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October 19, 2003: Reading list

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I am starting to slowly get more involved in the reading I am doing for this bible study I’m involved in. Next Wednesday we’ll be discussing order, which means that most of the reading for this week is full of lists of rules – rules on when you should stone an ox and when you should free a slave and how many sheep or goats are to be paid to whom for all manner of wrongs. Despite expectations to the contrary, I am actually finding these rules rather fascinating. I’ve always maintained that one of the reasons for having gods and goddesses and religions in the first place is to instill some kind of order on people because people are usually more afraid of divine retribution than of punishment from other people. What better way to lay out the beginning of a rather comprehensive judicial system than in the form of religious text.

I am not saying this to mock the bible, however. I am beginning to understand just why it is that so many people find the book so fascinating. There are a lot of interesting messages hidden in the words we’ve read so far, and I freely admit that it often takes someone else to point out an interpretation that makes it a little clearer for me. It has not, so far, suddenly convinced me of the existence of a supreme being. But it has shown me the way that people thought, thousands of years ago, and that in itself is worth something.

It has been nice to get something out of the readings from the bible, if only because I am not getting much out of my other reading material right now. Someone posted a link to the BBC’s 100 Best Loved Books list on TUS and after discovering that I’d only read about 40 of the books listed, I decided it might be fun to try to read some of the others. I usually avoid doing this sort of thing with published book lists because they are usually full of the type of ‘classic’s that are foisted on unsuspecting and unwilling students in school so that we might all benefit from someone’s interpretation of what the author was really trying to tell us – whether or not the author might agree with that interpretation or not. But this list included books by Terry Pratchett, so surely the rest couldn’t be all that bad.

I started off with The Alchemist, which is just chock full of flowerly rhetoric that had me rolling my eyes pretty much the entire way through. And then I printed off a list of all the other books I hadn’t yet read and handed it to Richard and he brought me home a stack on Tuesday night from the library.

So far I have read three of the ten books he brought home and I am eying the remaining seven with more than a bit of trepidation. Anne of Green Gables annoyed me the entire time I was reading it. The BFG was extremely disappointing, if only because Roald Dahl wrote other books that were far better written and far more entertaining than this one. And Artemis Fowl should have had a different spelling for the last word of that title because it was just not worth the effort. A number of the remaining books are of the types that usually do not interest me in the slightest and after being extremely disappointed in the first three I am seriously beginning to rethink this grand idea of reading the remaining fifty books on the list. After all, despite the fact that the list included Harry Potter and Discworld novels, it also included Clan of the Cave Bear (the first of a series in which a young cavewoman discovers every conceivable thing that led to the first primitive culture. I still shudder when I think of the time I lost in plowing grimly through those books, naively sure that somehow they would redeem themselves). Surely that addition alone should have indicated that something was painfully amiss.

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