So much has changed this semester–almost all for the good–that I’m not quite sure where to begin in terms of a blog post, aside from vomiting dozens of anecdotes and thoughts out onto my keyboard, stream of consciousness style. I suppose the three sentence summary is as follows:
I was a lot more lonely (although not depressed, I think) last year than I realized.
I have friends now.
God is good.
My GPA may be worse, but my mind and heart are better. (I’m sure graduate schools will appreciate those sentiments, right?)
But instead of boring you further, I thought I’d share what I’ve been reading recently. This semester, I’ve made a conscious effort to actually read books besides my textbooks. (I’m not in any humanities or social science classes, so rarely do I have assigned reading other than supplementary/”suggested” passages for science classes). And so, dating back to the beginning of the semester in roughly chronological order, here is a brief summary of (most of? I might be forgetting a couple) the books I have read.
- The Histories of the Middle Earth (J.R.R. Tolkien): I’m on a journey through the twelve-volume set of what is essentially Tolkien’s thought process behind The Lord of the Rings. If you’ve heard of The Silmarillion, the Histories are basically a massively more vast, detailed version of that. It’s as dense as a primary-source account of real historical events. I’m planning to start the fifth book sometime over break. Wish me luck.
- A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master” (Rachel Held Evans): I try to throw in a frivolous book every once in a while amongst the serious and/or dense books. This was supposed to be the frivolous one, but it ended up making me think in a lot of surprising ways. AJ Jacobs wrote a similar book (The Year of Living Biblically), but I liked this one more because it used the gimmick to address the deeper issues of feminism and Christianity, rather than just a gimmick for its own sake.
- Gilead (Marilynne Robinson): This was highly recommended by some of the college ministry interns at my church. It was beautifully written, but I didn’t really see the point. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a father, so I don’t have the perspective of a father-child relationship…or maybe it’s because I’m a math/science major, and the interns in question were all English majors, and I lack some critical understanding of literature. I also probably don’t appreciate fiction that isn’t fantasy enough.
- This Voice in My Heart: A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Escape, Faith, and Forgiveness (Gilbert Tuhabonye): I heard about this book through Kristin Richard Armstrong (yes, Lance’s ex), who writes a blog for Runner’s World. Tuhabonye coaches her training group, and she speaks highly of him in her posts. The book was powerful, I think because of the juxtaposition of the horror and evil against the forgiveness and grace of which man is capable. The book itself is well-written and well-structured.
- Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury): I figured I should read it since it’s a classic. It was about what I expected. Again, I’m not great at the fiction thing.
- Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate (Justin Lee): This was an at-least-two-standard-deviations-above-the-average book about Christianity and sexuality. The author managed to tie his personal story into the larger discussion without coming across as biased or even as though he were trying to persuade the reader one way or the other. He honestly seemed like he just wanted to encourage openness, discussion, and most important, grace.
- The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food (Jennifer 8. Lee): Lee spoke at a TED conference, which prompted me to read the book. However, the book seemed slightly less coherent and more repetitive. That talk, I feel, was more informative, despite being more concise. I also would have liked to see some sort of overarching (or even just concluding) theme/”big idea” to give the book more depth, sort of the way Rachel Held Evans used the issue of Christianity/feminism/women’s rights to give meaning to her year-long quest. This was definitely one of my frivolous books. On a side note, my supervisor’s great grandfather was mentioned as one of the first politicians to use fortune cookies as a campaign tool.
- Fermat’s Engima: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem (Simon Singh): This book was amazing. Singh managed to write about a mathematical proof in a way that was interesting to me (a second year math major) but also seemed like it would be understandable to much of the general public. In places, it was definitely written to non-math obsessed people, but he provided appendices with more rigorous proofs and explanations. I’m not sure if it might seem too simplistic if I knew more about math (in some places, it did seem a bit simplistic–realistically, I doubt many people with very little knowledge of math would read that sort of book in the first place–but not distractingly so). The structure and suspense was perfect: I was as gripped by a book about a proof as I suppose many people would be by a mystery novel.
- The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien): My Christmas break book for this year is Tolkien’s famous trilogy. I finished the first book in about two days, which means it’s not actually going to last me all of break (unlike Brothers Karamozov last year). Can you tell I’m a Middle Earth geek?
PS: I promise I’m not a link farmer–just trying to be helpful.