Saturday, September 10, 2011

august-september books

More books:
The Sea (John Banville): This is our book group’s next book; it’s written in the form of a reflective journal of the storyteller who is trying to come to terms with his wife’s recent death and events from his childhood. It has a strange, almost haunting quality as it contemplates matters of memory and experiences. The story constantly fluctuates between recent events and those that happened in his childhood you can almost sense the writer putting down the words on paper in longhand as things entered his head as. I very much enjoyed the book (although I did find it a little surprising that it had been good enough to have won the 2005 Man Booker Prize).
Team of Rivals (Doris Kearns Goodwin): A truly stunning book about the “political genius” of Abraham Lincoln and how he appointed his fiercest (and better-known) rivals to key cabinet positions. It’s a VERY lengthy, but very engaging and highly-readable, historical narrative which provides a fascinating insight into Lincoln’s presidential election in 1860, political leadership and the American Civil War. It took ten years to write and its 120 pages(!) of notes/references illustrate the author’s extensive research. I particularly liked the description of what was probably the first “proper” presidential debate (numbering seven in all) – where the ”first contestant spoke for an hour, following by a one-and-a-half hour response, after which the man who had gone first would deliver a half-hour rebuttal” in front of “huge” crowds (and with newspaper stenographers working diligently to take down every word!). The day of the “sound bite” had yet to be invented!! My best book of the year without a shadow of doubt – and is the probably one of the best I’ve EVER read. Simply brilliant.
A Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway): I’m rather embarrassed to admit that this is the first Hemingway book I’ve ever read (at least, I think that’s the case). It’s a semi-autobiographical novel set in the First World War; the principal character is an American ambulance driver during the Italian campaigns. It contrasts personal tragedy against the impersonal cynicism and futility of war. A powerful book – and I’ll certainly endeavour to read more Hemingway over the coming months and years.
Salvation on the Small Screen? (Nadia Bolz-Weber): The prospect of me reading a book on American Christian television programmes is frankly ludicrous. However, after listening to the author at Greenbelt a couple of times (and I’d previously read her entertaining blog from time to time), I decided that her “take” on watching 24 hours of TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) would, at the very least, be entertaining. It WAS and, fortunately, Nadia simply confirmed all my prejudices!
The Accidental Pilgrim (Maggi Dawn): (Two "religious" books: do you get the impression we might have been to Greenbelt?!). This is a relatively short book about rediscovering what it might mean to be a pilgrim in our fast-moving 21st century. Initially, I have to admit that I felt it was somewhat lightweight in nature but, ultimately, was rather charmed by what she had to say.

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