Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Books I Haven't Read

I was looking at the book list I posted recently. It occurred to me that I’m really NOT that well read. It seems that there are a good many books or types of books that I simply have not ever read. These are things that I have always considered that well educated people should have read. I consider myself to be reasonably well educated, and yet my book list has huge holes in it.

For instance, you see nothing of the following authors:

Plato
Aquinas
Augustine
The early Church Fathers
Kant
Hume
Milton
Spurgeon
Dante
Chaucer
Calvin
Locke
Adam Smith
Emerson
Kierkegaard

Just to name a few. They aren’t on my list because I have not read them. This bothers me.

Of course, I know how to fix that. Just traipse on down the library, check them out and read them. And yet…I’m not sure I really want to. These books do require a certain degree of work, don’t they? Right now, I’m not sure that’s work I’m willing to take on.

There are other books by great authors that I have read that have done nothing for me. Moby Dick is supposed to be a great masterpiece. Am I the only one that found it almost unbearably tedious? Is it’s tediousness a sign of it’s greatness? Personally, I think Herman could have used an editor. I have read several by Tolstoy and ended up thinking that I should have been much more affected by it than I was. War and Peace still escapes me after 5 attempts. W&P is not almost unbearably tedious. It IS unbearably tedious. Is this a sign that I am shallow? Or weak of intellect?

I suppose it is good to take a cold hard look at one’s reading occasionally. I think it might be useful to ponder what exactly I hope to achieve with my reading life over the next 5-10 years, and set some goals.

Then again, I really enjoy just having books sent to me, and discovering, to my surprise that they have turned my world around and inside out. Serendipity has it’s advantages.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

When we decided to use a Classical Christian approach to our children's education, I made a list of books from Gilgamesh to Sarte (actually it would be Camus) and continue a four year cycle of reading the classics. I am done with Eusebius, reading Augustine (Confessions) and then onto Bede and Beowolf. It is rather enjoyable and I am always amazed at how smart people used to be.

Don't waste your time with Kant or Hegel, they are too difficult to read. Kierkegaard is fantastic.

YOU HAVE NEVER READ CALVIN???

Luther is fun too!

Ron Jung

Anonymous said...

Oh and do yourself a favor and get Dante's Inferno on CD or Tape. Reading it is good, hearing it is wonderful. Also, rather than reading Homer and Virgil, listen to them as well. The epics of ancient Greece and Rome were meant to be orally transmitted rather than read.

Ron Jung

Anonymous said...

When I wrote that Kant and Hegel are difficult, I meant that it was not only tedious, but (to be honest) I cannot figure out what Kant means without the help of commentaries.

Dubbahdee said...

Ron, can you recommend a particular version of La Inferno? The quality of the reader is paramount, I have found. You obviously found a good quality recording. Any chance it came from the wonderful Brown County Library? I really miss that place. I still hold it up as a paragon of what public libraries ought to be.

All points well taken.

And no...I have not read Calvin. I am a pretender.

Anonymous said...

Jesus seemed to do OK without reading Calvin. tomb

Dubbahdee said...

Yes, well...

That is a very useful argument for so many things. I shall have to remember to use it. Let's see...

Jesus never wore pants and he did pretty well.

Jesus never took out a subprime loan and it worked out pretty good for him.

Jesus never went bungee jumping and he seemed pretty comfortable with himself.

Jesus never voted for president, so that must not be that big a deal.

Yeah, that's a really useful argument. Especially if I ever actually become Jesus. ;-)

To get the dynamic here, Ron and I have had many theological discussions. A significant percentage have revolved around the nature of God's sovereignty. Let's just say I have staked out certain pro-sovereignty positions in those discussion, citing the C word in the process. Now Ron discovers that my arguments are a mere potemkin's village. I feel for him. His hero is now so greatly diminished.

I guess what it boils down to is that when you are the guy who wrote THE BOOK, you can read or not read whatever you want. The rest of us, we need to get crackin'

Dave M. said...

I totally agree. Just because everyone else likes something doesn't mean you have to. I don't like eating at fancy restaurants, I'd rather watch a game at a bar than in the stadium, and I don't like any of those books either. The sign of a good communicator is the combination of simplicity and profoundness. When someone else has to struggle for days to understand what you wrote, that's not good communication. You might understand it, but no one else does.

Anonymous said...

Please accept my apologies for a comment that appears on its surface to be trite and shallow. Your blog and your intellect certainly deserve much more.

At the risk of attemptimg to restore my ego and credibility (which I surely am doing "-( ), let me expand just a bit.

For a long time I discounted the humaness, and specific relevance of Jesus' particular teaching on a topic. I thought, that was a good theory, or overarching principle, but I needed someone more current or more experienced to interpret what he meant for me. I have come to believe that when Jesus was on earth, and elsewhere, he is the epitome of knowledge on every subject. Coming from the handicap of a scientific viewpoint, I remind myself often that "I believe Jesus was not surprised when Einstein discovered that E=MC2".

I believe that if I want to know about what God thinks about sex, that Dr. Ruth is not the authority. If I want to know about familiness, James Dobson might be the favorite of some, but probably isn't the ultimate or best authority.

To compliment at least one selection, I highly recommend Kiyosaki to all of my friends who are at the point of rejecting the advice of Jesus, and are interested in self-sufficiency, and even some social contribution. I have read all of his books, and agree with him that his approach to finances is what ought to be taught in schools.

At the risk of further falling into the abyss of your inside and extensive understanding of Calvin, and perhaps to respond to my defensiveness at not having read/studied him, it appears to me that the church was more divided after Calvin than before. Not unlike the Episcopal church after Gene Robinson. Does the exposition of an idea about God, no matter how enlightened, ever outweigh the knowing creation of a schism within the church?

Remember, I offered an apology, and a gift of grace, and I offer this point of view in all seriousness and humility.

tom.

Anonymous said...

Tom,
Knowing the Dragon Slayer as I do, and having recommended 3 of his most influential books, I think he would enjoy and benefit from reading Calvin's Institutes. On comparing Calvin to Gene Robinson, I'll hold my tongue.

Dubbadee,
I don't remember the reader of Inferno, but it was great. And yes, it was from our dear old library.

You should move back to enjoy the library.

Ron Jung

Dubbahdee said...

Tom, there is no need to apologize for anything. You gave and I gave it back. That’s the nature of lively discourse, no?

I knew what you meant, but the way you phrased it…well it was just lying there waiting to be poked with a very sharp stick. Who was I not to oblige? Even so, I’m not sure that your position is entirely justifiable. Let’s take it in pieces.

First, there is Einstein, Dr. Ruth, Dr. Dobson and Robert Kiyosaki. Interesting choice of examples. I would agree that they ought not be considered “final authority” on their chosen fields, but does this discount their value entirely? There is a certain absolutist fallacy to your argument. Let me summarize your argument.

Einstein does not know everything.
Jesus knows everything.
Only those who know everything are worth reading.
Therefore, Jesus’ words are the only words worth reading.

Can you see the fallacy here? Just because someone does not know everything, it does not follow that they know nothing.

As to the argument that Calvin’s attempts to understand the central interpretive principle of scripture is divisive, I’m not quite sure what to say. The problem of people’s response to John Calvin’s writings is more properly put on them, not on Calvin. To take your argument reductio ad absurdum is to say that the only way we can talk about God is to quote the Bible at each other. There are no other words on the subject. I can picture us sitting in a pub, each with a pint, discussing …oh let’s just pick out the atonement.

Tom: Hebrews 7:27
Dave: Absolutely. And don’t forget Matthew 20:28
Tom: Certainly. And also Galatians 3:13

Not much of a conversation. I would think a conversation about what those scriptures actually MEAN would be pretty important. Does that lead to disagreements? Certainly. Divisiveness? In a sinful world, most likely. Is that a reason not do discuss it? I think not. So, I’ll go to Calvin, and read what he thinks.

I’m not sure why you went directly the allegedly divisive nature of Calvin’s writings. Is there something behind that?