The Discarded Image, C.S. Lewis
I suppose one shouldn't feel sorry about 2012. It's still there, it's just that we're not there ourselves anymore... Still, it did seem to go by rather fast. It will be this time next year all over again before we know it. Why does life hurtle us to the end of itself so quickly? Why are we all rushing inexorably toward the last question mark on the very last page? Are we all really that anxious to get to the sequel? A part of me is. A larger, treacherous part of me is frightened by the terrific speed at which we are all approaching the end of the book. I can almost sympathize with Screwtape. I would despise me too if I were to look at the brief puff of coloured smoke which is my life, if that were all I am. It rather looks that way sometimes. Of course it isn't, but sometimes, when the lines I am reading go by so fast that I barely retain them and I forget to look between the lines (or flip ahead to the back of the book and read the teaser for the sequel) it looks like this whirlwind life which gives you hardly enough time to do anything worth being proud of, hardly anything to leave for the sake of posterity, it looks meaningless, and that question mark at the end is so huge...
...What I was going to say was that it is the end of 2012 and I have a list of books I have read this year to share with you. That was what I meant to say. I almost started out that way, but my digressive soul went off on a tangent which seemed, to me, pertinent. I've come back now. Goodreads said I only read eighteen books this year, but of course that's rubbish because I keep my own notebook of titles I have read and that tells me I have read thirty-three. But of course that is rubbish too because I only write down new titles and I went through one or two rereads as well. (Mara, Daughter of the Nile and The Golden Goblet, possibly The Witch of Blackbird Pond, but if there are others I've forgotten them.) So, just like me, the gist of it is that I don't really know how many books I read this year. But surely you've come to expect this sort of behaviour from me. I also am not sure how to organize all these (I used up all my organizational skills on my library post) so bear with me.
I read my first H.G. Wells book The Island of Dr. Moreau two weeks ago. A very interesting read: good writing, as writing goes, always engaging, and also marrow-chilling in its description of the animals that are "half-human," shuffling about with a weird new law forcibly imposed upon brains that do not know and had no need for morality. What Wells meant by his book I either discovered and then promptly forgot (having a memory not unlike a sieve) or I never discover it at all; for being an atheist and evolutionist, he does not make a great case in favour of men evolving out of a rank animal ether. Either that, or he meant to strike a blow at the roots of that tenacious concept of morality, socially acceptable behaviour, and the like. If he meant to do that, he did it rather poorly in my opinion - but then, I am already strongly biased in favour of morality...
I read a bit of Chesterton and Sayers this year. The Everlasting Man (good book, but it seemed to wander a little from its original point) and The Ballad of the White Horse (which exhibits that deceptive ease in poetry which makes you think you, too, can turn a beautiful phrase until you try it and learn how deucedly hard it really is) were my Chesterton reads; I had read many of my Chesterton titles before 2012 and I've only recently picked up a few new ones. Sayers gets the lion's share of attention. Clouds of Witness, Gaudy Night, Murder Must Advertise (all Lord Peter mysteries) and The Mind of the Maker (one of my favourite titles this year) belong to her. Out of Lewis I unearthed The Four Loves, Surprised By Joy, and The Discarded Image, the former at the beginning of the year and the latter two just now finished in December.
Courtesy of Abigail I was introduced to Robert Louis Stevenson in the form of Kidnapped and its sequel David Balfour. Kidnapped has a faster pace (and considerably more Alan Breck Stewart!) but David Balfour will drive you to baldness from tearing your hair out. I enjoyed them both, but I was a mess over the sequel. Another 1800s author Theodore Roosevelt gave me the biography Oliver Cromwell, which I tore through in the space of three days and loved. He deals very fairly with the contentious topic of old Ironsides; his strong appreciation for the man as well as his willingness to admit the man's faults was a breath of fresh air in that long, on-going debate.
I actually read a few "contemporary" books this year. Ravi Zacharias counts, of course: Can Man Live Without God? and Jesus Among Other Gods. I still have Deliver Us From Evil to read, which is the only Zacharias book I actually own, but I'll get to that eventually. The very first book of 2012 was The Kirkbride Conversations by Harry Blamires - a little novel-style book which gives back a bit of dignity to the Anglican clergy. Diana Wynne-Jones used to be contemporary, until she went and died. I read Howl's Moving Castle last year and followed it up this year with the two sequels Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways. Both fun books, though not (in my opinion) as good as the first book. There is not enough Howl. I read A Break With Charity, which is technically a reread but it had been so long that I couldn't actually remember the book so I counted it as a new read.
I'm not sure The Art of Medieval Hunting counts as an older book or a contemporary one. The title seems self-explanatory. Good book! It may sound dull, but I enjoyed it. The Agricola and The Germania by Tacitus definitely count as old books. These two were my first forays into Tacitus' style and I found him very readable, vivid, and engaging. (The Agricola actually made me cry.) Fantasies I read include Starflower (but you already knew that) and the fantastic Riddle-Master series by Patrica A. McKillip. Many thanks for those go to Mirriam, who introduced me to them. The Witch's Brat by Rosemary Sutcliff joins Stevenson (and possibly Tacitus) among the historical fiction read this year. A Girl of the Limberlost sort of floats out there by itself in no real orbit of note. Strictly Christian books include The Faith of the Modern Christian by James Orr, The Church and the Kingdom by James Denney, The Divine Conquest by A.W. Tozer, The Tome of St. Leo, and Signs Amid the Rubble by Lesslie Newbigin - which was amazing.
If you asked me which were my favourite titles this year, the list would look something like this
in no order whatsoever; they were all influential, well written - my mind was not the same after reading them, nor my outlook on life.The Ballad of the White HorseThe Mind of the MakerSigns Amid the RubbleThe Discarded Image
I don't know what all I will read this upcoming year, but I did make a little list of titles I am absolutely going to get through unless they prove (against my expectations) to be complete rubbish.
The Black Arrow - Robert Louis StevensonWhen Christ and His Saints Slept - Sharon Kay PenmanMoonblood - Anne Elisabeth StenglThe Confession of St. AugustineOn Christian Truth - Harry BlamiresOn the Incarnation - AthanasiusCount Zinzendorf - John WeinlickAnnals and Antiquities of Rajasthan - James ToddMystery and Manners - Flannery O'ConnorGods and Fighting Men - Lady GregorySohrab and Rustum - Matthew ArnoldThe Song of Roland
Which all should keep me busy! I have, of course, hexed myself by telling you all this, but what can you do...?