Sunday, July 30, 2017

Novels, The Bible, Judaism, Eucharist & Holden Caulfield

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.  It had been many years since I’d re-read Catcher.  It was time for me to reacquaint myself with Holden Caulfield.  I was glad I did. Too close to realities I had lived through in the depressed perspective for life evident in a close family member.

Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You.  Nothing profound, though enjoyable.  I enjoy observing what people own and how/who they interact with - and the mimetic functions that certainly shape their acquisition.  This book is an exploration of the same variety.  

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren.  This was not in my “best reads” ever, though I loved this book.  I loved the “tales” of Hope on her Ph.D. journey - and in her details of trees, her “exploits” with her lab partner, her pregnancy, her fears, and simply digging in dirt.  I’ll recommend this book to anyone interested in science and human realities of research.

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper by Brant Pitre.  The next words are taken from the book itself and accurately describe precisely what the book does.  A few key new insights for me, though many ideas previously discerned in other scholarship from many years ago - this is still a solid read.  “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist shines fresh light on the Last Supper by looking at it through Jewish eyes. Using his in-depth knowledge of the Bible and ancient Judaism, Dr. Brant Pitre answers questions such as: What was the Passover like at the time of Jesus? What were the Jewish hopes for the Messiah? What was Jesus’ purpose in instituting the Eucharist during the feast of Passover? And, most important of all, what did Jesus mean when he said, “This is my body… This is my blood”? To answer these questions, Pitre explores ancient Jewish beliefs about the Passover of the Messiah, the miraculous Manna from heaven, and the mysterious Bread of the Presence. As he shows, these three keys—the Passover, the Manna, and the Bread of the Presence—have the power to unlock the original meaning of the Eucharistic words of Jesus. Along the way, Pitre also explains how Jesus united the Last Supper to his death on Good Friday and his Resurrection on Easter Sunday.”

A Truck Full of Money by Tracy Kidder.  I think I kept after this book as it was written by a Pulitzer Prize winning author . . . and I kept thinking something “must yet emerge” that will turn this novel around for me.  It never did.  The main character gets involved in technology, makes money, buys and sells business.  I think I followed along as the main character, Paul English, clearly was dealing with Bipolar disorder - and with recent events with a member of our family - this story intrigued me insofar as English was a “success” in many ways.

The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns.  I like Peter Enns a lot, personally.  He’s a good scholar and a great person.  His writing style (akin to his persona and presentation in public venues) include bits of humor and “asides” that try to draw the reader in.  This is certainly invitational to many.  I’m thankful for his work and his publication - and for what he is helping Christians discern about the Bible.

A Jew Among Romans: The Life and Legacy of Flavius Josephus by Frederic Raphael.  I needed to know more about Josephus - and this book helped me.  A review from Booklist appropriately says of this book: “Raphael, a novelist and classicist, provides a more nuanced portrayal of the first-century-CE soldier, politician, and historian. When the cataclysmic Jewish War began in 66, Josephus, a governor of Galilee, tried to mediate between his fellow Jews and their Roman overlords. When that effort failed, Josephus joined the rebellion. Apparently sensing the futility of the revolt, he switched sides, became a translator for the Roman general Vespasian, and later became a friend and court favorite of the Emperor Titus. Yet, as Raphael demonstrates, it would be unfair and wrong to see Josephus as simply an opportunistic turncoat and Roman lackey. In his later writings, he proudly defended the culture of the Jews. Like countless other Jews from antiquity to the present, Josephus tried to navigate between commitment to Judaism and the broader, often hostile gentile world. This is a well-done account of his life and works.”

The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army by Stephan Talty.  In the same vein with other books I’ve read this past year on the history and spread of disease, this title captured my attention.  It turned out to be *less* about Typhus and more about Napoleon Bonapart, the Grande Armee and the conquest and then defeat to and from Moscow (Russia). I had to plow through some of the lengthy battle scenes, to get to the salient parts more intriguing to my interest.  Though, reading the accounts of war and the pillage, rape, terror, cannibalism and loss of life on the battle-fields does make me ponder yet more - why men fight wars of conquest instead of finding ways to share the resources that Creation provides, if only we lived in peace and harmony one with another.

The Warsaw Anagrams by Richard Zimler.  In many ways “just another” history-like account of the Holocaust (of many hundreds/thousands published). That is not to undercut it’s value, only to note that this is one of many within the specific sub-genre.  This story was intriguing with the anagrams used by smugglers/traders to bypass detection.  I will say, a few narrative descriptions of how persons dealt with the grief of the loss of their children included *the* most compelling portions of this book.  The way in which the grief was characterized and narrated by Zimler, I found to be particularly profound.

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