The Red Pony (John Steinbeck): A short book (only some 95 pages) in four distinct, stand-alone chapters and written in 1933. Essentially, it deals with the reality of life in the Californian valleys of the pre-war years through the lives of a 10-year old boy, his mother and father, his grandfather and a horse expert/working hand on a ranch – the relationships (and promises) between young and old. I liked it.The Dignity of Difference – How to Avoid the Clash of Civilisations (Jonathan Sacks): Jonathan Sacks (Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth) wrote this book in 2002. 2001 began with the United Nations Year of Dialogue between Civilisations but the tragedy of 9/11 only intensified the danger caused by religious differences around the world. This is an impressive, wise and challenging book by a “good man”. Sacks is far from denying that religion is a big part of the human problem today, but he wants to adapt it so that it can become part of the solution. He wants to celebrate the differences among religious traditions and use them to enlarge, not stunt, our humanity. An informative, inspiring and radical book. I really liked what he had to say.
Kafka on the Shore (Haruki Murakami): This is our latest Book Group book and my first Murakami book. I found it a compelling read and finished it 500plus page book in less than a week. It tells two apparently-unconnected stories following the exploits of a 15 year-old boy, Kafka, who runs away from home and a wartime evacuee boy, Nakata, who ends up in a coma and wakes up “not very bright” a few weeks later. Complicated, intriguing and very readable. Apparently, this is far from Murakami’s best work and so, on this basis, I look forward to enjoying a few more of his books over the coming months/years.
Letters and Papers from Prison (Dietrich Bonhoeffer): As the title suggests, the book comprises letters, poetry and papers written during Bonhoeffer’s imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp (where he was condemned to death and hanged in April 1945). Perhaps understandably, there is a marked difference between the letters he wrote to his family and those sent to his friends – but all have a poignancy, optimism and resilience which reflect his deep faith.
Conversations on Ethics (Alex Voorhoeve): We’ve been using this as our Ithaca study book for discussion over our weekly meals. I don’t think I’ve studied or read ANY books on philosophy or ethics and so was looking forward to launching myself into this one. Sadly, I kept finding myself unable to follow the intellectual arguments outlined in the book! Time after time, I just felt as if the book had been written in code – and I had very little idea as to how to de-code it! The conversations were very much on the basis of intellectual-to-intellectual (with perhaps a degree of them trying to out-do each other). Although our own group discussions were helpful in trying to decipher a basic understanding, I ended up feeling rather inadequate and that my brain needed scrambling – subjectivism, practical rationality, hypothetical imperatives, emotivism, utilitarianism, contractualism, moral motivation, practical normativity and, of course, vindicatory genealogy of truth and truthfulness! I really didn’t enjoy this book!