Readers’ Advisory III

The weather in Indiana right now is good for only two things – sledding or curling up with your dog, a cup of hot tea and a good book. If you haven’t got a sled, dog, or tea, you have my sympathies. Here are some good books though, likely available at your public library.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

If I were making a list of great books of 2010, this gem would be at the top. Fantastically conceived, masterfully written, exotic in every way, The Windup Girl is further proof that those looking for good, serious fiction need not limit themselves to the Booker Prize snoozefest shortlist. The novel follows the intersecting lives of a prostitute, a bureaucrat, and a corporate spy as they navigate Thailand following years of worldwide political and economic turmoil, warfare and religious fanaticism. Genetically modified foods are both the scourge and savior of humanity. Populations starve as food sources wither under attack from genetically modified diseases. Only communities with strict trade and travel barriers or whose scientists can stay one step ahead of the plant-blight with genetically modified resistance, survive. Highly recommended.

The Witch of Hebron by James Howard Kunstler

If you want a slightly less dystopian vision that sticks closer to home,  try The Witch of Hebron by James Howard Kunster. Witch is the sequel to World Made By Hand, Kunstler’s 2007 novel set in post-oil, post-automobile, post-suburbia America. If you haven’t read World Made By Hand, go read it first, because it’s a wonderful book and The Witch of Hebron picks up immediately where the earlier novel leaves off. You’ll want the continuity. Also, you should probably eventually read some of Kunster’s non-fiction, especially The Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere, which are fantastic works about the importance of our common built environment.  In this second novel, Kunstler ups the supernatural elements which only emerged as oblique references at the end of World Made By Hand. I’m not sure how I feel about this added supernatural dimension. I think, on balance, I would prefer the stories without it.

Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture by Vincent Miller

This is not a simple rant against consumerism but  a challenging and thoughtful examination on the relationship between modern religion and Western consumer culture. Miller also examines the commodifcation of religion and effect of market ideas on religious practice and belief.

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