If there is one thing that can always be said about me, it is that I am actively reading something and normally more than one thing. This post is a mini review of a few of the books I am currently reading or just completed.
How to Read a Book by Mortimer Alder and Charles Van Doren
This is a book that I purchased a number of years ago in response to reading How to Read the Bible for All its Worth by Gorden Fee and Douglas Stuart. I was a little put off by the size of the book and the topic. I mean how interesting could a book be that was about reading a book? So it languished on the book shelf for years before I recently picked it up.
To my surprise the book has been a very enjoyable read. The authors distinguish between 4 levels of reading and concentrate on what they call analytical reading. One of their premises is that reading a book can be approached as learning from an absent teacher. Since reading is a learning task there are habits which can be learned which will make that learning more consistent. It has been helpful to think about my reading from this standpoint.
The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith
This is a book that I started reading because I was intrigued by the author. Galbraith was an economist in the 20th century. He was a young economist during the great depression and was a part of FDR’s war time administration. The book was begun as a study of the poor but wound up being a treatise on the rich. But his intent in writing the book can be summed up in this sentence from the Introduction. “There is no blight on American life so great as the enduring poverty in our great cities and of the still unseen poor in the rural and mountain regions. And, of course, in the larger world.”
Not being an economist this book is a stretch for me. But as I’ve read about the history of economic thought, as he delivers it, the book is making me question some of my assumptions about how things should be. More will follow when I finish.
His second chapter about Conventional Wisdom, which is a term he coined, should be required reading. Since I can’t require any reading I can only highly recommend the chapter to everyone. This chapter is an excellent explanation of why politics, both election politics and the more general politics of relationships between people, has degenerated to its current level of triviality.
When Light Pierced the Darkness by Nechama Tec
The full title of this book include the sub title, Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland. I ran into this book when I was intrigued by the trailer for Defiance the motion picture about the Polish Jewish partisans who formed a hidden village for Jews in the forests of Poland. While I didn’t see the movie, and actually don’t intend to, the story was intriguing. I found that the basis of the movie was a history written by Tec. In looking at other books she wrote I found When Light Pierced the Darkness and I could not resist reading it. I am very glad I did.
Tec wrote a compelling and captivating book based on her experience as a rescued Polish Jewess, extensive research, and interviews of rescued and rescuers. Her goal in the research and the writing of the book was to try to find out what it was about the rescuers that caused them to risk their lives to save strangers in the midst of the Nazi Final Solution. I think this is a great book. I would recommend it to everyone.
As a trivial aside, one of the things I particularly like about this book is that, unlike many books I’ve read recently, it wasn’t summarized in the first chapter. Many books can be adequately read by reading the first chapter only. Not this one. Even the final chapter with her conclusion included new ideas and not just a rehash of what had already been written.