Summer reading lists seem to be fashionable topics of conversation at the end of any school year. This past year has been no exception for me; in the spring I found myself having conversations with several people and listening to them describe their (sometimes elaborate) plans to catch up on their reading in the summer months. While I would normally contribute my own reading lists to such conversations, I ended up doing a couple of spring courses this year, which significantly reduced the time I had available to read for pleasure. However, in true David fashion, I recently came up with my 2015 Summer Reading List that would occupy for the last few weeks before classes begin. Advantageously, now that I have a blog I am able to both release my much anticipated (read: obscure and unknown) list as well as my own comments.
In keeping with my interests outlined elsewhere on this website, my list includes works dealing with a variety of subjects. For ease of reference, I have sorted my list into two categories: Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and Linguistics.
Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
The Book of Joel: A Prophet Between Calamity and Hope, by Elie Assis.
This monograph is, as the person who recommended it to me noted, basically a commentary on the Book of Joel. Its brevity is nice, as is the inclusion of a Hebrew and English copy of the text under discussion at the beginning of each section, which facilitates easy reference. Moreover, the discussion of the date of Joel is a very thorough and unique scholarly treatment of the issue.
The Apocalyptic Imagination, by John J. Collins
I had read most of this before, but I read it again to provide some background information for a paper I wrote for one of my spring courses. I’m a big fan of Collins’ work (and of his wife’s: Adela Yarbro Collins) and this book is what got me interested in his research in the first place. Highly recommended especially for anyone who wants to know just what kinds of Jewish apocalyptic literature exist outside of the Hebrew Bible.
This book has attracted a fair bit of controversy over the years, but after reading it I wonder if that is largely misplaced concern. No doubt, Enns’ model is unique (using the theology of Christ’s incarnation as a way to understand biblical inerrancy), and I suspect that the brevity of the book (~200 pages) prevents Enns from giving as full a treatment of his subject as is necessary, but I think that Enns is correct to draw attention to the human aspect of the Bible’s composition while attempting to preserve the role of the divine. At the very least, reading this book would allow readers to better understand some of the issues at stake in recent evangelical discussions of the Old Testament.
A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar, by C. Van der Merwe, J. Naude, and J. Kroeze
Ok, this isn’t technically a book on the Hebrew Bible, but it is a book on biblical Hebrew, so I will put it in this section. I actually had this book as a textbook for my HEB 201 course this past winter semester, but I decided to read it in its entirety this summer to get a refresher on some features of the Hebrew language. I found it to be absorbing reading, and, in reading it again in light of my other reading in linguistics, I gained a new appreciation for the authors’ approach. However, if any of my readers are looking for a general introduction to biblical Hebrew, this would not be my first recommendation, since it does presuppose at least an elementary understanding of the language.
Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics, by John Lyons
This book, like all of those listed under the ‘Linguistics’ heading, stems from my decision to pre-read the books for my upcoming independent study in biblical Hebrew and linguistics. As an introduction to theoretical linguistics, I found this book was sufficiently thorough to allow me to go on and read further works within the discipline. It is reasonably accessible, and relatively balanced (although Lyons doesn’t make any attempts to mask his Chomskyan bent), and, as a textbook, I found it intellectually stimulating.
Chomsky, by John Lyons
Perhaps I’m revealing a bit of my own orientation, but I chose this book to complement my other linguistics reading. Its advantages are, like some of the other books listed earlier, its brevity but also, its clarity. A particular strength of Lyons’ approach here is his description of Chomsky’s theories in general and easily accessible terms before providing a (remarkably) thorough and technical treatment. It is an impressive work that only really suffers from its date of publication. I read the third edition, which surveyed Chomsky up to 1991. Unfortunately, with the advent of the minimalist program, that does make the book a little bit dated. Nevertheless, a good introduction to the Aspects-era of Chomsky’s thought.
Linguistic Theory: The Discourse of Fundamental Works, by Robert-Alain de Beaugrande
Another book for my upcoming class, this work is a survey of the contributions made by 10 prominent linguists in the past century. As a book, its format is unique: it consists of quotes strung together, with very little actual commentary by de Beaugrande himself (except in the case of Chomsky, who is singled out for a particularly harsh series of criticisms). Obviously, this means that the reader is not so much reading de Beaugrande as reading Saussure or Firth. Overall, the approach works and has the advantage of exposing the reader to works that might otherwise have been unknown or ignored.
Discourse Analysis, by Gillian Brown and George Yule
I’m currently making my way through this book, so I will only say that it is very different from the other linguistic books just described, putting a greater emphasis on research methodology than the other, more theory-oriented works. For now, I will reserve any comment on its contents until I have finished. Stay tuned!
That, in a nutshell, is what I have spent the past few weeks working on. If any of my readers have made it this far, I’d be interested in what you have been reading of late. Introduce yourself and comment below!