Erasmus, Patron Saint of Bibliophiles

“When I get a little money, I buy books; if any is left, I buy food and clothes.”

Desiderius Erasmus, you are my patron saint. Great humanist of the Renaissance and reformer of the Reformation, it’s not so much your scholarship that I envy (though, of course, I do). It is your library I lust after. More accurately, it is your lust for books that invokes my devotion. A passion that I share —  a crazy passion, that  I have blogged upon on more than one occasion:

The (Christmas) Tree of Knowledge,



Bibliomania, A Spiritual Diagnosis.

Recurring outbreaks of Bibliomania are problematic for this bipolar soul — and expensive. It is a professional hazard.

Allow me to quote myself!

“Now books are my thing — my very best thing. Besides being a professional Christian, I am a professional bibliophile. I do collection development at Bishop Payne Library. Like Juan Valdez who picks the Columbian coffee beans one by one, I help select thousands of new titles each year one book at a time. When you see me at the circulation desk drooling over the Times Literary Supplement, I am not goofing off; I am doing my job.

Not only do I help select them, in fact, I also read them. Not thousands of them, of course, but lots.”

And the temptations are great. Perusing university presses in the past few weeks, I have yielded to this temptation on many an occasion.  So impatient am I to have the book in my hot little hands immediately, I download them with a single click onto my Kindle or overnight them  to my front door.

My tastes are eclectic. At any one time, I am reading three or four books at a time. My appetite is is not just voracious, it borders on gluttony. My eyes are way bigger than my frontal lobe, and all those other parts of my brain that reading involves.

My reading list is my mood chart. It is a “gentle madness” but a madness nonetheless.

Herewith are the last month’s additions to my library — both electronic and paper bound. Each is listed with a little description. Click on each to catch the madness. It’s contagious you know.

American Possessions: Fighting Demons in the Contemporary United States, Sean McCloud, Oxford University Press, 2015. This modern grimoire “examines Third Wave spiritual warfare, a late 20th – early 21st century moment of evangelicals focused on banishing demons from human bodies, material objects, land, regions, political parties and nation states. While Third Wave beliefs may seem far removed from what many scholars view as mainstream religious practice, McCloud argues that it provides an ideal case study for some of the most prominent tropes within the contemporary American religious landscape.” SPOOKY SCHOLARLY FUN.

Forgiveness 4 You: A Novel, Ann Bauer, Overlook Press, 2015. “At once a brilliant satire set in the world of advertising and a serious reckoning with religion, this is a startlingly contemporary novel about faith and religion in an America addicted to quick fixes and instant gratification.”  A 21st century secular twist on medieval indulgences. CYNICALLY DELICIOUS.

Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London, Matthew Beaumont, Verso Books, 2015.“Cities, like cats, will reveal themselves at night,” wrote the poet Rupert Brooke. Before the age of electricity, the nighttime city was a very different place to the one we know today – home to the lost, the vagrant and the noctambulant. Matthew Beaumont recounts an alternative history of London by focusing on those of its denizens who surface on the streets when the sun’s down. If nightwalking is a matter of “going astray” in the streets of the metropolis after dark, then nightwalkers represent some of the most suggestive and revealing guides to the neglected and forgotten aspects of the city.” MOODY and MYSTERIOUS.

Gratitude, Oliver Sacks, 2015.  “It’s the rare person who counts his blessings upon learning he’s “face to face with dying.” But Oliver Sacks did just that.  In January, Sacks, the neurologist and author of such books as “Awakenings” (1973) and “Musicophilia” (2007) was diagnosed with terminal cancer. During the months before his death in August, Sacks wrote a series of heart-rending yet ultimately uplifting essays. In them, he shared his thoughts about how he wished to live out his days and about his feelings on dying. Now collected in a beautiful little volume, “Gratitude” is a lasting gift to readers.” HOLY GROUND.

God Mocks: A History of Religious Humor from the Hebrew Prophets to Stephen Colbert, Terry Lindvall, NYU Press, 2015. “In God Mocks, Terry Lindvall ventures into the muddy and dangerous realm of religious satire, chronicling its evolution from the biblical wit and humor of the Hebrew prophets through the Roman Era and the Middle Ages all the way up to the present. He takes the reader on a journey through the work of Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales, Cervantes, Jonathan Swift, and Mark Twain, and ending with the mediated entertainment of modern wags like Stephen Colbert.”SCHOLARLY ROLLICKING GOOD TIME.

The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates, Frans de Waal, 2013. “The ease with which our brain suspends reality—call it irrationality, imagination or faith—has been crucial to the development of religion in human culture, according to de Waal, a respected primatologist and avowed atheist. He has a scientist’s curiosity about religion. Unlike prominent neo-atheists of our time, he has no interest in disproving God’s existence or proving that religion poisons everything. Instead, in this richly observed and intelligent book, de Waal ponders our natural receptiveness to religion, how religion evolved and what if anything might take its place.” FAITHFULLY MIND STRETCHING.

The Polygamous Wives Writing Club: From the Diaries of Mormon Pioneer Women, Paula Kelly Hairline, Oxford University Press, 2014. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints renounced the practice of plural marriage in 1890. In the mid- to late nineteenth century, however–the heyday of Mormon polygamy–as many as three out of every ten Mormon women became polygamous wives. Paula Kelly Harline delves deep into the diaries and autobiographies of twenty-nine such women, providing a rare window into the lives they led and revealing their views and experiences of polygamy, including their well-founded belief that their domestic contributions would help to build a foundation for generations of future Mormons.” FORGOTTEN VOICES.


Alcohol: A History,  Rod Philips, University of North Carolina Press, 2014. “Whether as wine, beer, or spirits, alcohol has had a constant and often controversial role in social life. In his innovative book on the attitudes toward and consumption of alcohol, Rod Phillips surveys a 9,000-year cultural and economic history, uncovering the tensions between alcoholic drinks as healthy staples of daily diets and as objects of social, political, and religious anxiety. In the urban centers of Europe and America, where it was seen as healthier than untreated water, alcohol gained a foothold as the drink of choice, but it has been more regulated by governmental and religious authorities more than any other commodity. As a potential source of social disruption, alcohol created volatile boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable consumption and broke through barriers of class, race, and gender.” AN HONEST TALE OF OUR DRUG OF CHOICE.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, Naomi Kline, Simon & Schuster, 2014. “Klein exposes the myths that are clouding the climate debate.

We have been told the market will save us, when in fact the addiction to profit and growth is digging us in deeper every day. We have been told it’s impossible to get off fossil fuels when in fact we know exactly how to do it—it just requires breaking every rule in the “free-market” playbook: reining in corporate power, rebuilding local economies, and reclaiming our democracies.” A BOOK DONALD TRUMP SHOULD (BUT WON’T) READ.

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Simon & Schuster, 2013.  “If you find the grubby spectacle of today’s Washington cause for shame and despair — and, really, how could you not? — then I suggest you turn off the TV and board Doris Kearns Goodwin’s latest time machine. Let her transport you back to the turn of the 20th century, to a time when this country had politicians of stature and conscience, when the public believed that government could right great wrongs, when, before truncated attention spans, a 50,000-word exposé of corruption could sell out magazines and galvanize a reluctant Congress. The villains seemed bigger, too, or at least more brazen — industrial barons and political bosses who monopolized entire industries, strangled entire cities. And “change” was not just a slogan.” ONCE UPON A TIME, PRESIDENTS LOOKED LIKE THIS.

What We See When We Read, Peter Mendelsund, Vintage Books, 2015.  “It explores a simple but confounding question, one the author wrests from theorists literary and otherwise and presents this way: “What do we see when we read? (Other than words on a page.) What do we picture in our minds?” Mr. Mendelsund looks at these questions from a thousand angles, zooming in and out as if surveilling them with Google Earth. Because the author is also the associate art director of Alfred A. Knopf, “What We See When We Read” is heavily and often whimsically illustrated. This would-be TED talk includes a PowerPoint presentation, one that’s redolent of X-Acto knives and drawing tables and graphic design software and clunky eyeglasses.” A PICTURE BOOK FOR BIBLIOPHILES.

The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction, Matthew B. Crawford, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2015. “Crawford investigates the intense focus of ice hockey players and short-order chefs, the quasi-autistic behavior of gambling addicts, the familiar hassles of daily life, and the deep, slow craft of building pipe organs. He shows that our current crisis of attention is only superficially the result of digital technology, and becomes more comprehensible when understood as the coming to fruition of certain assumptions at the root of Western culture that are profoundly at odds with human nature.” MIND BOGGLING.

The Heart Goes Last: A Novel, Margaret Atwood, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015. “Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of economic and social collapse. Living in their car, surviving on tips from Charmaine’s job at a dive bar, they’re increasingly vulnerable to roving gangs, and in a rather desperate state. So when they see an advertisement for the Positron Project in the town of Consilience – a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own – they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for this suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month, swapping their home for a prison cell.” A DYSTOPIAN ROMP.

Madness: American Protestant Responses to Mental Illness, Heather H. Vacek, Baylor University Press, 2015. “In Madness, Heather H. Vacek traces the history of Protestant reactions to mental illness in America. She reveals how two distinct forces combined to thwart Christian care for the whole person. The professionalization of medicine worked to restrict the sphere of Christianity to the private and spiritual realms, consigning healing and care—both physical and mental—to secular, medical specialists. Equally influential, a theological legacy that linked illness with sin deepened the social stigma surrounding people with a mental illness. The Protestant church, reluctant to engage sufferers lest it, too, be tainted by association, willingly abdicated care for people with a mental illness to secular professionals.” A TANGLED WEB OF THEOLOGY AND PSYCHOLOGY.

and last,  but by no means least,

Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ with artwork by Yayoi Kusama, Penguin Classics, 2012. “Since childhood, Kusama has been afflicted with a condition that makes her see spots, which means she sees the world in a surreal, almost hallucinogenic way that sits very well with the Wonderland of Alice. She is fascinated by childhood and the way adults have the ability, at their most creative, to see things the way children do, a central concern of the Alice books.” AN EYE POPPING DELIGHT.

Do I have all of these books? Yes.

Am I reading all of these books? No, not exactly.

The page total combined of all of the above comes to  about a gazillion (or thereabouts!). I have read a few; I am digging into several; paging through some; and skimming a few. I can assure you, though, that I have read all of the dust covers!

So many books, so little time.




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