Under pressure from certain parties I will now finish round one of my contest book reviews. Just to review (extremely weak word play on my part), I accepted ten suggestions for great books from you, my delightful readers. For my convenience I'm splitting the entries into 2 groups of five, with a finalist from each group.
Review # 4: The Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer
Certainly the longest book of the contest. I don't know if I have made this widely known, but the parsimonious part of my personality prefers longish books. I feel like I'm getting my money's worth. I have never once complained that a book was "too long." So many of the stories in this volume were just terrific that I don't worry about the one's which I didn't enjoy quite as much. The better (IMHO) stories were those set in the small Jewish settlements of Poland. Many of these were similar to children's tales like Grimm's, but often focused on the evils attendent with sexual temptation. One of the back cover reviews mentioned "wry eroticism", but the stories were never titilating. Rather they were full of the wisdom that one finds in, e.g., Proverbs chapter 7. Of course this is but one of many themes in this volume, but I thought it was the strongest and most thought provoking ideas of Mr Singer's writing.
Review #5: Religion and the Rise of Western Culture
A marvelously quick tour of the place of religion in medieval Europe. Traces the history of the ups and downs of the church, both east and west, from the decline of Rome to the 1300's. One serious complaint is that it really was, umm, too short. Each chapter (or some paragraphs) would seem to be good book length studies in themselves. I would have forgiven this if there were some sort of comprehensive bibliography attached, but alas, there was none. Did serve to renew my interest in learning more about medieval Europe.