Books Read: August-December 2019

Dear Reader,

I have been slacking in the latter part of the year, both in my reading and in my posting about it. Nonetheless, here is the latest installment on what I have been reading:

Books Read August-December 2019

The Reformation 500 Years Later: 12 Things You Need to Know by Benjamin Wiker — The short story on this book is that I found it quite useful and plan to have my kids read it this year as we study the period beginning with the Renaissance and Reformation. The longer story is that Wiker is a Catholic and I am a Reformed Protestant and ultimately I am now sure I agree with him, at least in terms of what he wants to see happen and whether it can even happen. His insights into the history of the time and the forces at work are very good though. The long version of this review is here

Tarzan of the Apes by Edward Rice Burroughs — I enjoyed this book. It is light-hearted, easy reading. It reads like a romance novel but it is older so perfectly appropriate for kids. Knowing the Tarzan lore, the ending was not what I expected but I actually liked it better than what I expected. I think Burroughs would have done well to stop the story there though apparently he was quite the marketing pro and expanded the Tarzan legend into the empire it is today. Especially in the first half of the book, it was interesting to read Burroughs’ take on what makes a man different than a beast. I am not saying I agree with him but it was interesting.

The Case for Classical Christian Education by Douglas Wilson — I have some serious reservations about Wilson but since I am studying education, I could not miss his book. I will be posting on the specifics. For now, the short story is that while I don’t agree with everything he says about education, I didn’t find anything particularly heretical in this book. You should be aware that it is one particular take on what classical Christian education should be and not necessarily the final verdict. My long review of it is here.

Classical Education: The Movement Sweeping America by Gene Veith and Andrew Kern — This is a thin book which covers a lot of ground in terms of introducing the various modern takes on classical education. The authors’ own views do come through as well but as a whole they are fairly accepting and uncritical of the various forms of classical ed. Again, my long review is here.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway — The story of an American fighting for the Italian army in WWI and the English girl he falls in love with. Though there were slower parts, overall I really enjoyed this book. The parts dealing more directly with the army and the war (WWI) were reminiscent of Catch-22 (reminiscent to me; Hemingway wrote first). The ending had a different feel. This was a hard book to leave behind (which is high praise).

Quiet American by Graham Greene — This was my third Graham Greene book this year and I have enjoyed them all. His thing seems to be to place his stories in exotic settings at times of particular historical interest. This one is set in Vietnam apparently before the official US involvement in the war began. The other books of his which I read dealt more with religion. This one nods to religion but really wrestles more with issues of foreign involvement in local issues and disputes. It was a short book and not a hard read and I enjoyed it and it made me think. There is some adult content (though not explicitly so) so I would not give it to below high school age. 

Beyond Authority and Submission by Rachel Green Miller — Somehow I have ended up reading a lot of books on marriage and gender issues this year. This is one of the best. In general I agree with Miller’s take. You can see a little more detail on her book and my list of other recommended books on the topic here

A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm by Edwin Way Teale — I had had my middle schooler read this “nature lore” book last year and wanted to read it myself. Teale’s books in general are wonderful choices for nature studies for older children (and adults). I was enchanted by the idea of the old farm and surrounding lands in Connecticut. At times the book was amusing; I times I found the style of it a bit slow and tedious, but overall I would recommend it. (FYI, my nature lore booklist is here.)

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt — I had heard of this book as being fairly popular and well-esteemed so when I saw it at a yard sale, I picked up a copy. I knew pretty early on that it is about life in Savannah and that it largely gives the flavor of that unique city. It did make me want to see Savannah which I suppose is something to recommend it. I did not know when I began reading that here is a true story of a murder case behind it. This doesn’t come out till about half-way through the book. While the book was somewhat more engaging when the murder happened and the plot picked up, in general I found the book disjointed. I expected when the plot began for all the characters I had been introduced to in the first have to come back and play a role. Some did but many didn’t. Berendt seems to be trying to do two things here and ends up not doing either as well as it could be done. It reminded me of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood which I also read this tear and also was fairly disappointed in. I should add, lastly, that there is a lot of adult content here. 

Moon and Sixpence by Somerset Maugham — I really liked this book. It is short, it is easy to read, and it explores interesting issues and has a good take on them. Simply put, there is a Gauguin-like character here and the book explores art and its power over the artist. The message of the book is a bit hidden, revealed mostly I think by one line, it is a good one (if I am reading it right). I don’t want to give too much away on this one but it is well worth the read.

What have you been reading?


One response to this post.

  1. […] Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham — I really liked Maugham’s Moon and Sixpence which I read at the end of 2019, so I jumped right into Maugham’s most famous book, Of Human Bondage. I liked this book too in […]


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