Having a Book on Hand

11 05 2010

Living in Korea means that English books are hard to come by. I mean, not impossible, but you really have to make the effort. So when I get the chance, I check out or buy books. Of course, I’m often far too ambitious and check out a dozen books… and proceed to read a chapter of each. But I’ve discovered something more valuable – the random used books. Whenever possible, I pick up a few used books with no intention of reading them. They’re something that catches my eye, that I might browse for a bit in a book store. There’s no particular category for these – some fiction is great, but even theology or history books will do. I take them home and forget about them. They don’t call to me, I don’t feel guilty for not getting around to them. They just sit on my shelf, hidden and forgotten.

Until the restless evening when I find myself staring at the shelf. I’m usually surprised at what I find there. I pick something up, flip through it, and then proceed to read about half of it. I usually manage to finish it in a few days. I’m discovering that this is a highly effective way to read in Korea. Strangely, I’m sure this wouldn’t work for me in the US – I think I’d buy too many books, or feel “obligated” to read them because I bought them.

Of course, having access to a university library means I can usually find the books I really want as well. So, although I’m intentionally restraining my reading (I get lost in ideas easily & anti-social), it seeps into my life wherever I go. Books I’m currently reading:

All in all, my reading is pretty slow at the moment, thoroughly eccentric, and pleasurably entertaining.

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Found the Stacks!

23 03 2010

I work at a top university and yet, I’m surprised to discover a library. This week, after 6 months here, I ventured into the depths, or rather heights, of the SNU library. Wonder of wonder! Books! The best part? They’re about 30-50% English (at least in the fields I’m interested in).  I was most impressed to find a basic selection of theological books, so much so, that I proceeded to check out more than I can possibly read in the next month (including Tillich’s Systematic Theology – since when am I interested in pure systematics? And can we all say, “Nerd!”)

Well, this blog was intended to motivate me to keep up with my studies, by being more of an academic pursuit. While that’s clearly not the case, I’ll be doing short summaries & analyses of whatever I do manage to read.

There’s not going to be any order to what I read, just the whim of fancy. I also don’t promise to finish any of the books… so you may get nice summaries of the first half of a book. If I’d been doing that the past few months, there would have been a lot more posts.

The first book I’ll be reading: Christianity in Asia: 1500-1900. I’ll only be reading sections I’m interested in, mainly Japan & Korea, and likely China.  I’ll post on those sections later. But for the moment, I’d like to introduce the author:

Samuel Moffett. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because his father was one of the main missionaries to Korea and bore the same name. Moffett Sr. entered Pyongyang in 1890 as a Presbyterian missionary. He was responsible for founding the first seminary in Korea, and a great moving force in the Korea Christianity. Moffett Jr. was born in Korea, then ended up serving 25 yrs there himself. In other words, the history of Christianity in Korea is inextricably linked to the Moffett family.

After his own 25 yrs on the field, Moffett Jr. returned to the US and became a professor at Princeton. Now he’s in his 90’s (b. 1916). He’s still working on finishing the third and final volume of his The History of Christianity in Asia. I pray he completes this task.