What I Read in 2017, the Short List

It is not quite correct to say that “I read”; better that “I am a reader,” sub-category, “reader-avid.” A few months ago I crossed the line, and have logged over 2000 books, at least the ones that I can remember reading. And once again this year, I accepted the Goodreads.com Reaching Challenge 2017, in which I read 125 books. That’s 26,000+ pages, an average of about 75 pages a day. It’s fun!

Some special projects from this year were: reading ancient Greek plays; reading Reformation literature, to honor its 500th anniversary; and readings about the biblical books of Ruth and Esther, for a new course that I started from scratch for Seminario ESEPA. This all apart from Bible reading.

FICTION

Literary Fiction: my blue ribbon for 2017 goes to Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; it is the tale of an Edinburgh school teacher from the 1930s, and also a parable of how an independent thinker might fall into weirdness and eccentricity. I would have given the blue ribbon to Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1847), a must-read, which was also a pretty good movie with Reese Witherspoon as the conniving Becky Sharp. Excellent description of human behavior, although at nearly a thousand pages, “the covers of this book are too far apart” (a quip attributed to Ambrose Bierce, see below). Other great titles were John Cheever, Falconer; Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind (first book of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books trilogy); four books by contemporary novelist Ian McEwan, in descending order of preference: The Child in Time, Enduring Love, Solar, and Sweet Tooth; Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop; Graham Greene, The Honorary Counsel. Grace Metalius, Peyton Place, which I read because it is based partly on life in small-town Canterbury, New Hampshire, a few miles from where I once lived; Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables; Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury; Susan Howatch, The Wonder Worker; John O’Hara, Appointment in Samarra; Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust.

Spy and Detective Novels: This is a genre (more…)

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Published in: on January 1, 2018 at 1:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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My Top 86 Literary Picks!


I just updated my Goodreads log of the books I have read, and marked some titles, whether fiction, drama, non-fiction, theology, with my own personal Gold Star. Not books I consider “important,” but ones I simply like. Here are the fictional works (novels, stories, plays, science fiction, poetry).

Now that I list them, it strikes me that my taste is pretty conventional, that is, except for my complete lack of interest in the fantasy genre: sorry, no sorcerers or elves in the list! Nor Amish romance, for that matter.

One of my all-time faves!

I made no attempt to be representative of sub-genres, nor to filter out what might strike some as objectionable material. And while I would have liked a round number, like 50 or 100, 86 Favorites is what came out. I list them in alphabetical order, and put in bold print the 20 I especially love. Plays are marked with a “- p”. Enjoy!

Here is the list in pdf form: Shogren_Top 86 Literary Works

  1. 1984, George Orwell
  2. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
  3. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
  4. The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  6. All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
  7. All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
  8. Animal Farm, George Orwell
  9. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  10. Atonement, Ian McEwan
  11. Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis
  12. Billy Budd, Herman Melville
  13. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  14. The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder
  15. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  16. The Children Act, Ian McEwan
  17. The Chosen, Chaim Potok
  18. The Complete Stories, Dorothy Parker
  19. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  20. The Crucible, Arthur Miller – p
  21. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
  22. Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
  23. Don Quixote, Cervantes
  24. Dubliners, James Joyce
  25. Dune, Frank Herbert
  26. The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
  27. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
  28. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  29. For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
  30. Foucault’s Pendulum, Umberto Eco
  31. Foundation, Isaac Asimov
  32. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelley
  33. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  34. The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
  35. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  36. The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis
  37. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  38. Hamlet, William Shakespeare – p
  39. Henry V, William Shakespeare – p
  40. The Human Stain, Philip Roth
  41. I, Claudius, Robert Graves
  42. The Iceman Cometh, Eugene O’Neill – p

    Lee Marvin delivers an amazing performance in “The Iceman Cometh”

  43. The Illustrated Man, Ray Bradbury
  44. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
  45. The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
  46. The Last Year of the War, Shirley Nelson
  47. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
  48. Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
  49. Les Misérables, Victor Hugo
  50. The Light of Other Days, A. C. Clarke
  51. The Lord of the Flies, William Golding
  52. The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann
  53. The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
  54. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
  55. No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre – p
  56. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
  57. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  58. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  59. Othello, William Shakespeare – p
  60. Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
  61. Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories, John Updike
  62. Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan
  63. The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
  64. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark
  65. Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus – p
  66. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
  67. Ragtime, E. L. Doctorow
  68. Rendezvous with Rama, A. C. Clarke
  69. Ringworld, Larry Niven
  70. Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare – p
  71. The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis
  72. Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse
  73. Silence, Shūsaku Endō
  74. Slaughter-House Five, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  75. The Space Trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet; Perelandra; That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis
  76. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
  77. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
  78. Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith
  79. The Sun also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
  80. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  81. Ulysses, James Joyce
  82. Vanity Fair, W. P. Thackeray
  83. Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett – p
  84. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
  85. We, Yevgeny Zamyatin
  86. World’s Fair, E. L. Doctorow

Published in: on December 29, 2017 at 9:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Fear is a false god, not a sign of how alert you are

I have tried to sketch out a blog article on this very topic for some time, but could never say it this well. So I’m going to link to this short essay by John Pavlovitz, posted last year in Relevant.

By the way, a lot of people wrote back to the author and claimed he was “afraid to take a stand, given that the sky is falling!” I think they misunderstood his article, or have mistaken theology.

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Published in: on January 24, 2017 at 1:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rules for commenting on this blog

We have a few simple rules of courtesy (CLICK HERE) for posting on Open Our Eyes, Lord. We welcome all who wish to share according to these rules. Gary Shogren

Published in: on October 28, 2014 at 10:07 am  Leave a Comment  

You are not a slave!

When it comes to the complex issue of labor and management, the Bible has answers. But are we asking it the right questions?

In the old joke, a man wanted to know God’s will from the Scripture. I’ll open the Bible at random and point, and that will be God’s direction for me. When he opened his eyes, his finger was resting on the verse, “Judas went out and hanged himself.” I’ll try it again, he said: this time he opened to the verse, “Go thou and do likewise.”

God’s Word is true, but those verses were not the answer to that man’s question!

Yet, we commit the same error on the topic of labor: most of the teaching I have run across is based squarely on three Bible passages on the theme of SLAVERY, texts that only indirectly have to do with employers and their employees or labor and management. (more…)

New Link

My friend Bill Isley just launched a theology blog. I hope you’ll visit it at http://www.billisley.com/

Published in: on December 18, 2010 at 4:20 pm  Leave a Comment