Book whisperers have suggested that struggling with difficult texts is as much a moral or ethical discipline as an intellectual one. Real questions cannot be explored with simplistic solutions nor can real dilemmas be resolved with quaint moral exhortations. The issues of the day require drive, focus, and perseverance. Difficult texts are the result of complex problems that defy easy solutions.
To limit the amount of “mind candy” one consumes is good for the soul as much as the brain. Unfortunately, the online book purveyors push reams of pulp that make finding the better reads akin to hunting for the contact lens you dropped before putting it in your eye – you are going to cover a lot of territory before you find one. Online book sites have become unwieldy and often unusable without a good amount of preparatory work.
I finished Donald Harman Akenson’s “Surpassing Wonder: The Invention of the Bible and the Talmuds” after several years of picking it up and putting it down. The hardcover comes in at 623 pages of text, notes, and appendices. He had a few things to say.
Dr. Akenson’s breadth of vocabulary is extraordinary. When I bought the book at Farley’s Bookshop in New Hope, PA, they placed one of their paper bookmarks in the text. I kept a running list of vocabulary for which I did not know the definition on the back of that bookmark. I have heard of some of these words but was forced to admit I did not know the meaning. After page 294, I was forced to switch to an Excel file because the list kept growing. The last word comes from page 400.
Below is my vocabulary list from Dr. Akenson. I offer it as a little meat and potatoes instead of the usual tasteless pudding.