Love Sonnets of Shakespeare

I love Shakespeare’s sonnets and post them regularly on this site, they are listed on this page or you can use the search box.

Naomi recently bought me this little book containing a selection of his sonnets, and I’ve just finished reading it.

I guess Shakespeare is best known for his plays, but it’s likely that his sonnets were what earned him the admiration of his contemporaries. Writing plays was the way to pay the bills, sonnets were the way to gain literary prestige. They were shared privately to impress, and were only later collected and published.

This book is an excellent anthology, with each sonnet presented on two facing pages, a lovely edition to have lying around to easily dip into.

15 Days with Francis of Assisi

I’ve just finished this helpful devotional book, and I’d like to share it with you.

One of a series, 15 Days of Prayer with Saint Francis of Assisi aims to lead you (over fifteen prayer periods) to a place where prayer is possible. But, if you already have a regular experience and practice of prayer, to lead you to a deeper place, a more intimate relationship with the Lord.

The following prayer and reflective questions (which end each chapter of exposition) will give you a taste of the book:

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honour, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no one is worthy to praise your name.

Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather,
through whom You give sustenance to your creatures.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be you, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces various fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.

How do ecological issues such as global warming, famine, air quality and nuclear detonations affect the quality of your spiritual life and the survival of our planet? Is it easier to find God in the beauty and harmony of creation than it is in the suffering and struggles of our dark nights? In the sufferings of the poor, the dying, the hungry? As you ponder the beauty of creation, what does this mean for your spiritual life? “Beauty will save the world” (Dostoevsky), what does this mean for you? Of all the elements (earth, air, fire, water) which is the one to which you most relate? Is death a sister or a friend for you?

To be, or not to be (Hamlet)

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of dispriz’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Ghost Stories (Henry James)

It’s rare for me not to finish a book, but I simply couldn’t connect with these stories. The main story in this book is a classic, the plot of many dramas, but it did nothing for me. Too many words, and a meandering narrative seemingly getting nowhere. It might be me, but I can only respond as I feel.

I bought the Kindle edition of this book because Naomi and I had recently watched The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix, which is based on The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. The drama was truly scary, the book not at all.

Thesaurus of the Senses

This book by Linda Hart is a reference book rather than one to read from start to finish. Having ‘read’ it (introduction and chapter preambles) it’ll be a valuable tool for my writing.

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between a lightning bug and lightning, Mark Twain once wrote. Throughout history, the timely use of the apt word has held enormous sway, in literature, speeches, and texts. How is it that some words hold such power? One thing we know: great words often engage the senses.

Thesaurus of the Senses expands your possibilities to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell to describe the world around you. It collects some of the best English sensory words in one place to enliven your writing and help you build persuasive description. It’s an indispensable tool for writers, poets, bloggers, editors, storytellers, students, teachers, communicators, and word lovers alike – anyone wanting to add more spark to his or her writing. Source

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2021 books here.

In our brokenness (Stephen Poxon)

I’ve just finished this devotional anthology by my author friend Stephen Poxon, who wrote a guest post for this blog a while back. You can find his books on Amazon by clicking here.

A Response to Grace is ‘a gathering of thoughts, jottings, poems and songs’, with the premise that God is present in the everyday things of life with its sometimes mundane circumstances and problems.

Grace is permanently concerned, available, widespread, willing, and reliable. Empowering grace is promised and indefatigable. Grace understands and meets us where we are.

In this anthology is all of life, its ups and downs, its best and worst, and all embraced, redeemed, and lifted up by grace. Here you will find drama and cabbages, heartache and Handel, politics and prayer, even marching in the rain – and that’s just the first five devotions! Here are heartfelt observations and reflections drawn from real life encounters, along with deeply personal insights that speak to the depths of our human condition.

I could have quoted from any of the pages, but I specifically chose this poem (which can be sung to the tune ‘Trust in God’) because it speaks to our humanity and (to some extent) our current circumstances in the coronavirus pandemic.

In our brokenness, we see the Saviour,
Gently holding lives now torn apart;
Consequence of sin and our behaviour
Chosen wrong that breaks the Father’s heart.
There we see, as well, the God of comfort,
Showing lame and weary how to dance,
Cradling innocents and weeping victims,
Those who never really stood a chance.

Through the moments of our greatest weakness
Runs a strand of pure sustaining grace;
When the stuff of life is fraught with burdens,
Then our gaze is turned to Jesus’ face;
And our God, all merciful and gracious,
Sweeps attendant evil all away,
And our hearts again are drawn to love him,
Lest those hearts should ever Love betray.

This is God, so gentle, kind and tender;
Pain of guilt removed, its stain erased;
This is God, so infinitely patient,
Hanging there, in every sinner’s place.
Every blemish covered by his mercy,
Every scar, by pity made to fade;
This is God, who knows our greatest sorrow,
This is God; our ransom wholly paid.

With a broken world, so marred and fractured,
Broken people share a God of love;
He whose charm our wayward lives has captured
We impart as manna from above;
Beggars sharing of our bread with others;
Calv’ry’s cross upright on level ground,
Where the heaviest burdens can be lifted,
Where a peace supernal can be found.

© Stephen Poxon (reproduced with permission)

Please Note: This book is only available from Stephen directly. If you would like to buy it, message him directly (or via myself if necessary). Ten per cent of all income from this book goes towards the Salvation Army’s Training College in Sri Lanka.

Particle Physics (Ben Still)

Having abbreviated the title, here it is in all it’s glory: Particle Physics Brick by Brick: Atomic and Subatomic Physics Explained… in Lego.

My wife Naomi bought this book for me as a Christmas present in 2019, and it’s the first book I’ve read in 2021. My delay was partly because I knew it would be challenging, and indeed it was! One review on Goodreads puts it very well: Over-complicated, but it’s not the author’s fault, it’s just how our Universe is.

Particle Physics is hard, even with LEGO, but it’s an excellent book that I’ll need to read again sometime. This stuff baffles even the best minds in the world, so don’t expect to understand it by simply reading this book, however good. My favourite quote from the book, We are still very much in the dark about dark energy.

There are related resources on the author’s website here.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2021 books here.

Books Read in 2020

I always like to read, and often have more than one book on the go at the same time. Overall, it’s probably not a good idea to have be reading too many books at once, so I’ve decided to stick with just one (with the exceptions of the Bible, a devotional book, as well as anthologies and the like). For some examples of the latter, click here and here. You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2020 books here.

Here’s links to the books I’ve read in 2020 (in the order of reading) since my retirement.

Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze?

Reasons to Stay Alive (Matt Haig)

77 Million Paintings (Brian Eno)

The Magic of Reality (Richard Dawkins)

Caught (Harlan Coben)

Black and British (David Olusoga)

Undivided (Vicky Beeching)

Recursion (Blake Crouch)

A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)

Note: I’ve also read two anthologies and one yearbook making a total of twelve.

A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)

I’ve known the story for as long as I can remember, but I’d never actually read the book, until now (Christmas 2020) that is. It’s the classic Christmas tale by Charles Dickens, so familiar from movie adaptations, not least The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) starring Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge. Since it’s release I’ve considered it one of the finest versions, and having now read the book I can see how faithful to the spirit (pun intended) of the original it is.

Not having read the book was a serious omission on my part, but thankfully I’ve now corrected that. The book is in the public domain, so easily found online.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2020 books here.