in Book Reviews, Books

February Books

Well, looks like I will be reading a lot more fiction this year, as that seems to be only thing I am capable of reading at three in the morning when I am rocking a fussy baby.  Oddly enough the two novels I read last month were (very different) father/son stories.  How apropos.
(1) Christ and Caesar: The Gospel and the Roman Empire in the Writings of Paul and Luke by Seyoon Kim.
I came to this book with a sense of excitement.  Having spent the last three or so years becoming immersed in empire-critical readings of Paul (which gave me the distinct advantage of having read all the relevant Pauline literature cited by Kim, as well as several other sources he neglects!), I was excited by the possibility of being challenged by Kim.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed and surprised by how shallow Kim’s arguments were.  As I intend to post a series of more detailed reviews demonstrating this, that’s all I will say for now.
(2) Olympic Industry Resistance: Challenging Olympic Power and Propaganda by Helen Jefferson Lenskyj.
I first came across the work of Helen Lenskyj in 2001 when I was working with homeless and street-involved youth in Toronto.  At that time, Toronto was making a bid to be the host city of the 2008 Games so, as a part of preparing the city for a visit from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the police had gone to various squats, destroyed the shelters, burned whatever belongings they found there, and then imprisoned the squatters for the duration of the IOC’s visit (I remember talking to one girl who was crying because the police had burned the only two mementos she had from her childhood: a teddy bear and a photo of her grandmother).
Of course, I was appalled by this and begin to look more closely into what went on behind-the-scenes with the Olympics.  It was then that I discovered Lenskyj’s research which revealed the Olympics for what they are — an industry dedicated to making money for large corporations and local elites (including the mainstream media) who take advantage of the Games to steal real estate from the urban poor, to criminalise poverty, to deprive citizens of their human rights (notably the right to free speach and the right to free assembly), and so on.
Olympic Industry Resistance is Lenskyj’s latest offering and in it she continues to expose the Olympics while simultaneously documenting local, national, and international resistance groups.  Special attention is also paid to what is and has been going on in Vancouver, which is the host city of the 2010 games (which also happens to be the city where I reside).
I strongly recommend this book to residents of Vancouver, and Canada more broadly, or to any who are interested in this topic.
(3) The Inner Voice of Love by Henri J. M. Nouwen.
This year one of my reading goals is to go back and choose books I’ve already read, and reread one each month (one of the advantages of this is that I can both read and hold the baby since I don’t need to make notations in the margins of the text — whereas reading a book for the first time requires me to hold the book, and a pencil, and the baby… which I have not yet mastered).
Anyway, this was the book I selected to reread in February, and it is Nouwen’s ‘secret diary’ from what might have been the darkest time in his life.  It consists of a series of imperatives (with commentary) that he wrote for himself, and only published years later after being prompted to by his friends.  It’s the sort of book that should be read slowly.  I enjoyed it, although not as much as several of his other books.
(4) Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.
I came to this book — which is a series of reflective and anecdotal entries written by a dying preacher to his young son — with pretty high expectations.  It won a Pulitzer and theobloggers have spoken very highly of it (including the near-mythical Kim Fabricius),  so I was grateful to a friend who gave the book to me as a birthday gift.
However, to be honest, I was somewhat disappointed with what I read.  I kept thinking, ‘this is a promising start’ and waiting to get enthralled… but then I never did.  I’ve been trying to understand why this book appealed to so many others, but not to me (maybe all you need to convince theobloggers you are writing a good book is to mention Barth’s commentary on Romans and Calvin’s Institutes?), but I haven’t been able to figure it out.  Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s still a decent story with some really great bits, but I just didn’t connect with it.
(5) The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
Now, this was a fantastic story,  and the first book in a long time that I actually sat and read from cover-to-cover in a single sitting.  McCarthy’s story of a father and son, on the road in a post-apocalyptic America, captured my imagination, and is probably the best work of fiction I have read in a long time (of course, I use the term ‘best’ in a totally subjective way).

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  1. Patrik,
    Yeah, I don’t think I can even keep up the level of reading I’m doing now (which isn’t much). My goal has dropped from reading 100 books per year to reading 50… and I might have trouble meeting that goal… unless I start counting children’s books!
    I went to primary and secondary school with Adam Kreek. We took three years of German together, and in Grade 6 were in a band called “The Chicken Noodle Soup Group”.

  2. Thanks for the Nouwen. Went looking through the dusty stacks and couldn’t find my copy. While ordering it I came across another by Nouwen that i was unfamiliar with; “Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World.” Have any of youall read this and have a quick review? i would appreciate it. Obliged, daniel (down on whidbey).

  3. if you are after more fiction ‘father/ son’ books I can fully recommend “Extremely Close Incredibly Loud” by Jonathan safron Foer…
    from someone who still peeks at your blog now and then
    ps congratulations on the baby!

  4. I totally agree with you about Gilead! I couldn’t finish it–parts of it were excellent, but it just didn’t grab me.

  5. If you want to read more of McCarthy I would highly recommend “Child of God”. It’s a pretty rough read but will stick with you long after you’ve finished it.

  6. Hey, Dan. Hope you are holding up well. Two months already! You, your wife and son are in my prayers.
    With each of our sons I think I lost about five months of productivity. At some point you just give up trying and decide to enjoy every minute of it!