The Abacus and the Cross: The Story of the Pope Who Brought The Light of Science To The Dark Ages by Nancy Marie Brown. This book is about Sylvester II who was pope for four years, from 999 to 1003. Before he became pope, Sylvester II was known as Gerbert of Aurillac and during his time as pope, he was renowned as a mathematician and astronomer. He was the first known mathematician to teach math using the nine Arabic numerals and zero. Brown is one of a handful of authors who are writing books about the scholarly efforts to change the iron-clad idea that the middle ages were the dark ages when the Catholic church snuffed out all scientific endeavour and curiosity.
Catholicism: A Journey To The Heart Of The Faith by Father Robert Barron seems like an incredible book, having received numerous positive reviews by such luminaries as George Weigel, Archbishop Chaput and Raymond Arroyo. Father Barron who heads Word On Fire Catholic Ministries has also completed a 10 part documentary that presents the richness of the Catholic faith in a way never before attempted. Catholicism is Barron's written attempt to accomplish just such a thing, to rediscover the beauty of the Catholic faith which is evidenced in music, art, architecture and print.
“What I propose to do in this book is to take you on a guided exploration of the Catholic world, but not in the manner of a docent, for I am not interested in showing you the artifacts of Catholicism as though they were dusty objets d’art in a museum of culture. I want to function rather as a mystagogue, conducting you ever deeper into the mystery of the incarnation in the hopes that you might be transformed by its power.” –Father Robert Barron
According to several reviews I've read, Father Barron explores every aspect of the faith from Jesus and Mary to the saints and the sacraments in a sort of catechetical manner but in a way that draws the reader into both understanding and desire. The television series which is slated to air in October promises to be similarly breathtaking.
Now for something quite different. Besides English lit I also love to read books about India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China, especially those that explore the role of women in these cultures. When I was a teen and young adult I read most of Pearl S. Buck's books and I feel I should reread these some day. I also love books that tell a great story and True Grit by Charles Portis does just that.
I saw the original movie starring Kim Darby, Glen Campbell and John Wayne as well as the recent remake which was outstanding (and according to what I"ve been told, very true to the book) and the storyline has always been a favourite. Besides, when a book opens with this line,
"People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day."it just begs for a good reading. The book was reissued around the time the movie came out after being out of print for many years and I bought a copy which has been sitting dutifully on my night-table just waiting to be taken up.
The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khardra and A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam are two other books I loved to find the time to read. The Swallows of Kabul follows the lives of two couples during the Taliban occupation of Kabul, Afghanistan. A Golden Age is a story set in East Pakistan or Bangladesh as it came to be known, during the Bangladesh War of Independence and this novel it tells the story of one family's struggles during this chaotic time in the 1970's.