A Little More About Good Books

John’s comment made me realize that I might need to be a little clearer about the gauntlet I threw down statement I made last week.

I love reading a good book for the first time. I absolutely love it. There is nothing quite like the excitement that builds as you are masterfully forced to consider new ideas or pulled along in the exploration of some new world or brought face-to-face with a fascinating new character. It is breathtaking and wonderful, and I find it hard to pass up the chance.

It is also overrated.

You see, a good book is an intimate thing. It is a secret conversation with a man or woman of genius, it is a world unto itself, it is Odin’s eye plucked out and traded for magic and secrets, it is a pearl-white drop of wisdom poured out from someone’s soul. And it is deserving of more than just your passing notice.

You might think to say that I am taking this too seriously. I promise you, I’m not. I have and will continue to read almost anything and everything1 that comes my way with even an ounce of story and an even tinier amount of wit. I will read it, and I will enjoy it.

But given the opportunity, I will delve back into my bookshelves before I will grace the door of the library or allow my shadow to fall across the rack of new releases. To me, reading only new books is like meeting many fascinating people, but only getting to do so once. It is like dating for pleasure. I mean, come on, get married already. Settle down. Have some kids. Commit for crying out loud. To me, a book I’ve read five or six or seven times, is like an old familiar friend. A good book is, without belittling her or it, a little like my wife: well known, somewhat comfortable, but still chock full of secrets.

And I find that it changes the way I read. No longer do I merely read from line to line or page to page, but rather from chapter to chapter, theme to theme, thought to thought. I float atop these books. I swim through them. I know them.

Seriously, you should try it.

1 Case in point, I remember back when I was seven or eight, Cheez Doodles® started printing a story on the back of each their bags. It was about a castle or something and I think Cheez Doodles® were involved, but the point is, I read it, and liked it, and was disappointed when they stopped. To be even more honest: to this day, I still find myself occasionally checking the back of the bags just in case they’ve started up. Sir Cheez-a-lot was in trouble when they left him, and I’d like to see how things turned out…

New Book on the Way: The Expository Genius of John Calvin

Yesterday, after hearing about it at Challies.com, I ordered The Expository Genius of John Calvin a book by Steven Lawson in his A Long Line of Godly Men series. Calvin is one of those people who have been much maligned in recent years, to the point that where I live in NC, the term Calvinism is practically synonymous with the heresy of Hyper-Calvinism. I find that sad, and am quite interested in learning more about the man that Karl Barth described as follows:

Calvin is a cataract, a primeval forest, a demonic power, something directly down from Himalaya, absolutely Chinese, strange, mythological; I lack completely the means, the suction cups, even to assimilate this phenomenon, not to speak of presenting it adequately. What I receive is only a thin little stream and what I can then give out again is only a yet thinner extract of this little stream. I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life just with Calvin (Letter to Eduard Thurneysen, June 8, 1922).

I’ll write up a review once the book is in and I’ve had a chance to read and (hopefully) digest it.

Books for Boys and Girls

Diary of an Early American Boy
Any boy (or girl) interested in post-colonial American life will love this book. Based on accounts from a diary kept for the year 1805, the book follows the diary’s author, Noah Blake and records the significant events of that year. The author of the book, Eric Sloane, took great pains to embellish these events both with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations and detailed, well-researched descriptions. Themes in the book include: blacksmithing, engineering, bridge building, coopering, early American harvest festivals, carpentry, farming, early-American architecture, religion, and courtship.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
Staying in the vein of early American life, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, tells the story of Nathaniel Bowditch, a young man born a few years before the Revolutionary War, who would have a significant impact upon the world. The book follows Nathaniel as he is trained in his father’s cooperage, indentured as a bookkeeping apprentice to a ship chandler, and finally serves as a crew member and later the master of his own ship. Themes covered in this book are: Christian childhood, manhood, mathematics, sailing, navigation, scholarship, courtship, marriage, Christian love, life purpose, and death.

There are more books that I’d like to add to this list, but in the meantime, you can also use this handy form to search my book library. It’s set to search books based on tags, so searching for “boys” will give you books for boys, and “girls”, will give you books for, well, if you can’t see the pattern that’s forming, I sincerely doubt that pages of exposition will make a difference. Here’s the form, give it a try. As always, comments and questions are encouraged.