Summertime is here! So now that the academic year is finished, it’s time for everyone who keeps up with reading for school or career to catch up on that stack of books that we’ve neglected since last summer. So what is on my summer reading list for 2008?
A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. Actually I’m not technically reading this. I downloaded the free audiobook from iTunes and listen to a little during my commute to and from work. One thing I’m struck by is Dickens’s immense vocabulary and his use of figurative language to paint a word picture in my head. Good literature is certainly more satisfying than visual media.
Collected Works, by Flannery O’Connor. I discovered the short stories of this 20th century southern Catholic fiction writer last summer, and I’ve been waiting to finish her corpus all year. My favorite short stories so far are “Parker’s Back” and “The Lame Shall Enter First”, but all of her short stories are fun to read. This edition, along with all her published (and some unpublished) short stories, also contains both of her full length novels (Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away) along with some nonfiction prose and many extant letters to friends, acquaintences, colleagues, and others. Her use of grotesque, stark characters and Christian symbolism still has a sense of relevance and urgency in America today. It seems that the Christ-haunted southern culture of the 1900s has affinities to the shallow evangelicalism of today. For some reason, O’Connor’s historically informed Catholic Christianity, coupled with her prophetic perception, really strikes a cord with me as a Reformed confessional Protestant.
The ESV Literary Study Bible, by God (and edited by Leland and Philip Ryken). This is not just summer reading. For the last couple years I’ve been reading the English Bible over the course of a year. Last year I read the ESV Bible 1.5 times without any study notes, just the text. This year I’m following the reading schedule designed for the Literary Study Bible (which contains the whole Bible and a few other books twice) and reading all the book introductory articles and literary textual articles. This Bible rocks! Reading the Bible from a literary perspective has opened up a new world for me. The Bible is indeed beautiful and artful ancient literature, and it is a joy to read from this perspective.
The Complete Peanuts (1950-54), by Charles Schulz. This is just plain fun. Charlie Brown, Lucy and Linus, Snoopy and Woodstock, and the rest of the gang have been favorites of mine since childhood. In my opinion this comic series tailed off in the late 1960s and became mainstream and predictable. But the early cartoons were really hilarious and offers some biting commentary on life in America back then. It’s also fun to see how characters were introduced to the strip and how their personalities developed. One thing I’ve noticed is that the early Charlie Brown was very similar in personality (and in the way he was drawn) to Calvin from Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes strip in the 1980s and 1990s.
God, Heaven, and Har Magedon: A Covenantal Tale of Cosmos and Telos, by Meredith G. Kline. I’m not quite done with my seminary studies yet. I attended my last class in May 2008, and now the only thing that stands between me and the elusive diploma is a long integrative paper I need to research and write (hopefully this fall). My tentative topic is the Mosaic Covenant, and I plan on comparing Kline and Geerhardus Vos on their understanding of this covenant, particularly how it fits into the covenant of grace. Is the covenant God made with Israel at Mount Sinai essentially an administration of the covenant of grace (Vos), or is it a republication of the covenant of works that God made with Adam and his posterity in the Garden of Eden? It will be interesting to see who these two groundbreaking redemptive-historical Reformed theologians from the 1900s answered this question. God, Heaven, and Har Magedon was published just before Kline died, and represents an accessible summary of his mature view of redemptive history. Should be illuminating! Hopefully I’ll post more on this topic as my research progresses. Stay tuned.