10 Day You Challenge - Day 7: 4 Books

How on earth is it possible to reduce all of the books I have ever read or want to read to a list of 4? Well, within the parameters of my self-imposed 30 Days of Thanksgiving here are 4 books that I was particularly thankful to have received as a gift from someone at some time or another. Again, those watchful for my spiritual soundness, please note that I have received many Bibles as gifts down through the years and have been thankful for most of them (the NEB which we received at our wedding left me a little cold) - If you ask me to narrow it down to one then the most influential would probably be the Message by Eugene Peterson, which I first received in its NT form from my mother-in-law 20 years ago, although given the recent book burning in North Carolina, there are probably those who would regard that translation as a book worthy of burning because of its heresy...

1) THE FLAVOUR THESAURUS by Niki Segnit. Given my love of food and a bizarre personality that has both a heavily pronounced artistic and scientific bent, this book, which I was given as a post Christmas extra by my wife one year, is a real aesthetic joy. Not only does it deal with how different ingredients complement and contrast with each other in flavour, aroma, taste and texture, it does so within the confines of a beautifully produced hardback book. Not one to be read on the kindle (even if an e-book version exists), it is a book to be handled and admired, snacked on at regular intervals, although prolonged periods of reading may produce aesthetic indigestion, or drive you into the kitchen to try some bizarre flavour combination. Unlike most other contemporary food books it has no glossy pictures... they would be entirely superfluous as Segnit has such vivid descriptive powers. I so wish I had written this book myself... Not only is it about food (a favourite subject) it has a vein of science running through it, has a coherent systematic logic, but is also highly cultured, somewhat idiosyncratic, and in places very funny... What other food book would leave you chortling at 5.30am after a sleepless night? Should be compulsory reading for all foodies, and having completed one circuit of her flavour wheel I feel I must go round again, and again, and again...

2) UNDER THE UNPREDICTABLE PLANT by Eugene Peterson. This exploration of the story of the Book of Jonah from a pastoral perspective was given to me by the colleague who has influenced my own ministry more than anyone else, Rev. Dr. Brian Fletcher. He gave it to me just prior to my ordination, and it took me a couple of years to get round to reading it. But when I did so it helped shape how I handle the Old Testament, my attempts to integrate the prophetic and pastoral elements of my ministry and the memory of it prevented me, on more than one occasion, from taking "the fast boat to Tarshish" when things weren't going so well. It also inspired a series of monologues based  on the story of Jonah, one of which involves the unedifying sight of me drenched to the skin and covered in seaweed.

4) LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkein. One of many gifts of books from my mother-in-law. This one (or rather 3 - I'm cheating) she gave me for Christmas 1987. I had never read these books as a spotty youth, but these were important books to my late father in law (especially the third, Return of the King) and as such Kathleen thought I would appreciate them. I held off reading them until after I had finished a demanding production of King Lear, and I dived into them, preceded by The Hobbit, as a way of flushing that experience out of my system... But I was sucked from one grand epic world, into another, and finished all 4 books in little under 2 weeks... I didn't get much by way of university work done... And when I got half way through Return of the King, I went to bed but had to get up and read it until I had finished, appendices and all... A work of real genius...

3) THE GIVING TREE by Shel Silverstein. A more recent gift from friend and artist Chuck Hoffman. He, like many Americans, seem to have been reared on this book... before then being given Dr. Seuss' "O the Places You'll Go" before heading off to college... This book is deceptively simple, yet has inspired such a lot of, at times, vitriolic debate as to the core message... Personally I see it as a parable of costly love... And it is in that vein that it struck a chord with me...

Cheers



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