Vacation Reading

Derek Ouellette —  September 30, 2013

Tomorrow my wife and I are bringing out little girl to Cuba for vacation. It’ll be a relaxing trip. The four-hour car ride to Toronto and the several hour flight to Cuba invite lots of reading time. Delightful reading time. Not catchup. Not work. Not study. Pleasure.

The two books I bring on every vacation of this time are thus:

1. “Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale” by Frederick Buechner

2. “How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe” by Thomas Cahill.

Don’t let the titles deceive you. These books are pleasure books not because of their content or subject matter, but because of the way the structure of their sentences. If ever I were to publish a book, it’d be an honour, not just to give someone information (the common goal of writing), but to give them pleasure in reading the sentences.

p1686dOne part that stands out in Buechner’s book:

“And, of course, there is the comedy, the unforeseeableness of the election itself. Of all the peoples he could have chosen to be his holy people, he chose the Jews, who as somebody has said are just like everybody else only more so — more religious than anybody when they were religious and when they were secular, being secular as if they’d invented it. And the comedy of the covenant — God saying “I will be your God and you shall be my people” (Exod. 6:7) to a people who before the words had stopped ringing in their ears were dancing around the golden calf like aborigines and carrying on with every agricultural deity and fertility god that came down the pike…”

howtheirish1And then there is my favourite section in any book I’ve read, found in How the Irish Saved Civilization:

“The citizens of the City of Rome, therefore, could not believe it when toward the end of the first decade of the fifth century, they woke to find Alaric, king of the Visigoths, and all his forces parked at their gates. He might as well have been the king of the Fuzzy-Wuzzies, or any other of the inconsequential outlanders that civilized people have looked down their noses at throughout history. It was preposterous. They dispatched a pair of envoys to conduct the tiresome negotiations and send him away. The envoys began with empty threats: any attack on Rome was doomed, for it would be met by invincible strength and innumerable ranks of warriors. Alaric was a sharp man, and in his rough fashion a just one. He also had a sense of humor.

‘The thicker the grass, the more easily scythed,’ he replied evenly.

The envoys quickly recognized that their man was no fool. All right, then, what was the price of his departure? Alaric told them: his men would sweep through the city, taking all gold, all silver, and everything of value that could be moved. They would also round up and cart off every barbarian slave.

But, protested the hysterical envoys, what will that leave us?

Alaric paused, ‘Your lives.’

In that pause, Roman security died and a new world was conceived.”

So what vacation books to your lean back on?

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Derek Ouellette

    I wrote this article at 2 am. On my way to the airport now I just read it from my iphone and noticed a few typos. Forgive me.