A Bookish Bucket List – Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at The Broke and the Bookish. They love to share their lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list  that one of their bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don’t have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It’s a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

So, without further ado…My Bookish Bucket List!

  1. Read Les Miserables…one of these days, when my kiddos are grown.
  2. Finally read Anna Karenina.
  3. Finish The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor.
  4. Read Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.
  5. Read The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis with my sons.  My first time through will be when I read them with my oldest son.
  6. Read everything by Willa Cather, Cormac McCarthy and Kent Haruf.
  7. Have over 300 classics on my finished list.  I’m currently at 186.
  8. Buy no new books for an entire year…including Kindle books.  Limit my reading during that year to my personal library and our local public libraries.  (I’ve tried this before and failed magnificently.)
  9. Get back to reviewing books on this blog.
  10. Own my own used (and loved) book store…perhaps with a reading nook complete with coffee and comfy chairs.

 

WORLD | How to read thoughtfully | Emily Whitten | March 22, 2014

Let me preface by saying that this brilliant article was originally published at World Magazine.  I am a subscriber to that magazine, and it is full of great articles, book reviews, movie reviews, and more.  If you like the following excerpt, and I hope you do, head on over to World Magazine to see what else they have to offer.  The subscription really is worth it.

****************************************************************

How to read thoughtfully

Books | The Bible and literary criticism

Posted March 22, 2014, 09:58 a.m.

Many intelligent, capable Christian authors and literature professors have sought to connect the Bible with the stories we read. But Christian literary criticism doesn’t seem to trickle down to the general Christian populace—except for criticism of one book, the Bible. That’s where crucial questions are asked: What authority does the author have? What about the reader? And how is God able to communicate to us?

As a book reviewer, among the many influential ideas I have borrowed from Biblical Criticism 101 is the idea of the Trinity. Communication within the Godhead Himself is described in this way: An author (God the Father) speaks, a Word (Jesus Christ) is spoken, and an interpreter (the Holy Spirit) then interprets that Word. As I have sought to apply this framework to the stories I review, I have come to see three links in the chain that must be counted: the author, the work itself, and the audience. From formalism to feminism, so many of the errors I have encountered in my reading tend to exalt one or two of those links to the exclusion of the rest.

The author

Christian circles hold widely the idea that a book exists first and foremost in the mind of its author. In that view, the author defines the meaning of a work. The author alone can unpack characters, setting, or what is meant by the entire story. Later cultures are often tempted to reinterpret the work in ways obviously contrary to the author’s intent (such as the search for phallic symbols in Jane Austen’s work). I can understand why it’s tempting to do so.

As Christians see liberal Bible scholars dethroning God from His place as final arbiter of what the Bible means, it’s easy to make a one-to-one transfer to human works of art. But if we believe that God, as author, has the final say over what the Bible means, then shouldn’t human authors—made in His image—have final ownership of their own writing?

Here are a few problems with that supposition. First, God is authoritative in defining His work and communication in a way human beings are not. Man does not create ex nihilo, but rather, we draw from the stories and music of language around us. We inherit many ideas, symbols, and meanings of which we often are not even aware. Conversely, God does not borrow from anyone in His creation of meaning. He sees His Word truly and exhaustively in a way that human authors simply cannot see their own work. So, while God does have ownership of His work, ultimately He—and not human authors—owns our work, too.

Because man is made in His image, I, as a reviewer, ought to consider how a human author interprets his work. Good authors are often very insightful about their writing. It takes a lot of time and effort to get as close to the subject matter as the original author. But because human authors are finite and often misinterpret their own work, Christian reviewers must still weigh the work itself. We must also consider how that work interacts with its audience, including reader groups, genres, and the history of literature. Ultimately, an author’s view of his or her own work is important, but not authoritative.

In practical terms, the temptation to focus too much on the author’s faith and interpretation of a work is a real and constant danger. If an author or publisher is Christian, many Christians believe the work is Christian and must therefore be given precedence over the work of non-Christian writers. This kind of thinking dominates much of the Christian publishing industry and leads to sites like FamilyFiction.com that promote only one kind of overtly Christian author.

Yet, consider the portrayal of grace in True Grit by two very worldly filmmakers, the Coen brothers. In my review from 2011, I tried to show why that movie is one of my favorites. It was not intended to be a Christian film, but it nevertheless clearly portrays Christ and His justice in profound ways.

Overexalting the author’s role in storytelling denies the imago Dei present in non-Christians. It denies the fact that God has gifted many non-Christians far more than the average Christian in writing skills. And if we only take an author’s word for it, we will miss some of the greatest feasts of truth and beauty that God has prepared in our generation.

The work

According to the Bible, a book exists not just in the mind of its author and readers, but—as the Word is united but also separate from the author and interpreter—on its own.

Page 1 of 4

This article is continued…  How to Read Thoughtfully at World Magazine.  This is a subscription magazine, and the rest of the article is available to subscribing members.  It really is worth it.

Do You Supplement Your Reading With Outside Sources…

…like Sparknotes, academic articles, or other bloggers’ reviews?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

This is the January 2012 question for the Literary Blog Hop hosted by The Blue Bookcase.  It’s my first time to join this blog hop, but it is perfect timing, being not only the beginning of the year, but also the commencement point for several new reading challenges that I hope to complete during 2012.  Read on for my answer.

Do I supplement my reading?

When I was in college school, there was no question about the fact that I would have to supplement everything I read in order to (ultimately) write a research paper, answer classroom questions, or respond to an essay question on a test that required more than a rudimentary knowledge of the text.  At any rate, I got very familiar with ferreting out expert opinions, but (not necessarily) familiar with coming to my own opinions & conclusions as I read.  I don’t know if this was due in part to being young and less experienced as a reader of classics and other meritorious literature, or if was simply due to laziness.

In graduate school it was largely the same, with the big change being that I was now thinking more independently and more critically about what I was reading.  My opinions were important, and professors were interested in hearing all of us flesh out our thoughts and put some meat on our critical thinking bones.  Academic articles and supplemental information were meant less for coming to an understanding of the work than for supporting our  theories, and giving us some solid intellectual ground as we ground out some (hopefully) fresh and original ideas.  Whether or not those ideas actually gained any traction, the process of reading, discussing, studying critically, and applying our own perspectives to our literary pursuits made us…me…a much more confident reader.

Fast forward to now…

I almost never supplement my reading now, unless there is something about the book or the author that so captures my attention that I feel a need for some additional insight.  Those incidents are not cases of lacking understanding so much as a desire to broaden my appreciation of what I read by getting some backstory.  Sometimes reading a few blogger reviews fills that need, but there are times when I’m voratiously reading whatever information I can find.  I never do (and never did) any supplemental reading ahead of time, and though this was not a necessarily conscious decision, I do believe that it is important to read and appreciate the text on my own before seeking out anything else.  Most of the time that’s sufficient.  When it’s not, I read & research until I satisfy the questions in my head.

Then I write my review, and I may or may not reference any supplemental sources.  I want my reviews to reflect my opinions, my assessments, my critique of the writing and the story.  In the end, I hope that they do.

What Would YOU Include?

Aside from the actual blurb and review, I’m curious what those who review books find pertinent or useful in a book review.  Since I started reviewing books, I have typically included some indentifying info at the top of the review:  title, media type, # of pages, ISBN, and sometimes other details provided by Amazon.com or Goodreads.com.  Over time, I settled onto a set of things I included every time…all of the above plus my rating.

I read book reviews on a regular basis – from lots of different media – and I have seen a lot of different styles, types of information, formats, etc.  So I am posing a question to you…READERS…about what details you think should always be present in a good book review.  I want to improve this year, and you can help me!

Of the list below, what is critical to know?  What absolutely must be included?  What should be left out?  What is not necessary?  What can make a good review better?  More enjoyable to read?  What can detract or distract?

  1. Format / Media type
  2. Number of pages / disks
  3. Number of recorded hours (audio)
  4. Rating (x out of 5, x out of 10)
  5. ISBN
  6. Back of the book blurb and/or plot summary
  7. Main characters
  8. Setting
  9. Genre (novel, novella, poetry, short story, play, etc.)
  10. Literary category  (psychology, fiction, nonfiction, Southern lit, Asian lit, etc.)
  11. Why I read the book?
  12. When I started / finished the book?
  13. Author info
  14. Picture
  15. Link to Amazon.com (or other) to purchase book

That’s all I can think of at the moment.  If there is something that you believe is important that I have not thought of, please share it with me.  I welcome your input!

Happy Reading…and reviewing. 🙂