What I’m Reading Wednesday

whatimereadingheaderMy ten year old mocked me the other day. “Dad, how many books are you reading at one time?” I mocked him back, asking how many he was reading. He had to admit that he had a few on the go, including a couple of graphic novels, a Hardy Boys mystery, a book on code-cracking, Simon Armitage’s adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey, a book at school on spies, the new Unwanted, as well as the ones his parents are reading to him.

It seems like bedside tables tumbling over with books is a family trait!

I thought I would use the opportunity of my son’s mockery to tag in on the “What I’m Reading Wednesday” meme. If you’ve posted your own reading list, make sure you tag it in the comments below.

reaper man pratchettTerry Pratchett, Reaper Man (1990)

I love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. I have read a dozen or so of the books, and I decided last year to go through them as Pratchett wrote them. This is the 10th Discworld book. In this little comedy, Death goes into retirement and havoc ensues. This a reread of one of my first Pratchett experiences. It’s also a great book after these very busy days. Not much intelligence required.

sorina higgins chapel of the thorn charles williamsSørina Higgins, ed, Charles Williams’ Chapel of the Thorn (1912; 2015)

A thrill to get in the mail, this edited volume contains Charles Williams’ earliest (or almost earliest) play. It is in poetic form, a completely engaging story about three competing communities vying for the same sacred item–a thorn from Christ’s crown. I had the pleasure of reading from the original manuscript at the Wade Centre. I’ll review this fully when I’m done, but I’m also pleased with Higgins’ introduction, and some extra goodies by Williams scholars.

tom clancy executive ordersTom Clancy, Executive Orders (1996)

I know, I know. I almost didn’t tell anyone about this. But this is my junk food mid-winter cheat. I made fun of myself for reading the Jack Ryan books last year with my post, “I’m a Spy! Woot! Woot!” I also made fun of Canada. I’m sorry, but I love American Ra! Ra! self-congratulatory spy novels, and Clancy is the best of this worst category. It is a stinking’ long book, so I cut the 50cent paperback into four chunks–literally ripping the book apart. I’ve just begun the second quarter, so will probably finish in March or April.

Joel D. Heck, ed, The Socratic DigestJoel D. Heck, ed, The Socratic Digest (1942-52; 2012)

In my “Different Kinds of Reading, Different Kinds of Books” blog, I talk about occasional books. One of these for me is this great edited volume by Joel Heck–a book I’m reading on the exercise bike. Heck has a genius for being able to collate the minutia of C.S. Lewis’ biography–and a university that will give him the time to do it. This volume collects the essays and abstracts from the famous “Socratic Club” at Oxford in the 40s and 50s. It doesn’t have everything in the 15 years the club lasted, but has dozens of essays, talks, and conversations. It is a unique resource for someone interested in apologetics or early forms of some of C.S. Lewis’ essays.

Shakespeare, The TempestWilliam Shakespeare, The Tempest (1611)

I am taking an online class on Western lit and the professor is doing The Tempest in a couple of weeks. Picking it up, I’m not sure that I’ve ever really read this great Shakespeare play. I recently read Brave New World by Huxley, and The Tempest sits at the back of that dystopia, so I’m really interested about digging in. I’ve just begun, really, and started by reading the opening to my son. They I reread it, using a pirate’s voice. Very cool way to start one of the essential books of our language.

the-two-towers tolkienJ.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers (1955)

This is one of myread-aloud books. Nicolas and I read The Hobbit and have then begun the Lord of the Rings trilogy. We took a break after The Fellowship of the Ring to read Roger Lancelyn Green’s adaptation of Arthur stories. But we are back at The Two Towers. The first 100 pages or so is just running, so we were pretty tired. But now we are at the point where Gandalf casts Wormtongue out of the court of Rohan and helps the King find his strength again. Wonderful.

george sayer jackGeorge Sayer, Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis (1988; 1996)

I am simultaneously reading two biographies of Lewis: one by his friend and student George Sayer, and one by American English professor Alan Jacobs. George Sayer’s book is an “insider” biography. Some of the information he gives is made up of stories and facts that only he can know. While this makes it difficult for the historian, for the fan of Lewis or the lover of biographies, it makes for a delightful read. The first chapter delves into Lewis’ family history in a way that many never do. It also talks about some of the naughty bits that Lewis devotees sometimes leave out.

alan jacobs narnianAlan Jacobs, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis (2005)

By contrast, Jacobs approaches his subject not as a life historian, but as a historian of literature. He shapes the story of Lewis’ life as a story, not simply in the chronology we might expect from stock biographies. From one angle, as a later generation of scholar, Jacobs’ book is entirely verifiable–and thus falsifiable. It is a good first step for the historian and next step for Lewis fan. From another angle, it is by far the most readable of the Lewis biographies at this 300 page+ depth (there are some catchy shorter books that are fun). The Narnian is far and away my favourite biography. And it shows: I’m only on ch. 4 of Jack, but nearly finished The Narnian.

cooper song of metamythosC.F. Cooper, Songs of the Metamythos (2014)

This falls under the category of occasional book. Cooper’s 21st century neopagan myth collection is absolutely brilliant. I purchased it on Amazon for $1 and am reading it using my kindle app on my phone. I am slowly going through the stories, but they are quite thrilling. Sometimes shocking, often unsettling, these myths are not ancient retellings, but a new tapestry of a number of various threads. If you like myth, drop the dollar and dig in.

Saturday Evening Post screwtape cover-december-19-1959C.S. Lewis, “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” (1959)

This is a re-read, and I will be reading it three times over this couple of week period. I am preparing for one of William O’Flaherty’s famed essay chats–a real honour. He has recently posted a talk I gave on teaching Screwtape, and we are preparing to look at Lewis’ only Screwtape sequel: the longer essay he wrote for the Saturday Evening Post. I listened to John Cleese read it last week, will sit down with a pencil and book this week, and then will re-listen to it again just before the essay chat. Watch for that link!

george-macdonald-by-cs-lewis sC.S. Lewis, ed, George MacDonald: An Anthology (1945)

Under my category of “occasional books” is one that many of us share but we rarely talk about: the toilet book. For those that indulge in this vice and use the porcelain throne as a place of meditation, this anthology is a good idea. Although a number of Lewis’ selection from George MacDonald‘s large corpus are pretty obscure, there is something on every page that will make you think. Some of them have even shaped my mental or spiritual habit for the entire day. My real struggle is what will happen when I soon finish this book!

seven vii anglo-american literary journalCharlie Starr, ed, “Two Pieces from C.S. Lewis’s ‘Moral Good’ Manuscript: A First Publication” (1920s; 2015)

Though not a long piece, I am halfway through the first of these discovered gems. Charlie Starr, certainly becoming an expert in C.S. Lewis’ handwriting, has unearthed and published two of Lewis’ essays/lectures that have never been published. I am reading first Lewis’ lecture on Leninism, probably written as part of his year of teaching philosophy at Oxford. It is a surprisingly clear essay for his age, but lacks the humour and behind-the-veil upside-down thinking that we come to know from Lewis later. We’ll see, I’m only partway in. Props to Starr for this.

I am also slowly annotating C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, but I’ve set that aside for now. I also set aside some of Ray Bradbury and James Thurber’s stories, which I’ll pick at over the Spring. I am looking forward to reading Armitage’s Odyssey and digging more into Chaucer and another book I got for Christmas. A friend loaned me the full version of J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst’s S.  I can’t wait to get into that one! I also have a friend’s manuscript on my bedside table, and more books than I can read in a year! I think it’s time for a reading binge. Anyone?

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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14 Responses to What I’m Reading Wednesday

  1. Wow, your list on the go beats mine hands down! I am just finishing up Henri Nouwen’s Seeds Of Hope while reading Mists of Avalon, and beginning John O’Donahue’s Divine Beauty. I am also awaiting The Cloud Of Unknowing to arrive which I plan to start immediately. 🙂


  2. matthew morris says:

    Currently reading:
    Bag of Bones, by Stephen King
    The Malay Archipelago, by Alfred Russell Wallace
    Temperature Biology of Animals, by Andrew Cossins and Ken Bowler
    Surprised by Scripture, by N.T. Wright
    Mere Christianty, by some guy I’ve never heard of, on audio disc
    Grimms Fairy Tales, aloud to my daughter


    • Is “Bag of Bones” good? I try to read a King book or two a year.
      I have heard of that Mere Christianity guy… I’ve never read Temperature Biology of Animals.
      And I haven’t written that blog on Lewis and Intelligent Design!


      • Matthew Morris says:

        Hmmm…difficult question. Its first person, which is rare for King, and I really liked the feel of it. It flowed easy. But the plot is unusual, and I’m not sure it completely works. There are some fantastic scenes though. Not his best, but a far cry from his worst, I would say. I just started Storm of the Century, King’s original screenplay for a made for TV movie. The movie isn’t bad, but the concept is especially great. See if this doesn’t fire the imagination: on a small coastal island, as a massive snow storm is about to begin, a stranger murders an elderly woman. He sits in her chair, drinks her tea, and waits to be arrested. As he sits in jail (in the back of a grocery store), the island gets hit with the worst snow storm in its history, cutting it off from the mainland. That is when the suicides begin. And the stranger says, “Give me what I want and I’ll go away.”


        • I haven’t seen “Storm of the Cent” or read the book. That movie of his… Dreamcatcher–good concept, poor delivery. Aren’t we the small coastal Island? Prince Edward Island, I mean?


  3. Hanna says:

    Wow. I’m such a slacker. I’m only reading three books right now: Till We Have Faces, Shakespeare’s Richard III, and The October Country by Ray Bradbury. I think I might also reread To Kill a Mockingbird, just to get me psyched for the new book this summer (I’m a bit of a Harper Lee fan 😉 ). I’ve also been curious about The Chapel of the Thorn. If I do read it, it will be my first Charles Williams book. I’m looking forward to your review of it!


  4. Bill says:

    I’m a book-lover, but I only read one of them at a time (head hangs in shame).

    I took Joyce’s Ulysses down of the shelf on which it’s been sitting for years and decided to finally tackle it. I’m finding it surprisingly entertaining. I’m about half-way through it with Mark Shephard’s Restoration Agriculture waiting in the wings.


    • What is the greater shame: Focussing on 1 book at a time, or never having read Ulysses?
      I usually do 3 or 4 at a time, not 10. But there are times where I chomp down one thing on my plate at a time. Some eaters/readers are one way; some another.
      I want to do Ulysses though.


      • Bill says:

        My wife always has several going at a time. I’ve just never liked doing that. I’m not sure my brain could handle it.

        A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is one of my favorite books and I’ve read it many times. But Ulysses has always seemed intimidating to me (mainly because I didn’t want to devote so much time to it). I’m glad I finally took it on. It’s unconventional, but engaging in an unconventional way.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. orthodoxmom3 says:

    I’m so glad I’m not alone…. I posted a few of the ones I’m reading the most from on the blog the other day….but I admit there’s a couple more at the bedside…


  6. Pingback: Farewell Terry Pratchett | A Pilgrim in Narnia

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