What I’m Reading (and More): January edition 2020

[Editor’s note: It seems my blogging is going to consist of this kind of post for the foreseeable future. I’m tentatively putting classics (and the return of the podcast 😦 ) on hold to make a dent in my 2020 reading. There will be classics (primarily for the Japanese Reading Challenge), but most of them I’ll be saving for the middle/second-half of the year rather than the beginning. Sorry in advance!]

Reading

A History of East Asia

This year I want to focus on a couple of reading topics, one of which is Asian history & literature (think Finding Your Roots 😉 ).

Holcombe’s book is the quintessential college history textbook: heavy on exposition, low on intriguing anecdotes, and written with an abundance of caution (not usually a bad thing, but overdone here IMHO). That said, I still find the overview useful and expect it will get more readable as it heads into the 19th–21st centuries. (Most interesting thing I learned so far is that a Catholic cleric helped facilitate the first unification of Vietnam, privately funded by Frenchmen roughly around the time of the American Revolution!)

Exodus and Beyond

This month marks my 1-year anniversary of resuming near-daily Bible reading via the New King James Version. I’ve made it roughly halfway…I’m intentionally slow and determined to read this entire translation before starting my New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (which is KJV).

As is well-known, there are many schools of thought on English translations of the Bible. What I appreciate about the NKJV is how naturally (to us moderns) it reads, while having relatively few differences in syntax and wording. It’s helped me keep up momentum, while the KJV remains my gold standard/reference since it contains important distinctions like “thou/you” (sign me up for the NKJV that uses “you all”). I expect this experience will make the KJV easier to read when I return to it next year.

(As a side note, I am completely won over to single-column/paragraph formatted Bibles now. The KJV I read growing up was traditional column-style—maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I find it still very hard to read to this day.)

But back to Exodus. There are many mysteries in this book, from Moses’s troubled beginnings to the magic of the Pharaoh’s sorcerers and the crossing of the Red Sea. Regarding the latter, one verse that jumped out to me was 14:29, which clearly calls out “a wall” of water on each side of the Israelites as they made their crossing. I’d recently heard of a scientific theory that they crossed a “reed sea” at low water level, but that theory obviously doesn’t fit this description. (So yes, Hollywood is more accurate…this time.)

Watching

The last movie I watched was It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which was very touching and relevant to me personally. I reviewed it on my other blog. 🙂

Other than that, my folks gave me the Complete BBC Robin Hood for Christmas! I actually have never watched Season 3 and don’t expect to like it (it’s verrrryyyy poorly rated), but I plan to watch and review it when I can find time. My favorite episodes are still from Season 2 and some of Season 1.

Robin Hood with hoodies—yep, this show is my guilty pleasure. It’s every bit as cheesy as it looks.

Also, I will forever ship Robin/Marian, cause Guy of Gisbourne is a CREEPER, even if he is the one-and-only Richard Armitage.

Other

I desperately wanted to go see Eugene Onegin at the Seattle Opera this month, but a) I completely forgot about it until there were no cheap tickets, and b) Seattle is kind of a scary place right now. So yeah, that’s not happening. 😥

There’s not much else going on, but that’s ok, as it gives me more time to read. A year ago, I was up to my ears in work, so it’s nice to actually not be busy in January.

What I’m Reading (and More): May edition

Well, friends…this month’s edition of “What I’m Reading” is going to be a bit of a ramble.  You might want to grab something to snack on or drink.  I usually try to abridge, but this time I just feel the need to stream-of-conscious it….

Personal

For starters, a personal update. Though work and everything are going fine, I’ve been feeling very directionless lately and in need of a change.  The thing is, there’s so many things I would like to do – from buying a house to changing jobs – but no one thing that especially stands out as “yeah, that makes sense.” It feels like a big decision chart with lines going all over the place.
 
I’ve been through all the conventional wisdom – focus on others, not yourself; try to find what you’re passionate about; make small goals; etc.  But after all of that, I’m still in a maze, with too many ideas and hopes and doubts pulling me in different directions.  And in spite of everything being fine, that sense of possibility is making me feel like I’ve lost control of the situation and need to choose something.

First-world problems, for sure, but frustrating nonetheless.  I hope writing about it enough times might help me figure it out.

Reading

Psalms

A bit of a backstory: After finishing Revelation, I read Romans.  It’s perplexing, but I found Romans to be very heavy, difficult reading.  I didn’t want to carry that feeling into Corinthians, so I decided to switch gears to Psalms, which I’ve been meaning to re-read ever since reading Fear No Evil earlier this year.

'David' by Michelangelo Fir JBU013
Jörg Bittner Unna [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Psalms is deceptively familiar.  I remember some verses and of course Psalm 23.  But I can’t say that I actually know the book, all 150 songs/poems.   I am reading just two at a time and hoping, at this pace, to help it sink in more.  Also, I’m still using the lectio divina method of Bible reading, which works very well with smaller sections.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

Not sure if this warrants a disclaimer, but here goes anyway…

I fall into the peculiar category of people who neither love Peterson nor loathe him.  I’ve seen him in a few YouTube videos, but they didn’t spark enough interest in me to want to watch more.  What is most interesting is the effect he has on other people (his fans and enemies).  I thought I’d read this book, published just a year and a half ago, to see what the fuss is about.

That said, I did come into this 400-page tome with some bias:

  • Philosophy is still a fairly new genre to me, and I’m warming to it only very slowly.
  • I actually loved the movie Frozen, particularly as it features the strong relationship between two sisters, something I relate to personally.  Due to that, I doubt the judgment (literary or otherwise) of someone who writes Frozen off as “propaganda.”
  • I don’t care for self-help books as a rule (uhh no pun intended), so it takes a pretty good one to impress me.

So I’m about halfway through 12 Rules and, consistently enough, my feelings about this book are mixed.  There are many moments of wisdom, but some parts are also quite questionable, or even laughable.  Some reviewers are turned off by the many Bible references; they’re somewhat interesting, but I don’t really like his use of them, either (though for different reasons).  It’s also both creative and tedious that he doesn’t stick to his thesis the whole time, but rather weaves other topics into each chapter.

My favorite parts thus far were his anecdotes about growing up in a small town in Canada, in Rule #3 “Make friends with people who want the best for you.”  It had all the makings of a gripping memoir, or even a coming-of-age novel.  That was the book I wanted to be reading. 

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age 

 

Another tome, over 500 pages!  Actually I powered through the first 60 pages, in spite of learning science-y things (gasp) about motors and such.  The book uses original diagrams from olden times (aka Tesla’s day), which makes my amateur graphic designer heart very happy.

More importantly, however, the writing is excellent: serious, yet approachable and very informative.  Tesla’s early life was largely positive, but after the death of his older brother, his adolescence was overshadowed by his tense relationship with his father and, at one time, a bizarre transition from workaholic student to gambling addict.  I didn’t know all of this, so those first chapters were especially fascinating.

No classics?!  What is this?

Yes, apart from Psalms, I’m not reading any classics at the moment.  I’m supposed to be re-reading The Time Machine and Ben-Hur, but lost steam somehow.

Also, can you believe I’ve only read two fictional books this year, and the rest have been nonfiction?  That’s some kind of record.  My challenges are getting rusty, too.

I do plan to get back into fiction reading soon, as I’m in line for a library copy of Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander…  I’m tentatively excited, because I love the movie and kinda hope the book is just like it, at least character-wise.

Other

Apart from Valkyrie, I haven’t watched any movies.  I do want to re-watch Cranford soon, though.

I also have an album review coming up later this week, since one of my favorite groups just released a new one.

Other than that… hope everyone is having a lovely week!