This was a month full of reading on one of my favorite subjects, though I arrived there in a round-about way.
On the recommendation of Ryan Holiday, I read Andre Agassi’s bio Open. It peels back some of the layers on a high public-profile person to help you see him as an individual swept up in a vortex of hype. He hints at aspects of his faith journey throughout the book, and says that Shadowlands was his favorite movie (which automatically makes him a Christian, right?) It also was for his first wife (Brooke Shields) and current wife (Steffi Graf). I get the sense that the main draw of the movie was the love story more than the faith story .
That reminded me that I’ve been wanting to Read Lenten Lands by Lewis’s step-son Douglas Gresham, the book upon which Shadowlands was loosely based. It really was fantastic to see Lewis’s life through the eyes of a little boy, starstruck by the creator of Narnia, yet able to see the world through a different lens. Side quote in the book from Lewis that made me chuckle: “the most dangerous thing in the Army was a Lieutenant with a map.” I love anything that shows the wit of Lewis, like when Walter Hooper tells the story of Lewis, as a young boy, observing to his father, “I have a prejudice against the French.” When his father asked why, Lewis responded, “If I knew why it would not be a prejudice.”
Upon reading Lenten Lands I wanted to learn more about Joy Gresham, Lewis’s wife, and recalled that my wife had read a fictionalized version of their relationship called Becoming Mrs. Lewis. Until now I have had zero interest in reading it, assuming it was some kind of corrupt Christian romance novel. But I picked it up and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The historical details were faithfully portrayed, and her efforts to fill in the romantic gaps were tasteful and believable.
Reading all this about Lewis reminded me that I’ve had an ongoing quest to eventually read every book by Lewis. I made a quick count (twenty-five so far) and realized only five or six remain (hard to say exactly with different edition). So I picked up Grief Observed, which was Lewis’s journal entries after the passing of his wife. Though I found it interesting, I had the distinct sense throughout that I was missing something by not reading it while grieving myself.
Lastly in this train I picked up William Gresham’s (Joy’s first husband) novel Nightmare Alley, and though it was a bit sensual, the story line was captivating. Apparently there’s a new movie coming out this year. Now, moving beyond Lewis…
Higher Call: The story of a WW2 B-17 bomber escorted to safety by a German fighter plane. The bulk of the book deals with the background of the German pilot, which, had I known that going into it, I might have skipped it, but I was so intrigued by his life and the light the story shone on the inner-workings and political intricacies of the German Army. Julie read it also and loved it.
Started How to Hide an Empire and it’s been so good. Tells many obscure and interesting stories about the broader American “empire” – i.e. the history of American territorialism. There’s so much of interest in here (like the chapter on bird droppings and the author’s personal connection to the man who likely had the biggest influence in the history of the world on population growth) that I’ll likely be nibbling on this for many months.
Read Dogsong aloud to the kids. Written by the author of Hatchet, Gary Paulson. Though I like the wild elements of his books, I’m also often fighting internal eye-rolling with some of his pseudo-spirituality. Read War Horse at the urging of my daughter who read it for school and really liked it. Also finished On The Far Side of the Mountain which had a sentimental, but extremely unbelievable, story line.
This week I released Episode Six of the podcast Bottom Line Books, created with Matt Haas. In it we unpack the book Deep Work by Cal Newport, which has been THE MOST important book for increasing my personal productivity in the last year.
I read this article about how Amazon “canceled” a Trans-critical book When Harry Became Sally by Ryan T. Anderson. He still has an author page on Amazon, but oddly, this one book has been removed. I read one of Anderson’s previous books What Is Marriage and found it so well argued. So I followed the link in the article and ordered a copy to support him. You can do so as well here. It’s on backorder, but I hope it leads to many more sales for him.