A Quivering of Invisible Heat

We are made to feel as if we had seen a heap of common materials so completely burnt up that there remains neither ash nor smoke nor even flame, only a quivering of invisible heat.
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 BalfourKidnapped 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
The Ballad of the White Horse
The Mind of the Maker
Signs Amid the Rubble
The Discarded Image
in no order whatsoever; they were all influential, well written - my mind was not the same after reading them, nor my outlook on life.

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 Stevenson
When Christ and His Saints Slept - Sharon Kay Penman
Moonblood - Anne Elisabeth Stengl
The Confession of St. Augustine
On Christian Truth - Harry Blamires
On the Incarnation - Athanasius
Count Zinzendorf - John Weinlick
Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan - James Todd
Mystery and Manners - Flannery O'Connor
Gods and Fighting Men - Lady Gregory
Sohrab and Rustum - Matthew Arnold
The 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...?

11 ripostes:

  1. The Black Arrow is a splendid one! I really enjoyed it. I can't say anything about Moonblood yet, as I'm still reading Veiled Rose. Only time can tell! :) I do expect it to be good, thought. As for the rest, I have not read any, which is a sorry thing to admit. Off I shall go to change that!

  2. My, it seems you've been quite productive in your readings this year! I love the diversity of the titles you named. My father always says variety is the spice of life, and without some measure of spice to inspire our pens, where would we be? The Black Arrow is an excellent read — perhaps a bit slow at parts, but definitely worth it. It has everything that constitutes a good story: adventure, disguise, a few eccentric characters, battles, and a little romance. A splendid read indeed, as my sister put it. :)

  3. Always fun to see these end-of-the-year book lists. :) I need to read some Ravi Zacharias...
    Ooh, The Black Arrow is my favorite out of the RLS books I've read. And ha, my younger brother was just reading The Song of Roland aloud in the car, to my mother's horror. It's extremely violent and bloody... and probably the reason I have not yet read Beowulf. :P My gore quotient for the year is not quite that large... though maybe Beowulf is not quite as I'm imagining it to be. :)

  4. Katherine Sophia - I can't vouch for The Song of Roland as you can, but Beowulf isn't unmanageable. As a matter of fact, I may or may not make it look like a Girl Scout with my own writing... I know it's stirring and vivid, and one goes into the circumstances of the story expecting a bloody outcome, but in the midst of the life-and-death sequences I've always found the blood to be the kind pounding angrily in your ears, not the kind flying all over the place, as a general rule. Blood does fly about on some occasions...

    ...I've wandered off again.

    The Black Arrow seems to be getting high praise around here. It's beginning to make me nervous. :P I have a snobbery, which I am not proud of, and the more a book is liked in general the more I am inclined to dislike it myself. But it sounds like it has all the fun stuff: chases, escapes, revenge, true love. That kind of thing. :D

  5. Hahahaha. Jenny. You and your memory. ^.^ You make me laugh. I never do make goals of what to read every year. I simply let it happen to me and then feel quite satisfied with what comes out at the end. I think I've done quite passibly well this year! Some 40 or so titles. :)

  6. Rachel - I make lists. I make good lists. And then I promptly ignore them for whatever comes along that strikes my fancy. But these titles I want to read sooner rather than later, and while I'll read other things as well (I'm literally in the middle of A Wizard of Earthsea at present) I want the discipline of a list to help me remember to read these handful of books before the year is out.

    Forty titles is a lot! At least you won't appear uneducated compared to Jane Fairfax. I think Abigail made it into the forties; I'm a slow, wayward reader and don't have the same steady pace that she has. But I'm also ruthlessly proud, and I don't like to pick up or mention books that haven't challenged me or raised me above my current level. The pride, in this case, is not a virtue, but it does make me sad to see people older than myself reading fluff fiction and princess novels when there is so much sounder stuff to be had.

    ...There, I've wandered off again.

  7. I'm sorry I haven't very coherent or brilliant to say. But I have two thoughts that came to me reading this post, maybe even three. Mara, Daughter of the Nile and The Golden Goblet! Yay, I loved those little books so much! Sheftu, and the Captain, and all those lovely characters! The golden goblet I did not like quite as well, but I as very fond of the man and his donkey and absolutely fascinated with the jewelry maker and making gold bees.

    I have tried at times to read The Four Loves and Surprised By Joy, but have surprisingly made little headway in reading lewis's more heavy books. (though I did buy and read the great divorce this summer.) I am pretty fond of Ravi Zacharias, as well as we used to hear him teach often on the radio when I lived in up north before moving. He is a great teacher.

    The song of Roland! I have not probably not read (as far as I can recall) a full version if there is one. But I always remember reading it with the beautiful(well maybe not so much so in Roland's case) medieval (or medieval like) illustrated pictures in "Favorite Medieval Tales." It was where I also gained a fondness for Beowulf, sir Gawain and the Green Knight as well as the german (I think) tale of "the island of the lost children." Hope you enjoy your reading this year.

  8. *sigh* I wish I had time to read 30 books in one year. I can count on one hand the number of new books I've read this year, and I don't even need all the fingers to do so. Lately I've been re-reading "The Fellowship of the Ring" and rediscovering how no contemporary work I've read can come close to touching Tolkien's skill with words. He's a true master. One of my favorite contemporary authors when it comes to prose though is Patricia McKillip. She can paint such images in my head and weave such beautiful magic with her words.

  9. A delightful post indeed! The thing that struck me vividly while reading this post, Jenny, was like Elizabeth has already mentioned, the diversity of works you've read... and the depth of most of them as well! Alas, I will so humble my pride in admitting that I have not read any one of the titles above, though many of them are on 'my to-read list'!

    Ravi Zacharias! I've watched his video presentation/sermons of the books 'Jesus Among Other Gods' and 'Deliver Us from Evil' and though I cannot vouch that they were identical or as thorough-filled as the books themselves, I recall how thought-provoking, eye-opening and inspiring they were, as Ravi Zacharias always is. I would like to read more of his works this year if possible, especially 'Recapture the Wonder'.

    The last year's bulk of my reading were mined from the mithral troves of Tolkien, Lewis and Sutcliff's writings of which I am immensely happy and pleased with myself. This year I plan on reading more of Lewis and Tolkien and Sutcliff (because one can't help it!, as well as trying out some books by Chesterton, Stevenson, an the eighteenth-century writers such as Dickens, Victor Hugo's Les Misrables, and Alexandre Dumas for his 'Man in the Iron Mask' and a few other titles such as 'With Christ in the School of Prayer' etc... :).

    P.S. by the way, is there by any chance that we poor readers, may be able to read one of your own books, and Abigail's in 2013? I dearly... dearly... dearly hope so!!

  10. What a lovely list of reading for the year: esepcially the Ballad of the White Horse and The Four Loves. The former chock-full of weighty poetry that you can unearth again and again, and the latter just so challenging to thought. (I think I went about in a daze of reassessment for a few days after reading it; luckily no one asked me what I was thinking about, for to exaplain that it's LOVE might cause some teasing. "C'mon, I'm talking about AGAPE, not only eros!")

    And now, for the real point of this comment:

    YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST GO AND READ THE SONG OF ROLAND RIGHT NOW BECAUSE IT IS BEAUTIFULLY DELICIOUS AND HEARTBREAKING AND ROLAND TOTALLY BEATS OUT ACHILLES FOR ADMIRABLE EPIC HEROES AND THE SECOND HALF IS NOT INFERIOR TO THE FIRST AS ALL THE SCHOLARS SAY! Ahhemmm...kind of joking w/ all the capitals. But really, all the blood is not the same sort of mindless violence that is found in so many video games, nor is it the sort meant only to shock: for the former dulls as does the latter, eventually. Roland was obviously a man's tale, but a really manly tale, for man is composed of both body and soul. You won't find mincing tea-parties, but you'll find the horn ringing out in the heart of the woods crying full thirty leagues; and the mountains rising high and bright and deep; and a young man, brave as the sun and fair as the moon, ride laughing to the fray.

    That's my say, insofar as Roland counts. :)

  11. Song of Roland is one of my favorite medieval stories. IMHO it truly deserves the label of 'epic'. Black Arrow is on my reading list for this year, too! And I'm going to read some G.K. Chesterton too. I've been trying to for the last two years and it just never made it high enough on the list.