Books this Update
- Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality, John Shelby Spong
- Return of the Black Widowers, Isaac Asimov
- Spartacus, T.L. Mancour
Last week was a short but busy week for me, as I entered into finals week studying for exams, writing papers, and preparing to pack up a years’ worth of life into only a few boxes. Consequently, I only read one book from the library and finished off two others that I’ve read a little from all semester. Episcopalian bishop John Spong’s autobiography constituted the bulk of my reading. Although the book is the autobiography of a very interesting man — a man who challenged his traditions and tried to humanize his religion — it also serves to give the reader a look into the Episcopalian church’s innards. I’m always captivated by stories of people grappling with their most cherished beliefs, although Spong didn’t go into as much detail as I would have liked. The reader doesn’t get the step-by-step retelling that Infidel provided, although Hirsi Ali was writing for different reasons and her change of worldviews happened faster. Still, Spong kept my interest while telling the story of how he sought to bring Christianity in accord with science and the human heart.
This week I also finished Return of the Black Widowers, the last in Asimov’s Black Widower collections — books compiling his Black Widower mystery stories, in which a club of men with the titular name meet monthly for dinner and are presented by a guest with a mystery to solve. This collection is special, because it was published a decade after the maestro’s death and combines uncollected Widower stories with Asimov’s personal favorites. There are seventeen stories in all (five more than usual), including one (“The Last Story”) written by Harlan Ellison. As usual, I loved the collection — but I did miss Asimov’s characteristic comments. Ellison tries to provide this with an “afterword’ extracted from Asimov’s autobiography that does the job a little bit, but doesn’t seem quite as personal. Excellent as always — I particularly enjoyed being able to revisit old favorites, like “The Obvious Factor”.
Lastly, I finished a Star Trek novel called Spartacus. Those familar with Roman history, or perhaps just depictions of Roman history in popular media, can probably discern that this book’s plot is driven by a slave revolt. Specifically, a planet outisde Federation space called Vemla has been engulfed in war after the androids that provided the Vemlan’s standard of living revolted, guided by the more sentient “Alpha” androids. A few androids take over a ship and attempt to flee the brutal war, but a storm in space disables their vessel temporarily, at which point the Enterprise-D comes to their rescue. They tell Captain Picard that they are refugees, but soon after a fleet of Vemlan ships arrives and informs Captain Picard that they intend to bring their escaped property back with them — and he would do well to not interfere. Although Picard and his crew — and most of all, Commander Data — want to help the androids, they are bound by Federation regulations, philosophical questions, and the haunting fear that these androids are not the peaceful refugees they claim to be. I found the book quite readable.
Pick of the (Update): Return of the Black Widowers, Isaac Asimov
- The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman. I’ve used this book in research papers before but have never actually read it despite it being used in my western civilization textbook. I will remedy that this week.
- The Robots of Dawn, Isaac Asimov
- Familiar Poems, Annotated, Isaac Asimov. Asimov mentioned this in I, Asimov and it sounded interesting.
- Islam, Karen Armstrong. I’ve never finished any of Armstrong’s work before, and so in the interests of cultural literacy I’ll be lighting two candles with one flame. (I googled for more peaceful variants of the “kill two birds with one stone” variant, and I like that one the most.)
- The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown. Yes, I’m finally getting around to it.