Posted June 17, 2010
It's summertime. Get reading and catch up on what might be piling up on your nightstand or tabletop.
I usually find myself reading several books at a time. Right now I have three books on my desk and one in the out bin ready to go back to the library. Here is a list of the current books. Next time I'll have a few more.
The Prophet by Francine Rivers.
This is one in a series of religious novels based on key men of the Bible who, as the author puts it, "quietly changed eternity." The prophet in this book is Amos, the shepherd from Tekoa who prophesied in the seventh century B.C. to the northern nation of Israel in the time of Jeroboam II.
This book uses imaginative narration to give you a sense of life as a herdsman in that world. I think the author has read Phillip Kellers' excellent work, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. I see glimpses of his descriptions of caring for sheep in the field. Francine Rivers' descriptions of what the cities were like are also drawn quite realistically. You can see them quite well in your mind. Here is an excerpt:
"As Amos walked through the streets of Bethel, he looked into the faces of the people. Despite their sins, he had come to love them. There like a flock of sheep, dumb and prone to wander, ignorant of the dangers that lurked everywhere, oblivious to the enemy Satan who longed to devour them, they followed their desires, foraging in foreign religions that fanned their pride and base passions. They thought they could live without God's rules and made rules of their own. They couldn't seem to understand that every man cannot live for himself without bringing chaos. The very things they longed for were within reach if only they would return to God."
Once There Was a War by John Steinbeck.
John Steinbeck was one of America's best authors. If you have never read his work, I suggest starting with this one. Once There Was a War is a collection of short dispatches written during 1943 from different war sites in Europe. The writing is bare, sparse and tight. He describes the soldier, the battle, the destruction and the human element as well as anyone. This is not a collection of battle tales. It focuses on the citizen soldier and what he endured and felt before, during and after a battle.
Here is an excerpt describing soldiers in a landing craft minutes before hitting the beach in an invasion.
"In the moonlight on the iron deck they look at each other strangely. Men they have known well and soldiered with are strange and every man is cut off from every other one, and in their minds they search the faces of their friends for the dead. Who will be alive tomorrow night? I will, for one. No one ever gets killed in the war. Couldn't possibly. There would be no war if anyone got killed. But each man, in this last night in the moonlight, looks strangely at the others and sees death there. This is the most terrible time of all. This night before the assault by the new green troops. They will never be like this again."
Reagan: A Life in Letters, a collection of letters from President Ronald Reagan.
This compilation of letters written by President Reagan to people from all walks of life is a wonderful book to occasionally dive into and just start reading anywhere. In the foreword George Schultz writes, "I found this volume wonderful reading, at turns profound, inspirational, and fun." I concur.
Recently I read through the section of letters Reagan wrote to his critics. Reagan had no problem writing with a direct grace and wit to those who disagreed with him on the issues of the day. He knew how to answer critics with such charm that they developed a newfound respect for the man, even if they still disagreed.
Reagan wrote tens of thousands of letters in his career—most of them by hand. This is an amazing feat, but realize he still did this while serving as president. Here is an excerpt from a letter where he recalls a confrontation with students in the 1960s. It is vintage Reagan.
"I had a run-in back in the '60s, when I was governor of California, with some student in those days of campus riots. They had asked for a meeting with me. One of them started off with a diatribe about my generation. He said it was impossible for us to understand our own children. He claimed that we didn't grow up as they had in a world of instant electronic communication, journeys to the moon, jet travel, nuclear power, etc. When he paused for breath I told him, yes it was true we didn't have those things when we were their age—we invented them. They changed the subject."
It's summertime. Get reading and catch up on what might be piling up on your nightstand or tabletop. Next time I'll finish my current list and add one or two books from my shelf I find myself returning to time and again.