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Book 9 – Sword of Honour by Evelyn Waugh

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A fictional account of an upper class Catholic’s war experiences; as always with Waugh it’s drawn strongly from the world he knew and includes more than a dash of autobiography. Originally three books edited into one, I enjoyed the beginning and the end much more than the middle (mostly about the Crete disaster).

BTW I read this and previous book weeks ago. I need to be more disciplined about updating the blog.

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Book 8 – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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Quick re-read inspired by my current following of The March Family Letters

(If you are interested in this sort of thing I can also recommend The Lizzie Bennett Diaries and Emma Approved)

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Book 7 – The World We Have Lost by Peter Laslett

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A long time ago in a sixth form far far away, I read quite a bit of English social history; Cole and Postgate’s The Common People and E.P.Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class were typical examples. This book is very much in that tradition, written in the 1960s when historians’ interest in how people lived, the details of their births, marriages and deaths, what they ate and how communities worked started to become mainstream. It is a fairly forensic examination of the condition of English society in the seventeenth century, before the Industrial Revolution. I had never heard of it and came across it quite by chance in a charity bookstall in Longridge. A little bit of background research tells me that Laslett’s work is still considered to be essential preparatory reading for any student of early modern or modern social history.

I found this an absolutely fascinating read; some of the content was fairly familiar to me (for example the debunking of the notion that teenage marriage was the norm in early modern English society) and a lot was brand-new (again as an example, I hadn’t really appreciated the extent to which the nuclear family has been the bedrock of English society for hundreds of years and that even then the old tended to live and die alone).

But the most interesting feature reading this book was the sense of reading a book about the seventeenth-century, written in 1965, but with 40 to 50 years of hindsight on top. The final chapter of the book “Understanding Ourselves in Time” is essentially an essay on the process of developing historical knowledge and insight and how we understand ourselves in contrast with our ancestors. Laslett was writing 20 years after the creation of the Welfare State and with the perspective of the enormous benefits it had brought to British society. Reading this in 2015 things seem so much more complex; nonetheless I  heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in history and in fact to anyone with an interest in how our society was made.

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Book 6 – Renaissance by Os Guinness

No picture as this was a Kindle book.

I’d not read anything by Os Guinness before,  or even come across his writing. His main interest seems to be the state of Christianity in modem culture. And so this book explores the question,  “Is the power of the Gospel enough to overcome the darkness of the present times”. The objective of the book is to both encourage and challenge Christians and Guinness makes points such as
-The media probably over-represents the “present dark times” (in comparison to previous times),
-but our churches do resemble too much the surrounding culture.

The recommendation is to live out the Gospel with
-committed engagement in the world,
-cultural discernment
-courageous refusal to conform or compromise where necessary.

So, everything to agree with in terms of the book’s content,  but I found the actual read a bit dry.  It’s possibly not a very good type of book to read on a Kindle; I’d have preferred to have been able to flick back and forth more easily and scribble a few notes in the margins.

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Book 5: The Immaculate Deception by Iain Pears

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I found this book slightly disappointing,  as I loved An Instance Of The Fingerpost a couple of years ago. But you need to be really quite interested in and informed about Italian renaissance art and Italian contemporary politics/establishment to get the most out of this detective story.

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Book 4: Heidi by Johanna Spyri

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Re-read for the umpty-somethingth time. If you don’t enjoy this story then you must have a heart of wood.

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Book 3 – One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

 

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Meh. A whole load of mildly interesting facts, thrown together without much obvious editing results in a dull read indeed.

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