October 4th, 2009


Book 100: The Magician's Book: a Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller

Book 100: The Magician's Book: a Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia.
Author: Laura Miller, 2008.
Genre: Memoir. Literary Studies. Biography.
Other Details: Hardback. 312 pages.

This book focus is one reader's long, tumultuous relationship with C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. As a child Laura Miller had been totally enchanted by C.S. Lewis' created world. Then as a teenager she came across references to its Christian symbolism and felt she had been tricked and thereafter this sense of betrayal alienated her from the books. Years later, convinced that "the first book we fall in love with shapes us every bit as much as the first person we fall in love with," Miller returned to Lewis' classic fantasies to examine her responses as an adult and to seek to uncover the source of these small books' power through an examination of the life and influences of their creator, C.S. Lewis.

This is something of a hybrid work, being partly a memoir of the author's relationship with books and reading and her issues with this series as well as a biography of C.S. Lewis and some literary analysis of The Chronicles of Narnia. It also gives details of Miller's trip to the UK and Ireland to trace those places that had inspired Lewis' creation. I was quite intrigued by the premise of this book when I first spotted it and then the moderator of bookaddiction suggested a group of us read it and discuss in the community.

I found I could deeply relate to Miller's writing about her childhood experiences of The Chronicles and reading in general. Her words awoke memories of my own experiences and deep desire that, like Lucy Pevensie, I'd discover a door in the back of the large Victorian wardrobe in my bedroom. However, unlike Miller my relationship with The Chronicles was not really damaged by my realisation of their inherent Christian symbolism. Still I could relate to her perspective. I did get the impression that throughout she was wrestling with an expectation that if you love these books, then automatically they will lead you to Christianity (or back to it in her case). Actually I don't think this is at all so. She did include other perspectives and I found I could relate more to the responses of her friends, Pam and Tiffany in the chapter where she examines her teenage discovery (Chapter 9 The Awful Truth).

The cover art is beautiful and I enjoyed Miller's rambling anecdotal style. However, there were a few statements that seemed to be pure speculation on her part and I felt my academic self grumbling below the surface about her lack of sources to back these up. Also, there was no bibliography or notes. So while it seemed to want to be taken seriously in terms of a biography and literary studies these omissions meant the book remained much more of a personal work. Perhaps that was her intention given its autobiographical aspect that would be considered out of place in a more academic work.

Overall a very enjoyable and rich book that gave me a great deal of food for thought about my own relationship with books throughout my life and how they'd helped to shape me and also gave me many new insights into C.S. Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia.

The Magician's Book - official site with excerpt and gallery of images from her travels as well as partial bibliography missing from the print version.
Book Addiction Community Discussion Threads.

Book 77

77. The White Stag, by Kate Seredy. As I said earlier, I remember looking at the book primarily for the lovely charcoal drawings but I never read the story. Well, about 23 years later, I finally get around to actually reading the story. Probably just as well. I might have liked the story, but I doubt I would have appreciated it all that much. This was an interesting tale. In a nutshell it's sort of a mythological take on a young Attila the Hun. Most books portray Attila and Huns in general as bloodthirsty, savage warloads. In "The White Stag," the are still sweeping conquerers, but Attila and his ancestors are cast in a kinder light. This story follows the line and journey of the sons, grandson and great-grandson of Nimrod to find the prophecied land where their people will claim and settle. The White Stag is a magical creature that appears every so often to lead their way. It reads very much like a classic myth, and I think older gradeschool and up would enjoy it, especially if they like fantasy and mythology.


BOOK 43 & 44

BOOK 43: Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung (autobiography)yellow staryellow staryellow star
An interesting look at the life of a person who's parents are immigrants. The issues of where do I fit in? and related topics are covered in this book. I found it a fascinating insight and easy to read. The only down part is the ending which didn't seem to fit the rest of the book.

BOOK 44: Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely (non fiction)yellow staryellow staryellow star
A thought provoking book addressing human behaviour. Lots of issues are covered and provide an insight into why we do certain things.
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Book 45 for 2009

Thirty-Three Teeth by Colin Cotterill

The second in a series of mysteries set in Laos in the 1970s and featuring the reluctant Laotian chief Coroner, Dr Siri Paiboun.

This time he's called upon to solve a series of vicious killings in his home town of Vientiane and to investigate a mystery in the former royal capital of Luang Prabang.

It's almost impossible not to compare these books to Alexander McCall Smith's No1 Ladies Detective Agency books. Cotterill has rather more in the way of plot and his characters are perhaps slightly less gentle than McCall Smith's, but I suspect that most fans of Mma Ramotswe will like Dr Siri too.

I look forward to getting hold of the third book in this series.

Book Stacks

Book 20 of 50: The Deathly Hallows Lectures

Book 20 of 50

Title: The Deathly Hallows Lectures: The Hogwarts Professor Explains Harry's Final Adventure
Author: John Granger
Genre: Literature, Fantasy

Summary: (from amazon.com): The fastest-selling book in publication history, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a critical success and is loved by fans around the world. In The Deathly Hallows Lectures, John Granger reveals the Potter finale's brilliant details, themes and meanings. Even the most ardent of Harry Potter fans will be surprised by and delighted with the Hogwarts Professor's explanations of the four dimensions of meaning in Deathly Hallows to include:

* why Ms. Rowling chose to make Lily's eyes green,
* why Harry buried Moody's eye where and when he did, and
* why Ollivander prefers the three wand cores he does.

Ms. Rowling has said that alchemy sets the "parameters of magic" in the series; after reading the chapter-length explanation of Deathly Hallows as the final stage of the alchemical Great Work in The Deathly Hallows Lectures, the serious reader will understand how important literary alchemy is in understanding Rowling's artistry and accomplishment.

The other seven chapters explore, among other things, the five writing tricks Ms. Rowling uses to work her story magic, the deciphering of the "Triangular Eye" symbol for the three Hallows, Harry's "struggle to believe" in Albus Dumbledore, why Ms. Rowling revealed that she "always thought" of the Headmaster as gay, and the more than 25 echoes of her first book, Philosopher's Stone, in Deathly Hallows.

Comments: This book was... interesting. It definitely was not what I expected. I actually got the book for Christmas, and started reading it back at the beginning of January. I just finished it a few weeks ago. The book delved deeply into alchemy, Christianity, and comparisons to classics, particularly Dante. This book read like a college professor talking, and luckily I was an English major. I think if I hadn't been, I would have been completely lost through a lot of this book. I think the title, marketing, and cover make it seem like this book is more like an explanation of secrets or symbolism, and that it would be written to better appeal to a broader base of reader. Then, when you get into the book, it's like jumping back into an upper level literature course. I hesitate to say that it is written like a textbook, because it is written like the author is speaking. However, this is NOT light reading. You have to concentrate on it and think about it. If you aren't really interested in the subject matter, I feel like you would wander off.

Anyhow, if you are interested in Christian themes in Harry Potter, or just need to read something to get back into Harry's world a bit, this may be interesting. It WAS interesting to me, but I feel sure that I will never pick it up again.

x-posted to cmmunchkin