From time to time, I clear out the seven books in my audiobook queue to start fresh. When I do, I enjoy thinking about my selections strategically. Do I want to focus on a given subject, or do I want seven diverse subjects which are only related to one another in very tenuous ways?
This time around, I have elected to replenish my list of current titles with a lot of history spanning the past millennium from the Crusades to the present.
As I list the works I am now reading and give you their summaries, I want also to underscore the idea of seeing the connections between seemingly disparate things by intentionally overlapping and overlaying subjects with common threads and themes which are not obvious. These connections, I maintain, may be all the more valuable for their being overlooked.
The Templars by Dan Jones
In reading this work, I am hoping to understand the Crusades and the Medieval period in Europe better. Also, there has been some speculation on my Dad’s side of the family that we may be somehow related to the last Grand Master of the Knight’s Templar, Jacques de Molay. So that’s fun.
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs
The only work in my queue which has not been refreshed and added this week, I am nearly finished with Burroughs 1648 collection of sermons on the issue of contentment. As it turns out, contentment is hard and complaining is easy. Nevertheless, particularly where our Christian life and testimony is concerned, we do well to grapple with having the right attitude for God’s glory and for the sake of our own peace.
China by Edward Rutherfurd
After finishing James Clavell’s Asian Saga this past Monday – and you can find my podcast review of that long series here – I found myself hungry for more historical fiction. And given that Clavell’s series is centered in the Far East, this work by Edward Rutherfurd covering the period of the Opium War between the last emperor of China and the British through the rise of Mao Zedong and up to the present caught my eye and I am liking it thus far, though I am not very far into it.
Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan
Covering closely the Treaty of Versailles which concluded World War I, Margaret MacMillan promises to dive deeply into the story of how that famous and infamous agreement was arrived at. Allegedly also she will prove that World War II was not caused by the kind of peace which was secured here, but I am skeptical. So change my mind, Margaret.
The First Wave by Alex Kershaw
This title caught my attention because it covers the story of the men who fought and bled and killed and died to retake Europe from Nazi Germany. Big stories are made up of a lot of little stories, and I am eagerly absorbing the individual narratives and character sketches Kershaw offers up here. There will always be a need for such men as those who offered themselves up to save the world from the minions and machinations of Hitler and Hirohito. But in order to maintain a supply of such men, we must in some measure take note of those who have gone before and learn their lessons well.
O Jerusalem! by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre
If not for the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, God only knows whether the modern nation state of Israel would exist, or how few Jews would be left in the world. But the past is prologue, and the Allies did retake Europe from the Nazis. And then the Jews were given a country of their own in that land the good Lord promised to their ancestors. This account of how that happened from a Jewish, Arab, and British perspective was recommended to me by my cousin after I mentioned watching the 1960 Otto Preminger film ‘Exodus’ with my children. Interesting in its own right, certainly, I am hoping for some connections to become more apparent with reading ‘The Templars’ and ‘Paris 1919’ concurrently to this book.
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff
About as far from escapism as I could get, Zuboff’s work caught my eye because of the way its title frames a pressing problem in our day. Privacy and freedom have been counterintuitively curtailed through technologies which promise empowerment. Yes, we have unprecedented access to information and means of communication. Images and ideas are transported to us instantly from across the world. But so also, information about us is collected and stored, and we are all being manipulated into ways of thinking and relating which are not to our benefit – individual or collective. Who are the players, and what is driving them? And what can we do about it all? I hope in reading this work to get some answers.
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