Thursday, August 30, 2007

Books

Books have the same enemies as people: fire, humidity, animals, weather, and their own content.

- Paul Valery (1871 - 1945)

Read any good books recently? Two have captured my interest of late. The first is The Wound of Knowledge: Christian Spirituality from the New Testament to Saint John of the Cross by Rowan Williams. Williams is a senstive reader of and an excellent guide to a variety of patristic and medieval thinkers. It's been a refreshing tour of some Christian tradition too often ignored in Protestant circles. It can be easy to get the impression sometimes that after Paul, the next great thinker was Luther or Calvin (with perhaps a passing reference to Augustine or Athanasius). Speaking of Augustine, Williams' chapter on the bishop of Hippo was a real highlight.

The second book is a piece of popular history called Tamberlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World, a portrait of a Turkic-Mongol warlord in the late 14thC (and early 15thC) variously known as Timur/Temur/Tamberlaine/Tamerlane, who conquered central Asia from the borders of China and northern India to Turkey and Egypt. Along the way, he killed somewhere in the region of 15 million people and probably inadvertently saved Europe from becoming part of the Ottoman empire.

12 comments:

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Is the picture in your place?

byron smith said...

Yep. Though we've moved the bookshelves since that picture was taken.

TheGreatSwalmi said...

byron,
i loved the wound of knowledge. read it for a course in seminary and have returned many times. i just reread roberta bondi's "to love as God loves" which is a fantastic tour of some early desert fathers stuff with good theology mixed in. also, i've just been through "the politics of the cross" by craig carter, which is a great study on the theology and social ethics of john howard yoder.

blessings,
mike

byron smith said...

Mike - thanks for the recommendations. I've been trying to work out how important the desert fathers are to Williams. Do you have any other suggestions on this connection specifically?

John P. said...

Hey Byron, its funny you should mention Williams' book. My sister just sent it to me for my birthday. Im really looking forward to reading it.

My sister actually sent me two books, the second one being Williams new-ish book "Where God Happens: Discovering Christ in One Another and Other Lessons From the Desert Fathers." I havent read it yet, but I would think this is a good place to start regarding your question.

I intend to read it on a flight this weekend (its a shorter book)...if I manage to finish it, I will let you know.

Drew said...

...halfway through Ray Monk's bio of Wittgenstein. It's excellent.

Martin Kemp said...

I've just finished Heiko Oberman's biography of Luther. It's fantastic. Quite well written history, and I feel like I have an intimate insight into a very complex man who lived in a very complex period. I bought the book when I was in first year uni (1996) at AnCon on Rob Forsyth's recomendation. It took me 11 years to get around to reading it, but it was worth the wait!

Roberto said...

Hmm, I'm a little late here, but I recently finished "The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity" by Philip Jenkins. It was fantastic. Marvelous. Amazing.

I'm reading his follow up, "The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South" now and enjoying it as well. Definitely worth reading. Philip Jenkins is the man.

TheGreatSwalmi said...

john p. took the words out of my mouth (but i won't hold it against him!). If you like williams, his book on resurrection is quite the little package, and wonderful to boot! i'm often curious as well about the desert fathers...some of their stories and things seem so bizarre, and yet so many of them speak to me of a christianity unfettered by legalism (which seems very counterintuitive to the nature of the "desert" fathers, no?

byron smith said...

John P & Mike - that was the book that got me onto The Wound of Knowledge (though having now finished the latter, I wasn't so impressed with the final chapter as with the earlier ones. I wasn't quite sure where he was going with John of the Cross). It was a good little read, yet like Wound of Knowledge, it seems to be written with a lot of assumed ground about the nature and practice of contemplative prayer.

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byron smith said...

The Conversation: Paper versus e-books, ecological impacts weighed.

"the lowest long term environmental impact remains sharing paper books, buying second hand books and borrowing books from a library (provided you catch public transport there)."