Book Talk

I don’t have much time to read anymore, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try. Some nights it is just too much at the end of a day to do any more than a few pages. Other times, like Thursday night of this week, I get started early and can make some progress in a book.

Because I get mailed books from publishers for my radio work, books that I don’t solicit, I always have a lot of them around. I am not interested in most of what they send. A lot of the books are self-help type titles that are just variations on a theme. Once in a while, one comes along from a publisher that is really interesting. One arrived last week entitled, Life in Year One: What the World Was Like in First-Century Palestine by Scott Korb. It wasn’t a long book so it wasn’t intimidating, and one night I picked it up.

The book was a fascinating look at life in the time of Jesus, although the author takes pains to point out that the book is not about Jesus. (It is not written from a Christian viewpoint.) It answers questions about what people ate back then, what their houses were like, what hygiene was like (there wasn’t much…), health and medicine, war, death and marriage and so forth.

It is a great subject and something I have wondered about many times. Maria Von Trapp wrote on the topic in, Let Me Tell You About My Savior, and also When the King was a Carpenter. As she points out, we as Christians should be curious about what the life of Jesus was like and how he and his earthly family lived. I learned much about Jewish customs from reading Von Trapp’s books and caught a glimpse of what Jesus’ boyhood must have been like.

Another book I bought recently is, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future. I’m still working my way through that one. It is extremely depressing to see how reading books among young people today has almost been obliterated. Celebrity news, Twitter and Facebook updates on high tech phones is about it now. As a result, literacy and real knowledge in key areas are disappearing.

I wonder if such damage will ever be repaired as instant digital communication is reported to even affect the wiring of the brain. How do you go back to the joys of reading a book that requires concentration when the ability to concentrate has been destroyed in our digital age?

This I week I read Taylor Caldwell’s novel, Melissa, from the late 1940’s. The book was a page turner in a way that I haven’t experienced in a long time. The reason was the subject matter and the characters crafted by the author which drew me in. This was no formula novel with predictable characters. It told the account of a family where the father nearly destroyed his children. The way that the family’s eyes were slowly opened after his death made for quite a story. The lead character, Melissa, seemed damaged beyond repair by the influence of what she thought was a loving father. He was, in fact, evil in a subtle way that devastated his family.

I won’t spoil it for you in case you want to read it. I thought about how destructive families can be where pride and unhealthy relationships go unchecked, and what a responsibility it is to create a healthy emotional life for children in a home.

I would write more here, but I have to get to the library this quiet Saturday afternoon to return a stack of books I never got to read. In that overdue fines are my besetting problem, I intend to avoid them this week.

P.S. I intend to write more on this at a later date, but sadly, libraries are changing with the times and many of the good old novels are disappearing as they are deemed no longer relevant or they fall apart and go out of print. Besides buying as many used copies of good books online as I can for Emmy some day, I was thinking about what fun it would be to have a private lending library where readers could pay a small annual fee.

You could stock the shelves with the good old books exclusively, even if you had to reinforce old book bindings with duct tape (ha ha), so those who love the old authors who are out of fashion these days could still borrow them. None of the vulgar, profane, depressing new stuff allowed on those shelves. I could add a coffee shop on and have literary discussion groups on the old books…well, I’m getting carried away, but wouldn’t that be fun?

15 thoughts on “Book Talk

  1. Wendy says:

    Great, informative post, Ingrid. Means a lot you’d take the time in your busy schedule. It would be nice to exchange book ideas through a virtual library or coffee shop…?

    I ordered Pilgrim’s Progress and eagerly await it’s arrival. Can you believe I’ve never read the book??! I have “The Upside Down Kingdom” by Donald Kraybill on my shelf waiting to be read.

    I purchase used-books online when not found in the library. Any good used-book companies to buy from online anyone can share?

    Happy Reading in Christ,

  2. Yaddy says:

    Yes…that would be fun…I love reading and the younger generation keep trying to get me interersted in one of those new “kindle” thingy’s Just can’t be the same as a nice book in a quit nook somewhere.
    Pity today’s young people don’t like reading…they don’t know what they’re missing!

  3. Lisa K says:

    Wendy, I’ve ordered used books on Amazon and also I always try my library first for old books and only buy a book if my library can’t get it. I have loved books my entire life, but find as I get older I don’t re-read books as I did in the past.
    I love historical fiction for recreational reading but many newer authors just slap contemporary acting characters into the 17th century and don’t even try to work within the framework of the era.

  4. paulacummings says:

    Over the holidays there were a series of documentaries on about the times Jesus lived in, each concerning a different aspect such as medicine, jobs/working/, food, government. It was so fascinating. I have always wondered about what it would have been like to actually live day in and day out in what to me appears to be such an awful time in history based on just getting through the day alone much less everything else. Never knew about the Von Trapp books but that sounds very intriguing.
    The second thing you addressed with regard to the facebook generation really frightens me, you could probably write 10 blogs in one day about all the disturbing facets of that topic. Small detail, but recently I watched a movie that was shot and took place in the early 80’s and I noticed the a tiny detail that resonated with me merely because of how much life has so drastically changed. Many of the characters in the different scenes and background were always reading paperback novels when not engaged in conversation. For some reason it struck me that for college campuses one doesn’t see too much of that anymore that being people reading or carrying on conversations (without constant interruption by computerized devices). My fear is that this generation will be the one that I have to deal with in my old age that will be a challenge as many of them cannot seem to even string two sentences together. And don’t ever bother them with facts. Facts and truth no longer seem to hold weight in any discussion of importance.
    Love your idea on the library. I often feel frustrated as I have many books I would love to share, but don’t know how to in a constructive way. I love the sound of the Caldwell book you just read (even if it isn’t the life story of Billy Ray Cyrus!) ; )

  5. Margaret L. Been says:

    I agree that a private lending library would be fun!

    Ingrid, I know that you and I treasure the same kinds of books. You are the one who put me on to Miss Read, years ago! When I want to totally relax, I re-read her books.

    Have you discovered Miriam Huffman Rockness’s collection of the art and writings of Lilias Trotter–A BLOSSOM IN THE DESERT? What a treasure! I also have Rockness’s bio of Lilias Trotter, missionary to the Arabs in North Africa in the early 20th century.

    The bio contains excerpts from Lilias Trotter’s journals, concerning her ministry. She wrote about the inhumane treatment of women in the Islamic culture–and the saddistically cruel ways in which Christian converts are treated.

    What a life that woman led–in the midst of ongoing failing health and seemingly insurmountable challenges. Lilias Trotter and Amy Carmichael are 2 of my greatest role models! Their deeper life faith is such an inspiration!

  6. tagli says:

    I ordered Pilgrim’s Progress and eagerly await it’s arrival. Can you believe I’ve never read the book??! I have “The Upside Down Kingdom” by Donald Kraybill on my shelf waiting to be read.

    I purchase used-books online when not found in the library. Any good used-book companies to buy from online anyone can share?

  7. Darlene says:

    If you did in deed opened a store like that. I would be willing to back you with
    fiances and work for nothing at the store. A wonderful new thing to pray for.

  8. Jessica Fales says:

    I must find the Melissa book. Thank you for the recommendation. I have been reading lots of books, but no fiction. Fiction is very hard to find. Between the “Christian” romance and the foul language laced through the world’s fiction, I had all but given fiction up.


  9. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    I’m afraid such a place will stay in the realm of my dreams. A few months back I read the book, The Haunted Bookshop, by Christopher Morley. The opening pages of description of the primary setting for the story, a used bookshop, was so delicious, I could picture Tom and me living in that apartment above the shop, the worn leather bindings, the old leather chairs scattered around for browsers, the dog in front of the fire with the snow outside, the interesting conversation with book-loving friends in the evenings. Imagine being able to work and live in a setting like that. Well, they call it fiction for a reason, I guess. 🙂

  10. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Jessica, just a qualification on the Melissa book, it is not a Christian author, so like most things, Christian or non-Christian, there will be things that I don’t always support. A book has to have a right-side up worldview for me to read it. In other words, evil is evil, good is good, and good eventually triumphs. In fairy tales for example, the witch or whatever evil in the story has to lose. In the Bible there are mentions of all kinds of moral evil, but the point is not to exalt what is evil, but to show that God’s laws are not to be mocked, that evil ends in destruction ultimately, and so forth. When fiction bears this out, it is worth reading. One of the most moving books I ever read was not a Christian book, per se. But the author so vividly, through plot, showed how pride goes before a fall, how greed eats up like a cancer, and how tragically, the sins of the father are visited on children. There was no preaching in the book. The story did all of it, and it underscored the book of Proverbs so completely that I still remember that book to this day. It is A Stone from the Brook by Robert Greenwood.

  11. Lisa K says:

    The Angelique series by Anne Golon is definitely not a Christian series, but still my favorite. Set in 17th century France there is a lot of historical context involving Catholic oppression of Protestants, and the main Catholic character becomes the dear friend of a Godly Protestant family. At the heart of the series is a love story, with war, poverty, political/royal intrigue, etc. Evil is never rewarded. Unfortunately these books were marketed with “romance” style cover art (which greatly upset the author).

  12. Maria says:

    I have had The Haunted Bookshop on my Nook for a while, and due to this thread, I began reading it today. It promises to be just the remedy I needed.

    I also found Melissa at Amazon for $4 including s&h. I love used books! Because I read so much, I’ve had to find ways to feed my habit without breaking the bank. Sites like Bookmooch and PaperBackSwap have allowed me to share and receive Thank you for the recommendations!

  13. Denise says:

    There’s already a web site like what you described: I’ve already put myself on the list at that web site to get some of these books you’ve mentioned. They all sound great.

  14. Margaret L. Been says:

    More great older authors that I love: Rumer Godden, Elizabeth Goudge (not Ellen Goudge), Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey . . . . and I could go on and on.

    Does it surprise anyone that all of the above are English?

  15. Lisa K says:

    Margaret I love the British authors you mentioned too! Robert Goddard is another good British mystery writer. I also Like Iain Pears and Charles Palliser – I believe they are British too. They have a way with words! Articulate, intelligent writing, well thought out plots, etc. So much “new” fiction read like action movies to me – very little substance.

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