Friday, April 2, 2010

Lenten Reading wrap-up

During Lent, I always try to increase my reading to include some 'religious' topics (or "GOD STUFF") as my children used to call it. This is much more satisfying both spiritually and physcologically than the "giving up something" of my youth. So here's a wrap-up of what I managed this Lent.

The Women Around Jesus
Author: Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel,
Format: 148  pgs
Subject: historical women in Christian theology and scripture
Genre: non-fiction
Source: personal shelves
Challenge: Read from My Shelves,

The author looks at various women mentioned in the bible or other contemporaneous writings and then researches thoroughly future mentions and interpretation of the traditional view of these women.  The reading is very academic, although the book cover mentions that this is an example of "the forgotten art in theology: the use of imagination".   I found the imagination too dry to get my arms around.  Recommended for anyone looking for scholarly discussion, but not for general reading.

 Called Out of Darkness
Author: Anne Rice
Format: 245 pages hardback
Subject religious faith; conversion
Genre: memoir
Source:Public library
Challenge: Support Your local Library

An honest, soul-searching, look into the personal faith journey of one of America's most noted novelists. Going from Roman Catholicism to atheism and secular humanism back to Roman Catholicism, she allows us to see her upbringing in very Catholic New Orleans during the late 1940s and 1950s, her struggles with reading, and gender issues while attending first a Catholic college, and then a state university in Texas. She gives us breath-taking detail, in some cases TMI, and only gives us her "conversion" and subsequent love affair with Jesus in the last 15% of the book.

I've never read any of her vampire or other novels, but have read both of her "Christ the Lord" novels and found both of those very inspirational. This book provides a good introduction to those two by presenting us with the background and motivation for her embracing the subject.

The Woman Who Named God

Author: Charlotte Gordon
Format: 400 pages
Characters: Abram, Sarai, Hagar
Subject: Abram's journey and  the roots of three great religions
Setting: Canaan desert and surrounding area
Genre: non-fiction
Source: blog contest prize (my own shelves)
Challenge: TBR Challenge, Read from my Shelves

A very readable, very scholarly discussion of Abraham's families and their antecedents in modern day religions: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.  While this could have been very dry and boring, it wasn't.  Gordon  covers Abram's entire life from his call by God to leave his home to his meanderings over the years through various lands up to his burial. The research and notes are extensive and well-documented, but don't get in the way.

Gordon looks at Abran's long journey and life through all prisms: Jewish, Christian and Islamic scriptures, (both the Bible and the Koran) as well as other  historical and religious writings. She will present an incident or story and then explain how each religion views the episode, what learned teachers and rabbis have said over the years, and offer the pros and cons of each interpretation.

I thought when I started the book that it was going to be only about Abraham and Sarah, but found that the title really referred to Hagar. In fact, I think when I got it, I thought it was another fiction like Diamont's RED TENT.  It isn't fiction, and  I definitely found myself enlightened by ideas I'd never pondered before.  Although it is deep reading, it is enjoyable and certainly recommended.

  Rome Has Spoken

Author Maureen Fiedler and Linda Rabben, eds.
Format paperback 224 pages + bibliography and notes
Subject Papal pronouncements over the years
Genre: non-fiction, essays
Source: my own shelves, signed copy from author
Challenge: World Religions, Reading from my Shelves

The subtitle tells it all: A Guide to Forgotten Papal Statements and How they Have Changed Through the Centuries.

A very academic but interesting volume reviewing various "issues" that seem to have been interpreted and enforced differently over the two centuries of Roman Catholicism. The topics cover the range from evolution to slavery, from Galileo to usury, and include the current buzz topics of contraception, women's ordination and divorce.
Each topic presents first the scriptural references cited throughout history, and progresses with quotes from the early fathers, to Papal pronouncements over the years, to conciliar declarations (if available) and ends with an essay from a noted scholar of today.

Some topics are more interesting than others, but all are well researched, intelligently and objectively presented. A book worth reading for those wanting to know how the Catholic Church got to certain "beliefs" and what might happen in the future. It's dry, but not so dry that it can't be read. The short essay format lends itself to being read in pieces, so it can easily be picked up and put down without feeling like one has to do it all at once. In fact, I've been 'reading' this one for about four years, and finally think I've read all of it that I'm interested in.

Jesus (The Son Of Man: His Words And His Deeds As Told And Recorded By Those Who Knew Him)

Author : Kahlil Gibran
Format: Hardcover, 216 pages
Genre: fiction,
Source: my own shelves, inherited from Auntie
Challenge: World Religions, Reading from my Shelves

Almost like reading poetry. While it is fiction, it takes words from published sources, some apocryphal, and gives us a portrait of Jesus from the viewpoints of many different people. The vision is mind-expanding, and for believers, inspirational. I really found this to be an excellent Lenten read, as I could simply soak up one short reading at a time. In fact, it will most probably become one of my favorites to go to for short bursts of spiritual energy.

Seven Storey Mountain

Author:Thomas Merton
Format: Hardcover, 423 page
Genre: Autobiography
Source: My own shelves, inherited from Auntie

This one is currently now in the "Did not finish, try later" collection in my LibraryThing catalog.  I got through about 120 pages, and while it was interesting, it wasn't yet at the point where I'd label it inspiring.  Merton writes in an extremely verbose style, making it necessary for modern day readers used to the 'hurry up and get there' lifestyle to slow down and listen, and think.

Unfortunately, this book appears (at least in the beginning) to cover almost every single day of his life in excruciating detail.  I wanted to get to the mountain....but at page 120, it's only a mirage on a distant horizon.   I plan to come back to this one, but I suspect it will be read in chunks over a period of several more years.

So now that I'm inspired and renewed, I look forward to Easter, spring, flowers, sunshine, and another chance to live life to the fullest--ok, more books!


  1. sorry you didn't like Merton. I think that officially makes me his own
    I do want to read Rice's book. I haven't read her vampire books either but I think she has an interesting story to tell in this one.

  2. I really liked looking at your Lenten season book blog. Thanks.


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