"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Sunday, 25 November 2012

On Reading: Biographies, Politics, History, Cultural Studies, etc.

This is the final entry in the my reading series, and it's going to be a bit of a catch-all for the categories not discussed thus far. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it includes the books I read most often. I haven't touched on topics like children's books, travelogues, or humour books because I don't read enough of them to have any insights.

Historical Books:  I actually read more history books than any other category after fiction. I guess that's what comes from being a history major in university. Because of my background, I'm fairly picky about the quality of history books: I'd prefer they be written by an academic (rather than a journalist), and I'll generally check the bibliography and avoid books without a lot of footnoting. Yes, I'm a big nerd. If you have any recommendations for books of this type, feel free to let me know!

Biographies and Memoirs:  I love biographies. In fact, I've been reading biographies since I was in grade school. One of my first was called Kelly: At Home on Third (you can find a photo here; your respect for me just went through the roof, didn't it? :-D) I typically read biographies of historical figures, political actors, and well-known Christians, rather than musicians or actors. As with history books, I prefer to read biographies that are well-researched and footnoted. I also am sometimes picky when reading Christian biographies: Christian subjects are often of interest to biographers who admire them, but this they may be tempted to skim over the more unpleasant aspects in the lives of prominent Christians (at least after they had come to personal faith). Personally, I feel that people like Luther and Bonhoeffer were conscious of their own flaws and would have preferred to have them documented so as to better show the grace of God in using imperfect people. Of course, there are also lots of great Christian biographies out there, so I'd encourage believers to read about people who went before us in the faith.

Politics and Cultural Studies:  I don't read a lot of books about politics, partly because a lot of them seem a bit like “preaching to the choir”; people don't tend to read Ann Coulter unless they already agree with her... If I do pick up something political, it will tend to be about the development of nationalism or something equally nerdy.

Cultural Studies is a more broad term, which could encompass politics, but also books that look at other aspects of society. I'd include here works like Fast Food Nation, Freakonomics, and a lot of the stuff you'll find on the New York Times bestseller list for non-fiction. I read from this category from time to time, usually books that ask questions about where our society is going and challenge me on how I live my life (for example, I have enjoyed Neil Postman in the past), and things related to the role of women. One of my favourites in this category would be Wendy Shalit's Return to Modesty.

Thanks for stopping by to check out this series on reading. I've enjoyed the chance to ruminate on why I read what I read, and have been challenged to be more intentional choosing books in the future. I'll be back to “regularly scheduled programming” for now, but check back in for something exciting and different on Thursday.

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