It's possible I shouldn't have done both at once.
Anyway, plastering a fake smile on my face, here's my (admittedly not bad! not bad at all! mostly because I had two transcontinental flights this month!) April list.
12. Airframe (Michael Crichton): This book is wicked engaging. There is an awful air disaster, with some casualties. But the cause of the disaster is unknown. It reads like a murder mystery, only we're examining technology, not personal drama. This is a great setup -- great enough that one overlooks pedestrian prose and cardboard-thin characters. Unfortunately, the end drags and plays a few games and therefore is not as satisfying as it might have been.
On the plus side, it roasts modern media. Roasts. Burns. Skewers. It's terrific.
Also, you get to leave with the impression that you now know a great deal about commercial airliners.
13. Coming of Age in Mississippi (Anne Moody): This has to be the MOST thought-provoking book I've read this year… well, not counting Fatima book… and at least tied with Les Mis (which related similar things with the Friends of the ABCs)… But there's no shame in either of those… This is outstanding, though.
Anne Moody, in her college days, became very active in the civil right movement, most famously participating in one of the most violent and dramatic sit-ins of 1963. In her autobiography, she recounts her life from her childhood in Mississippi, her family's struggles, her political formation, and then her full-time "Movement"
Anne is clearly remarkable even from her childhood… in her intellect, in her sensitivity, her guts, her refusal to be anything less than honest and direct, and especially in her ambition and drive… and the people that she joins with in college are equally remarkable.
This book stirred so much in me… I always respected the civil rights movement, but now I am fascinated by it.
14. A Short History of the Chinese People (L. Carrington)
I was interested in the subject, which is why I did some research on a good overview. This book wasn't quite it though. It did have long digressions on culture, philosophy, and art, which I appreciated. But the geography and the politics were explained only in quick broad strokes that left me mostly confused. I guess I'd rather read something less short and more detailed -- like my European and American history textbooks from high school! (Man, I loved history textbooks.)
15. The Red House Mystery (A.A. Milne)
The Winnie-the-Pooh author wrote a detective novel, even though he thought they were a bit silly, because his father really liked detective novels.
Tell me that's not cute.
"Yet, though he had hesitated to define his position that morning in regard to Mark, he did not hesitate to place himself on the side of the Law against Cayley. Mark, after all, had done him no harm, but Cayley had committed an unforgivable offence. Cayley had listened secretly to a private conversation between himself and Tony. Let Cayley hand, if the Law demanded it."
"[H]ere was Antony saying that he was what? Well, not an ordinary man, anyway. A man with a secret. Perhaps a murderer. No, not a murderer; not Cayley. That was rot, anyway. Why, they had played tennis together."
"Y-yes," said Bill, wrinkling his forehead. "Of course, the trouble with water is that one bit of it looks pretty much like the next bit. I don't know if that had occurred to you."
"It had," smiled Antony. "Let's come and have a look at it."
They walked to the edge of the copse, and and lay down there in silence, looking at the pond beneath them.
"See anything?" said Antony at last.
"The fence on the other side."
"What about it?"
"Well, it's rather useful, that's all."
"Said Sherlock Holmes enigmatically," added Bill. "A moment later, his friend Watson had hurled him into the pond."
"I love being Sherlocky," he said. "It's very unfair of you not to play up to me."
"Why is that fence useful, my dear Holmes?" said Bill obediently.
"Because you can take a bearing on it. You see--"
"Yes, you needn't stop to explain to me what a bearing is."
16. Acts of the Apostles (Luke) -- re-read
Our pastor told us to read it for the Easter season. So I did. I hate how he follows up with us later. ;)
But I love this book. I'm no historian, but somehow I doubt if there is anything else written in the first century A.D. that's quite like this this document -- so full of so many snapshots of Mediterranean culture in this time. The disasporadic Jews gathered in Jerusalem from Parthia, Media, Elam, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Eygpt, Cyrene, Roma, Crete, and Arabia; Jewish tentmakers and Ethiopian court eunuchs and charlatan sorcerers in Samaria; women merchants like Lydia, who traded in purple dye and therefore ran a rich household; anxiety about sources of meat; trilingual middle-class professionals who observed Jewish law while also rising in Roman society; unlettered cripples carried here and there by unlettered neighbors; centurions who have bought their Roman citizenship at a high price; buying and selling of houses; Jewish high priests hiring Roman lawyers; the teacher GAMALIEL making a cameo appearance (!); God-fearing Italian centurions meeting with ultraobservant Jews; slave girls (lots of slave girls); state-sponsored cults and their effect on the local economies; ship voyages with statesmen and prisoners together being shipwrecked; so, so, so many ship voyages; unmarried prophetic sisters; the local politics and factions at Ephesus; and let's not forget, Barnabas and Paul (those two inseparables!) being taken for ZEUS AND HERMES by the people of Lystra!
You cannot make up this stuff. The details in this story are just too much for anything but reality itself.
I also noticed this time that the book can be divided neatly into four parts of about seven chapters each:
1. The early church, up to the martyrdom of Stephen at Saul's feet (1-7)
2. The conversion of Saul and the similar 'conversion' of Peter, both entwining and culminating in the Council of Jerusalem (8-15)
3. Paul's ministry to the Gentiles in the East… you can tell his ministry has changed coz now he has his Timothy :) (whom it's worth noting had a Greek father and was uncircumcised… signaling the change the church has undergone in this short amount of time) (16-20)
4. Paul's return to Jerusalem, arrest, trials, and eventual arrival (still under arrest) to Rome, where he begins a new ministry -- a very important one too (ROME!) (21-28)
Then the document ends, and the Bible helpfully gives us Paul's Letter to the Romans next.