I spent the first half of 2021 mostly reading short books, books that hovered nicely around the 200 page mark. Since the summer, though, I’ve been in a season of (two) longer books, some of the longest I’ve ever read.
The first, whose image has graced the “currently reading” space for months now, is A Secular Age by Charles Taylor. As I’ve likely mentioned before, I’ve been reading around it for almost a decade. It was part of the content of a course that I took this summer, though the course was only reading selections of the book. I decided to bite the bullet and read the whole thing. As of this morning, I passed the “page 600” mark, which means I’ve got a bit less than 200 pages to go. The book is brilliant in so many ways. Taylor attempts to trace the story of Western Civilization’s stance on religious belief and why it has become such an optional thing over the last 500 years. He goes down lots of interesting roads to arrive at his destination, so it’s both an interesting look at history as well as a kind of Rorschach test for how each of us understands that journey. I’ve already tried incorporating some of his language into my junior-level Bible class (mostly the porous and buffered selves at this point).
The other long work I’m reading, also tied to that summer course, is Hartmut Rosa’s Resonance. Rosa showed up in the summer course primarily for his work on social acceleration (which I need to read more about). I previously read a short book by Rosa earlier this year, The Uncontrollability of the World, and quite enjoyed it. Where Taylor takes a sweeping look at post-Reformation religious history, Rosa takes a sweeping look at how we feel our way through the world around us. It feels like a kind of catalogue of sensations and relations akin to what Marshall McLuhan achieved with Understanding Media. Taylor has obviously influenced Rosa (as he gets mentioned often), but Rosa is definitely working on his own trajectory here. I’m about halfway through the book’s 450 pages.
I am reading one more longer work this fall. I’m about 13 cantos into Dante’s Inferno. I’m reading through the entire Divine Comedy via 100 Days of Dante. It’s a program run by a number of “honors colleges” across the country. We read about three cantos a week and get to watch a video reflection on each one (done by any number of humanities professors from across the country). I’m enjoying the read so far. I think I only read sections of the story back in college, so it’s mostly new for me. I’m reading the Penguin Classics translation by Robin Kirkpatrick throughout the week and then doing a weekend re-read with Anthony Esolen’s translation (which is so much easier to follow for some reason).
My goal is to finish Taylor and Rosa over the next couple of weeks (fall break goal!). Finishing Taylor is more likely for me than finishing both, but I can dream. Dante will take me up to Easter, which is pretty cool. I’ve got other books in line, too. I need to jump back into MacDonald’s Alec Forbes of Howglen. And then there’s Eggers and Card waiting in the wings.
It’s good to be a reader.