I’ve decided to close my amazon seller account down and gradually donate the one hundred twenty books left to the local library, five books a week until they’re gone. I’ll leave a short (for me) write-up before I donate the books as a way of saying goodbye. These are all books I read and, for the most part, loved over the years. It’s just that, well, I have a few books, and I don’t need them. I won’t reread most of them. Finding them a happy home is the next best thing.
There’s no theme; the books are arranged alphabetically, so I could find them easily when the odd order came in.
The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism by Karen Armstrong examines the rise of what the author calls “militant piety popularly known as fundamentalism” within every major religious tradition. This is despite the popular notion in the early and mid-20th century in western countries that religion would soon come to have no bearing on public life. She takes a long historical perspective, beginning with the late 15-century expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain, and continues with a preface written barely a month after the 9/11 attacks.
Her approach is neither forgiving nor damning but one that seeks understanding. Fundamentalism is not going away, she says. We should try to understand it.
The Spiral Staircase: My Climb out of Darkness by Karen Armstrong is a memoir and sequel to the author’s first book, Through the Narrow Gate. The earlier book describes her seven years in a convent. She draws the present title from T.S. Eliot’s poem “Ash Wednesday,” which she quotes in full at the beginning of her text. While she discusses her time as a nun, most of the book depicts events after she leaves the convent and begins to rebuild her life.
Armstrong is seldom angry with anyone, despite suffering what is obviously abuse and neglect, particularly in the area of an undiagnosed medical condition. When she is angry, she is justified.
This is a deeply heartfelt memoir.
Ancient Astronomers by Anthony Aveni is a wonderfully illustrated hardback surveying astronomy in ancient and traditional societies, including Mesopotamia and Oceania. This is written for the interested layperson with no technical background.
I’m going to miss this book and its pretty pics. I hope it finds a good home.
The book is part of the Smithsonian Exploring the Ancient World Series.
Behind the Crystal Ball: Magic, Science, and the Occult from Antiquity through the New Age by Anthony Aveni examines the role magic plays in society, from ancient ties to the present. His interest is not in debunking but in understanding what practitioners seek with it. The book is divided into chronological sections with a summary at the end of each section. If it sends chills because it sounds like a textbook, let me ease your mind. Few textbooks cover topics like hepatoscopy, Kabbalah, clairvoyance, alchemy, and spiritualism all in one volume.
It is a fun but not light read.
Conversing with the Planets: How Science and Myth Invented the Cosmos by Anthony Aveni is about the social function of astrology in pre-modern societies. As with his study of magic, the point is not to debunk it, but to ask, what are people seeking when they study astrology? In his preface to the revised edition, Aveni states, “People used astrologers in those days the way we use psychologists or counselors today—to weigh the balance, to help make choices, to move us off the dime so that we can make a decision about our lives.”
There is a certain subtle logic to it as Aveni discusses with respect to things like the phases of Venus—not with one’s love life or lottery numbers, but with things like seasons. Naked eyes astronomy was important, if not life-sustaining, to agrarian peoples.
Like the previous volume, it is a fun but not light read.
Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) is a British author. At seventeen, in 1962, just as the Vatican II Council was getting underway, she entered a convent, an experience she wrote about in her book, Through the Narrow Gate (1981). She left the convent in 1969. She earned a degree in English literature from St. Anne’s College, Oxford, and taught at a girls’ school before becoming an author and a presenter of television documentaries.
Anthony Aveni (b. 1938) is an American anthropologist who trained as an astronomer. He is professor emeritus at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY. He specializes in archaeoastronomy, particularly that of ancient Latin America. He has written or edited some thirty-five books.
Final note: I’m going to miss these books. I enjoyed reading them years ago, but I’m not going to re-read them. I’ve had my amazon seller account since August of 2018, sold about seventy book and made about seventy dollars. In short, I contributed to Jeff Bezos sending himself and a few select friends into the edge of space. The local library can probably do something more constructive with whatever money they can glean from these books, and most importantly, the books will probably find happy homes.