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?