Title: Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti
Author: Maya Deren
Number of pages: 350
Genre: non-fiction, religion
Book Number/Goal: 22/50
My Rating: 5/5

The author is a filmmaker who had traveled to Haiti for the purpose of making a documentary about native dancing, but was "sidetracked" due to becoming deeply fascinated with Vodou and getting personally involved in the practice. This book contains the results of her research - in particular, there are chapters on the most important Lwa, detailed descriptions of rituals, many of them witnessed by the author (she even experienced possession!), her own thoughts, insights and conclusions. It is not a dictionary of names, dates and spells but rather an attempt to understand the philosophy and psychology behind this incredibly sophisticated religious practice, and what people gain from following it. The book is neither a dry scientific treatise nor straightforward memoires; the writing flows naturally and maintains just the right balance between factual and lyrical without degrading into meaningless ramblings - everything is logical and serves to demonstrate the author's points.

I think this is a great reading for anyone who's interested in Haitian Vodou.
Title: Empire of Sacrifice: The Religious Origins of American Violence
Author: Jon Pahl
Number of Pages: 257 pages
Book Number/Goal: 36/40 for 2010
My Rating: 5/5

Jacket Summary: It is widely acknowledged that American culture is both exceptionally religious and exceptionally violent. Americans participate in religious communities in high numbers, yet American citizens also own guns at rates far beyond those of citizens in other industrialized nations. Since 9/11, United States scholars have understandably discussed religious violence in terms of terrorist acts, a focus that follows United States policy. Yet, according to Jon Pahl, to identify religious violence only with terrorism fails to address the long history of American violence rooted in religion throughout the country's history. In essence, Americans have found ways to consider blessed some very brutal attitudes and behaviours, both domestically and globally.

Review: This was really interesting. There are four main sections, Sacrificing Youth, Sacrificing Race, Sacrificing Gender, and Sacrificing Humans. The middle two are pretty self-explanatory (slavery/racism and sexism/homophobia, respectively). Sacrificing Humans explores the way human sacrifice is always positioned as something primitive (non-white) people do/did while ignoring the ways "modern" societies sacrifice people all the time (I especially liked the bit about Puritans and Quakers; I was totally unaware of how violent the Puritans were), and Sacrificing Youth talks about horror films. The whole thing was fascinating and definitely a good read.
Title: God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says
Author: Michael Coogan
Number of Pages: 238 pages
Book Number/Goal: 35/40 for 2010
My Rating: 5/5

Amazon Summary: Readers looking for an unbiased appraisal of what the Bible says about premarital sex, homosexuality, and polygamy can trust Coogan, a biblical scholar of the highest order. Concise, clear, and accessible to general readers, this book covers all the usual topics plus a few that may surprise. A professor of religious studies at Stonehill College and editor of the New Oxford Annotated Bible, Coogan has also taught at Harvard and Wellesley. He covers predictable ground in unpredictable ways, frankly noting, for example, the pervasive biblical assumption that women are subordinate while explaining how that reflects the Bible's foreign and ancient context. The author does not overreach the evidence to promote his own agenda, but notes the Bible's contradictions on certain issues and admits the limits of modern scholarship. Readers may be surprised to find a convincing discussion of evidence for God's own (sometimes unflattering) sexuality, in metaphor if not in fact. Coogan's reminder at the book's end that modern application of biblical texts requires interpretation and nuance is a welcome corrective to selective, literalist use.

Review: This was another one I got from the library the other day. The new non-fiction shelf had so much interesting-looking stuff! I could have gone home with a whole bag full of books just from that section, but new books are only two-week loans, so I limited it to just three. Anyway, this one stood out because of the title, and also because it has a faux-leather Bible-esque cover, so it caught my eye right away.

I have been interested in reading books about the Bible and about Christianity lately. I have a lot of issues around the Bible due to my mom, and for a long time even just thinking about reading about the Bible or Christianity was enough to stress me out and make me feel really anxious, but I think I'm starting to get to a place where I can deal?

Anyway, I enjoyed this book. It was a pretty quick, easy read, and looked at various topics related to sex and gender, including homosexuality, marriage, abortion, divorce, etc. As the Amazon summary notes, he doesn't handpick verses to hold up one view or another, but lays out all the verses related to each topic, acknowledging contradictions and such. (I also found it interesting because a lot of liberal Christians are all about how Jesus wouldn't be down with this or that judginess, but Jesus was pretty damn judgey himself, sometimes even more so than the Old Testament.)
Title: The Wasp Factory
Author: Iain Banks
Number of Pages: 244
Book Number: 4/53
My Rating: 3.5/5

Bookmark: If I say what I want to say about this book, I'll give away Frank's secret to anyone who hasn't already read it.

Currently Reading: Richard Bolitho, Midshipman by Alexander Kent

Title: The Bhagavad Gita.
Translator: Juan Mascaro.
Number of Pages: 128.
Genre: Religious.
Book Number/Goal: 2/10 (for the week). List here.

Review: Here.


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