2020 Reading List

Here is my Reading list for 2020.

I’ve never really used a reading plan before, but the AOM post Why You Need a Reading Plan convinced me that I’m doing it wrong. In a slow and unfocused manner, I had been putting together a list of potentials, but having the blogger Books of Titans post his 2020 Reading List pushed me over the edge to finish mine.

I have chosen one book per month and three rereads as extra books for months where I finish the chosen book early. I’m purposefully keeping this list a little light due to other commitments with family, work, and church. I picked a theme for each quarter of the year.

  1. Ancient Literature I Should Have Read by Now
  2. Comparative Religion/Symbolism
  3. Orthodox Patristics
  4. 19th/20th Century Literature

Q1: Ancient Literature

January: Homer – The Iliad

When searching for the right translation of The Iliad, the most recommended versions were the verse translations by Lattimore and Fagles. In the samples I examined, the Lattimore seems more to my liking. After reading a prose translation (Shewring) of the Odyssey two years ago, this will be a nice change of pace. I also bought this Great Course from Audible as a companion.

Feburary: Sophocles – Antigone, Orpheus Rex

February is Sophocles Tragedies – I’m definitely reading Oedipus the King and Antigone and I want to also read Oedipus at Colonus, so we’ll see how the month goes. Fortunately, they’re all fairly short. The goal is to watch each play on YouTube once I’ve finished reading it. My Alma Mater (UoL) recommended the E.F. Watling translation, so that’s the one I’m going with.

March: Virgil: The Aeneid

March will be The Aeneid. I’m not 100% certain if I’m going with Fagles or Fitzgerald yet, but I can get Fitzgerald in an inexpensive hardcover, which I generally prefer to softcovers, so I’ll probably go that way. I also have an interesting partial translation by C.S. Lewis that I’ll review once I’ve read the full work.

Q2: Comparative Religion/Symbolism

April: Viktor Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning

I don’t think I can improve on this introduction from Amazon:

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”)-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.

Seems like powerful stuff. I’m looking forward to diving in!

May: Mircea Eliade – The Sacred and the Profane

This is a classic comparative religions text from the famous Romanian scholar of religion, shamanism, and mythology.

June: Matthieu Pageau – The Language of Creation

This book is centered on symbolic language of Genesis, but serves as a primer for overall school of Christian symbolism taught by the Pageau brothers. I consider Jonathan a friend, so I really should have read this by now, but better late than never!

Q3: Orthodox Patristics

July: St. Gregory of Nyssa – The Life of Moses

St. Gregory is a pillar of Eastern Christian Spirituality. Life of Moses is a key text for the Pageau’s symbolic understanding of Genesis, so this classic feels like a great way to start this section.

August: St. Maximus the Confessor – On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ

St. Maximus the Confessor is another giant in Eastern Christian thought, and I’ve never read anything by him. I need to remedy this, and this is the most-cited influential work.

September: St. Silouan the Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony

This is a classic of modern patristics as St. Silouan is a famous 20th century Athonite monastic. “Brilliant and profoundly engaging in its detail and scope of the life of St. Silouan and his theological insights. There is a lot here to be read and reread and pondered upon, and then repeated again and again. Well worth its weight in gold for its wisdom and entertainment value. This is both a biographical account and a personal commentary on theology, with collected sayings, conversations, thoughts and writings by and about the saint.”

Q4: 19th/20th Century Literature

October: Ernest Hemingway – A Farewell to Arms

The only Hemingway I’ve read so far is ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ and various short stories like ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ and Kilimanjaro. This seems like a great way to fill that gap.

November: Nikos Kazantzakis – Zorba the Greek

I keep hearing about this book and the the “joie de vivre” of the main character as he attempts to “suck the marrow out of life” (to mangle Thoreau), so I figured I’d check it out for myself. Supposed to be a sort of Greek version of Siddhartha or ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’.

December: Fyodor Dostoyevsky – The Idiot

I’ve read ‘Brothers Karamazov’ and ‘Crime and Punishment’ and have been changed by both. It’s time to read more of the great Dostoyevsky.

Bonus Books – Rereads

These are books I can fit in if I finish any of the books on my list early. If I don’t get to them, that’s okay too.

C.S. Lewis – Till We Have Faces

This is known as Lewis’ best fiction, eclipsing both Narnia and the Planets Trilogy. I read it and loved it twenty years ago, but now that I’ve got a lot more books under my belt, I want to revisit it again.

Mark Twain – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

I had an interesting conversation with Archbishop Alexander Golitzin about Huck Finn being one of the most moral books in American Literature last week. I only read it as a teenager, so I’d like to go back and read it as an adult with teenager of my own.

This annotated version seems to be the way to go. “Hearn offers a thorough cataloguing of the book’s critical reception and many controversies, an ample pinch of biography, a lengthy analysis of dialect and a fairly sketchy historical background. The notes themselves (presented alongside the text) are eclectic, sometimes charmingly so: we learn what a huckleberry is, and a sugar-hogshead, and how corn pone is made. Huck’s vast repertory of Southern superstitions is carefully glossed, and Hearn wisely includes quotes about the book from Twain (who could scarcely open his mouth without saying something funny) whenever possible. “

Neil Postman – Technopoly

This book takes a critical look at technology, not from a Luddite perspective, but to try and balance out the positives that technology gives us with the negatives that also come. One can look at the impact of social media, fake news, cyberbullying, porn addictions, and other modern cultural malaises. I read it in my early 20s, after Google but before Facebook. I want to revisit it.

4 thoughts on “2020 Reading List

  1. I wrote my English 201 Term Paper on Phallic symbolism in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (I’m not kidding, and I’m not sure what possessed me to do that — though I did earn an A, lol). I’m a huge fan of Old Man and the Sea, and pretty much all of his short stories. I’ve liked all of the novels I’ve read, but the only one I remember really loving was The Sun Also Rises. The only other book that I’ve read on your list (sort of) is Huck Finn, which I had to read for English 101, though I did enjoy it. Oh, and I’ve read the two fantastic Doystoyevsky books that you’ve read – and these were not for assignment. LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The great thing and the awful thing about English papers is that you can pretty much write about anything if you can support your line of argumentation. I remember writing a paper on a Lacanian reading of Lord of the Rings that argued the Nazgul through their curse were stuck in an infant stage of Lacanian development (they were one with Sauron without any specific identity) and that when Frodo put on the ring, was also able to manifest and receive a horrible sustenance from the warped maternity of Sauron. I remember that one and a Marxist reading I did of Vonnegut fairly well.

      I could be persuaded to go with The Sun Also Rises instead of Farewell. I’m also a huge fan of Old Man, I’ve read it at least 4-5 times. It is a great metaphor of both the struggle of aging and of spiritual struggle. It also makes me wish I enjoyed baseball more, since it was so central for the characters. I think the world changed in that regard sometime between when you and I were born, but perhaps I was just not given the proper appreciation for it an early age.

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      1. They’re both good books David. So, I wasn’t making a case for Sun…I was just spouting my thoughts LOL. At any rate, Old Man and the Sea, I always marvel at how expertly Hemingway is able to center the whole novella (some 120 pages) on a singular image…that metaphor you speak of. The first time I read it…I didn’t put it down until I had completed it. I know a lot of readers claim to do this all the time, but it RARE for me to read a book (even a short one) in one sitting.

        Happy New Year.

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      2. Happy New Year!

        Same here. I’ve reread it a couple of times when I knew I only had a few hours and needed to go through that journey again. It’s a pleasure to be able to go through in one sitting.

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