Into the Book

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Literature/Philosophy


  1. I am a language nerd. The way that we use language to communicate fascinates me. Every great story ever written, every love letter, every declaration of war — all of it uses language. I’m fascinated by how languages evolve, interacting with one another to overlap and produce new words and meanings. David Crystal’s book, The Story of English in 100 Words, looks at one hundred influential words that exhibit some of the major changes and evolutions that English has undergone over the past five hundred years. (more…)

  2. William Faulkner has been on my to-read list for years. He pioneered the stream-of-consciousness technique of writing (along with Virginia Woolfe and James Joyce, also on my to-read lists — it’s a long list), and his books are “classics” with really fantastic-sounding titles. As I lay dying is thought by many to be his best work: he famously wrote it in six weeks and didn’t change a word of it after writing it. I dove in with high hopes and few expectations. Read on for more. (more…)

  3. I’ve read my fair share of Shakespeare plays, but Much Ado About Nothing had slipped through the cracks until now. Benedick, Beatrice, and the intrigues to besmirch Hero are all new to me, and I jumped into the play with a lot of anticipation. Good old Will didn’t let me down.
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  4. Dante’s Purgatory is the anchor of the Divine Comedy: less well-known than Inferno, but still more rooted in the human condition than Paradiso. It’s a story of restoration and the place where saved souls are prepared for heaven. Regardless of your doctrinal views, Purgatory is the meat of the Divine Comedy, and some of Dante’s finest work. His masterful understanding of human nature causes the saved souls of Purgatory to jump off the page as relatable human beings, even hundreds of years later.

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  5. So you’ve written a book. Or maybe you want to write the next great American novel. Regardless of where you’re at in the process, writing is hard. Writing well is even harder. And getting your book published is hardest of all. In How to Grow a Novel, Sol Stein walks readers through editing and revision. The goal is to come out the other side with a polished novel that is prepared for publication: Stein accomplishes this goal with detail and excellence.

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  6. A Landscape with Dragons is about battlegrounds and books and battlegrounds that are books. In it Michael O’Brien offers a critique of contemporary children’s literature, with a goal of pushing parents to think seriously about the impact such reading can have on their children – for good or ill.

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  7. “If you are writing without zest, without gusto, you are only half a writer.”

    Were I inclined to get a tattoo, I would probably have the above sentence etched into my forehead, that way every glance in the mirror might double as a piquant reminder: don’t forget to love what you do.

    For the first thing a writer should be is – excited. He should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms. Without such vigor, he might as well be picking out peaches or digging ditches; God knows it would be better for his health. 

    And there, in one paragraph, is The Reason Why you should read this book, Zen in the Art of Writing. It is a collection of eleven superlative essays, written by a writer who revels in his craft. Bradbury. Ray Bradbury. He of mechanical hounds and dark carnivals and wine made from dandelions. When I say he revels in what he does, you’d better believe it. Just picture, if you will, a man who throws himself into writing like a child into a freshly-raked pile of leaves. That’s Bradbury.

    From “Drunk, and In Charge of a Bicycle”:

    … you look around at a community of notions held by other writers, other intellectuals, and they make you blush with guilt. Writing is supposed to be difficult, agonizing, a dreadful exercise, a terrible occupation. 

    But, you see, my stories have led me through my life. They shout, I follow. They run up and bite me on the leg – I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go, and runs off. 

    That is the kind of life I’ve had. Drunk, and in charge of a bicycle, as an Irish police report once put it. Drunk with life, that is, and not knowing where off to next. But you’re on your way before dawn. And the trip? Exactly one half terror, exactly one half exhilaration.

    From “The Secret Mind”:

    Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art, be it acting, writing, painting, or living itself, which is the greatest art of all.

    From “Zen in the Art of Writing”:

    The artist learns what to leave out. 

    His greatest art will often be what he does not say, what he leaves out, his ability to state simply with clear emotion, the way he wants to go. 

    The artist must work so hard, so long, that a brain develops and lives, all of itself, in his fingers. 

    Writing is hard, yes. Mr. Bradbury would be the first to tell you so. But it need not be – indeed, should not be – a bland or joyless exercise. It should not merely be a matter of dropping in one word after the other without screwing up the grammar. If that’s how it feels, it’s time to step back and take a look at what you’re missing.

    Stoop down. Look low. See that? Buried beneath the pyramid of elements and style, beneath the smelly carcass of “writer’s block” and the panicky butterflies that circle it – beneath all of that you may find the body of a child. Set him loose. He knows where the leaf pile is.

    – Corey P.
    Buy Zen in the Art of Writing and Support ItB!


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  8. Corey and I go back and forth on ND Wilson books. Sometimes I get one first, other times he’s way ahead of me. Scandalous that an ND Wilson fan such as myself should not have reviewed Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl yet! Like Death by Living, this is a typical ND Wilson book — which is to say that by every measure it’s nontraditional and fantastic.

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  9. I may as well begin by admitting that I am a rank amateur in all things Anglo-Saxon. The most dilettante of dilettante dilettantes. My favorite Anglo-Saxon word is probably merscmealuwe. Which means marshmallow. Which ought to tell you something about how many Anglo-Saxon words I know.

    Having said that, I Love – yes, capital ‘L’ intended – the story of Beowulf. Read it for the first time when I was twelve. Haven’t stopped reading it since. It is the Ultimate Epic, and I began to Love it even more when I discovered Seamus Heaney’s translation. I’ve read that one four or five times now (and counting).

    Yet lo and behold, my appreciation for this Saga of Sagas has been deepened further. I owe this deepening to Pastor Douglas Wilson, and to the very, very dear soul who sent me a copy of Beowulf: A New Verse Rendering.

    In a Grendel-sized nutshell? This thing is amazing.

    And I’m not just saying that because of the preposterously cool cover art.

    You’ll notice it is called a “rendering” rather than a translation. Wilson explains why in the Introduction:

    While I am limited in Old English, I do okay in New English, and know my way around, both with the regular stuff and in the reading and writing of poetry. So what I did was this. I took about five different translations of Beowulf, including my two favorites (Heaney and Chickering), got the sense of lines x, y, and/or z from them, and then cast that general sense into my own modern form of an Anglo-Saxon-style alliterative poetry. Then I did the same thing over again, and went on and on until I was done. Since I was making free to add words for the sake of the alliteration, and because I sometimes supplied my own imagery, the result is a loose paraphrase of the sense of the original and not a knock-off of any of the translations I used. At the same time, the poem can generally be followed “line by line,” give or take a couple of lines, and I am not saying I never looked at the original. What with one thing and another, this version of the poem has three more lines than respectable editions do. I don’t know. It was dark. They were big. Just think of it as more Beowulf than you would get with those other editions. But the sense of the original is there. 

    It seemed pretty clear to me that Wilson had more fun with this than is, strictly-speaking, legal. I believe I had the same amount in reading it. It’s stylish, it’s elegant, it’s clear, it’s bursting with cinematic moxie, and I enjoyed the heck out of every line. So much so, in fact, that at the conclusion of the story I had to be confined to a chair with zip ties until the irrepressible urge to slay something – or at least rip its arm off – had subsided.

    Yes. I have my moments.

    Included at the back of the book are two essays, one on Beowulf as “the unChrist” and another on the poem’s chiastic structure. The former was of particular interest to me. Wilson makes a brilliant case for seeing the poetry of Beowulf, not only as an artistic triumph, but also “as an evangelistic and apologetic tour de force.” Muchly good stuff.

    So. It is with great delight that I see two versions of Beowulf – Heaney and Wilson – living side by side on my shelf. It’s like having a really awesome best friend, and then learning that he has a really awesome twin brother, and now they’re both chillin’ in your living room having a bloody good time with the pie and the Guinness and the dart board. Or something like that.

    – Corey P.
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  10. When I went back to Singapore for the summer holidays, I got roped into giving an impromptu Sunday school class one Sunday. Well, since most of my family has been/is involved in children’s ministry one way or the other, I guess this isn’t so unusual. So when I started reading this book, I immediately thought of how I could use this the next time I’m giving the children’s sermon (although that may be a few years away).

    While the title sounds as though it’s a guide on how to create a story, it’s actually a guide on how to tell a story effectively. According to the book, the bible is 75% is in a story format because “God had it written this way to make it easier for people to learn, remember and share with others.” I’m not sure if this is true, but considering that most of my Sunday School lessons were taught through stories, effective storytelling is definitely going to be an asset.

    The book is divided into three sections. Section One is about how to create a captivating story. Section two is about how to present the story well (this section is not essential, but recommended for anyone who wants to improve their storytelling skills). Section three is about why storytelling is essential. The focus isn’t so much on how to come up with a good story, it’s about teaching you how to tell a story effectively.

    What I liked about this book was that story-telling wasn’t restricted to just kids, it’s presented as a way of sharing that can work for everyone. And while the first application for story-telling that came to mind was for sermons, this book also shows that it’s possible to use it in a classroom setting.

    If you’re looking for a book that will help you in Children’s ministry or in any ministry that requires public speaking, you should definitely pick up this book.

    Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.
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Into the Book was born out of a crazy idea of a blog that'd provide book reviews for teens. There aren't very many book review websites out there exposing awesome, high-quality Christian literature, and there are even fewer that target teenagers. Since 2009, we've been providing high-quality book reviews to the world through our blog. Into the Book has grown around reviews since then, but it remains our oldest project.

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