What are you reading?

Torin

Well-known member
What are you reading? :)

I'm hoping people will respond to this thread more than once over time as they read different books. The Books subforum here moves very slowly, so ideally this thread will serve as one place for "water cooler discussion" between members of the forum community.

I'll reply below to kick off the thread.
 

Torin

Well-known member
I tend to read several books at the same time. I am reading three books at present:

1. Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. This is an amazing book on a lot of levels. I read it in college and I'm re-reading it now. The writing is very good and I love how quickly the plot moves at points. The only downside is the rather long digressions Hugo indulges in.

2. Why Evolution is True, by Jerry Coyne. This is a really interesting book. I am reading it along with @Caroljeen and some atheists on the Evolution subforum. I don't have any interest in "refuting creationism," but learning how a scientific genius like Darwin thought and reasoned is fascinating.

3. Descartes: Selected Philosophical Writings by Cottingham, Stoothoff, and Murdoch. I am working through this slowly while taking notes. Very dense, and deceptively nuanced. I am currently on the Objections and Replies to the Meditations.

Ask me questions, or post your current reading!
 

mikeT

Well-known member
Sadly, I'm not reading anything right now.

At some time in my early thirties, I stopped having the desire to read for fun. My job entailed reading and writing things daily, and I attributed a good chunk of this loss of desire to it. Since then, I've come to recognize a few other factors which probably led to it, as well. I used to be a voracious reader; I miss the excitement of starting a new book, or getting back to one I'd been enjoying.

However, to help the thread, I'll post what I read last:

Reamde, by Neal Stephenson. I'd asked a friend for suggestions, and said I wanted something fun or exciting, rather than informative. He recommended this book, warning that I shouldn't be intimidated by its length (1000+ pages)

I'm posting to this thread both to support it, and also to help me find the desire to try reading again...
 

unbound

Active member
Nothing's Bad Luck - a biography on musician Warren Zevon, already read I'll sleep when I'm dead, another biography about him.

An anthology by SF writer Ursula Le Guin.

Slogged my way through the whole set of Game of Thrones - stick with the original HBO series....
 

cjab

Well-known member
I have just finished a biography of John Chrysostom, ascetic, by N.D. Kelly entitled "Golden Mouth." It left me with rather mixed and empty feelings, in being unable to conclude whether he was, overall, good or bad. His many enemies clearly detested him. At any rate, he seems to have been unaware of the dangers of factionalism, and was oblivious to the very real dangers of causing offence, often needless it seems, to those with the power to oppose him, especially the empress Aelia Eudoxia, likened to Jezebel on many occasions (she was bad though).

I feel that his biggest mistake in life was his embrace of asceticism, which caused deep-rooted injury to health, likely mental as well as physical, and also problems in relating to the non-ascetic clergy under his dominion. There seems little doubt that he by passed due process on notable occasions in dealing with his clerics, notably Severian, Bishop of Gabala, which created for him many enemies. The number of charges against Chrysostom at the Synod of Oak was astonishing.

May be he should have paid more attention to 1 Tim 1:4. The biographer should have tried to engage with his theological justification for asceticism in much more detail, and give the relevant background. The biographer fails to offer a fuller picture of asceticism in Syria, which was necessary, given Chrysostom's embrace of it. He fails critique Chrysostom openly, likely through fear of causing offence in devoting himself to the minutae of detail.

One is left with a lot of questions needing answers.
 

Gern

Member
What are you reading? :)

I'm hoping people will respond to this thread more than once over time as they read different books. The Books subforum here moves very slowly, so ideally this thread will serve as one place for "water cooler discussion" between members of the forum community.

I'll reply below to kick off the thread.

Here's a few I've enjoyed, some recent some not so recent.

The Conservative sensibility. By George Will. (A little dry sometimes, but definitely informative. This book influenced me and warned me.)

The Pale Faced Lie. By David Crow. (Autobiography of a Man's upbringing on an Indian reservation and the abuse he suffered. It'll surprise you. It's not preachy, it's just an amazing story of what this man went through.)

Barracoon. By Zora Neale. (Biography of one of the last survivors of the slave trade. Endearing story in parts, and absolutely horrifying in others.)

The Stranger in the Woods. By Michael Finkel. (Biography of a hermit that lived in the woods of Maine for 27 years. I loved it! Amazing story and a page turner till the end.).

Talking to Strangers. By Malcolm Gladwell. (I thought this book was just going to lecture the public about racism at first, but it turned out to have some very well laid out premises. Worth the read).

The Coddling of the American Mind. By Lukianoff and Haidt. (I can read this one over and over... ).

The Family Corleone. By Ed Falco (I'm a huge fan of the Godfather, and this is a prequel written by another author. This is a book that I'll read more than once. Absolutely a gem if you're a fan of the Godfather).
 

docphin5

Well-known member
Just recently finished,

“Our Sun-God or Christianity Before Christ”, by John Denham Parsons, 1895

Written from a secular, critical analysis, unique perspective how Judaism and Christianity are derived from pagan sun-god worship. He demonstrates his thesis from history, language, and Bible passages. It is easy to read, not too technical, and short. I finished it one afternoon. I think it is 0.99c on Amazon for Kindle app.

I would recommend it to atheists except that it will likely reinforce your current position about religion. The author’s conclusion is that sun worship found in both Judaism and Christianity precedes history. But he fails to fully develop what sun worship ultimately meant to some as a symbol for knowledge to the soul, although he briefly mentions it.

It did just the opposite for me, reminding me that the archaic wisdom of light, Jewish-Christian “wisdom”, higher reason (“Logos”), moral consciousness, arising in human souls (which built the great civilizations in classical times) preceded Judaism and Christianity, all the way back to recorded history. If some people erroneously assume the solar sun is a living god, then their belief should not bring reproach on those who perceive it as a symbol for the divine nature arising in man.

His conclusion (see below) written polemically against religion will probably reinforce an atheistic position but taken to the next step, as I do, appreciating the symbols for what they are (eg., the Sun) to those initiated into the religious mysteries, in its figurative/symbolic sense, —reinforces my beliefs that I am surrounded by ”a cloud of [like-minded] witnesses” from before recorded history.

It is just too easy to accuse all ancient people of beng so stupid uneducated they thought the sun was actually alive versus a symbol for something else. So I can appreciate his perspective and critical analysis but not be limited to his perspective and analysis, if you know what I mean. Nevertheless, the book is a good, informative read.

“It is therefore clear that, while the spread of Christianity was due to its being a non-national creed, and one whose propagators for ever undercut all possible competitors

(offering those who had lived the vilest of lives, eternal bliss in return for mere faith; even asserting such faith to be just as effectual when not yielded until one was dying as when yielded in one’s prime and followed by years of self-sacrifice),

and its ultimate triumph to the fact that Constantine made it the State-Religion of the Roman Empire, its origin was due to the preaching to the ignorant masses of many nations the ideas of the philosophers wrapped up in what may be likened to an instructive nursery tale, the hero of which, however real in himself, was the imaginary incarnation or personification of the Sun-God—a personification, that is, of the intellectual Sun conceived by the intellectual few, as well as of the physical Sun adored by the unintellectual many.”
 
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docphin5

Well-known member
For fun, I also recently reread “The Chessman of Mars” by John Carter (1922).

The spider-like race of kaldanes developing headless humans as transport and labor really stirs the imagination. Descriptions of the spider-like Ghek navigating giant rat tunnels under the palace dining on rats and mapping his escape are captivating images. Also, the general theme of chivalry appeals to me even if outdated today: —the man pursuing and rescuing the female from danger.
 

docphin5

Well-known member
I also recently read ”The Secret Doctrine” by Helena Blavatsky, in order to understand the origins of the theosophical movement in England almost two centuries ago.

I would not recommend the Book because it uses a lot of Eastern religious technical jargon and she tends to ramble. She also takes the wrong side of the evolution debate. Nevertheless, she was a pioneer for a movement that represents a position I have adopted in my later years, essentially that all true religions have a common ethical thread. I admire her for pioneering and defending the thesis even if she lacked all the information and got sidetracked debating materialism/evolution. Where would we be if we all waited until we understood everything perfectly before putting forth a concept, idea, or thesis? Not far. Somebody has to lead the charge and consequently take all the arrows fired and risk being wrong sometimes. I respect her for her courage.
 

docphin5

Well-known member
For fun, I also recently reread “The Chessman of Mars” by John Carter (1922).

The spider-like race of kaldanes developing headless humans as transport and labor really stirs the imagination. Descriptions of the spider-like Ghek navigating giant rat tunnels under the palace dining on rats and mapping his escape are captivating images. Also, the general theme of chivalry appeals to me even if outdated today: —the man pursuing and rescuing the female from danger.
Correction. The author is Edgar Rice Burroughs. John Carter is the main character in the series. Ha ha!

The Chessmen of Mars is a science fantasy novel by American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, the fifth of his Barsoom series. Burroughs began writing it in January, 1921,” (Wikipedia)
 

docphin5

Well-known member
I just finished "Myths of Babylonia and Assyria" by Donal Mackenzie (1915). I was looking for anything that might correlate with the myths of Jewish-Christianity presuming the archaic wisdom has been transmitted through civilizations under different forms and names. Sure enough the creation myth that goes back more than 5,000 years parallels similar concepts in Jewish-Christianity. The book also contains a detailed history of the Mesopotamian civilizations from first recorded history to the Hellenistic age, to include, Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Amorites, Hittites, Israel, and Elamites. I love history so I find it fascinating and it puts the Old Testament in a historical context.

Just briefly for those who might be interested the oldest creation myth describes a war in heaven between good and evil gods, the consequences resulting in the creation of earth and humans. The leader of the evil gods is a dragon, namely, Tiamat, who sows evil and chaos among the gods. The leader of the good gods is Merodach, a wise and merciful good god.

To make a long story short, Merodach slays the dragon, Tiamat, and all the evil gods backing her. He then

"split the BODY of the dragon into two halves. With one he enveloped the firmament;...With the other half he made the earth...Morodach set all the great [good] gods in their several stations. He created their IMAGES, the stars of the Zodiac, and fixed them all. He measured the year and divided it into months;..."

This is where it gets interesting.

"The Lord of the gods [Merodach] said: "I will shed my blood and fashion bone...I will create MAN to dwell on the earth so that the gods may be worshipped... Bel Merodach severed his head from his shoulders. His blood flowed forth, and the gods mixed it with earth and formed the first man and various animals...having reduced the gods from destruction... He set the universe in order, and created ALL THINGS ANEW."

WHY?... Apparently, to redeem the "body" of the evil dragon by making mankind from her corpse.

"may he make the crowns glorious--the Lord of the glorious incantation bringing the dead to life; He who had mercy on the [good] gods who had been overpowered; Made heavy the yoke which he had laid on the gods who were his enemies, (and) to REDEEM them created mankind. The merciful one, he with whom is SALVATION, may his word be established, and not forgotten, in the mouth of the black-headed ones whom his hands have made."

"Those rebel angels he prohibited return; He stopped their service; He removed them unto the gods who were his enemies.
In their room he created mankind."


Keep in mind that this was written in cuneiform over five thousand years ago. Yet, it seems to parallel Paul's epistles about the wise, good, Lord, shedding his "blood" in heaven for the sake of mankind in order to redeem them from evil found in the inordinate desires of the flesh, matter, or earth, namely, the "body" of Tiamat, the dragon of chaos (1). IOW, through the "blood" shed by Merodach life returns to the dead body of Tiamat through humans on earth. Again, pious, virtuous souls on earth are the dead body of Tiamat "created anew." (2)

Moreover, the archaic wisdom states that what Merodach did "be established, and not forgotten." And it hasn't been forgotten because it arguably lives on in a different form and different names among different nations as Jesus Christ, the Wise Lord.

I could not make this stuff up! It is for everyone to see for themselves.
-----
Ref.
1) "the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these." (Gal 5:19)

2) "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
 
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SteveB

Well-known member
What are you reading? :)

I'm hoping people will respond to this thread more than once over time as they read different books. The Books subforum here moves very slowly, so ideally this thread will serve as one place for "water cooler discussion" between members of the forum community.

I'll reply below to kick off the thread.
Let's see...

I recently finished a book about genetics and human lineage.
Its title

Traced: Human DNA's Big Surprise, by Dr. N. Jeanson.

I'm presently involved in a group bible study on evangelism, so we're reading two books.
How to talk about Jesus without freaking out. V. Rogers, K. & J. Covell.

Evangelism Explosion, D. James Kennedy.

Before these, I'd read Holiness of God, by R.C. Sproul.
Printer and the Preacher, by R. Peterson. This was a biographical history book on Ben Franklin and George Whitfield. Apparently they had quite a lengthy friendship, which began as a business endeavor between them.
 

Sherloc

Member
Last month or so -

Genesis, Exodus, and Proverbs recently.

non-scriptural:
Gentleman in Moscow.
Lincoln Highway.
History: Fiction or Science volume 1 and 6.
 

docphin5

Well-known member
Just finished “The Great Angel” by Margaret Barker, 1992.

It demonstrates that YHWH is a second God in the Old Testament equated to Jesus in the New Testament, whereas, the heavenly Father, namely, “the El Elyon” is distinct from either YHWH or Jesus. The confusion in the Old Testament between the El and YHWH is due to two different strains of Judaism being fused by reformers around the time of exile in Babyonia. There remains enough evidence around the periphery, arcaeological and textual, for scholars to tease out the original distinction.

The book is bit heavy to process due to so much new information being cited from sources I was not familiar with, eg, Jewish Targums. I look forward to reading it again, though.
 

Torin

Well-known member
Update

I thought I'd update this thread now that I'm reading something new: Our Oriental Heritage by Will Durant. I am on page 757, which is in the section about Chinese history (the Sung dynasty).

I finished reading Les Miserables in early November. It was just as good the second time through as it was the first time, even though I knew the ending. That book seriously needs an editor, but Victor Hugo's prose style is addictive enough that I got through it.
 

Sherloc

Member
Now reading Romans - third or fourth time through with plans for several more. Seeing the book book in a whole new light and making me rethink some things.
 

shnarkle

Well-known member
I tend to read several books at the same time. I am reading three books at present:

1. Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. This is an amazing book on a lot of levels. I read it in college and I'm re-reading it now. The writing is very good and I love how quickly the plot moves at points. The only downside is the rather long digressions Hugo indulges in.

2. Why Evolution is True, by Jerry Coyne. This is a really interesting book. I am reading it along with @Caroljeen and some atheists on the Evolution subforum. I don't have any interest in "refuting creationism," but learning how a scientific genius like Darwin thought and reasoned is fascinating.

3. Descartes: Selected Philosophical Writings by Cottingham, Stoothoff, and Murdoch. I am working through this slowly while taking notes. Very dense, and deceptively nuanced. I am currently on the Objections and Replies to the Meditations.

Ask me questions, or post your current reading!
Years ago, I was watching a lot of television, and when I transitioned from that to reading books, I adopted the same sort of pattern of reading in 30 minute to one hour increments before switching to another book just like watching tv programs.

I wasn't meticulous in following this time frame. Sometimes, I'd read for only 15 or 20 minutes in one book. The point here is that it seems to hold my attention better than reading the same book in one or two sittings.

They say most people can't focus for more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time, but I found that changing subjects allows me to focus much better.
 

Temujin

Well-known member
Reading the Quiller series, currently the Kobra Manifesto, and also The Just So Stories aloud to my grandson. Both on Kindle. Trying not to mix them up.
 

docphin5

Well-known member
Nearly finished Senecas moral letters from the first century. While reading them I was amazed how some of the ideas or concepts about the absolute Good God paralleled Paul’s epistles, except that Seneca was more elegant in explaining or supporting his descriptions of God, whereas, Paul was more blunt, direct, get to the point, —less elegant, and also through the lens of Judaism, for example, using types from Hebrew scripture. I was beginning to wonder if maybe they had communicated and shared ideas, then—Wham! —I found that there are actual letters between the two testified by the early church Fathers, namely, Tertullian, where Seneca and Paul exchange ideas, praise the other, and call each other brothers.

These two were arguably the greatest sages of the first century, Seneca to the Romans and Paul to the Greeks and Jews (who rejected him).

From a website (see here Saint Paul and Seneca)

“In the 1st mid-century AD Paul was the most famous person among the early Christians. During the exact same time, Seneca was the leading intellectual in his world of Rome. It is interesting to speculate whether these two important men and minds ever knew and communicated with each other. Perhaps they did?”​

Check this out, one of many parallels between the two wisdom seekers.

Seneca: “God is near you, he is with you, he is within you. This is what I mean, Lucilius: a holy spirit indwells within us, one who marks our good and bad deeds, and is our guardian. As we treat this spirit, so are we treated by it. Indeed, no man can be good without the help of God. Can one rise superior to fortune unless God helps him to rise?” Seneca, the Stoic philosopher and rhetorician Epistle 41.​

Paul: “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Paul, the Christian Apostle to the Gentiles, Epistle to the Romans 10:8,9— Article by Sandra Sweeny Silver​

Remember when I said Paul’s style was less elegant than Senecas? Well, Seneca actually admonishes Paul to write more elegantly and even asks him to consider writing in Latin versus Greek, presumably because Paul would be at less risk of being misunderstood if more explanation was given as Seneca is known to do. In his epistles, Paul just cuts to the point without much explanation, whereas Seneca uses various simple analogies from life to support his conclusions.

Seneca: “I could wish therefore, that when you are writing things so extraordinary, there might not be lacking an elegancy of speech agreeable to their majesty.”…
”You have written many volumes in an allegorical and mystical style, and therefore such mighty matters and business being committed to you, require not to be set off with any rhetorical flourishes of speech, but only with some proper elegance.​
I remember you often say, that many by affecting such a style do injury to their subjects, and lose the force of the matters they treat of.​
But in this I desire you to regard me, namely, to have respect to true Latin, and to choose just words, so you may the better manage the noble trust which is reposed in you.​
The absolutely amazing thing is that two of the greatest moral thinkers in the first century were absolutely convinced of a god rising in humans. Both perceived and described the universe as a living being, having a life of its own. We are part of that one living being. Arguably, the collective consciousness of all good human souls is summed up as the universal soul rising again to take his place in the intelligible world. Given that social media platforms serve as a quasi collective consciousness, then a world-soul containing all thoughts and ideas of good, wise humans, such as Senca or Paul, is not a stretch of the imagination.

To Seneca,

“The divine was absolutely real to him, not as the product of scientific induction or of metaphysical speculation, but as the direct deliverance of his own consciousness, the object of that spiritual insight through which, we may believe, God always reveals himself to the soul that seeks him in sincerity. Seneca regarded God with reverence and devotion, but without a shadow of superstitious fear. Recognizing him as the very ideal of goodness and holiness, he thought of him with admiration and love. With perfect faith in his wisdom and benevolence he submitted gladly to his will. (The American Journal of Theology, Senecas idea of God)​
 
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