50 Book Challenge: 41-45

5 Books left!

It is the end of week 37, and I have just finished book 45.  I feel like I should continue reviewing books I finish after the fifty, keep counting to see how many I finish, because 50 is now basically inevitable.  Maybe my challenge for next year will be to try to finish more than this year, rather than 50.

41. The Atheist’s Introduction to the New Testament – Mike Davis

Asimov’s New Testament book sits heavily on my shelf, waiting impatiently for me to rally the nerve to throw myself into reading it.  I find the Old Testament a lot more interesting than the New Testament, mostly because it’s way more mythological and hardcore, and it’s more a history of an entire people than just like this one guy.

As a kid, I always thought Jesus was both kinda creepy and really boring — like Ned Flanders.  There was just something about the image of this weird hippie guy with long hair always hanging out with kids and lambs that I found unsettling in a “don’t get in the van” sort of way.  And the New Testament, when I read it, never made that feeling go away.  So I’m just sort of predisposed not to be terribly interested in the NT, but I feel like I should be, since I dislike Christianity so much.  It just gives me the heebie jeebies.

All of this being my way of saying that I read this because it was way shorter than Asimov’s book and I hoped it would make me more interested.  It did and it didn’t.  I find the story of how the NT came to be (eg Bart Ehrman’s work) a lot more interesting than anything in the NT, and this book certainly feeds into some of that.  It’s a very very interesting read, and I’d obviously recommend it to any curious believer.  I think this book is a slightly easier read that Bart Ehrman, but not nearly as exhaustively well-informed.

42. Lyra’s Oxford – Philip Pullman

This was a short book that was not nearly as good as the books it is a sequel to, His Dark Materials.  Basically, it was just way too short and tacked on, very little there.

43. LSAT Logic Games Bible – David Killoran

I really like logic and logic games so I did actually enjoy reading this book and solving the problems in it.  But I’m a huge nerd, so I’m not sure that you should just accept that.  Unless you’re taking the LSAT, obviously, in which case you should like this too.

44. The Truth – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs

Not to be confused with The Truth (with Jokes) by Al Franken, of course.  I enjoyed this book, it’s basically about the invention of/introduction of newspapers to Ankh Morpork, but it was hardly anything to write home about.  A solid B.  It’s basically a stand alone novel, with only bit parts for characters in the city that have featured in other Discworld novels.  I didn’t particularly care for any of the main characters, which sort of made the whole thing less interesting.

45. Thief of Time – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs

I enjoyed this quite a bit.  It has one of my favorite Discworld characters, Susan, and touches on some of the same apocalyptic themes as Good Omens.  I think this will end up being one of my favorites, one that I may try to read some time again in the future.  It involved chocolate saving the day by blowing people up because it was so delicious.

Even with nougat you can have a perfect moment.

Extra: I tried to read Freethinkers by Susan Jacoby and I got about 200 pages into it before being too bored to continue.  When faced with the dilemma of finishing it before I had to return it to the library or not… I chose not.  My intense disinterest in the history of America after 1865 probably didn’t help.

50 Book Challenge: 26-30

It is the fate of all banisters worth sliding down that there is something nasty waiting at the far end. — Terry Pratchett

We are coming to the end of Week 24/52 and I’ve read 30/50. I suspect it will be even slower from now on, I may start posting individually when I finish books so I don’t forget.

26. Soul Music – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. I quite like the main character, Susan the granddaughter of Death, who eventually becomes a sort of badass Mary Poppins. I liked her character, but the rest of the book was just sort of OK. I’ve found I don’t actually like the Death centered books that much. Anyway, I saw the Hogfather BBC movie and I really enjoyed Susan et al there, so I’m looking forward to getting to it.

27. Interesting Times – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
The return of Rincewind, haven’t heard from him in a while. I didn’t much care for this book, it wasn’t terrible or anything, it just wasn’t terribly compelling.

28. Maskerade – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
I think how much you like this book is dependent on your relationship with the Phantom of the Opera, which is to say if you are both familiar and mildly contemptuous of it, while retaining a special place in your heart for it, then you’ll very much enjoy this book. I think this is a book you could very easily read independently of the series without losing anything.  Have some quotes that will explain this to you.

After you’d known Christine for any length of time, you found yourself fighting a desire to look into her ear to see if you could spot daylight coming the other way.

“Well, basically there are two sorts of opera.  There’s your heavy opera, where basically people sing foreign and it goes like “Oh oh oh, I am dyin’, oh, I am dyin’, oh, oh, oh, that’s what I’m doin’”, and there’s your light opera, where they sing in foreign and it basically goes “Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! I like to drink lots of beer!”, although sometimes they drink champagne instead. That’s basically all of opera, reely.”

29. Asimov’s Guide to the Old Testament – Isaac Asimov
Oh my God I finally finished this. It took ages. It’s nearly 700 pages of historical analysis of the Old Testament. It’s very well written, it’s just that some parts of the Old Testament (aka the early bits) are way more interesting than the other parts (the prophets). I really enjoyed what I learned, but after I got through the fun stories it was a bit more difficult. Still, I enjoyed reading the explanations of all the prophecies and how they were related to the history of the local civilizations.

Since there are some stories attached, I’ve now got a decent timeline in my head of Syria, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, and anything else ending with ia that I’m forgetting. I guess I’m one of them atheists that likes to be able to know holy texts better’n the religious and since I live where the Judeo-Christians dominate, the Bible is what I like to be able to tear apart.

Also, as a complete political junkie, understanding the very earthly political motivations driving a lot of what is said in the book is very enlightening. I recommend this for anyone looking to be literate in the historical study of the Bible, but who doesn’t like boring people. Because, even when the material is dry, Asimov has an enthusiasm and sense of humor that makes it readable. And, at 700 pages, it really is exhaustive. Plus, lots of maps.

30. Feet of Clay – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
I know this list is mostly Terry Pratchett, but the Asimov book took me some weeks and I wouldn’t allow myself any other readable books til I got through it. This is the best one of the bunch, I think. I really really like the guards stories, and if you’re into Dirty Harry, crime solving, hijinks, or really like Severus Snape, I would recommend the guard books in the Discworld series.