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October Reads

May my lateness be forgiven. The past two months have been rather hectic. Please excuse my forgetfulness, I may not remember all the details of each book. Nevertheless, I believe it was a good month of reading.

THE MAN WHO COUNTS by Poul Anderson


There's a used bookstore in the college town down the road and we find ourselves there often. Too often, really. It's where I found this book, The Man Who Counts by Poul Anderson. They have a plethora of his books and finally I decided to jump in somewhere. The story is about a group of traders find themselves lost on a planet in the middle of a civil war. At least, from what I remember. There are winged creatures and other beast which battle throughout the book. I enjoyed the book but will admit it was a bit too high science fiction for me. It was a little overly wordy and didn't explain much. It almost felt like I was supposed to know some of the stuff about this world, and maybe I was missing something. But what I did understand, I enjoyed. But my memory is faint so perhaps I didn't like it all that much. I'm not sure I'll be grabbing another of his books, but he's a multi-awarded and popular author. I think he'll be all right.

But why not stop? Soon , perhaps here on this mountain, must you not ask yourself how much father it is worth going?"

"I don't know. As far as possible, I guess."

"Why? Is it necessary to become great? Is it not enough to be free? With you talent and experience, you can make good-enough monies on many settled planets where men are more at home than here. Like Hermes, exemplia. In this striving to be rich and powerful, is it not merely that you want to feed and shelter the little boy who once cried himself hungry to sleep back in Triton Docks? But that little boy you can never comfort, my friend. He died long ago."

"Well...I don't know...I suppose one day I'll have a family. I'd want to give my wife more than just a living; I'd want to leave my children and grandchildren enough resources to go on--to stand off the whole world if they have to--"

"Yes. So. I think maybe--" he saw, before she turned her head from him, how the blood flew up into her face-- "the old fighting Dukes of Hermes were like so. It would be well if we had a breed of men like them again--" Suddenly she began walking very fast down the path. "Enough. Best we return, not?"

He followed her, little aware of the ground he trod. (pg. 104)



Luke Short does it again. Or did it again. This one just might be my favorite of the three or four I've read of his. While being a genre specific writer, Short is able to write unique and exhilarating stories within the same lawless world. This one follows Sam Teacher, a man framed. Framed for numerous crimes, but not even a jail cell can keep Sam from trying to clear his name. But like any good cowboy, not just clear his name but bring justice and the law down on his enemies. One of my favorite character relationships is in his this book between Sam and his friend Gates (called Pearly). And of course, there's a dame. There's always a dame. These short and concise stories are packed with action, laughs, character development and even romance. It's a good thing Short has a long list of book attached to his name. I'll be making my way through it over the years.

"The trouble with religion," the U.S. Commissioner said sourly, "is that it doesn't provide for exceptions like you. If I turn my other cheek, you'll smack it off."

"That's right."

The Commissioner regarded the man across the sleek mahogany desk with a thoroughly wry expression As a poor boy, the Commissioner had known abuse; as a cowhand he had felt iron authority; as a lawyer he had learned defeat and humility; as a big rancher had had known the pleasures and sorrows of gambling; and as United States Commissioner he had experienced the woes of high office. It seemed to him now that none of these hardships had taught him patience, the thing he most needed when face to face with this unsmiling, casual, arrogant, undersized outlaw who sat across from him--Sam Teacher by name. (pg. 14)

Matthew Drury had the look of a middle-aged, tall, and solid rancher, by whom the world has done the best it knows how. His shock of white hair, his thick and bristling eyebrows gave just the touch of fierceness that his benevolent appearance needed. But once face to face with him, you saw that something had happened. Buried between high cheekbones and the thick eyebrows were eyes, brown to blackness, that carried the distillation of arrogance. There was nothing kind or good-humored, nothing tolerant or loving in them. Blindfolded, he would look like a nice old gentleman; without a blindfold he was insolent power incarnate. (pg. 22)



Full disclosure: I certainly have a multi-layered bias here. One, I write and contribute to Mockingbird Ministries which David Zahl is the founder of. Also, I'm Christian and more specifically, find myself under the same theological framework as Zahl in many ways. That aside, I thoroughly enjoyed his new book! Zahl is such a breath of fresh air not only from the culture in general but church culture. He writes in a way that brings the Christian faith back to life for me. I think he would do the same for plenty of others who find themselves unmoved by today's popular Christian writing and thinking. Zahl is acutely aware of our need for grace and especially enlightened in the God who offers such grace free of charge. His connecting of the two is where the magic happens. He's one of the only two (the other is Robert Farrar Capon) Christian writes I would feel comfortable recommending to those interested in the faith. Not only because of their way of handling the faith and the modern world/human condition but also because they are genius writers as well. They have the ability to capture you with their words and simultaneously make a great point. If you are looking for a gracious view of yourself and others, this is the book for you.

This is the great irony of low anthropology: what sounds insulting is actually liberating, and what sounds liberating at first is actually oppressive and embittering. (pg. 18)

It's easy to blame smart technology and social media for our collecitve burnout, but the problem runs deeper than the tools we've used to get there. Anne Helen Petersen, the journalist who put the term on the map, notes that "deep down, millennials know the primary exacerbator of burnout isn't really email, or Instagram, or a constant stream of news alerts. It's the continuous failure to reach the impossible expectations we've set for ourselves." (pg. 28) a few key areas, human beings tend to act in ways that seem obtuse, counterproductive, and just wrongheaded. Once you accept that, you stand a chance of loving them. You may even find out that you want to serve them. Barring this realization, you will bang your head against a wall--why won't they do what I tell them!--and eventually melt down or burn out. You may come to resent the people you've been entrusted to shepherd. The same holds true for any number of settings and vocations, managerial or otherwise. (pg. 72)

Indeed, any time faith looks more like a sin-management program than a dynamic relationship with living, loving God, the operative anthropology has likely been inflated. (pg. 98)

A low anthropology, however, keeps us open to the wonder of life without turning a blind eye toward our limitations. It keeps a person small, and as anyone who's spied the aurora borealis will tell you, smallness is the precursor to wonder. (pg. 135)

Low anthropology relationships begin with realistic expectations, of both the other person and oneself. A low anthropologist knows better than to look for another human being to complete or save them or really even to solve their problems. Instead, they seek a hand to hold in the midst of setbacks and storms, an ear that will listen, and possibly arms that will help carry the load when life gets too heavy. They look for someone to love just as much as (if not more than) to be loved by....A low anthropology takes for granted that whomever we marry will be profoundly flawed in ways that may not be perceptible at first. What matters most in a successful realtinoshipo, therefore, is not so much the presence or even precise shape of our loved one's flaws. What matters is how we interpret those failings (and they ours)...A low anthropology understands that we are all, to some extent, beholden to our histories and subject to relational patterns beyond our choosing. (pg. 168)

Instead, a low anthropologist leaves the heart-change business to God and circumstance, confident that telling people what do may, and often does, provoke the opposite response. (pg. 182)

So a religion of low anthropology resists the urge to move past the human need for forgiveness and mercy, confident that, on some level, everyone always requires as much. It sings the same song of God's grace over and over again. (pg. 195)

Thanks for reading and if you take any of these recommendations I hope you enjoy the read!

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