Tuesday Afternoon “Whatcha Readin’?” Thread

They always tell you that when writing, write what you know.Well, I know books.Not all of them (yet, more’s the pity) but I always have at least one going, often more (right now it’s about 5, 1 fiction, 4 non-fiction).So I thought it’d be fun to tell you what I’m reading right now, and find out what all of you are reading, since I’m always looking for the next good read.

My non-fiction read at present isFounding Faith:Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America, by Steven Waldman (ISBN-13:978-1400064373).I’m big into history (no surprise, it being what I teach), and I picked this one up to get myself back in the American history mode (till my U.S. History didn’t make this term…sigh…).

I’ve been working my way through this one since January, dipping in and out as the spirit moves me (luckily, its structure lends itself to reading in installments).Until now, I’d spent most of my Founding Fathers energies on Adams (only one letter off from Adama—coincidence?I think not…).But the FF I’m most intrigued by after reading this is Madison.

more after the jump

As an agnostic, I’ve always found the convergence of faith and politics uncomfortable, and I’ve always thought of Madison’s background as a little unnerving (which shows some of my bias).He went to Princeton, at the time an evangelical school geared toward turning out ministers (its first President was Jonathan Edwards—this one, notthis one).What Madison took away from his education is complicated, and Waldman doesn’t try to simplify it.In fact, he seems rather fascinated by Madison’s seeming contradictions.Madison was, as far as I can tell from Waldman’s book and others I’ve read, a deeply religious man.Yet he went on to become one of the prime architects of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment, and a passionate proponent of religious freedom.He was also very cognizant of the power of words, and recognized (more than anyone else at the time, I think) that people in the future would spend a lot of time parsing the words of the Bill of Rights.

I like books that make me think, and Waldman has done that.In dealing with religion in my classes, I’ve really had to deal with my own opinions—and yes, biases—regarding the subject.It hasn’t been a comfortable process, but I’d like to think I’m better for having done as much thinking about it as I have.I’ve certainly come to have a healthy respect for the ideals behind religion.And reading about Madison has reinforced that.Given how much time and effort he devoted to thinking about the role of religion in our society, it seems the least I can do.

It has also given me a renewed disgust with those who claim their Christian faith is being attacked by us godless secularists.Dudes, you don’t know what being attacked is.When you’ve been beaten, tarred and feathered or half-drowned in the village pond (as were your predecessors, which led them to support—yes, support—the Establishment clause), then come and talk to me.Until then, STFU.

So what’s tripping your trigger in the book world right now?

21 thoughts on “Tuesday Afternoon “Whatcha Readin’?” Thread

  1. Just finished Cheryl Wagner’s “Plenty Of Suck To Go Around” about her life and times rebuilding in Mid-City during Katrina. Normally, I am a nonfiction fiend, but I picked up Andrew Fox’s “The Good Humor Man” and really enjoyed it. As a result, I am currently reading through his “Fat White Vampire Blues”.
    Other books I’m in the middle of:
    Jerry Ward’s “The Katrina Papers”
    Adam Langer’s “The Washington Story”, a sequel to his debut “Crossing California” about four families in Chicago during the Iran hostage crisis
    Roy Blount Jr.’s “Long Time Leaving”
    A short story compilation entitled “Brooklyn Was Mine”
    Damn, I read too damn much…

  2. I’m wanting to pick up “Sex, Death & Oysters” and tuck into it…but too many baking projects and work going on… And today’s overcast, somewhat flooded weather is just BEGGING me to sit down w/a book and a cat. Bother!!!

  3. Reading the Library of America’s two-volume set on Reporting World War II. Fascinating stuff, and it’s clear that Republicans then were just as treasonous as they are now. That Home Front mythology is just so much bull. They’re all about profiteering and cheering on the fascists.

  4. Reading “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, her memoir of growing up in Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Kenya (so far) in an Islamic family.
    She’s still a teenager, but the abuse she has suffered in the name of that religion, simply because she is a girl, is heartbreaking. I’ve had to put the book down a couple of times.
    I’m amazed at her courage – I don’t know much about her, but I do know that she lives with armed guards now, because her outspoken views and political writings about woman’s rights and the damage caused by Islam’s treatment of them, has earned her death threats, etc.

  5. Right now I’m re-reading Stuart Kaminsky’s Porfiry Rostnikov mystery series. Also a biography of Yogi Berra. I haven’t read too many presidential biographies in recent years but I’ll catch almost every one that comes out about a president’s wife. Those were some interesting ladies. Only problem with the bios is often too much speculation due to too little real information. And anything written more than 10 or 15 years ago is usually unreadable.
    And of course, Jane Austen is never too far away. She’s my comfort food author. I always figured that given their opposite complementarity, Dolley and James might have made a nice American Lizzy and Fitz, without the rocky beginning of course. Dolley in particular makes a good Elizabeth Bennet.

  6. Sue, have you read “Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife”, or Pamela Aidan’s P&P series written from Darcy’s p.o.v.? Really good reads, they use the verbiage and all – and being a die-hard Darcy dreamer-of myself (Colin Firth only need apply) I heartily enjoyed them despite my hesitance.

  7. Hmm, I’m thinking I might need to do a Comfort Food in Book Form discussion at some point.
    Aaaargh, that sounds fantastic. I’ve always been a fan of WWII photography (Robert Capa was amazing), and I’d love to read more about the reporting that went along with the pictures.

  8. Elspeth, I’ve read one by Amanda Grange, the one who writes the “diary” series, but generally avoid Austen paralit. Colleen McCullough wrote her book while channeling the Bronte sisters, I think, and should be embarrassed. I will check out your suggestions, and maybe you can tell me if there is a really good bio of Jane out there. I haven’t found one yet. If you haven’t already, check out Austenblog.com for some excellent snark by blogger and commenters alike. And Colin is the man, oh yes indeed.

  9. Current stack by my bedside:
    Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America Rick Perlstein: I think anyone who isn’t taking the “teabagging” movement seriously should read this as a cautionary tale.
    God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 David Levering Lewis: Far snarkier than I expected but in a good way.
    Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans Marcelle Bienvenue and Judy Walker: Yes, I read cookbooks recreationally.
    Carry Me Home Mark Folse: Which is annoying me because there is no comments section for some reason. I’m writing a bunch in the margins but it’s just not the same.

  10. Oooo, jeffrey, God’s Crucible is in the stack of “must read next” books I have in my office. I’m delighted to hear it’s snarky–right up my alley!

  11. Next up for me:Jesus, interrupted: revealing the hidden contradictions in the Bible (and why we don’t know about them) by Bart Ehrman. I think I saw Ehrman on Colbert not too long ago and decided this would be my next read.

  12. I’m studying for comps and working on my thesis, so in addition to the “hafta” stuff (Ted Ownby’s “American Dreams in Mississippi: Consumers, Poverty, and Culture 1830-1998 – 9780807848067, lots of old newspaper articles from the Biloxi, MS “Daily Herald,” and George Brown Tindall’s US History text) I’m reading Daniel Farber’s “Lincoln’s Constitution” (9780226237966), Patricia Cline Cohen’s “The Murder of Helen Jewett” (9780679740759) and the Library of America’s “Baseball: a Literary Anthology” (978193108209x).
    Gyma – Did you hear Ehrman on NPR? His piece on ATC – a couple of weeks ago now – was wonderful.
    Jeffrey – Have you read the “Foodways” volume of the Encyclopedia of Southern History? It’s very, very good.

  13. Gyma, I’ve read Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus, and I also have some of his lectures from The Teaching Company (great for my commute). The guy’s fun–and there’s a lot of interesting stuff to be had in his books. I think he’s gone a bit too far into the “pop” part of pop history, but that’s a very minor complaint. It’s because of him that I got more into the history of early Christianity, for which I’m grateful.

  14. Buggy,
    Maybe snarky isn’t exactly the word. It’s just that there are these surprising little turns of sarcasm that catch you off guard here and there.
    Nope but I’ll put that on my list.

  15. well, my smithsonians are invading my finishing my kevin phillips book. and trying to page thru my ‘book of knowledge’ books, so i can back to my 1891 EB, but i am working on english history and i got over 100 pages of itty bitty font.

  16. Whoops, that’s “Plenty Enough Suck To Go Around”.
    And hey, there always seems to be enough of it to go ’round anyhow, no matter what the situation.

  17. Elspeth: I read “Mistress” last year and LOVED IT. I was in the midst of doing genealogical research on my English ancestors during that time and this book brought many of them to life for me.
    If you end up liking “Mistress” and haven’t already readYear of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, do give it a try.
    BuggyQ & wittman: thanks for the tips on “Misquoting Jesus.” I’ll have to search for Ehrman’s interview on npr. I listen to ATC on my commute home but I only get about 30 minutes worth.

  18. Reading (rereading, actually – lost the damned book for 6 months and found it in a suitcase when we were packing for our getaway last weekend) “The Last Knight” by Norman Cantor (end of both the the Middle Ages and John of Gaunt coinciding)

  19. I’m not currently in the middle of anything, but I just finished rereadingJust After Sunset by Stephen King (which is what I’d consider to be a “popcorn read”), and am waiting waiting waiting for it to be May 1 so I canfinally orderThe Eliminationists by David Neiwert. It’s not out in Canada until Friday… 🙁
    I am not shopping at Amazon.com anymore unless it’s something I absolutely can wait for, because they no longer offer Super Saver shipping to Canada, and I refuse to pay $21 shipping on a three-book, $50 order. 🙁 The workaround entails having the order shipped to Portland, OR and then having a friend mail them to me.

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