Saturday, February 2, 2013

2013 Reading, Books 10-12

10) Book Which Shall Not Be Named, #2. My second Rita book, which I won't describe except to say I enjoyed it more than my first. 

11) Libriomancer, by Jim C. Hines. 

My favorite read of the year to date, first in a fantasy series with a really clever concept for its magic--basically, books make magic by the collective belief of readers in the stories' worlds, and libriomancers can pull objects out of those books temporarily. This doesn't give the unlimited power you might think--among other things, too much magic use wrecks both the libriomancer and the book, and you can only pull out objects that would fit through an ordinary-sized physical copy of the book. E.g. if I were a libriomancer carrying a copy of a book from the Sharpe series, I could pull out Sharpe's sword or the telescope Wellington gave him, but a cannon wouldn't fit. The story and characters are as good as the concept, and I'll be eagerly awaiting the sequels.

12) A Year of Biblical Womanhood, by Rachel Held Evans

I'm easily hooked by the type of memoir where someone spends a year trying to live a lifestyle that's foreign to them, cooks their way through a famous cookbook, or whatever. This one was both hilarious and unexpectedly moving. Evans comes from a background almost identical to my own--I'm ~10 years older, but we grew up within 40 or 50 miles of each other, and the biggest obvious difference between our good Alabama families is that mine roots for Auburn in college football while hers supports Alabama. (I was really disappointed that the month she was trying not to be contentious was October 2010 rather than November of that year, because she talked about her struggles during the South Carolina game rather than the epic Auburn comeback. And yes, I know Bama has since won two more national championships while Auburn has fallen apart. 2010 was still awesome.)

Anyway, Evans is also like me in having wrestled with the increasing conservatism of the evangelical church, though AFAIK she hasn't yet gone as far as I have in running away from it--I'm now Episcopalian, which I suspect has some of my Baptist ancestors spinning in their graves. So for this book she spends each month of a year trying to live out one of the biblical commands to women literally, both to show the absurdity of a hyper-literal approach and to find God in unexpected places. She also talks a lot about women's power and strength, in the Bible and through history to the present. I think what will stick with me most is her discussion of the Proverbs 31 woman, which I was taught to think of as the perfect homemaker--someone I hoped to become during my more conservative days and now rebel against. But Evans discovers that in the Jewish tradition, that text isn't used prescriptively, but as praise for whenever a woman shows courage, generosity, integrity, and like virtues. In Hebrew the words the King James Bible translates as "a virtuous woman" are "eshet chayil"--a woman of valor. I'll never be a Proverbs 31 homemaker, but on my best days I can be a woman of valor.

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