall Smith

This was my favourite novel of the summer — absolutely hiliarious. Von Igelfeld is the world’s foremost expert on Portuguese irregular verbs. We follow this vain Romance philologist through various escapades around the world, as he competes with the other “pillars of wisdom” in the Institute, Prinzel and Unterholzer.

If This Is a Man/The Truce – Primo Levi

This Italian Jew lived through Auschwitz.  In these two books (usually packaged together), he tells the tale and then the serpentine route home to Turin.  It’s remarkably journalistic, often avoiding any kind of emotionalism or sentiment.

On Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Biography – D.J. Taylor

This one was a thoughtful Christmas present.  I read 1984 in 1984 – it got that much hype that a kid in Grade 6 was curious enough to buy it.  Taylor’s book tells the story of 1984’s genesis.  Also related to Orwell, at the moment I’m reading Anna Funder’s Wifedom: Mrs. Orwell’s Invisible Life.  This is an intriguing feminist biography of Orwell’s first wife, Eileen O’Shaughnessy.     

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat – Oliver Sacks

Sacks is most well-known for his book Awakenings, later turned into a film starring Robin Williams. This volume contains a series of fascinating neurological case studies.  When the brain works well, it can do amazing things.  But when it doesn’t work well, those things can be even more amazing. 

Roadside Picnic – Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

Soviet dystopian science fiction.  Pretty…different. 

Down the Long Hills – Louis L’Amour

I often like to take a lightweight novel with me when backpacking.  This was my pick last week.  This one is about a couple of kids facing the challenges of being alone after their wagon train has been attacked and all the adults slaughtered.  A tale told well.

Preaching by Ear: Speaking God’s Truth from the Inside Out – Dave McClellan

Thought-provoking work on orality and preaching, drawing on the work of Jesuit scholar Walter Ong.  I’m planning at least one blog post “in discussion” with this 2014 book. 

Hebrew for Life: Strategies for Learning, Retaining, and Reviving Biblical Hebrew – Adam J. Howell, Benjamin L. Merkle, Robert L. Plummer

Since I’m reading through the Torah in Hebrew this year, this book seemed like a natural way to launch into it.  Fantastic stuff.  I especially recommend it for seminary students and fellow pastors.  Good way to get a handle on some of the more recent Hebrew resources.

In Holy Service: Essays on Office – Personal and Ecclesial – Cornelis Van Dam

This was the best Christian book I’ve read over the summer.  My review will be published soon in Clarion, so I don’t want to pre-empt that.  But I’ll tell you right now:  this book is solid – especially on questions related to women serving in the offices of the church.