Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Five ~ cover to cover edition

Today's Friday Five is brought to us by 3dogmom.
"We’ve been rearranging and reorganizing books at our house, a dangerous activity when trying to accomplish a task during precious leisure time — the lure of forgotten titles and favorite stories can be deliciously distracting, not to mention inspire a Friday Five theme.  Share with us some of your favorites."
1.  A cookbook ~ Unprocessed.  I rarely use cookbooks, so I'm sharing a "foodbook."  ("Foodbook" is now a word because I just used it).  I'm currently reading this foodbook, partly because I joined the 2015 Foodies Read Challenge.  (Notice how handy the word has already become; I've used it three times in three consecutive sentences.)  As a matter of fact, I am nibbling raw cauliflower as I look up books and compose this Friday Five.
Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food by Megan Kimble (2015) — "By way of harvest or heat, all food is processed, and often it is the better for it. ... I decided to see if I could go a year without eating a processed food. ... When I first hatched the project ... I thought that I should figure out precisely what made a food processed and then begin.  But as it turned out, it would take me a year to figure out where to draw the line, to understand where our food system succeeds and fails in processing food from land.  That figuring out is what you're holding in your hands." — from the Introduction.
2.  A novel ~ Some Luck.  I'm reading this for Tuesday evening's book club made up of women of my church and people they have introduced to the group.  I've taken a couple of my friends, and I know the mother of one is also on the email list.
Some Luck by Jane Smiley (2014) — It's 1920 in Denby, Iowa.  Rosanna and Walter Langdon have just welcomed their firstborn son, Frank, into their family farm.  He will be the oldest of five.  Each chapter in this extraordinary novel covers a single year, encompassing the sweep of history as the Langdons abide by time-honored values and pass them on to their children.  With the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change through the early 1950s, we watch as the personal and the historical merge seamlessly:  One moment electricity is just beginning to power the farm, and the next a son is volunteering to fight the Nazis.  Later still, a girl we’d seen growing up now has a little girl of her own.
3.  A nonfiction book ~ Witnessing Whiteness.  I'm reading this one for an interfaith discussion with the Jewish synagogue next to my United Methodist Church.  We live in St. Louis, and the Ferguson Commission report has generated lots of conversations on racism and what we can do about it.
Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk about Race and How to Do It by Shelly Tochluk (2010) invites readers to consider what it means to be white, describes and critiques strategies used to avoid race issues, and identifies the detrimental effect of avoiding race on cross-race collaborations. The author illustrates how racial discomfort leads white people toward poor relationships with people of color. Questioning the implications our history has for personal lives and social institutions, the book considers political, economic, socio-cultural, and legal histories that shaped the meanings associated with whiteness. Drawing on dialogue with well-known figures within education, race, and multicultural work, the book offers intimate, personal stories of cross-race friendships that address both how a deep understanding of whiteness supports cross-race collaboration and the long-term nature of the work of excising racism from the deep psyche. Concluding chapters offer practical information on building knowledge, skills, capacities, and communities that support anti-racism practices, a hopeful look at our collective future, and a discussion of how to create a culture of witnesses who support allies for social and racial justice. For book discussion groups and workshop plans, please visit
4.  A well-thumbed book to which you turn often, or with affection, used in our profession ~ Tao Te Ching.  Okay, it's Taoist, but before I retired from the United Methodist Church, I was also an adjunct teacher of religions of the world at Chattanooga State Community College in Tennessee.  I have more than a dozen different translations of this book, and I especially like this one by Ursula K. Le Guin, a non-theologian and a very good writer.  I started re-reading it on Monday, before meditating on wisdom.
Lao Tzu : Tao Te Ching : A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way by Ursula K. Le Guin (1997) — Le Guin, best known for thought-provoking science fiction novels that have helped to transform the genre, has studied the Tao Te Ching for more than forty years.  She has consulted the literal translations and worked with Chinese scholars to develop a version that lets the ancient text speak in a fresh way to modern people, while remaining faithful to the poetic beauty of the work.  Avoiding scholarly interpretations and esoteric Taoist insights, she has revealed the Tao Te Ching's immediate relevance and power, its depth and refreshing humor, in a way that shows better than ever before why it has been so much loved for more than 2,500 years.  Included are Le Guin's own personal commentary and notes on the text
5.  An author you recommend frequently to others ~ Marcus J. Borg.  I'm reading this last book published before he died.
Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most (2014) — Do Christian beliefs still matter?  Do they really change us or the world?  Borg reflects on the convictions that he has developed over the course of his life and why they provide a path of hope for those seeking to be faithful Christiahs in the 21st century.  He explains why most of today's summaries of Christian belief fail to move us or guide us and serve mostly to keep score among the various Christian tribes.  He encourages today's followers of Jesus to become more rooted to the deep convictions that can actually lead us to transformation and renewal, both for ourselves and for our world.  Each chapter embodies a distinct conviction:
1.  Context Matters
2.  Faith Is a Journey
3.  God Is Real and Is a Mystery
4.  Salvation Is More About This Life than an Afterlife
5.  Jesus Is the Norm of the Bible
6.  The Bible Can Be True Without Being Literally True
7.  Jesus's Death on the Cross Matters — But Not Because He Paid for Our Sins
8.  The Bible Is Political
9.  God Is Passionate about Justice and the Poor
10.  Christians Are Called to Peace and Nonviolence
11.  To Love God Is to Love Like God
Bonus:  What are you reading now?  A Heretic's Guide to Eternity.  I'm reading all five of the books above, but I'll be happy to share one more.  I'm reading this one with a Disciples of Christ pastor and a few of her parishioners, one of whom is my best friend Donna.
A Heretic's Guide to Eternity by Spencer Burke and Barry Taylor (2006) — "A heretic is someone who sees a truth that contradicts the conventional wisdom of the institution — and remains loyal to both entities." — Art Kleiner, author of The Age of Heretics.  Distinguishing between religion and spirituality, Burke offers what he calls a new way of looking at God, one centered on the idea of grace.  He emphasizes a God who is looking to save the world, not a God who seems more intent on condemning certain practices.  For Burke, God is to be questioned, not simply obeyed.  His challenging thesis will appeal to many people today who have given up on organized religion but still seek some connection to spirituality.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Banned Books Week ~ reasons for banning

How many of these banned characters can you name?

Cross-posted on my Banned Books blog.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

TWO novels ~ about Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette: The Journey ~ by Antonia Fraser, 2001, fiction (France)
France’s beleaguered queen, Marie Antoinette, wrongly accused of uttering the infamous "Let them eat cake," was the subject of ridicule and curiosity even before her death.  She has since been the object of debate and speculation and the fascination so often accorded tragic figures in history.  Married in mere girlhood, this essentially lighthearted, privileged, but otherwise unremarkable child was thrust into an unparalleled time and place, and was commanded by circumstance to play a significant role in history.  Antonia Fraser’s lavish and engaging portrait of Marie Antoinette, one of the most recognizable women in European history, excites compassion and regard for all aspects of her subject, immersing the reader not only in the coming-of-age of a graceful woman, but also in the unraveling of an era.
Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette ~ by Sena Jeter Naslund, 2006, fiction (France)
Marie Antoinette was a child of fourteen when her mother, the Empress of Austria, arranged for her to leave her family and her country to become the wife of the fifteen-year-old Dauphin, the future King of France.  Coming of age in the most public of arenas — eager to be a good wife and strong queen — she warmly embraces her adopted nation and its citizens.  She shows her new husband nothing but love and encouragement, though he repeatedly fails to consummate their marriage and in so doing is unable to give what she and the people of France desire most:  a child and an heir to the throne.  Deeply disappointed and isolated in her own intimate circle, and apart from the social life of the court, she allows herself to remain ignorant of the country's growing economic and political crises, even as poor harvests, bitter winters, war debts, and poverty precipitate rebellion and revenge.  The young queen, once beloved by the common folk, becomes a target of scorn, cruelty, and hatred as she, the court's nobles, and the rest of the royal family are caught up in the nightmarish violence of a murderous time called "the Terror."  Naslund makes a bygone time of tumultuous change as real to us as the one we are living in now.
Both of these novels were donated to the library here at the Crown Center where I sort and shelve books as a volunteer.  Both were written by excellent writers, though I haven't (yet?) read either book.  But there's only room for a limited number of books and we have to make hard decisions about which ones people are likely to choose to read.  Knowing books isn't enough; we also have to know our readers, who all live at the Crown Center for Senior Living.  Keep one?  Both?  Neither?  Abundance by Naslund went on the shelf because it's less than a decade old, but the other was deemed too old and didn't.

I read and reviewed The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson (2005), which I considered excellent.  Maybe someone will donate it to our little library some day.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Meditating on the world's wisdom ~ Taoism

76.  Hardness

My twin great-grandsons at 3 weeks old
Living people
are soft and tender.
Corpses are hard and stiff.
The ten thousand things,
the living grass, the trees,
are soft, pliant.
Dead, they're dry and brittle.
So hardness and stiffness
go with death;
tenderness, softness,
go with life.
And the hard sword fails,
the stiff tree's felled.
The hard and great go under.
The soft and weak stay up.

This translation is from Ursula K. Le Guin's 1997 book, Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching: A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way.  She added notes for some of the 81 chapters, which she calls poems.  I meditated on what she wrote about this one.
"In an age when hardness is supposed to be the essence of strength, and even the beauty of women is reduced nearly to the bone, I welcome this reminder that tanks and tombstones are not very adequate role models, and that to be alive is to be vulnerable."
I started my meditations on several versions of the Tao Te Ching because of this article which quoted Lao Tzu's #76. By checking this online site, I decided she quoted Stephen Mitchell's translation.  It's much easier to check online than to page through each of my hard copies of many translations of the Tao Te Ching, some of which are still in boxes.

Day Two ~ banned classics

According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts.  For more information about this list, read this ALA post.

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell
11. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
23. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son, by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
33. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
36. Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
38. All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren
40. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
45. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
48. Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
53. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
55. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
57. Sophie's Choice, by William Styron
64. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
66. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
73. Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
80. The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
84. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
88. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
97. Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

Cross-posted on my Banned Books blog.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Banned Books Week ~ Sept 27 to Oct 3

It's Banned Books Week, so what are you reading?
Cross-posted on my Banned Books blog.