Much of my reading this past month was taken up by two long novels in an epic fantasy series. I also had the joy of beginning a vacation at the end of the month, so I will have a burst of books read in next month's installment.
I am still fairly far behind on my periodical reading. I have back issues of Biblical Archaeology Review, and some JBL articles I should be reading as well. I only finished the July issue of Scientific American this month. The interview of Leonard Susskind was a nice treat. It was certainly more philosophical than most SciAm articles, which I appreciate. The core of the interview concerned Susskind's skepticism that a grand unifying theory of physics can ever be articulated. He postulates that the flawed subjectivity of human perception and thinking makes it effectively impossible, and that the better goal of science is the empirical, not the theoretical. Scientists are in need of epistemological humility, and I am glad that this article gained wide readership in the pages of SciAm. Perhaps it will generate some interesting letters to the editor.
A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin (July 13)
I happily finished my re-read of A Song of Ice and Fire just in time for the next installment, finishing A Feast for Crows on the very day I got A Dance With Dragons in the mail. Many of the details of this volume were foggy to me, so it was like reading it again for the first time. I know this fourth book has received some harsh criticism from fans because it is too peripheral to the main story and only advances the story for half of the characters. I am willing to forgive it, however. I think the theme of chaos in the story is well-served by the meanderings of Crows, and there is some fine character development along the way. As if I had any choice: Recommended.
A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin (July 23)
Finally! It was a long wait. Actually for me the wait was not quite as long as other die-hard fans. I actually came to A Song of Ice and Fire after A Feast For Crows was released, so this was my first highly-anticipated release in the series. It did not disappoint.
A Dance With Dragons continues the theme of chaos from the previous volume and extends it into the other half of the characters' story arcs. I obviously cannot say too much, in deference to those who have not read the new book yet. Martin has taken the story in a good direction. Based on how this installment ends, I trust that the author is beginning the process of consolidating the plots and characters from their present far-flung circumstances. I remain a loyal fan: Recommended.
(The general feel on the street is that the television series has sufficiently piqued interest in A Song of Ice and Fire that Martin may complete the next novel in a shorter period. We can only hope.)
The Invention of the Biblical Scholar by Stephen Moore and Yvonne Sherwood (July 25)
I received this fairly short work as a birthday gift. It was not what I was anticipating. The authors are generally concerned at the outset with the relationship between biblical scholarship and literary Theory. The result is that the book takes at least 40 pages to really take off into what I considered interesting territory. But once it did, I found it to be worth the effort. This read was also an interesting way to get exposed to literary Theory, which I had only heard as the object of mild curses by my college English professors and various and sundry other cultural critics of these latter days. Recommended.
Tehanu by Ursula K LeGuin (July 31)
I have yet to find a book by Ursula K. LeGuin which I do not like. She is among the best in the fantasy and sci-fi genres at making good use of the other-worldly metaphors which those genres allow. Tehanu feels less adventuresome than other books in the Earthsea cycle. It is the Deep Space 9 of the series, if you pardon the analogy. But it is a good coda to the story of the wizard Sparrowhawk.
As always LeGuin employs magic, mythical creatures, compelling characters, and an awesome setting in her story, but she does not let them get in the way. Rather she tells a good story and augments it where it is necessary with the magical. Tehanu is a sublime read, and as such it was an excellent beginning to my summer vacation reading. Recommended.