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The Book of the People: How to Read the…

The Book of the People: How to Read the Bible

by A. N. Wilson

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I picked up A.N. Wilson's book The Book of the People at Aaron's, a small independent bookstore in Lititz, Pennsylvania. I bought it at a time when I was considering rereading the Bible, a once annual practice for me. I did not so much give it up as just seem to lose the time for the kind of quiet, contemplative reading I felt the Bible demanded. The book went on the shelf and I did not think much more about it. Then, as they often do when we let the universe have its way, threads came together: a LibraryThing friend sent me The Literary Study Bible she had read last year, a wonderfully rich approach to the Bible that gave me the impetus I needed to dive back into this book of books. At about the same time, I did my annual tour of the library to develop my reading list for 2018 and there was the Wilson book with its intriguing subtitle: How to Read the Bible.

I will admit that I did not know anything about Wilson even though, according to the biography, "he holds a prominent position in the world of literature and journalism." He mentions an anti-religion pamphlet that he published, and this article from New Statesman is Wilson's description of his move from believer to atheist and back again. All this I have learned after reading his lovely little book in which he shows how, without quibbling over historicity, we can find ourselves and our lives in the Bible:

"The reason that my book is called The Book of the People is that the Bible has affected human life. It is not proved or disproved by a sceptic poring over its pages in a study. Rather, it is enacted when people such as Martin Luther King or Desmond Tutu are enflamed by it."

The book was quite a romp--we visit Hagia Sophia, dig into the poetry of Wallace Stevens and George Herbert, and rub up against Northrop Frye. There are moments when I felt a bit lost in this literary landscape but then Wilson returned to his fundamental goal: find a middle ground between fundamentalists and securalists who, he believes, are reading the Bible wrong. The Bible is, he argues, "a work of the imagination," recreated with each new reading and understanding.

The book is wrapped in an intriguing narrative in which Wilson describes his friend L. who is considering writing this very book and leaves him her notes tucked in her own Bible. There were times when this story got in Wilson's way but in the end, as he attended a Mass at the convent where she died, it helped think about and connect his various experiences by allowing him to dialog with her over the course of the book. I was put off by the initials, though, as he used them to refer to traveling companions. It was distracting as I found myself wondering who these people were.

The thread continues...I received an advance reader's copy of Rachel Held Evans' new book Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again. The blurb indicates that she has a similar purpose to Wilson: finding a way to love the Bible again without committing to a particular tribe. ( )
  witchyrichy | Feb 24, 2018 |
This book by Wilson was a joy to read. He takes you through his growth in learning how to read the Bible, what is in it, how to understand it. It is not a technical book at all and is interspersed with stories of life. He basically says that the Bible is not to be read with our preconceived notions, like a cookie cutter, and brushing off everything else that might argue with that position. He shows knowledge of recent studies in Biblical scholarship and understanding. I would say that he wants us to read the Bible with open eyes and minds and let the stories, the situations the "Myths" so to speak, speak to you. Interesting.

J. Robert Ewbank author "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the Isms" "Wesley's Wars" "To Whom It May Concern" and "Tell Me About the United Methodist Church" ( )
  whoizme8 | Jun 17, 2016 |
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A renowned historian, biographer, and novelist provides a deeply personal, literary, and historical exploration of the Bible.

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