The Library Basement
Reading under ground

Readings for April 2018

In April I went on a solo trip for work, which resulted in copious reading time in airports, on airplanes, in hotels, and in university common spaces.

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

S.A. Chakraborty found some fertile ground for new fantasy storytelling: the world of djinn, ifrit, and other Arabian mythologies. Chakraborty combines these with some new twists for a fairly fresh fantasy entry, The City of Brass. You heard that correctly: there are no dwarves, elves, nor halflings in this story.

While I greatly appreciated the novel world of The City of Brass, I cannot say that I was overly captivated by the story. It was an enjoyable read - I kept a fairly brisk pace, never stalling out. However I cannot say that I feel particularly motivated to pick up the upcoming sequel. That being said, if this sort of setting sounds captivating to you, definitely give it a shot.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Being a fairly short novel undertaken on a fairly long travel day, I had the rare pleasure of completing Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane in a single day. Gaiman's whimsical storytelling is (or should be!) well known, so it comes as no surprise that I put the book down only when required to do so by the TSA.

The novel has a nice, simple hook: a man travels to his childhood home and is met with a flood of memories. This is likely something that many have experienced. Now imagine that the memories flooding back are both unbelievable and disturbing - to the point where one must ask, "how could this ever have been forgotten?" That's the situation the protagonist finds himself in, and the weaving of the story around the premise is excellent. Recommended.

Fasting by Scot McKnight

Fasting is a part of a series of books on ancient practices in the Christian church. I was amazed by just how much I did not know about the history of fasting in the church. McKnight's exposition is skilled, and with it resonated the inspiration to explore fasting in action. Recommended.

The Root of War is Fear by Jim Forest

You may recognize Jim Forest as a Catholic Worker volunteer and Dorothy Day biographer. In this book his role as a correspondant of Thomas Merton's comes to the foreground. The subtitle "Thomas Merton's Advice to Peacemakers" seems apt, as this is not an biography of Merton, nor is it a systematic study of his writings per se. What we have is a reflection on Merton's writings (and private correspondance) on peace. Forest was of course active in various peace movements, so this is seen as rather directly applicable to real actions in Forest's life.

I learned a fair amount about Merton's life above what I had gleaned from A Seven Storey Mountain, and was enriched by seeing the private side of their correspondence. Anyone who knows much about my reading interests must correct assume that this book is heartily recommended.

Periodicals

  • Harper's December 2017
  • Tin House #63
  • Harper's February 2018

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