On this page, I’ll (try to) keep an updated book list of the books littering the floor near the head of my bed—and toss in a few thoughts about them.  I have a living relationship with my books, which varies widely based on my degree of passion for them; I sleep with some of them (under my pillow, of course), use some like useless coasters and drink trays, or (usually) treat them like old friends.

Currently, I’m getting acquainted with:

  • The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen (1972).  Although Nouwen writes this teensy little devotable/devotional to an audience of those looking to become one of “the Cloth,” this book has tons to say about ministry of the day-to-day kind for the average Christian; it specifically instructs us about turning our hurts from our past into wells of understanding to draw from when we encounter the wounded; it’s also littered with observations for use in our own future healing.  Meaty! This will be a February 2010 read, to be savored slowly, like a tenderized steak.
  • Love Life for Every Married Couple by Ed Wheat, M.D (1980).   Why is Ruth, a single girl, reading a book for married couples?  Because this book is really just about holding relationships together, period.  And it also has a lot of good advice on how to prepare one’s heart for marriage in a biblical/spiritual/emotional way.  I’ll probably be writing some entries about this much-thumbed-through text from my late father’s bookshelf.  I pick at it and put sticky notes in it; it’s not a one-sitting read.
  • The Imitation of Christ, attributed to 14th-century monk, Thomas A’Kempis (A pretty good English translation is available online here http://www.leaderu.com/cyber/books/imitation/imitation.html).  This book is scary because it’s challenging in all the ways that Christ was challenging with his disciples, but it’s harder-hitting in some ways because it’s written from a flawed mortal’s perspective.  I think the tough-nuggies attitude of the writer helps to create this effect, along with the distinct sense the reader gets that the writer (A’Kempis, we think) struggled much harder than you or I have ever struggled in order to be holy. That makes us feel kinda bad. Guilty, even.  And A’Kempis honestly likes being holy a lot more than we do, too.  And that makes us feel worse.  However, he’s also compassionate about our struggles and is freakin’ brilliant in his command of scripture, blending the best of Christ’s admonitions with Solomon’s Proverbs into a killer kind of wisdom and perspective.  If you are wanting to get serious about your faith, read this. Go on. Read. It.
  • Bed, a collection of short stories by Tao Lin ( 2007).   I loved Tao Lin’s poetry collection, entitled Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which I ran across on a random Internet search.  In CBT, Lin wrote from a depressive’s perspective, often projecting his emotions onto other people, and even onto hamsters (that’s right; hamsters!) in an attempt to gain perspective on his own mind, and laugh at it, too.  It got me through my early grief phase this winter.  In Bed, Lin has created several stories of the daily absurd, centering around young twenty-somethings trying to find themselves.  So far, it’s a fabulous time and a great way for me to learn about the pleasure of writing in declarative sentences (Tao Lin’s favorite!).  (EDIT:  I gave a copy of Lin’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to a roommate of mine for graduation. And  ::blushes shamefully and mumbles:: I’m actually considering sending a copy of Bed to Rob Pattinson, just because I think that if he ever gets the time to sort through his mail, he  has the exact quirky sense of humor that would totally get this book, love it, and thus, help make Tao Lin’s work cool–because Rob loves to talk up neat books in his interviews.  He’s  inadvertently given tons of good book recommendations to people, just by reading copiously in public and getting snapped by camera-happy paps. Check out his eclectic lit-recs in this fan-created compilation here:  http://www.robsessedpattinson.com/2009/07/what-does-robert-pattinson-read-update.html.  It’s a great mix of old lit, new lit, and lit that’s so-cutting-edge-it’s-still-bleeding. He should get caught reading  Tao Lin!  I might also send a copy of it to my old acquaintance, singer/songwriter Josh Bales, because he’d like it, too.  He’s not as famous, though.  And a lot more conservative.  But he’d still like it.  I also need to give Josh props for introducing me to Henri Nouwen [listed above]).
  • Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (2003).  For some reason, I didn’t read this book when everyone else did when it came out, maybe because I thought it was going to be a lame book written to Christians to help them break out of their own Christian mindset and see Christianity the way non-Christians do.  I wasn’t far from wrong; the book is about getting Christians to see outside their church-bubbles, and it has patches of lameness because of that, and because of Miller’s unoriginal writing style. I’ve been limping along with it, though, simply because it has redeeming little gleamy bits intersperced in the autobiographical narrative that reach into something new and exciting.  This one, from page nine:  ” . . . I realized I was not alone in my surroundings. . . . As silly as it sounds, I realized . . . that other people had feelings and fears and that my interactions with them actually meant something, that I could make them happy or sad int he way that I associated with them.  Not only could I make them happy or sad, but I was responsible for the way I interacted with them.”  Nothing really hard-hitting there, but it got me to thinking about other things, like about how a shirt I bought was made by somebody (or somebodies) who had a life full of concerns, and that when I touched it, I was touching the thing they did for a living to get through their life.  It was an expansive moment. (EDIT: I’ve since abandoned this book. I quickly discovered that this isn’t the kind of novel you can sit down and devour.  Unfortunately, I’m too lit-hungry to pick at the appetizers it offers. Maybe later.).
  • The  Olympian Series by Rick Riordan (2005-2009).  A gal pal recently loaned me her copy of Riordan’s The Lightning Thief and warned me that it was “as addictive as Harry Potter–like literary crack,” and she was right. I read this one in a day–tru fax!–and took it everywhere with me to do so. I didn’t care what anyone thought, seeing me reading YA (Young Adult) literature.  Want to know why?  Riordan’s take of the world is just a lightning strike away from the imaginative theology of C.S. Lewis:  one in which God allows the lesser gods of our human mythos, including the Greek pantheon, to still hold some sway where they can still claim power.  In the case of the Olympian Series, the Greek gods are still alive and well; they’ve just moved with the flame of Western culture after the Fall of Rome—first to medieval Spain, then to Renaissance and Enlightenment-era England, and finally, as the power moved—to the democratic republic in the United States of America (Did you know that the eagle is Zeus’ symbol? Or that many of our monuments are based off of Greek temples? That we house carvings of the gods inside them? That Athens was the model nation of our entire political system?). And these gods are still quietly wreaking havoc and pulling the same old tricks they pulled in ancient Greece and the Old Testament (see Genesis 6: 3ff where it talks about angels (gods) impregnating human women to create “heroes of old; men of renown”–also known as the Greek heroes, demigods, or, if you speak ancient Hebrew, the Nephilim).  Percy Jackson, a dyslexic middle-schooler from NYC with ADHD, gets his very abnormal life turned even more upside down when he learns that his absentee father is actually a Greek god (and also, therefore dyslexic. How else does one read ancient Greek?) who has embroiled him in an ancient supernatural soap opera gone out of control.  Book One involves Percy’s first quests: to discover his father’s identity, and to recapture Zeus’ stolen Master Bolt and restore peace on the paranoid-accusation-ridden-Mt. Olympus. Quirky, witty, and full of ancient Greek curses and cleverly-veiled jokes that classicists and historians will appreciate, this is one addictive and intelligent little series!  I finished it in March.

I’m re-reading:

  • People of the Lie: the Hope for Healing Human Evil by M. Scott Peck, MD (Psychiatrist)  (1985).  This baby has been pulled time and time again down from my father’s bookshelves, simply because it’s the best, most coherent and spiritually-enlightening look at the personality disorder of malignant narcissism that I’ve ever read, and that my father, in his desperate search to understand the disorder, ever found in his research.  This book helps me to see my own nasty narck tendencies, as well as to understand those found in others.  We’re all narcks to some degree, sadly. But this book posits that Satan, and the truly ill, are fully trapped inside of their disorders, and can only be reached in their darkness by our loving (agape love–unconditionally, selflessly, purely) them.  Satan, of course, pish-poshes all that love-stuff, but this book hopes that humans, never fully irredeemable, can be helped.  It is a godly little book for as much psychology is packed into it.  Actually, it’s fitting. Psyche means “soul” after all, so spiritual topics should be discussed in psychology. At least, that’s the way my dad always swung it.
  • The Thrill of the Chaste by Dawn Eden(2006).  Finally, a realistic treatise on the nature of pre-marriage chastity, written by a girl who has lived in the world and knows what its about.  No sheltered little tent-wearing Christian girl wrote this book; Eden used to write for rock journals and knows the dark depths of depravity in NYC.  This book takes Sex in the City‘s big questions (asked by Carrie on the show, if you’ve ever watched it) and essentially answers them in biblical, love-life affirming ways.

2 Responses to “Books Ruth is Reading”

  1. Grant Says:

    Those Rick Riordan books are actually really fun reads. You can fly through them easily so just keep going on the series because as he (percy) gets older, the material gets a little less childish.

    1. ruthsgleanings Says:

      They were adorable, and I agree that the material gets a little less childish. Riordan didn’t cross certain lines and explore certain avenues that are more adul, though–but I think that was a good choice. His readers, initially, were middle schoolers sitting right in his classroom, so he doesn’t want to “go there.” The books are what they are: a creative and entertaining read that doesn’t try to topple innocence.

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