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I'm currently reading The Alienist by Caleb Carr.

I've been in the mood for some suspenseful soiree...

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Just finished the new Donald Miller book, Through Painted Deserts. Not as good as either Blue Like Jazz or Searching For God Knows What - the prose gets a bit flowery at times and although there are some moments of good insight, it's really just about a road trip with a friend.

Also just finished Killing Yourself To Live by Chuck Klosterman. I haven't laughed so much in a very long time. Chuck drives across the US visiting sites where rock legends died for an article for Spin Magazine.

Right now I'm in the middle of Parallel Worlds by Mishio Kaku - an amazing book about the lastest findings in theoretical physics/astronomy/cosmology. I don't pretend to understand any of the details, but Kaku uses excellent analogies that gets the concepts across. Books like these always blow my mind, expanding my understanding of how wide how deep and how long God's creation really is.

Also, there's an entertaining chapter where Kaku seems to be stretching for reasons not to believe that the delicate balance of physical properties that makes life on earth possible is not the result of an intelligent, creative being. Everything from the value of the cosmological constant (determined seconds after the big bang) to the size of our moon to our location in the Milky Galaxy and our Solar System to the size of Jupiter - all of these factors (as well as a host of others) combine to make the earth a stable platform where life can thrive.

During my lunch breaks I'm reading On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee. Like Parallel Worlds, it's a book about a highly technical subject written in everyday language. Hawkins has spent a great deal of his life (when not developing Palm Pilot and Handspring devices) interested in how the brain works and how that knowledge might be used to truly advance the stagnating field of artificial intelligence. Fascinating insight into what's going on between our ears.

On the shelf waiting their turn:

Man Walks Into A Room by Nicole Krauss. I bought this because I loved her new book, The History of Love so much - amazing writing: "her laugh was a question that he wanted to spend the rest of his life answering..."

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. I know this is something completely different from everything else listed here but it was recommended by a friend and I just want to see what it's about.

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Crow   

I've finished reading The Kite Runner, and liked it a lot. The writing was direct and yet graceful, as it described both the horrors of the worst of human behavior and beautiful moments of redemption.

I've also finished reading Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. The writing is quite beautiful and characters richly drawn. This is what literary fiction is meant to be.

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Mark   
I just finished Nick Hornby's newest, A Long Way Down. Kind of "meh." Not even close to the genius of High Fidelity

Oohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.... just what I didn't want to hear after the huge disappointment that was How to Be Good. I hope Hornby hasn't lost his mojo.

I'm thinking the biggest problem with this one is that it has four main characters and the narrative POV is shared among the four. Certain characters are simply less interesting (Maureen) or less engaging (JJ). Personally, I would rather have read a book about Martin or Jess.

Just started listening to this one on cassette. Only about a quarter of the way through, but so far I agree that Martin and Jess are the most interesting (and funniest) characters. It's read by three actors - a woman does both Jess and Maureen, two different guys do Martin and JJ. The actor doing JJ sounds far too cultured for JJ - isn't he supposed to be a stoner-musician dude? This guy sounds like an Englishman trying to do a perfectly cutlured American accent, and he does it well, but it doesn't fit JJ. The woman is absolutely great as Jess, hilarious in some points; I can't tell if it's Hornby's writing of Maureen or her reading of the character, but you're right, Maureen is much less interesting.

Which is fascinating in a way, since her struggle to care for her son is closely related to Hornby's real-life situation.

FYI, I found an online interview with Hornby that sheds some light not only on Maureen but on his own (lack of) religious beliefs. I'd suspected he's an atheist after finishing How to Be Good, but he confirms it here.

Here's the money quote:

CHRIS: You've spoken elsewhere about your sympathy for Maureen, given your own history, and your son's struggles with autism. But how difficult was it to write about - or perhaps the better word is through - Maureen? I ask because of all the characters she's my favorite; in many ways she's the most stable of the pack, and you're able to play off that stability to great comic AND tragic effect...

NICK: Well, I think she's the soul of the book, a sad, still point who intimidates the others, really, simply because her suffering isn't self-inflicted in any way, even though some part of her suspects it might be. I wouldn't have thought of that character if I didn't have a disabled child of my own, but she isn't me, and her son isn't my son. But my son opened a lot of doors, led me to people wouldn't have known about, and helped me to think about things I wouldn't have thought about - not for long, anyway. I didn't find it hard at all to write about her feelings or her situation.

I found her Catholicism a lot harder to empathise with - as I was writing the book, I realised that Maureen would have to return to the church if she was ever going to get happier, and as an atheist that isn't something I'd ever propose as a solution to anything.

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Jeff   

I just finished a really good collection of Daredevil issues. The plot involves a low-rent, Quentin Tarantino-ish gangster who gives the FBI Daredevil's real identity. The ensuing publicity storm and media coverage, and Matt/Daredevil's struggle to deal with it, provide a very interesting look into the superhero psyche. And Spider-Man makes a cheesy, distracting, but fun appearance, as well.

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Andrew   

The Wind-up Bird Chronicles, by Haruki Murakami - I had not heard of this author until he was mentioned on Darren's blog (thanks, by the way). What a bizarre, hypnotic ride - the tale of a man and the surprising dissolution of his marriage, touching on our need for the supernatural and the disconnectedness of modern life. A fascinating read.

No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy - a somber tale of a loner who stumbles onto drug money, and the hell that breaks loose thereafter. A meditation, too, on the decline of 20th century American society and civility.

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American Gods, by Neil Gaiman--this was actually my first Gaiman work, and I like it a lot. There is a stretch in the middle where it slows down, and there are points where the "Americana" aspects are overbearing and precious. But on the whole it's an excellent parable/allegory/road trip of a novel, with plenty of jibes at the worst aspects of both modernity and ancient paganism, and with some beautiful, beautiful prose to boot. I'm eager to start reading Sandman soon.

The Stripping of the Altars, by Eamon Duffy--this is a history book, but it describes in vivid detail the state of late medieval English Catholicism at the time of the Reformation. Duffy's thesis is that not only was genuine Christian practice alive and well, and not corrupted or half-pagan as most English historians since the Reformation claim, but that the Reformation itself was hardly a popular movement but a top down imposition. The Reformation, for all its theological virtues, destroyed and uprooted centuries of tradition and caused massive social disruption, and not for the better, from Duffy's obviously Catholic viewpoint. This is a very fascinating book for a Protestant like myself to read. It makes one wonder what price the division of the church really exacted, and what was lost in the process that was true and beautiful.

Edited by Michael Huang

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Hi,

Currently reading:

Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film, And Culture (Paperback)

by Spencer Lewerenz (Editor), Barbara Nicolosi (Editor)

Highly recommended about Christainity in secularist Hollywood.

Thanks. God Bless.

Aaron.

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BethR   
100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. What a trip. I'm reading this at my wife's recommendation--and (as is often the case) she was right. I love surrealism in film, and now I know that translates into magical realism in literature.

I loved this novel so much the first time I read it. It was one of those "you had me at hello" novels--the first sentence made me feel "I must read more...I must read this entire book, in fact. What will this writer do next?"

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stu   

I only got halfway through this. I'm not sure why, I think perhaps by halfway I kind of thought "Ok, I like what's going on here, but do I really need to read anymore?"

It's strange, because the "magic realism" of Midnight's Children and the Satanic Verses seemed a bit more gripping, even though they're both really long.

Has anyone read anything by Georges Borges? His writing also gets labelled magic realism, but is quite different. He writes short commentaries on novels that have never been written, or poets that have never lived, and they rule.

Edited by stu

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I'm trying to slug my way through Brian Moynahan's THE FAITH - a history of Christianity.

Like everyone, I have so much to read.

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Jeff   

A book I read a while ago that I'm going to start going through again soon is John Eldredge's Wild at Heart. Very good book about men's spirituality; I have a few criticisms of some of the stuff Eldredge says, but in the long run I think the book has helped me a lot.

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opus   

I'm in the home stretch for both Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash and Brandon Sanderson's Elantris.

I got Snow Crash after hearing so many people rave about Stephenson (I knew better than to delve into his Quicksilver novels). I'm really enjoying it - very fast-paced with a nice sense of humor. His vision of the future, where corporations own everything and have become the new countries, is nothing new, but it's delivered with just enough absurdity and over-the-top-ness to make it feel fresh and compelling. And the interweaving of Sumerian religion with modern hacking is quite interesting.

Elantris is a mixed bag. I love the world that the novel is set in, and many of the concepts, even if they're left unexplored. But the writing style bugs me. Namely, the dialog is fairly poor, IMHO. I'm not a fan of fantasy novels set in distant magical lands where the characters speak so casually and modern-like with one another (this is the main reason why I dislike David Eddings' novels so much). Also, the strong, independant woman who bemoans her loneliness because she's so strong and independant gets old about halfway through the novel.

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I just finished John Searles' Strange But True, and am now moving on to Jonathan Rosen's Joy Comes In the Morning. Quite enjoyed the former, but I think the latter is going to be even better. Both novels tell a story through multiple third person POVs, intersecting lives, etc.

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I'm a few pages away from finishing my long-neglected copy of Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. It has restored my flagging enthusiasm for writing (brought on by busy-ness and weariness, I suppose). The delightful prose is worth reading all on its own, but she is also a very competant writing coach, and the joy and satisfaction she finds in writing is infectious.

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jord   

The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russel: This is an incredibly intense and disturbing look at a Jesuit missions trip to an alien planet. Yeah, it sounds weird at first, but it's pulled off very well and does not provide any easy answers. To reveal any of the plot would be unfair, as facts are revealed very slowly, but it is one of the more intelligent (and graphic) novels dealing with faith and doubt I've read recently

Marcel Proust - In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower: No blurb can do this book justice.

And...

Haruki Murakami - Kafka on the Shore (very good)

Milan Kundera - Unbearable Lightness of Being (very good)

Jorge Luis Borges - Labyrinths (whoa)

Vladimir Nabokov - Lolita (hilarious)

Chris Ware - Acme Novelty Library (depressing, sad, honest, addictive)

assorted Kenneth Burke and Kant

Edited by jord

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BethR   

On Beauty, by Zadie Smith. I'm just starting this, and as it's quite different, so far, from White Teeth, I'm hoping to ultimately like it better.

I'm giving up talk radio for Advent (doesn't that sound good?) and listening to books on tape instead as I drive hither and yon, which I have never tried before. Recently finished listening to Georgette Heyer's A Convenient Marriage read very effectively by someone whose name I can't recall. Heyer is a 20th c. writer who's the next-best-thing to Jane Austen. No other Regency imitators need apply; they either get period details and dialect wrong, or they muck things up with a lot of sex and violence. Heyer is always pitch-perfect, charming, and amusing.

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Andrew   

Crime and Punishment, by Dostoevsky - I'm continuing my way through D's works; I've now read this, Karamazov, and Notes from the Underground in the past several months, and I plan to read The Idiot later this year. Karamazov remains the most memorable and spiritually powerful for me, but this was a great, intense read, of course. I'm amazed at how successfully Dostoevsky portrays a tormented, delirious soul; plus his social commentary remains highly relevant today.

Love Your Enemies, by Lisa Sowle Cahill - a great overview of just war theory and pacifism, from Origen and Tertullian all the way to Hauerwas and Ramsey, by a Christian ethics prof at Boston College. Highly recommended, for those interested in this subject.

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I'm about halfway through Ian McEwan's SATURDAY. It was on so many top 10 lists for 2005, I feel like I should like it more than I am. It's good - it's just that the whole book is one day, so the pace is...different. There was a squash game that lasted 18 pages. I haven't read about squash in such excruciating detail since John Irving's A WIDOW FOR ONE YEAR.

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I'm about halfway through Ian McEwan's SATURDAY. It was on so many top 10 lists for 2005, I feel like I should like it more than I am. It's good - it's just that the whole book is one day, so the pace is...different. There was a squash game that lasted 18 pages. I haven't read about squash in such excruciating detail since John Irving's A WIDOW FOR ONE YEAR.

Oh, I LOVED that squash game! :) Seemed to me that our main character represented Britain, his opponent the United States. But that's just my poor literary skills at work. It's a reach. Still, there's obviously something more than just squash going on there...

FWIW, I liked this book quite a bit when I read it last year. By the time the end of the year rolled around, I realized it had grown on me quite a bit in the ensuing months. I nominated it for our Book Club, but it didn't generate much interest.

Have you read McEwan's other stuff? If so, I'd be curious to hear how Saturday compares. The only other work by the author that I've read, Atonement, is so different from Saturday that, had the author's name not appeared on the books, I'd have thought two different writers penned the respective works.

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Have you read McEwan's other stuff? If so, I'd be curious to hear how Saturday compares. The only other work by the author that I've read, Atonement, is so different from Saturday that, had the author's name not appeared on the books, I'd have thought two different writers penned the respective works.

This is my first McEwan exposure. I checked ATONEMENT out from the library but didn't get around to reading it before it was due. Story of my life.

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larryw   

I'm reading *Rabbit Remembered* by John Updike... I read it some years ago when it came out around 2000. I've read the entire Rabbit series and have kind of "grown up" with him which kind of betrays my age. I love Updikes geographic discriptions, the feeling of passing through urban decay in industrial America.

I also share Andrew's experience of Dostoyevski's Brothers Karamazov... a book that has influence me very much. Have you ever read the Dostoyevsky influenced Niklaus Berdyaev, Andrew? His autobiography is great.

Larryw

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BethR   

I'm reading *Rabbit Remembered* by John Updike... I read it some years ago when it came out around 2000. I've read the entire Rabbit series and have kind of "grown up" with him which kind of betrays my age. I love Updikes geographic discriptions, the feeling of passing through urban decay in industrial America.

John Updike is one of those authors I've always felt as if I ought to like, but I can't. However, I recently encountered a short story by his son, David Updike, "Summer," which was just gem-like. Currently my favorite story of the year.

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Andrew   

::Have you ever read the Dostoyevsky influenced Niklaus Berdyaev, Andrew? His autobiography is great.

No, I have not, Larry - thanks for the recommendation; I will certainly look into it. And by the way, welcome to the Arts & Faith board!

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