Whenever I’ve got a couple of weeks off from classes, I like to find a few things to read that take me away from the field of theology, since that’s what I’m reading during the school year. I typically pick up novels but I recently came across a great book of history. Here is the list of books that I have started to read. As always, I’ve bitten off more than I can chew and will read some or all of the following:
1. “Postwar” by Tony Judt (Penguin 2005). Begun as a response to the events of 1989, this book chronicles events in Europe after 1945. Judt takes advantage of the newly opened archives in Eastern Europe and Russia to tell a version of history that more adequately accounts for where we find ourselves now. I’m a chapter into it and have already been blown away by some of his insights.
2. “Wanting” by Richard Flanagan (Atlantic Monthly Press 2008). This novel, set in mid-19th century England and Tasmania, is a fictionalized account of Charles Dickens involvement with the defense of Sir John Franklin (the explorer accused of cannibalizing his dying and dead crew after being trapped in the Arctic ice flows). The first few chapters alternate between Tasmania in the 1830’s and London in the 1850’s. The characterization of Dickens is fascinating.
3. “Anglo-Saxon Attitudes” by Angus Wilson (New York Review of Books 2005). This comic novel follows the failing career of an archaeologist in early-twentieth century England. I love comic novels set in academia, and so far this one is not disappointing.
4. “Beyond Black” by Hilary Mantel (Picador 2005) Mantel won this year’s Man Booker Prize for fiction with her novel “Wolf Hall.” I saw this book, “Beyond Black,” on the Staff Recommendation shelf at a bookstore in Cambridge, MA and couldn’t resist the staffer’s description. It promises to be “darkly comic.” I’ve only read page one.
5. “In Hazard” by Richard Hughes (New York Review of Books 2005). Written in 1938 and reprinted in 2005 by the NYRB, “In Hazard” tells the story of a merchant ship caught in a hurricane off the eastern coast of the United States. I haven’t read a word of it, but look forward to it. The blurb on the back calls it “a small masterpiece of lyric terror.”
Feedback will be appreciated, especially if you include interesting books you’ve recently stumbled upon.