Sunday, October 23, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Books #38 and #39


I'm not a fan of John Piper. I know that's heresy to most Christians, but there it is. I've read a few of his books and they just fell flat with me, and that was before I was Lutheran even. So I'm of the small minority of American Christians who do not rush out to buy the latest book by Piper, but when I saw that his newest title was about Christians and thinking and that Christian Audio was offering it as their free download this month, I decided to give it a try. It wouldn't cost me anything but some time.

And Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God is the best Piper book I've read, though his circuitous method of exegesis still loses me. Perhaps I would have followed it better had I had the print version, but if past experiences count for anything, I doubt it would have helped. Piper, who shows his debt to Jonathan Edwards strongly in this book, makes a strong case for a Christian cultivating right thinking and against the anti-intellectualism so evident in many strains of American evangelicalism. In his chapters on relativism, he shows that not only is relativism wrong; it's evil. He spends considerable time exhorting Christians to humility in intellectual pursuits because only through humility can the mind be used in the service of God and neighbor.

In the chapter titled "All Scholarship Is for the Love of God and Man" Piper sounded downright Lutheran! Maybe that's why I liked this book more than others of his. lol The last chapter is a plea to two types of Christians: thinkers and non-thinkers. He encourages non-thinkers to honor and pray for those who do the hard work of thinking. Likewise, he encourages thinkers to use their intellectual gifts in love and humility to bless and serve others, not to show off. These two chapters, along with the three on relativism, were the best in the book, in my opinion.

The book is still available for free download from Christian Audio. Except for trying to follow the round about way Piper does exegesis, it was easy to listen to. The narrator, whose name I can't remember just now, was competent but rather bland.

Enough about Piper. I want to talk about Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows! What pure delight it was to read this book! I was in raptures throughout and laughed out loud at several points. I'm not sure why I've never read this book for myself before now. I had heard Man of the House reading it to our girls, but I must not have been paying attention. There is no other explanation. Anyone who knows me well knows I am partial to books about talking animals who wear clothes ~ A.A. Milne, Beatrix Potter, even Richard Scarry ~ but the attraction to this book goes well beyond that. There isn't even much of a plot until Toad takes his wild ride which is followed up by dire (and simultaneously hilarious!) events, but I loved the descriptions of the animals' lives on the river, how they boated all day during the summer and stayed snug and warm in their cozy homes all winter. The descriptions of their houses were all I could ask for. There were plenty of good eating, cozy feather beds, and enjoyable visiting back and forth. And may I just say something about the author's use of language? It was stunningly poetic at times, uproariously funny at others, and poignantly beautiful at still others, but each and every word gave the impression of having been chosen very carefully from the author's enormous lexicon. It felt as though the words poured effortlessly from Grahame's pen. Each word was smoothly perfect. That in and of itself was delight enough, but add talking animals in waistcoats and I was entranced!

I don't know if Grahame had ever read Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, but I was struck immediately (and the idea stayed with me throughout the book) that it must have been known to Grahame, especially when I read the line on p. 6 of The Wind in the Willows, "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." No wonder I enjoyed it so much! The Wind in the Willows is simply one of the very most enjoyable books I have ever read. I told you last week I would wax rhapsodic about this book!

I'm running out of time and will just post this without proofreading, but I have to say one last thing ~ the icing on the cake was Ernest H. Shephard's illustrations in both black and white and color. They were perfect!

3 comments:

  1. Think: Good for him!

    The Wind in the Willows: Yick.

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  2. I discovered Wind in the Willows as a young adult and fell in love it. I bought the Shephard illustration version at a recent book sale which could be a sign that it is time for a re-read. (Wonder how I'll feel about it now that I'm middle-aged!)

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  3. I liked "Think" too but you are right about Piper's circuitous routes. I had the book on my kindle and it took me a while to read because I had to pay close attention so I didn't lose him. He had a lot of valuable things to say about the importance of the intellect in our faith.

    I LOVE Wind in the Willows for many of the same reasons you mentioned. I keep seeing people reading it and have been meaning to get my copy out to read to whomever will listen. It is one of the best children's books ever! Right up there with Winnie the Pooh.

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