Some Good Friday Reading

Today, owing to the fact that it is Good Friday and to the fact that I am on vacation, I sat down and read the gospel according to Mark in one sitting. This isn't all that hard to do, as it is the shortest of the four gospels in the Bible, and I did it in about two and half hours. I only stopped a few times to read a foot note or two, to look up a word in the glossary, and to check the maps in the back of the Bible for a geographical reference. Instead, I focused on the text, the story being told. I've never done that. I've never really tried to read one of the gospels as a narrative. Usually if I read out of the gospels it is to follow along in church, or to look up a specific passage. I've never just sat down and read the gospels; not in twelve years of Catholic school or as a teacher in one now.

I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged I was. Normally I have the attention span of a duck, but I had no problems staying focused. Of course, I know the story well, so I suspect that helped, but I enjoyed reading the story. Mark's gospel was also a good choice too as it is told in vivid detail and at a fast pace. Despite it's short length though, it has detail that the other gospels don't and I liked that as well.

I think the thing that most pleased me about my morning read though, was that there were a few passages that I really related to, that really struck a chord with me. I think that if I added up all the passages from Mark that I have read in my life before today, they would include much of the book, and yet never before have I gotten as much out of it as I did today. How cool is that? After years of schooling and being exposed to the Bible, I still sat down today and made connections that I've never made before.

So here's a Good Friday suggestion. If you are in the mood for some reading and a new experience, get yourself a Bible and have a whack at the gospel of Mark. I'm sure if I got something out of it, you will to. The Bible I am reading is the New American Bible translation, which is not very poetic, but an easy and accessible read. It happens to be the official translation for Catholics in the United States, but you can read any translation you want. Specifically though (in case you're interested), I am using The Catholic Bible: Personal Study Edition, published by Oxford University Press. The explanatory foot notes and study tools are awesome, and I enjoy learning about the authors of the books as well as facts about the text. The full color maps in the back are great, especially when reading Mark because he gives many geographical references. Most of all though, make sure the first time you read something out of it, just read it as it is told. Don't load your mind with a bunch of theological questions or expectations. Just read. I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised.

An Age Old Debate Renewed...

Which is better - to read the book(s) first or to see the movie?

Just Finished: Fight Club

I just finished reading Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk a couple of days ago. The book was great and a really creative story. Of course, I also enjoyed the underlying criticism of our culture and society that is inherent in the tale. The book is described on the back as "darkly funny." I'm not sure that would be the best description for it, as think a lot of people would love to do some of the things Tyler Durden does. Perhaps that is what is funny about it. Nonetheless, I definitely see why the book is now considered in many circles to be a "must read." In fact, other than Palahnuik's deliberately bare and sparse style, there was only one thing that drew my attention away from the story: my friends.

My buddies all love Fight Club, and while I now see why, I made the mistake one evening not too long ago of allowing my friend Dave to tell me the plot, including the little surprise at the end. Like going into an M. Night Shyamalan movie knowing what the twist at the ending will be, I was aware from the get go of who and what Tyler Durden was. And while my enjoyment of the story itself was not ruined, I can really see how much more fun it would be to have that little surprise at the end, well, surprise me. I guess it's just my fault for waiting a gozillion years before I read the damn book. In any case go read it if you haven't already. If you read my web page, you'll enjoy the book.

Just Finished: Angels and Demons

On the heels of Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code I picked up and read his other Robert Langdon adventure, Angels and Demons. One would think I had been Dan Browned out, and to a certain extent I was, but nonetheless I plowed through the book.

I found the book enjoyable, and anyone who liked The DaVinci Code will certainly have fun reading Angels and Demons. This book takes place about a year before the events of The DaVinci Code, where our hero, Professor Robert Langdon, is awakened in the middle of the night to aid in the surreptitious investigation of a scientist who has been apparently murdered by the ancient and presumably extinct group the Illuminati. With that, Landgon is off on a fast-paced adventure involving the Vatican, anti-matter, scientific proof of the existence of God, and the dangerous and elusive Illuminati.

While Dan Brown's relatively simple and elementary writing style breaks some rules of "good" fiction, the man knows how to write a thriller and keep the reader engaged, and even though the writing in Demons is a little less polished than in The DaVinci Code, the adventure is no less enjoyable. The story is packed with vivid descriptions of the art and architecture of Rome and the Vatican, the Swiss Guard, and even underground passages beneath St. Peter's Basilica. So, as long as you're not looking for an adventure authored by the likes of Hegel, you should enjoy yourself in this wild ride around the Vatican.

Currently Reading: The DaVinci Code

I am currently reading The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. I haven't read a good action-based thriller in awhile, and I had forgotten how much fun they are to read. I used to be a big fan of Tom Clancy's books, and Jack Ryan was a favorite hero of mine. I am still a big fan of Elmore Leonard and his crime fiction. Dan Brown is right up there with these heavy weights.

The one thing so far that I really enjoy is the research this author has done. I mean I am learning a lot just by reading this book, like about the Divine Proportion (which I had forgotten about). I really like the intelligence of this book, and the fact that the reader needs to keep up, which is not a problem because you hardly want to put the book down. The book is fast paced, but takes the time to explain all the details the reader needs to stay in the loop. I can see why this book has acheived so much popularity, and I have been reminded of the pure joy of reading.