16 January 2010

A Quote, a Reading List, and a Confession

"A lot of the people who read a bestselling novel, for example, do not read much other fiction. By contrast, the audience for an obscure novel is largely composed of people who read a lot. That means the least popular books are judged by people who have the highest standards, while the most popular are judged by people who literally do not know any better. An American who read just one book this year was disproportionately likely to have read ‘The Lost Symbol’, by Dan Brown. He almost certainly liked it." ~ The Economist

Thank you, Economist, for helping to validate my personal reading choices.

I'm not intending to write about the New York Times Bestseller List (note the self-important capital letters), although I definitely could if I wanted to. The problem with bestseller lists is that the character of the average American reader (to use the term lightly) is put on parade, and often what is paraded isn't so lovely. I'm afraid that the quality of the books which America has deemed "good" has now has grown rather sloppy - or passed by sloppy altogether and deeply face-planted into a dank vat of vampire dung. Yes, I'm referring to Twilight, and that's not the meanest thing I could say about it.

I have recently found myself ranting a lot about how poorly-written Twilight is (please see previous post "Emo-Vamp Sucks on the Big Screen" for my opinion on the matter), and about how the majority of the world seems to think that Stephanie Meyer has god-like writing skills - especially the pre-teen population who sadly hasn't been as exposed to some of the great writers as have previous generations - writers like George Eliot, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, Mark Twain, and Shakespeare, just to name a few of the more well-known...

One of the problems is that schools are no longer choosing to teach these authors to students, or teaching them in a way that doesn't interest the students. (And that's another rabbit trail I could take right here - force-feeding kids information rather than getting them involved and excited about the information...but seriously, don't get me started.) Another problem is that parents don't spend as much time (or any time) reading books to their children, and so the children aren't finding good books compelling anymore. In fact, most kids label the classics "boring," which actually reveals the boring state of their minds. They don't want to discover these books by themselves. Now I'll be fair - some kids love to read, and to read really good books, no matter (or perhaps in spite of) what they were exposed to as a child. I love this kind of kid!

I hate it when people say to me, "I don't care what my kids read, as long as they are reading!" Seriously??

But I'm way off topic...I hadn't intended to write any of that.

Here is a list of the books I've read (or reread) in the last few months:

1. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad (fascinating little book, more so every time I read it)
2. The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo (not one of my favorites, but definitely worth reading)
3. Death in Venice - Thomas Mann (late 19th/early 20th century German writer - recommended, and partially read, to me by Josh, my well-read boyfriend)
4. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde (will never be tired of this one)
5. Murder Must Advertise - Dorothy Sayers (Love, love, love, and that's all there really is to say)
6. Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? - John Powell (little common sense book about being who you were meant to be)
7. The Poetical Works of Cowper - William Cowper (Oxford Editions of Standard Authors. Cowper = longtime favorite poet)
8. Idylls of the King - Tennyson (fabulous, simply fabulous)
9. Heretics - G.K. Chesterton (sent to me last April by Josh, along with its companion book "Orthodoxy")
10. The Reason for God - Timothy Keller (very readable apologia of the Christian faith)
11. Just Walk Across the Room - Bill Hybels (compelling book about personal evangelism)

Oh - and I also read "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," by Jeff Kinney, also on the New York Times Bestseller List, and maybe rightfully so, at least in its age bracket. My thoughtful mother gave it to me for Christmas. Believe it or not, I'm not going to give it a bad rating. Jeff Kinney has insight into the mindset of the average middle schooler (a difficult thing indeed), and for that, I applaud him.

The books I'm planning to read next are:

1. The Island of the Day Before - Umberto Eco (Italian professor of semiotics. Looks totally fascinating. Recommended to me by...guess who...Josh)
2. Orthodoxy - G.K. Chesterton (a must after "Heretics")
3. Thank You, Jeeves - P.G. Wodehouse (long ago recommended to me by Aaron Profitt, and recently given to me by...you guessed it...Josh)

And a couple of my friends here and I are going to take on the "read the whole Bible in three months" challenge. I'll probably post more about that in February.

And from there on out I'm open to suggestions.

Now for my confession:

Two weeks ago, I finally read "The Lost Symbol," by Dan Brown. Did I like it? Well, yeah, it was entertaining. At least Dan Brown writes about more intelligent things than the high school vampire lovefest which has the world reveling in the ecstasy of glittery blood-suckers and shirtless teenage werewolves. At least he has gotten past simple he-said, she-said sentence structure.

To take my confession one step further, I will admit that I own at least one copy of every previous Dan Brown book, including illustrated editions of both "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons." But I digress...let's get back to his latest.

In a very tiny nutshell, "The Lost Symbol" is about a search for a "missing word," which, if found and properly understood, will reveal Ancient Mysteries and lead its finder into much knowledge and wisdom. At the end of the novel, the missing word is actually discovered to be the Word of God, the Bible itself, which does indeed reveal the wisdom that God loves to shower on those people who love, follow, and attempt to understand Him. A Treasure indeed.

Sounds good, right?

Dan Brown, however, goes on to state that "God" is merely a powerful energy found in each of us, that, if properly understood and harnessed, will lead to miraculous events that will stun the world of science. We humans have created ourselves in the image of this energy, and furthermore, we have the ability to become gods if we choose. Quite a message.

Starts out so right, and ends by sounding...well, by sounding good, to be honest, and very appealing to those people who haven't a solid foundation in the Word of God.

Do I need to say more? Isn't it obvious what the theology splashed across the bestseller lists has the potential of doing to the minds of unprepared individuals?

Should these books be read? Yes, absolutely. That's the only way to be aware and to have a ready defense. (And, quite honestly, some of them are thrilling and fascinating despite the theology.) But parents and Christian school teachers need to soak their children in the Scriptures, so that when kids read these books, as they surely will, they will be able to read them with the wisdom of God in their hearts.

Well, I got a bit carried away with my writing tonight. I had been going to post only my reading list. But thank you for reading. :-)

Cheers, Readers,
That girl in Switzerland

P.S. Stay tuned for my newest rant about New Moon, the latest installment in the mindless vampire craze!


  1. I love your rants!

    But I've been accused of cynisism myself.

    Glad you have a well read boyfriend. He sounds nice.

    Love, Mel

  2. Heather, this is a great post. I agree. Oh, and you should read Gods and Kings by Lynn Austen. It is based on the life of Hezekiah. Arthur and I both really liked it. There are more in the series, but we are waiting for his aunt to finish reading them and pass them on. :o)
    Love ya!

  3. Hey, thanks, y'all!! I confess - it was very late when I wrote this, and I wasn't so sure that my thoughts came out just the way I wanted them to, but oh well. :-)

    Jess, your book recommendation I shall take to heart. You always know of such great books!

    Mel, I can't wait for you to meet Josh!! You're going to have such great conversations! (That goes for Jess too, but who knows when I can drag Josh out Weeest with me???) :-( Anyway, he's the best boyfriend ever. Seriously. Love you guys!!!! Bisous!