Christmas Reading List

So, one of my frustrations with formal education is that it generally doesn’t teach me about what I want to learn about or let me read what I want to read about; it also generally loads me up with enough learning and reading that my teachers, or politicians who legislate what teachers teach, think is important that I don’t have time left over during the semester to do pursue my own learning and reading.

Hence one of my traditional goals during Christmas and Summer breaks: read a bunch of books that I care about.  In my enthusiasm, I generally tend to compile a list that is over-ambitious and that I don’t finish, but, hey, if you shoot for the stars, chances are you’ll at least get pretty high, right?  Maybe blogging this list, and blogging about what I read as I read it will help me hit a little higher.  Depending on how successful I am, the posts I generate from this reading list might last ’til May!

So, without further ado, here’s my Christmas break reading list:

Centuries of Meditations by Thomas Traherne. I borrowed this book from a good friend and Torrey graduate on her insistence that it was a beautiful book about God’s love.  Just having started it in the past leads me to agree emphatically.  The “centuries” in the title refers to the fact that the book is made up of collections of 100 stanzas of poetry.  My friend has recently been yearning to re-read Traherne, so this will be the first thing I read so I can get it back to her quickly.

The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun by J.R.R. Tolkien.  My second book of poetry in my book list, this is an original re-telling of the Germanic myth, authored by Tolkien.  I’ve always enjoyed Germanic mythology more than Greco-Roman mythology, though, since I’ve always had to dig it up for myself, I’m less familiar with it than Greco-Roman mythology.  Tolkien wrote this poem in a traditional Germanic style, with lots of alliteration, but in what, at a glance, seems to be very enjoyable and readable English.

Moral Man and Immoral Society by Reinhold Niebuhr. Suggested to me by both a pastor and my history teacher while I was seriously considering Pacifism during the last year or so of my undergrad days and Obama’s favorite philosopher’s most famous work.  Takes Marx seriously while remaining a Christian work.  What’s not to recommend this book?

Christ and Culture by H. Richard Niebuhr. I have complex and, if not contradictory, at least paradoxical feelings on how Christians should interact with culture.  On the one hand, I’m an Anabaptist and a Dispensationalist who has no love for Christendom- on the other, I’m an Anarchist, a Distributist and believe in doing Church organically.  Perhaps this book will help me resolve my feelings on this question.

Toward a Truly Free Market by John Medaille.  One of the weaknesses I think Distributism currently has is that it tends to argue from premises not shared by most non-Distributivists.  This book is supposed to remedy that by arguing for Distributivism as a system which works better than either Capitalism or Socialism.

A Guide for the Perplexed by E.F. Schumacher.  The second book by a Distributist on this list, this short (140 pages) book has more to do with arguing the Thomistic worldview underpinning much of Distributist thought than with actually arguing Distributist practice.  It’s been described as the logical prequel to Schumacher’s more famous Small is Beautiful.

The Monkey and the Fish by Dave Gibbons.  This book was given to me because it is about the Church needing to be Third Cultural and I’m an Adult Third Culture Kid.  It’s high time I read it.

Church 3.0 by Neil Cole. By the guy who gave me The Monkey and the Fish, in this book Neil addresses a lot of questions that people have had concerning Organic Church, with each chapter being very topical.  I’m guessing I’ll get a blog post out of every chapter.

    • Stephen Hale
    • December 20th, 2010

    Staples: A Distributionist?!?!? Don’t find one of those every day!

    Also, and I don’t mean to be overly pessimistic because I’m sure it’s still valuable, but Neibuhr is, if I understand correctly, been discredited, or superceded, in most of the things he said. I should look up a quote or two for you, instead of just saying a blanket statement like that…

    Still, a huge presence, not to be ignored. And I’m sure he’s smarter than myself…anyway. I’ve thought of reading him, too, so I’ll be curious what you think of his stuff.


    • Staples
    • December 20th, 2010

    It’s true, you don’t find Distributists every day. Are you familiar with Distributism?

    I’d be interested in anything you think would be relevant concerning Niebuhr (either one, actually). I haven’t heard anything about either of them being superseded or discredited before today.


    • Stephen Hale
    • December 21st, 2010

    Yeah…probably a good impetus for me to look this up…Let me see if I can find something in the next day or two. Might find I’m mistaken. We’ll see!

    As for distrubitism, I’m familiar with it, but not heavily. I know it’s the position advocated by Popes around the turn of the (last) century, and that it’s thought to be (probably) a more just system. Unless I’m confusing this with something else? Anyway. I think I read a few wikipedia articles about it a few years ago when I was paying more attention to questions of justice & economics. At least, more theoretical attention to it.

    • Staples
    • December 28th, 2010

    Yep, we’re talking about the same economic system. Cool! It isn’t every day you find someone who’s even heard of Distributism.

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