Unfamiliar Books Meme
I was tagged by Tom Accuosti at The Tao of Masonry with the unfamiliar books meme. He selected some excellent works, and I imagine it is up to me to return in kind. As difficult as it might be to select only three unusual books to recommend, since as a student of Masonry my library is filled with unusual works, I have opted to go for three unusual books on different topics:
- Freemasonry - "Sephir H'Debarim" or "The Book of the Words" by Albert Pike
I have never before read a work by the esteemed Bro. Albert Pike. The magnum opus "Morals and Dogma" feels like learning to run a marathon by going directly to the Olympic trials. This text explores in great detail the history, origins and esoteric meaning behind words used in Masonic ritual, both Craft Lodge and Scottish Rite. As such it is an incredibly deep, difficult work which sends me scurrying off for Wikipedia or Merriam-Webster quite often. It has been deepening my understanding of the rituals I already know and interesting me in those which I have yet to personally study. I would recommend this to any serious student of Masonic ritual.
- History - "In the Wake of Madness" by Joan Druett.
This is a wonderful pop history book about a murder on board the whaling ship Sharon. I have written about it in a past blogpost, and already passed it around to my friends. My own brief review in that post was...
While sailing the whaling grounds of the south Pacific the captain of the Sharon was murdered by a few mutinous crewman. The single handed recapture of the ship by the Mainer Benjamin Clough was so well known it was reproduced in a stage play. The book is extremely well written and leaves the reader with a sense of the vagaries of whaling in the mid nineteenth century. The best line of the book: "Whaling captains were men who left their souls at home."
- Catholicism - "The Mass of the Early Christians" by Mike Aquilina.
I have always had an intense personal interest in the early Christian Church, particularly the patristics. Yet it is fair to say that most of the works from this period would be considered "dense." As the material related to the liturgy current at the time is normally scattered in small snippets among many texts, the author does us all a favor by accumulating those snippets into a single book. I learned many new things while reading this work, but the most interesting item must be "the discipline of the secret." In the early Church the nature and language of the Mass was a carefully guarded secret, so that there are almost no clear liturgical texts, as the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) does today. The author clarifies the nature of the early liturgy by threading together the material from The New Testament, the Didache, pagan historical texts, and sixteen Fathers of the Church.