Monday, 30 December 2013

Reading list for 2014

As 2013 draws to its inevitable close bookish bloggers are listing their literary conquests and "best of" for the past twelve months. As an alternative, here's my lists of books to read in 2014.

General Fiction
  1. The Luminaries. Eleanor Catton. Winner of this year's Man Booker Prize and set in 1860s New Zealand.
  2. Jeeves and the Wedding Bells. Sebastian Faulks. A new addition to the P. G. Wodehouse Jeeves canon.
  3. The Tournament. Matthew Reilly. A tale told through the eyes of the future Queen Elizabeth I. Happily, a short prequel (Roger Ascham and the King's Lost Girl) is available as a free Kindle download for those who might like to sample the writer's style first. I was an instant convert after the first couple of pages.
Theology and Biblical Studies
  1. Acts and Christian Beginnings: The Acts Seminar Report. Edited by Dennis E. Smith and Joseph B. Tyson. A series of essays to accompany the text of Acts, following the Jesus Seminar methodology, examining the historical probabilities of the narrative. 
  2. The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented the Story of Martyrdom. Candida Moss. With positive reviews from quarters as varied as Desmond Tutu, Diarmaid MacCulloch, and James Carroll.
  3. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee. Bart Ehrman. To be released in March.
  1. Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn. John Hattie. A leading educator who is widely cited by those advocating change in schools. As a teacher I know that while you might not always agree with him, you can't ignore his work. This is his most recent book aimed at a wide readership.
  2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Susan Cain. At last, someone who understands!
  3. How to Hear Classical Music. Davinia Caddy. Because great music doesn't have to be surrounded by pretentiousness.
Science Fiction/Fantasy
  1. The Many Coloured Land. Julian May. Reissued in Kindle format after being long out of print. Part of a series I devoured years ago, and can't wait to revisit and find out whether it was really as good as I remember.
  2. Lord Foul's Bane. Stephen Donaldson. Another reissue from days gone by. Donaldson has written recent follow-ups to the original Thomas Covenant series (of which this is the first).
All of the above are available on Kindle, and I have to admit that I have several of them already downloaded and ready for action. Depending on life, work, and the way the wind bloweth, some might end up with reviews here in due course. 


  1. As regards the Power of Introverts: A WCG minister told the Wichita Kansas congregation (I was in the audience) that introverts would not receive salvation. This was based on his observation that one must have a outgoing personality for God to work with in developing character. Introverts had no such personality, hence, no character and no salvation. It is interesting that nobody in the audience batted and eye lid and nobody talked about the comment after service. It was all accepted without question. I can't remember the ministers name. I seem to recall that he was an associate pastor.

    -- Neotherm

    1. I remember a sermon from Joseph Tkach Senior, sent to all the churches, were he shouted at us that we need to get involved and be outgoing, involved, go-getters. He said there is no place for "fringers" or "those who hang back" in God's Kingdom, or by extension, in the church.

      As if people have much of a choice where they fall on the introvert/extrovert continuum. Sure, we can "flex", learn coping skills, and try to emphasize our strengths while minimizing our weaknesses. But, at the end of the day, there are some of us who enjoy nothing better than a quiet night at home. There is nothing wrong with us. We can step out of our "comfort zone" and participate in activities, and enjoy it very much, but we're never gonna be THAT GUY who seems to be involved in everything and loving it. Guess what - he's no better than you are.

      The sheer ignorance of Joseph Tkach should have been obvious to all. And, to varying degrees, the rest of the ministry and indeed the laity too shared his ignorance. Unfortunately, we were soooo hopeful that he could step into HWA's shoes, that we were ready to overlook almost anything. Until he foolishly pushed us too far, each of us at our own breaking point.

  2. Introversion is something that I've wondered about from time to time myself. While I am capable of being very gregarious, I actually prefer to manage relationships so that nobody really gets close to me. It strikes me as being the only way in which one can maintain control in one's life. The danger, if one does not do this, is that others make one a codependent. The fact is, we all interact with others, whether to a greater or lesser extent, and there is quality as well as quantity. The important aspect would seem to be that of maintaining ethical and moral quality in these interactions. Hypothetically, with everyone possessing perfect knowledge and the character to go with it in the kingdom, one would be able to let one's guard down and to function in a more open manner. Methinks the problem with introversion in Armstrongism was that the ministers couldn't get to know you, and this frustrated them greatly because they could not then police you.


  3. Concerning "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking", the Johnson O'Conner Foundation tests indicate that 25% of the general population are "inward". After 75 years of research, it seems likely that the Foundation's findings are more accurate than Susan Cain's assessment that 33% or more are introverts. This means that introverts are a minority and as such, as her book seems to suggest, are subject to discrimination and even persecution of the sort Neotherm mentioned from the sermon of a Worldwide Church of God minister under Herbert Armstrong.

    We live in a society of Boomers (the latest of which is identified as Generation Whine) who are used to having their say and going their way as non stop yakkers addicted to social media due to their lust of gossip and a desire for useless self-expression. They think discussions and brain storming will create solutions without the requisite work to make the behind the scenes efforts to organize and implement well-planned and well-executed projects. We see the results of this kind of thinking to come up with a high concept vision of health care in the United States which (predictably) has ended in chaos because of a total lack of planning -- because... those who fail to plan, plan to fail.

    The "introverts" -- the ones who can plan in quiet to prepare and execute long term projects are the ones who are able to create success: Blabbing endless motor mouths, smarmy in their social interactions perceived to be charismatic are the benefactors of those who are relegated to obscurity, neglected and as often treated with contempt while they quietly save the day.

    The biggest losers of the lot are technologists. These days, management (and those who would be so-called peers) want those who are like them -- smarmy back-slapping cooler conversationalists addicted to meetings and large social gatherings -- yes, they want the technologists to be like them, but not be them. After all, if the technologists had the ability (and many of them do) to be managers, they would be a threat, so what the management wants is those people with high social skills, but willing to work on the technology to do those thankless jobs that none of the yakkers would ever think to take on, while management takes all the credit for what the technologists did but the managers could never do. It works well for managers, since, if something goes wrong, they can make the technologists the fall guy (when it usually the stupid choices of the management which caused the project to fail because they starved it for necessary resources). Oh, and by the way, the extroverts expect things to happen fast! That's how they do things. And that is why they fail.

    For the introvert, success brings its own satisfaction and introverts don't hang on the approval of other people. In fact, they rather think of awards and public recognition with disdain -- something that the extroverted management and so-called peers (introverts don't have peers, they have inferior people who think they're advanced without any of the qualifications) cannot understand. Leave us alone, give us the resources and we'll get the job done. That is absolutely something that the extroverts like Barak Hussein Obama cannot say -- not that he could understand competence if he saw it mind you. The same could be said of the majority of Congress. The tales of Pierce County (which you will be able to see at would horrify you if you have any shred of integrity, morals and ethics (even the Pierce County Chaplain resigned when he was asked to do something unethical).

    On the fence about buying the book, though it probably has important things to say.

    1. Great post, Black Ops! You sure can turn a phrase: "For the introvert, success brings its own satisfaction and introverts don't hang on the approval of other people. In fact, they rather think of awards and public recognition with disdain" says it exactly.

      How true - the introverts are the ones who get things done. Their opposite, the blabbing endless motor mouths, talk a good game.

  4. Gavin, hopefully you will also read "The Spectacular Failure of British Israelism" when it comes out later this month.

    Perhaps not as scholarly as some, but you may find it has its merits.

    The best part is that is free and online, or will be.

  5. Ambassador College placed high value on extraversion and a good appearance. The model was GTA - the closer you were to the GTA template the greater your "spiritual" profile. If in addition to this you could play guitar, you were a shoo-in for the ministry. So it is easy to understand why the minister in the Wichita Church could make such a ridiculous, condemning and prejudicial statement about introverts. That was his training and indoctrination and, no doubt, cherished personal belief. In essence, he is saying that one could believe deeply in Christ's sacrifice, be baptized and still not receive salvation. You had to also be an extravert or God had no use for you - you would just be discarded in Gehenna. This stance aggrandizes the AC cohort and deprecates people who might, for instance, be academically inclined. It also reveals that the WCG was a Jesus Plus cult. For salvation you had to having faith but that was not enough. You also had to meet other extra-faith conditions such as extraversion and certain works.

    But this is a surprise to nobody. Organizations try to preserve their values and enhance their chances of survival. But the really bizarre event is that nobody in the Wichita congregation found this statement outrageous. How brainwashed do you have to be to believe such malarkey?

    -- Neo

  6. That was his training and indoctrination and, no doubt, cherished personal belief. In essence, he is saying that one could believe deeply in Christ's sacrifice, be baptized and still not receive salvation. You had to also be an extravert or God had no use for you - you would just be discarded in Gehenna.