The ‘gospel truth’ and other good reads


Another year, another short reading list.

Although I dove into numerous books in 2013, I read only five start to finish.  That’s probably my shortest reading list since my grade school days back in Kansas.

The list, in the order I read them:  Hugh Schonfield’s sobering look at the real origins of Christianity, “The Passover Plot,” Simon Mawer’s biography of the so-called father of genetics, “Gregor Mendel,” Swedish author Steig Larsson’s crime novel, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” James Salter’s fictional account of a young mountaineer, “Solo Faces,” and New York Times reporter Philip Shenon’s examination of the 9/11 Commission’s finding, “The Commission.”

None caught my fancy more than “The Passover Plot,” a 1965 bestseller.  (Better come to a good book late than not at all).

Schonfield, a Christian scholar, suggests that Christianity was built on myth-making as seen in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.  Very little of Jesus’s early life can be substantiated.  That calls into question his birth in a manger, the three kings following the star, etc.  “We are without direct access to the oldest and most reliable sources of information,” Schonfield writes.”  Even the Crucifixion story has holes in it, the author says, providing other plausible scenarios.

The first of the Gospels was written 40 years after his death and were written “for saving Christianity from disintegration.”

Mawer, a masterful writer of fiction, tells the life story of Mendel, the son of a poor Austrian farmer, and his experimentations with 34 varieties of pea seeds — and what it meant to the world.

Since I’ve seen the film numerous times, I had to read, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” to see if it matched the movie.  It did.

Salter’s “Solo Faces” is written nicely, but somehow this story of an unrivaled mountain-climber who suddenly quits his pursuit of reaching the highest Alpine summits left me dry.

For those who think the 9/11 Commission’s findings offered the answers to the terrorist attacks of 13 years ago, they don’t have to read far into Shenon’s objective book to see it was botched from the beginning and covered in political slime.  Like many other big events in America’s history, truth is elusive.  What we get, and what we got with “The Commission,” is a white-wash.  No surprise, really.

So that was the year past.  I’m going to make an endeavor to complete a book a month in 2014.  I say that with not a lot of confidence.