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Meta-Pile #6 Cleaning the Plate, 13 Weeks at a Time

17 Jun

Of late, I have found myself  bogged down among a plethora of books from two separate libraries, as well as volumes from my personal collections, while simultaneously pulled in 5 or 6 directions intellectually speaking (on top of  the rest of my life happenings). This has been the result of  half-hearted intentions on my part to prepare for  further graduate work in history, humanities, and philosophy.  Needless to say, this has even negatively affected my output of reviews: attempt too many tasks and nothing gets done.

10 June 2014

So I have decided to make a “clean sweep”, return all (or at least the very, vast majority) and start anew with 6 books filling the role of text-books to provide background exposure to the courses of instruction I desire to take. From there I shall proceed to actively read only 6 volumes at any one time from all combinations of sources: personal public, college, or private library collections, giving me 6 days of active reading and one day of rest.

17 June 2014

Yeah, okay that idea died an ignominious death. I did, however take the step of returning all my borrowed volumes from Berry College. I still plan to ultimately reduce my reading loads to 5 books a week at a time, one volume per anticipated blog (with allowances for this blog, which may require more volumes and produce more reviews, once I’ve built up enough entries to make regular posting worthwhile.

The Thirteen Week Reading Diet

In the meantime, I still plan to continue  my background reading toward the various M.A. degrees I am seeking, only this time I will give myself deadlines. I also  have a definite format in mind, based on the syllabi for the courses in the programs, with which to direct my reading, note-taking, and responses to the material (this is my way of making myself accountable to myself, by announcing what I am doing, that way people can bug me about my progress). The programs I plan to pursue maintain a 13 week course schedule; so to acclimatize myself to the reading and writing workload that these degrees entail I shall take a text or texts on a subject (for instance Mortimer J Adler’s How to Read a Book, or Will (and Ariel) Durant’s 14vol Story of Civilization), and spend  (up to) 13 weeks reading them.  For each week of reading, I will produce a review for the book, or  in some cases the section of book, I’m reading, and a final summary of my reading at the end of the 13 week cycle; only then will I  move on to the next assignment.

I will title each review “Select Reading Program” to keep track of my progress. (Incidentally, this process is also a good way to work my way through the ginormous backlog of reading material I have accumulated over the years.)


To give you a hint of how many directions my fertile mind has been stretched into, the following six areas have the most volumes within my personal library, and form the core of my intellectual pursuits. In fact, with the exception of Japanese Studies, I have found that all these areas comprise sections in a larger endeavor conceived of as a ‘natural history of the soul’ that engages philosophy, theology and science.

Biology and Chemistry

Humanities and Classics

Japanese Studies/Anime

Jewish Studies

Patristic Studies

Philosophy – Epistemology / Metaphysics / Ethics / Political Philosophy / Philosophy of Science (Biology)


Select Reading Plan, The Texts:

The books listed below represent the choice of books for my first four ‘courses’ of reading, what I have termed my “Select Reading Plan

1) Humanities

How to Read a Book : The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading Rev. and updated ed. / Mortimer J. Adler, and Charles Van Doren. New York: Simon and Schuster 1940. [1972].  xiii, 426 p. Includes Bibliographic References and Index.

The Story of Civilization  / Will Durrant. NY: MJF Books. 1935. 1963. 14v.  v1 Our Oriental Heritage

History of Philosophy 9v. / Frederick Copleston.

2) Theology/Patristics/Jewish Studies

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 10v / Gerhard Kittel, editor. Geoffrey W Bromiley, translator. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.  1964.  [v1 Alpha – Gamma] [Fifth Printing 1972]

3) Anime/Japanese Studies

Culture Shock! Japan [third edition] / Rex Shelley. Portland, OR: Graphics Arts Center Publishing Company. 1993. 2000. 280 p. ; ill. Includes Bibliographic References and Index.

 The Electric Geisha: Exploring Japan’s Popular Culture / Atsushi Ueda, ed. translated by Miriam Eguchi.  Tokyo:  Kodansha International. 1994.  260p.  Includes Glossary

The World of the Shining Prince : Court Life in Ancient Japan / Ivan Morris.   New York:  Vintage. 1964. Introduction copyright 1994.  xxvii,  336p. Includes Bibliographic References and Index.

A Reader’s Guide to Japanese Literature  [2d ed] / J. Thomas Rimer. Tokyo: Kodansha International. 1999.  244p. Includes Bibliographic References and Index.

4) Science

Biology:  [bibliographic citation not yet available] *

Chemistry: [bibliographic citation not yet available] *

a variety of used college-level textbooks acquired from *cough* Goodwill Stores, as well as popular science magazines provide the basis for my background science readings


For simplicity, I’ll update this post with my current status each week

Week One:  June 22-June 28 2014


Meta-Pile #5 The Gentle Art of Reviewing: The Five Forms

17 Jun

As part of my ongoing quest to perfect my reviewing style, expand my knowledge base, and make better analyses of what I read, thus improving the reviews I offer, (the perfect excuse to spend mindless hours browsing and searching Wikipedia, naturally,I have tried to identify just what it is I am doing when I craft a book review. To my surprise, I learned that book reviews are considered to be a form of literary criticism.

Oddly enough, it’s hard for me to think about myself engaging in literary criticism when I’m only writing  book reviews (especially when most of them are non-fiction), because for me  literary criticism involves  the production of articles of 10-30 pages or longer monographs that evaluate the literary quality of an author’s work, and I have no formal training in literature,  but that is exactly what I am doing. In researching styles and templates for reviewing books, I  have had cause to look back to my student days, and  the instructions from my undergraduate professors on critiques we wrote on assigned reading, and realized that I preferred writing reviews that looked like that, but then I wondered,  is a ‘critique’ the same as a ‘review? And what about those pesky terms “bibliographic essay” and “literature review?” How do they fit into the equation, And then,  to complicate matters further,  I like to read Publishers Weekly, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, Books & Culture, the book review sections of academic periodicals, and even user-generated reviews on Amazon and, so you could say that I like formal book reviews over informal assessments.

In all I have come to identify five forms of book evaluations, some which consider only the “book-in-hand”, some which cover multiple books:  Book Review, Book Critique, Annotated Bibliographies, Bibliographic Essays and Literature Reviews,  all of them forms of directed literary criticism -even when the source material is non-fiction. To keep them straight in my mind, as well as to help you, the gentle reader, I decided to  air out my findings and so I present to you the Five Forms of Book Reviews:

  1. Book Review.  A book review gives an evaluation of a book (text or audio) that either provides a recommendation for or against reading it, (which seems silly to my mind, because simply hearing about a work is not the same as reading -or seeing, or hearing- the work for yourself), or that provides a (hopefully reasoned) judgement about the story or argument.  These can be academic and journal reviews, personal reviews, paid reviews, volunteer reviews, and professional reviews  According to Wikipedia, a book review is a “form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. … Reviewers, in literary periodicals, often use the occasion of a book review for a display of learning or to promulgate their own ideas on the topic of a fiction or non-fiction work” (1) and notes that often, evaluations are based on personal taste, which translate into only those books get reviewed that a reader really likes or really hates. The majority of people, however understand, and use a book review as a way to respond to the experience of reading, and don’t always provide convincing reasons for this response, so instead of a reasoned opinion on an author or a boo, it becomes a statement of personal taste and we all know the maxim about taste: De gustibus, non est disputandum.
  2. Book Critique  A critique of a work covers more than just the bare bones of plot, theme, style.  It considers the author’s credentials (and thus his expertise or authority in writing), the strengths and weaknesses of the argument, as well as engaging with other reviews of the work to give a more balanced view. A proper critique should also provide some context about the work: when, where, and why it was written, and how -if at all- it should affect our judgement of the work. In some of the more august reviewing literature,  critiques and reviews blend together, but I like to make a distinction. I suppose this means my ‘reviews’ are actually critiques, but since ‘review’ is a little less pretentious-sounding than ‘critique’, I’ll stay with ‘review’ to describe my evaluations.
  3. Annotated Bibliography :  Annotated Bibliographies are perhaps the ‘easiest’ or simplest form of literary criticism that covers multiple titles. It’s really a listing of books, together with a one or two sentence description of its contents, or recommendation about it’s use. These are usually topically and/or chronologically oriented, and find a home within public libraries, undergraduate libraries, or even museums.
  4. Bibliographic Essay :  Bibliographic essays are usually stand alone works that include comments and evaluations of multiple works either by the same author, or on the same topic.  I will use them in two other ways:   to review an author’s entire corpus, or a majority portion thereof; or to provide readers wit a generalized reading plan on a topic of interest.
  5. Literature Review:  Literature Reviews cover the current state of research (or scholarship) on a problem of scientific or humanistic note, or within a particular  academic discipline.  They are designed to be more impartial than a bibliographic essay, and are usually found within a larger research context, such as scientific research papers, a master’s thesis or  doctoral dissertations.

These five forms make up the expected literary and intellectual content  of Piles and Philes, and to a lesser extent my other forthcoming blogs.


Sources:  Accessed on 9 June 2014  Accessed on 9 June 2014

Meta-Pile #3 2013-2015 Draft Proposed COOS Book Review Schedule

16 Dec

As my latest Phile (“#4 Bibliographies and Blogs”) stated, I am preparing myself to re-enter the education process. At the same time, in order to meet my commitment to my Episcopal parish for book reviews, I created for myself (and for the editor of our newsletter) a three year schedule of reviews (A fourth, provisional year has also been drawn up, but not finalized), and since I am in the habit of sharing bibliographies, as a symptom of my biblilolunacy, I offer it to my readers, as a way to gauge my progress. (The fact that I intend to adapt these parish reviews for a Pile entry has nothing  everything to do with the sharing. 🙂 )

The following key will help make sense of my entries:  C for  a work from the parish library, P for a work from my personal collection,  L  for a work from the public (or other) library, B for a work borrowed from an individual

2013 Reviews

Jan.  Doors of Perception: Icons and their spiritual significance / John Baggley. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. 1988.  xi, 160p. Includes Bibliographic References and Index. -C-, submitted

FebJesus through the centuries ; Mary through the centuries / Jaroslav Pelikan. With a new preface by the author. NY:  History Book Club. 2005. xxi, 267 p. : ill.  Includes bibliographic references and indexes.  [“Jesus through the centuries originally published 1985 by Yale University Press; Mary through the centuries originally published 1996 by Yale Univesity Press”] –n.b. the actual review is for Jesus through the centuries: his place in the history of culture; Mary through the centuries was previously reviewed therein and will soon appear here in the Piles -P- submitted

MarWhy the cross? / Edward Leen. Princeton, NJ: Scepter Press.  2001 327 p. Includes bibliographic references and index. [“First published in 1938 by Sheed and Ward”]  -P-

AprDeath of the Messiah from Gethsemane to the grave : a commentary on the passion narratives of the four Gospels. 2v. / Raymond E. Brown. NY: Doubleday. 1994.  xxvii, xix, 1608 p. Includes bibliographic references and index. -P-

May   The precious blood : Or the price of our salvation. new edition / Frederick Wolliam Faber. Rockford, Ill: TAN Books and Publishers. [1978] 278 p. [“Originally published by the John Murphy Company, Baltimore,  Maryland. This edition published in 1959 by the Peter Reilly Company, Philadelphia.”] -P-

JunImagination shaped : Old Testament preaching in the Anglican tradition / Ellen F Davis. Valley Forge,  PA: Trinity Press. 1995. xiii, 289 p. Includes bibliographic references. -P-

Jul.  New Testament Theology / G.B. Caird. Completed and edited by L. D. Hurst Oxford: Clarendon. 1994.  xix, 498 p. Includes bibliographic references and index.  -P-

Aug.  Mary and the fathers of the church : the Blessed Virgin Mary in patristic thought / Luigi Gambero. Translated by Thomas Buffer. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 199 9. 436 p. Includes bibliographic references and index.  -P-

Sep.  Victorian reformation: the fight over idolatry in the Church of England, 1840-1860 / Dominic James. Oxford: University Press. 2009. xii,  237 p.  “Religion, Culture, and History Series” Includes bibliographic references and index.  -P-

Oct.  English heritage book of church archaeology / Warrick Rodwell. London: B.T. Bastford/English Heritage. 1989.  2058 p. Includes bibliographic references and index.   [“First published 1981. Revised  edition 1989”]  -C-

Nov.  Living the church year / Harry Boone Porter, Jr. New York: Seabury Press. 1977 xi, Includes index. [“Originally published in a monthly column in the magazine The Living Church.”]  -C-

Dec.  Birth of the Messiah : a commentary on the infancy narratives in Mathew and Luke / Raymond E. Brown. NY: Image.  1977. 594 p. Includes bibliographic references and index. -P-

2014 Reviews

Jan.  Anam Cara : a book of Celtic wisdom / John O’Donohue. NY: Cliff Street Books. 1997.  xx, 234 p.  Includes bibliographic references [“A hardcover edition of this book was published in 1997 by Cliff Street Books. an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers”]  -B-

Feb.  Spirit of penance, path to God : how acts of penance will make your life Holier and Your Days Happier / Hubert van Zeller. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press. 1998. v, 130 p. Includes bibliographic references. [“Spirit of penance, path to God : how acts of penance will make your life Holier and Your Days Happier was originally published in 1958 by Sheed and Ward under the title Approach To Penance. This 1998 edition by Sophia Institute Press contains minor editorial revisions throughout the text”]   -P-

Mar. In the shadow of the temple: Jewish influences on early Christianity / Oskar Sharsaune. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. 2002. 455 p. Includes bibliographic references and index. -P-

AprThe shape of the liturgy / Gregory Dix. London: A & C Black. 1945. xx, 764 p.  Includes bibliographic references and index. [“Twelfth reprint of the second edition 1993”] -P-

May  Authenticity: a biblical theology of discernment. Updated Edition / Thomas Dubay. San Francisco: Ignatius. 1997 179 p. Includes bibliographic references and index. [Original edition published in 1977 by Dimensions Books. Published with ecclesiastical approval. Revised edition published with permission of the author.”] -P-

JunA cheerful and comfortable faith:  Anglican religious practice in the elite households of Eighteenth-Century Virginia / Lauren F. Winner. New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press. 2010.  ix, 272 p.  Includes bibliographic references and index. -P-

JulBlessed Sacrament or, the ways and works of God / Frederick William Faber. Rockford, Ill: TAN Books and Publishers. [1978] viii, 463 p. [“Originally published by the John Murphy Company, Baltimore, Maryland. This edition published in 1958 by the Peter Reilly Company, Philadelphia.”] -P-

Aug.  Mother of the saviour and our interior life / Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. Translated by Bernard J Kelly.  Rockford, Ill: TAN Books and Publishers. [1993] 290 p. Includes bibliographic references [“First U.S. publication was in 1948 was B. Heerder Book Company, St. Louis, Missouri”]

Sep.  Commentary on the American Prayerbook / Marion J. Hattchet. San Franciso: HarperSanFranciso. 1995. xiv, 670 p. Includes bibliographic references and index. -P-

OctScribal culture and the making of the Hebrew bible / Karel Van Der Toorn. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 2007. x, 401 p. Includes bibliographic references and index. -P-

Nov. a. The Glenstall book of icons: praying with the Glenstall icons / Grregory Collins. Collegeille, MN: The Liturgical Press. 2002. 138 p. Includes bibliographic references. -P-
b. Praying with icons / Jim Forest. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. 1997 xx,  171 p. Includes bibliographic references. -P-

Dec.  Bethlehem / Frederick William Faber. Rockford, Ill: TAN Books and Publishers. [1978] ix, 432 p.  [“Originally published by the John Murphy Company, Baltimore, Maryland. This edition published in 1955 by the Peter Reilly Company, Philadelphia.”] -P-

2015 Reviews

Jan.  Fire within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel -on Prayer / Thomas Dubay. San Francisco:  Ignatius. 1989.  vii, 358 p. Includes bibliographic references and index. -P-

Feb.  Church of Facebook: how the hyperconnected are redefining community / Jesse Rice. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook. 2009. 231 p. Includes bibliographic references. -P-

Mar. At the foot of the cross : or the sorrows of Mary. new edition / Frederick William Faber. Rockford,  Ill: TAN Books and Publishers.[1978]  x, 406 p.  [“Originally published by the John Murphy Company, Baltimore, Maryland. This edition published in 1956 by the Peter Reilly Company, Philadelphia.”] [“Third printing 1978.”] -P-

Apr. The Spiritual Man: in three volumes / Watchman Nee. New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers. 1968. 207, 258, 231 p.  [“Printed as a combined volume 1977”] -P-

May. a. Resurrection reconsidered: Thomas and John in controversy / Gregory J Riley. Minneapolis. Fortress Press. 1995. x, 222 p. Includes bibliographic references and index.   -B-  with
b. Gnostic Gospels / Elaine Pagels. NY: Vintage Books. 1979.  xxxix, 214 p. Includes bibliographic references and index. [Vintage Books edition 1981″] -P-

Jun.  a. Luminous Eye: the spiritual world vision of Ephrem the Syrian / Sebastian Brock.  Kalamazoo, MI:  Cistercian Publications. 1992.  209. p. “Cistercian Study Series ; 124”. Includes bibliographic references.  -P-
           b. Hymns on paradise / St. Ephrem the Sryian ; translated, with an introduction by Sebastian Brock. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.  1990. 240 p. Includes bibliographic references and index -P-

Jul.  Catena Auroa: commentary on the four gospels collected out of the works of the fathers 4vols / Thomas Aquinas ; translated and edited by John Henry Newman; With an introduction and translation of the dedicatory epistle of St. Thomas to Pope Urban IV by Aidan Nichols. London: Saint Austin Press. 1951. 4vol: xiii, 990; vi, 349;  xv, 795;  631 p.  [volume 1: St. Matthew; volume 2: St. Mark; volume 3: St. Luke; volume 4: St. John] -P-

Aug. a. Marian Shrines of the United States: a pilgrim’s travel guide / Theresa Santa Czarnopys and Thomas M Santa. Ligouri, MO: Ligouri. 1998. xiv, 224 p. Includes index. -P-
b. Shrines of Our Lady: a guide to fifty of the world’s most Marian shrines / Peter Mullen. Foreword by Janice T. Connell. NY: St. Martin’s. 1998. 184. Includes bibliographic references and index. -P-

Sep. Early Church Doctrines. Revised edition / J.N.D. Kelly. New York: HarperOne. 1978. 511 p. Includes bibliographic references and index. -P-

Oct.  The Bible and the liturgy / Jean Danielou. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre dame Press. 1956. x, 372 p. Includes bibliographic references and index. [Liturgical studies (University of Notre Dame) ; v. 3.] -C-

Nov. Yeshua: a guide to the real jesus and the original church / Ron Moseley ; Foreword by Marvin Wilson. Clarksville, MD: Lederer Books. 1996. Kindle edition. Includes bibliographic references and index. -P-

Dec. Original blessing : a primer in Creation spirituality presented in four parts, twenty-six themes and two questions / Mathew Fox. Santa Fe NM: Bear & Company.  348 p. Includes bibliographic references.  [“Seventh Printing August 1986”]  -C-

Until next time, Read on my friends!

edited on 16 December 2012 for tagging and consistency

Meta-pile #2 Recent Acquisitions

18 Oct

Have accident, Will Buy Books

Living and driving in a major modern metropolitan area like Atlanta, traffic accidents are very nearly a fact of life -sooner or later the odds favor that any one driver will (probably) find themselves party to a fender-bender if not something more serious. Well, the next to the last week of September it was my turn (again). Let’s just say it was Ford versus Chevy, and the Chevy (a black, 4 door cab truck) came out the better of it. Thankfully there were no injuries, just various amounts of cosmetic damage. Oh yeah, and a ticket.

So, what is a guy to do after receiving a citation for “improper lane change” and dropping off his car at the dealership/collision center? Why, go shopping of course for a pick-me-up on the next day. That’s right, I took my borrowed car and headed down to my local used bookstore (in this case “The Book Nook” in Marietta) to load up on various offerings, in this case 9 books and 3 CDs -all in an attempt to take my mind off what had happened to me earlier.  And it worked -the allure of  story, music, and intellectual opportunity won me over.  And below I  share with you my allotment of ill-gotten gain, with perhaps a review or two (once I finally get around to reading this particular pile of philes, mind you. I am constantly amazed at how my intellectual eyes are always bigger than my intellectual stomach, at least in the short term).

Books (given in as close to the order that I picked them out as I can get by memory alone):

The problem of the soul: Two visions of mind and how to reconcile them / Owen Flanagan.  New York:  Basic Books. 2002. xvi, 364 p. Includes Bibliographic References and Index.

The Trostkys, Freuds, and Woody Allens: Portrait of a culture / Ivan Kalmar. New York: Penguin Books. 1993. 401 p.  Includes Bibliographic References and Index.

The Undead and Philosophy: Chicken Soup for the Souless / Richard Green and K. Silem Mohammad, eds. Chicago: Open Court. 261 p. Includes Index. “Popular Culture an Philosophy. George A. Reisch, series editor”

365 views of Mt. Fuji: Algorithms of the floating world / Todd Shimoda. Illustrations by L.J.C. Shimoda. Berkley, CA: Stone Bridge Press. 1998. xiii,  356 p. Illustrated.

Immortal Wishes : Labor and transcendence on a Japanese sacred mountain / Ellen Schattschneider. Durham, NC: Dale University Press. 2003.  xiv, 268 p. Includes Bibliographic References and Index.

The age of analysis: The Twentieth Century philosophers / Morton White. New York: New American Library. 1955.  253 p. — “The Mentor Philosophers” — [on the title page: “Selected, with introduction and interpretative commentary by Morton White.  A Mentor Book, published by The New American Library”] — [“First printing, September, 1955 Tenth printing, November, 1964”]

A short history of Chinese philosophy / Fung Yu Lan. Edited by Derk Bodde. New York: The Free Press. 1948. xx, 368 p. Includes Bibliographic References and Index. — “First Free Press Paperback edition 1966”

My life with the saints / James Martin, S. J. Chicago: Loyola. 2006. x, 411 p. Includes Bibliographic References

Assassin’s apprentice / Robin Hobb. New York : Bantam Books, 1996.  435 p. “The Farseer Triology: Book One”

CD Resources:

Sacred Fire: Live in South America / Carlos Santana. London/Umgd. 1993.

The Lonesome Jubilee / John Cougar Mellancamp. Polygram Records. 1987.

Confessions / Pillar. Essential Records.  2009.