On the Third Day of Christmas: Densest Book Read in 2011

Continuing with the 12 Days of Christmas, here is the Canadian Eh version of the 12 Days of Christmas.

Doug and Bob: And a Beer.

On to the award of the day: densest book read in 2011. Here dense means packed with ideas, not thick as a brick. I was disappointed in a lot of the non-fiction I read in 2011 — ideas were a little thin on the ground. There were two contenders for this award. The first runner-up is A History of Christian Thought by Paul Tillich. Lots of ideas, lots of interesting spins on the history of theology and Christian thinking, but possibly a tiny bit dated at this point.

The densest book I read this year was Reality and Evangelical Theology: The Realism of Christian Revelation by T.F. Torrance. This book is based on lectures given in 1981. On the back cover this book is called “one of his most accessible works.” If this is Torrance at his most accessible (ie readable) I’m not sure I’m ready for the not-so-accessible Torrance. RAET is a Christian epistemology. Torrance engaged with the work of Michael Polanyi, who I have not yet read, so I am probably at a disadvantage there. I’m fairly sure this book will repay re-reading in the future, but for now all I’ve got is wow. That was pretty packed with stuff and I’m not sure how much of it stuck in my head.

How about you? Any difficult but important reading in 2011?

On a side note, a colleague and I had a discussion the other day about whether academic books should be readable or not. I claimed that just because a book is difficult to understand it isn’t necessarily more profound than another work, easier to read. It might just be that the author can’t write. Possibly the author is confused by his or her own ideas and cannot communicate them clearly. Possibly the author who can communicate ideas clearly is just as profound — or more — than those who cannot. Maybe we get tangled up in difficult reading for no good reason. Thoughts? Feelings? Profound observations that are difficult to understand?

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