Monday, December 26, 2016

The Story of Christianity, Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation by Justo L. González (2010)

I decided to audit the church history class at the seminary where I work this past semester, and one of the textbooks we used was The Story of Christianity, Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation by Justo L. González (2010). Auditing the class was a great experience -- it was taught by one of my favorite faculty members and I got to know a bunch of the new students by serving as their "embedded librarian" and learning all the ins and outs of the early church alongside them.

Because this class covered about 1500+ years of human history, things had to move pretty fast by necessity, but having González's text to fill in some of the gaps and add a foundation to the lectures and class discussions was really helpful. I'm no Christian history expert, but I felt like this book gave me just the right amount of detail and context to explain the implications of events, without getting too lost in the weeds of historical detail. The book is well laid out and includes some pictures to break up the historical events. Starting back in the events of the New Testament, this volume takes us all the way up to the very start of the Protestant Revolution (which is picked up at the start of the second volume by González, which I'm working my way through now -- can't wait to find out what happens next!).

One thing I wasn't expecting to have to conquer in church history was a philosophical understanding of the different theological controversies that have rocked the church (and particularly the early church) over the years. I'm basically familiar with Christian theology, but my mind was a little blown when we really started digging into the Trinity and Christological interpretations. Probably will not be embedding myself into the Systematic Theology class anytime soon.

Regardless of how you feel about Christianity, there is no denying the huge impact it has had (and continues to have) on the political, cultural, and social history of the Western world. I feel like my dip into a survey of Christian history has given me a better launching pad for understanding the world around me and how it ended up this way (for good and for bad). It is also really helping stoke my fascination with the English royal family, although that shows up more in Volume two....

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories, edited by Roald Dahl (1984)

I read this lovely anthology of classic ghost stories (Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories (1984)) as a Halloween-themed treat for the always excellent DAFFODILS book club.

Weird, sexist, and rambley old man introduction aside (seriously, Roald Dahl, why do you have to be so beloved AND so crotchety?), this is a great collection of creepy short stories -- mostly from the 1950s, but with some intriguing earlier stories as well. My personal favorite was the one written by one of the only authors in the collection that I knew beforehand, "Afterward" by Edith Wharton. "The Telephone" by Mary Treadgold and "The Sweeper" by A.M. Burrage were also pretty great. 

As one member of the book club pointed out, the thing about an anthology of ghost stories is that you know for certain that at the end, that weird guy or beautiful woman or adorable kid on the playground is going to end up being a G-G-G-G-GHOST! I don't mind, though, as the satisfying ghost ending is all part of the fun. 

It would be perfect to follow up reading these stories with a late-night viewing of Crimson Peak... Highly recommended for anyone who likes some classic short fiction and a good (mild) scare.