Thursday, March 26, 2020

What I Read and Watched in March

At the advice of Brazil's minister of health, we've been home-bound, but we have plenty to eat and plenty of books to read (and time to read them). Unfortunately, being in hibernation mode makes me want to spend all day in the kitchen making comfort food. Ha!

I'm reading some theology books for a class I'm teaching in the fall. Grace, Faith and Holiness is a chunkster, but by pacing myself at 30 minutes a day, I've reached page 200 (of 600). I've also been pondering the thoughts of John Wesley in his 52 Sermons (15 minutes per day) and I'm halfway through.

For fun I read Storm in the Village (#3 in the Fairacre series) and Over the Gate (#5) by Miss Read. I took advantage of  one of's free audiobooks (as long as schools are closed) and listened to My √Āntonia by Willa Cather. I'm still processing it and hope to write a review for my next post. 

Twice a week, we've been watching some of our favorite DVDs of Perry Mason and Murder She Wrote. We watched the second Lord of the Rings movie, The Two Towers. I also rented Snipped in the Bud, a Hallmark mystery when I needed some quiet and alone time. (My husband and son stay miles away when there's a Hallmark movie on!)

Are you reading anything good lately? I hope you are all safe and well.


Friday, March 13, 2020

On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior

Many reviewers gave On Reading Well a lower rating because “Prior did not convince them to read any of the books.” But they missed the point. Prior was making the case for the Great Books as teachers of virtue and she does a fine job. The introductory chapter is worth the price of the book.

It is not enough to read widely. One must also read well. One must read virtuously. The word virtue has various shades of meaning, but in general, virtue can most simply be understood as excellence.

Reading virtuously means, first, reading closely, being faithful to both text and context, interpreting accurately and insightfully. Indeed, there is something in the very form of reading – the shape of the action itself – that tends toward virtue. The attentiveness necessary for deep reading (the kind we practice in reading literary works as opposed to skimming news stories or reading instructions) requires patience. The skills of interpretation and evaluation require prudence. Even the simple decision to set aside time to read in a world rife with so many other choices competing for our attention requires a kind of temperance.

Therefore, even as you seek books that you will enjoy reading, demand ones that make demands on you: books with sentences so exquisitely crafted that they must be reread, familiar words used in fresh ways, new words so evocative that you are compelled to look them up, and images and ideas so arresting that they return to you unbidden for days to come.

After the intro, Prior presents ten chapters, each one linking a specific virtue with a famous classic. Some novels teach by showing the protagonist making good choices (Christian demonstrating diligence in Pilgrim’s Progress). Others show the necessity of a particular virtue by showing characters who make bad choices (Jay Gatsby's lack of temperance). My favorite was the discussion of chastity based on Ethan Frome. When I read the book years ago, I was oblivious to many of the important themes that Prior brings out in her analysis.

I did not understand Silence by Shusako Endo any better after reading Prior’s chapter on faith, but I thoroughly enjoyed her insights into Anne Elliott’s patience and Huck Finn’s courage. And I gained a much greater appreciation for several books and authors that I had dismissed as “not my style,” especially Flannery O’Connor.


Friday, March 6, 2020

What I Read and Watched in February

I promised myself I wouldn't rush through books this year, but greed took over when I signed up for the Kindle Unlimited trial. I ended up gorging on seven D.E. Stevenson novels: The Empty World, The Tall Stranger, Peter West, Five Windows, Amberwell (re-read), Summerhills, and Still Glides the Stream. I disliked Peter West, but Five Windows was a new favorite (reviewed here).

Also on my KU stack was On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior, Evangelism as Exiles: Live on Mission as Strangers in Our Own Land by Elliot Clark and Kidnapped (audio book) by R.L. Stevenson. Kidnapped was the hardest to finish because I was unfamiliar with the current events of that time which were frequently mentioned.

The only physical book I read (apart from my Bible) was A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie, which I hope to re-read often. (reviewed here)

On the movie front, I watched a guy movie for my husband's birthday, Ford vs. Ferrari, which was surprisingly interesting and not as profane as I expected. A few days later we hooked up our Brazilian cable TV and could find nothing to watch (surprise!); we ended up watching the DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring, which is always a pleasure.