My Reading List for 2010

I can hear the question now: “What kind of guy puts The Iliad and War and Peace on a list of things to read for fun?” Well, me. I think that reading things by authors I’ve never read before, people that take positions I haven’t heard of before or don’t agree with, or works that are challenging, will teach me something. And learning is fun.

My entire list for 2010 is at Goodreads. I’ve highlighted a few below. I don’t expect to read all 34 books on the Goodreads list necessarily, but there is the chance.

The Iliad by Homer [done 1/11], 750BC, trans. by Alexander Pope, 704 pages. A recent NPR story kindled my interest in this work. I’m looking forward to it.

The Oxford History of the Classical World by Boardman, Griffin, and Murray, 1986, 882 pages. It covers ancient Greece and Rome up through the fall of the Roman empire.

The Fires of Heaven (Wheel of Time #5) by Robert Jordan, 1994, 912 pages [done 9/2010]. I’ve read books 1 through 4 already, and would like to continue on the series.

War and Peace by Lev “Leo” Nikolayevich Tolstoy, 1869, 1392 pages. Been on my list for way too long. Time to get to it. Haven’t read anything by Tolstoy before.

The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder, 1972, 2nd ed., 270 pages. Aims to dispel the notion of Jesus as apolitical.

An Intimate History of Humanity by Theodore Zeldin, 1996, 496 pages. Picked this up at Powell’s in Portland on a whim, and it’s about time I get to it.

The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church by Gregory A. Boyd, 2007, 224 pages. An argument that the American evangelical church allowed itself to be co-opted by the political right (and some on the left) and argues this is harmful to the church. Also challenges the notion that America ever was “a Christian nation.”

Daily Life in Ancient Rome: The People and the City at the Height of the Empire, by Jerome Carcopino, 2003, 368 pages. I’ve always been fascinated with how things were “on the ground” rather than at the perspective of generals and kings, and this promises to be interesting.

Slavery, Sabbath, War, and Women: Case Issues in Biblical Interpretation (Conrad Grebel Lectures) by Willard M. Swartley, 1983, 368 pages. Looking at how people have argued from different Biblical perspectives about various issues over the years.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, 1927, 252 pages. I can’t believe I’ve never read Woolf before. Yet another one I’m really looking forward to.

Tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1922, 319 pages. Per Goodreads: “This book of five confessional essays from the 1930s follows Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda from the height of their celebrity as the darlings of the 1920s to years of rapid decline leading to the self-proclaimed ‘Crack Up’ in 1936.”

Ulysses by James Joyce, 1922 (1961 unabridged version), 783 pages.

The Future of Faith by Harvey Cox, 2009, 256 pages. [done 3/2010] Per Goodreads, “Cox explains why Christian beliefs and dogma are giving way to new grassroots movements rooted in social justice and spiritual experience.” Heard about this one in an interview with Diane Rehm.

Being There by Jerzy Kosiński, 1970, 128 pages.

Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary by Marcus Borg, 2006, 352 pages. Whether or not you agree with Borg, this has got to be a thought-provoking title.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, 1844, 640 pages.

The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura, 1906, 154 pages. Per Goodreads: “In 1906 in turn-of-the century Boston, a small, esoteric book about tea was written with the intention of being read aloud in the famous salon of Isabella Gardner. It was authored by Okakura Kakuzo, a Japanese philosopher, art expert, and curator. Little known at the time, Kakuzo would emerge as one of the great thinkers of the early 20th century, a genius who was insightful, witty—and greatly responsible for bridging Western and Eastern cultures. Nearly a century later, Kakuzo’s The Book of Tea is still beloved the world over. Interwoven with a rich history of tea and its place in Japanese society is poignant commentary on Eastern culture and our ongoing fascination with it, as well as illuminating essays on art, spirituality, poetry, and more.”

More of my list is at Goodreads.

15 thoughts on “My Reading List for 2010

      1. Yes, that’s exactly the book I meant. I of course had no problem with the occasional word of German, and did not mind the occasional word of Gaelic or sentence of French, but the Greek and Latin really tripped me up. And after still not having the feeling of understanding anything 150 pages into the book, I gave up on it. But maybe you will have better luck. ;-)

        Also, I believe you ought to read the Iliad before Ulysses. I didn’t, maybe that was the problem.

        1. I would think that the problem would be more with Joyce than with Latin or Greek, but maybe that’s just me (I tried to read some other of Joyce’s work and failed to get anywhere).

  1. Interesting list! Looks like our tastes coincide a bit, so I can offer a few comments:

    I finally finished The Iliad a few months ago. It’s quite graphically violent and bloody–but also very descriptive of the scenes of battle preparations, debates among the gods and men etc. Very interesting read.

    If you like The Iliad, don’t miss The Odyssey. I just finished it and I have to say Odysseus quickly became my favourite character in fiction. His natural guile and craftiness, even facing adversity, had me reading with a grin on my face.

    The Wheel of Time series–wow, that’s a lifetime commitment :-) I started reading the books five years ago, got upto book 10, then had to start over because I forgot over half the characters and events, and on top of that I wanted to re-read the most interesting story points that Jordan had covered in the earlier books as some of them were really quite fascinating. Making my way through book 2 now.

    Here’s something you might not have come across before: Dan Simmons’ Hyperion and Endymion books (sci-fi, Amazon listing: ). The two latter books, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion, deal with a far future where communion with a crucifix-shaped symbiotic organism guarantees endless resurrections, resulting in entire planets converting to Christianity.

    Happy reading and happy new year!

    1. Thanks for the suggestions! I’m curious what translation of Homer you favor. I was initially going to read the Pope version, but found that translation of Greek poetry into English poetry resulted in something difficult enough to parse that I didn’t want to keep it up for a work of this size. I’m currently trying out the Samuel Butler translation into English prose, which is going better. I found it at

      Thanks also for the Dan Simmons suggestions.

  2. Looks like a lot of good books. TWoT book 5 is where it starts to slow down, although not badly yet. 7 and 8 are the real problems, but then it gets better.

    The Iliad – I plan on reading this, since I just finished Dan Simmons’ (yep, same guy mentioned by Yawar) take on Homer’s epics. “Ilium” and “Olympos” aren’t translations or anything, they are Sci-Fi re-imaginings of those events (well, until Hockenberry goes and changes the timeline).

    “The Oxford History of the Classical World” & “Daily Life in Ancient Rome” – I’ll have to read these, they should fit in nicely with “The Civilization of the Middle Ages”, “The Muslim discovery of Europe” and “Ancient Mesopotamia : new perspectives” which I read this year (all very good, btw).

  3. Good question on the translation, I decided in the beginning to read the prose translations, as I was never very good at parsing poetry. For The Iliad I went with Samuel Butler as well, the book was on sale for $5 at my local bookstore and I bought it on impulse. For the Odyssey I got my library’s Penguin edition translated by E.V. Rieu.

    For me the main translation issue turned out to be the names. You have to be familiar with the Greek and Roman versions of the names of the gods and men–e.g. Athena = Athene = Minerva, Aias = Ajax, Zeus = Jove. Butler uses the Roman and Rieu the Greek, and I’m torn between them because I prefer Ajax to Aias, but also Athena to Minerva. But other than those personal preferences, they’re really all of great quality.

    @Kelly *slapping my own forehead* Wow I can’t believe I forgot to mention Simmons’ Ilium and Olympos! Very interesting sci-fi take on the Trojan War, of course it really veers off after a bit but Simmons does rather interestingly zoom in on the Achilles character….

    Finally, another really interesting book I forgot to mention earlier, and probably my all-time favourite book–Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. I picked up the Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky (husband-and-wife team) translation ( ) at an unbelievable discount at a grocery store and read it in a couple of gulps. The story is set in ancient Jerusalem and communist Moscow … the Master, a writer ostracised by the communist literary establishment of Moscow, writes a story about Pontius Pilate and Yeshua Ha’Nozri (Jesus of Nazareth), while simultaneously, the Devil comes to Moscow in the character of Woland, a visiting foreign sorcerer with a retinue of demonic servants. Actually, I could go on and on about it just from memory, but I blogged about it:

  4. To The Lighthouse is (a) very abstract stream-of-conciousness. It might be better to read Mrs. Dalloway first. Dip your toe into the Woolf water, as it were…

  5. If you like world classics I’d advise you to add to the list “1001 nights” and “Journey to the West” . I’ve read full Russian translations (about 3000 and 2000 pages respectively) and found them both just brilliant.

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