Posts Tagged “Books”
“Elementary, my dear Watson!”
I was on a train in the Bernese Oberland, a German speaking part of Switzerland, and the words were English, and yet they didn’t feel out of place. Because I too was on a pilgrimage in search of Sherlock Holmes.
A year ago today, while Melbourne was in lockdown, my grandfather died. With funerals capped at ten attendees I was only able to attend the funeral electronically, but it reminded me of times spent with him and how he had influenced my life.
At the start of January I had a list of books that made an impression on me in 2020. However, I didn’t quite get to writing it up (just like last year!). It seemed right to finish it by the 2021 halfway point (where does the time go?). Maybe I’ll be more timely with 2021 books in 2022.
In my last post, I talked about how an Edinburgh Fringe event changed my view of Leaf by Niggle. As a story, it relied on the eternal life I had rejected, and left me feeling that I really didn’t know what came next.
However, the next day I flew to Switzerland for a short visit, and I was looking forward to discovering a little of the Alps. Little did I know that that visit would give me a new insight into Leaf by Niggle and into J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It would also do a lot to ease the ache of loss of eternal life.
Leaf by Niggle is probably the J.R.R. Tolkien short story that I have read or listened to the most. My view of it has changed over the years, most significantly shortly after deconverting when I realised my vision was fundamentally different from Tolkien’s. But I continue to love it and it continues to influence me.
C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series was an important part of my childhood. Not only did I read the books a number of times, but we also had BBC dramatisations of them that were frequently played.
I think The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was probably my favourite, with its tales of travel, but one particular section of The Last Battle had a much larger impact on me. In fact, arguably it affected my view of the afterlife more than the Bible itself, and the effect of that endures today, years after I rejected the Christadelphian “kingdom”.
A few years back, after Harry Potter 20th anniversary celebrations, I wrote about how fiction can be life changing. This is true in general, but there are particular stories that I strongly remember affecting my view of the world, sometimes in ways that I doubt the author intended.
Growing up, I always liked the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel. Now I see that it shows problems with God.
The words from Mendelssohn’s Elijah echo in my head:
If with all your hearts ye truly seek Me,
Ye shall ever surely find Me,
Thus saith our God.
It’s a song I like a lot (yes, still), and it seems like such a simple promise. But was it ever really true?
At the end of 2019 I had a list of books that made an impression on me that year, but never got round to writing them up. Since 2020 is now half over, it’s time to fix that.
I guarantee this list was completed December last year, and doesn’t contain any clever additions like Pandemic Preparedness for Dummies or The Traveller’s Guide to Cancelling Everything and Staying at Home.
In my previous post, I discussed a couple of childhood experiences that gave me a fear of volcanoes.
However, that changed in 2014 when I visited Yellowstone and the nearby Craters of the Moon: Suddenly, I discovered that volcanic action could be more beautiful than dangerous.
Have you ever been scared that a volcano might grow in your backyard?
As a child, I was - and I think that experience shows interesting things about childhood and about newsworthiness in general.
With November approaching, this is the time of year I start to think about NaNoWriMo. Over the years I’ve had various family members and friends doing it, and some of them have told me I should too. However, I remain almost as hesitant this year as I have been in previous years.
Here are some books that made an impression on me in 2018.
Over Easter, I listened to the audio-book Risen, a novelisation of the 2016 film of the same name. It shows the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection through the eyes of Clavius, a skeptical Roman tribune assigned to find the missing body. The movie trailer confidently declares it “The most important man-hunt in history”.
It’s an interesting premise, and would be a decent novel if it focused on the story-telling. Unfortunately, though, it makes it quite clear that it’s got an agenda, and it makes far too many assumptions about the historicity of the gospel records.
Here are some books that made an impression on me in 2017.
On the surface, hiking and blogging seem like complete opposites: one involves wandering the big outdoors, while the other involves sitting in front of a computer for far too many hours trying to wrangle my thoughts into a form others might understand. However, while I do far more hiking than I ever write about here, it is a fundamental part of my blogging process.
In my previous post, I talked about the difficulty of being stuck in limbo by doubts that could not be resolved. Here is a list of some of the books that helped me out of that trap. They are the books that I wish I had read earlier (though I’m not sure I would have accepted their message earlier).
Last weekend, I attended a Harry Potter Day at Federation Square, organised as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival. It celebrated 20 years since the initial publication of the Philosopher’s Stone, and considered how much the series had changed the world. Many of those there were not even born when the books were first published, and yet current evidence suggests they are now ardent fans. There were costumes galore, wands, and a general buzz of excitement.
Fiction changes lives.
OK, now I know how unfairly I have been privileged in gaining the education which allows me to write this blog in tolerable English. It was all due to my parents’ reprehensible practice of reading to me at bedtime, which I should forthwith adjure and abominate.
(yes, that may seem like click-bait - but there’s some serious analysis here).
At the end of 2016, the common wisdom was that it was a terrible year. I’ve given it a month to settle, and I haven’t seen too many people retract that judgement.
As far as I can tell, 2016 was condemned for two reasons:
- Certain celebrities died.
- Unpopular political changes were made.
In this post I’d like to reflect on what it means to have a child-like faith, and what we as dignified, grown-up, rational adults can learn from it.
In my last post, I talked of things that I had seen hiking, and of the confidence shown by children who had written letters to Winnie-the-Pooh or to the fairies. This post is a little more serious, since I’ve been sidetracked onto an important theme: the importance and power of fiction in real life. With the power of the Internet and social media there are fan clubs everywhere, and sometimes it is hard to draw the boundary between the fictional groups and “real life”. I’ve stuck to a couple of examples following the “letters” theme and a personal example, but it’s really just scratching the surface.
When I have been on walks with small children, I have often felt that they are seeing things that I don’t see. Sometimes it’s the little details that I’ve seen thousands of times but never really observed. Other times, it’s the things I don’t see because they’re not there. But the child has a confidence that goes beyond “I’d like to imagine I’m seeing something”. It appears to me they are actually seeing and responding to whatever it is. No matter whether it is there or not.
Here are a few examples I’ve seen while out hiking.
I listen to a lot of audiobooks. Sometimes people ask me “Have you read this book?”, and my overly literal mind wants to reply “No, but I’ve listened to it.”
Books have always been an important part of how I understand and connect with the world. Here are some books that made an impression on me in 2016.