I've been reading a lot on this trip. Here are some of the good ones.
Along with the other stuff, I've been working through the "Problem of Pain," by C.S. Lewis, and it's very interesting. I must say that it makes sense to me, but I'm not sure how much I need to adopt; that is, how much of it is new. You know what I'm talking about, if you've read this part of his stuff (What he considered his 'serious' stuff, as opposed to the kids stuff, the fiction), and if you're a Christian. It's all stuff that I've felt was true, except he has such an explicit way of putting it, an exact way to nail down the tricky bits.
Then, from Tolkien, I've been reading two slightly obscure books. Roverandom and "Tales from the Perilous Relm". Roverandom is a children's tale, but it's also a call to be more enviromentaly friendly. What's more, Tolkien does a good job of it(unsurprisingly), unlike some of the more well known environmentalists (also unsurprisingly). "Tales..." is also excellent. The last two short stories in the collection are quite equisite. In fact, if you've read them, I'd love to hear your take. I'm talking about "Leaf by Niggle," and "Smith of Wooton Major."
Especially "Leaf by Niggle." Tolkien always said that he hated allegory, but loved aplicability. The one being different from the other, of course, because of the intentions of the author. Tolkien didn't like to nail down the meaning, and thus didn't like allegory. (This was one of the reasons he didn't much like the Narnia tales.) All the same, he must have been thinking of something when he wrote "Leaf.." and I'd like to know what it was...or at least discuss some of the ways that others find it applicable.
Let me say first, that I had very low expectations for the class I'm currently taking. I took it mostly as an excuse to be where I am now. I still have pretty low expectations for the class as a whole, but I've been able to read two very nice books so far (though the first was horrible and I don't have high hopes for the next three.) If you're looking for something to read, well, read anything by Lewis or Tolkien. But if you've already mostly explored them, or have no intrest in their more obscure works/Christian appologeticery (I made this word up myself - isn't it a nice one?), then check out The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, or "The Garden of the Finzi-Contini's," by whoever it was, 'cause you'll probably be able to find it without the title, and I'm too lazy to get up and look at it.
The Leopard is a classic, and I'm told it's sort of like "Lolita." It's got a very interesting narration technique, and it's a great historical fiction novel, if nothing else. But the prose is almost poetical, and it's got great discription. Plus, it gives you a lot to think about. And thats something I think you already knew I enjoyed. It's also nice if you don't know much about Italian history - it gives you a decent account of how Italy as a whole country came into being.
The Garden of the Finzi-Contini's is not quite as 'high-brow.' It is essentially a love story. Almost a chick-flick. In fact, it would be, if it weren't concerned with a Jewish guy in Itally right between the two world wars. Not exactly a good time to be jewish in the country that created Facism, and not exactly a good time to be a somewhat poor boy, spurned the love of a girl who is much richer than you. I make it sound like a soap opera, and in fact, it almost is. However, it's got a little more substance than usual, and I liked it. You can probably make it through the whole book in an evening, like I did. I had to, since we're going to be discussing it in class tomorrow!