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‘What they’re reading’ — Kevin Featherly

“What they’re reading” appears as an occasional series in MinnPost’s Book Club Club section. We’re asking well-known and not-so-well-known Minnesotans to tell us about the books they’re reading and recommending to others — and why. In today’s installment, we hear from a longtime Twin Cities freelancer who writes for MinnPost from time to time.

Kevin Featherly

What are you reading? Why?

You ask this question when I can give a hoidy-toidy answer. I’m reading Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick.”

Why? Several reasons. First, I’ve got a badly broken elbow that last Wednesday required surgical repair so I am good and laid up, and the effects of the oxycodone seem to complement the style and pacing of Melville’s ironically mellifluous language. Second, a little while ago, I listened to a “Studio 360 with Kurt Anderson” broadcast that did a bang-up job critically reappraising the book, and pointed out that it is shot through with humor, which I am finding is quite correct. That broadcast reminded me that I have planned for years to read the book because: Third reason: I was involved in a near-fatal shipping accident in April 1992 on the Bering Sea while working aboard a fishing vessel (“The Alaskan Mist”) in search of the elusive great black cod. (OK, we had no monomaniacal Captain Ahab aboard searching for the fish that bit through his tube sock or anything like that — the fish was elusive only because it had already nearly been fished out). While I doubt the experience would ever result in a novel quite as dramatically compelling as “Moby-Dick,” I do sense that my experience there might give me a bit better appreciation of the novel than the average landlocked Minnesotan.

Why have I not read it until now? Like everyone else, I have tried. See reason one for an explanation as to why I am more optimistic that I might get to the end this time.

What book do you find yourself recommending to others? Why?

“Misquoting Jesus,” by Bart Ehrman. Because, to quote Randy Newman, I just want people to hurt like I do. Ehrman, a former born-again evangelical now turned agnostic theology professor, has effectively stripped me of my warm and fuzzy beliefs about Big J.C.. However, a contemporary writer, Bishop John Shelby Spong, while also tearing down many Jesus myths, has done a relatively good job of giving me back a new, more humanistic Jesus that I can believe in a bit more. I also recommend his books, especially his “Jesus for the Non-Religious.” For those not particularly interested in religion, I find myself recommending “Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World,” by Liaquat Ahmed. A nicely cynical history of early 20th century finance.

Thanks for asking. Gives me something fun and thoughtful to do during a much needed break from Melville.

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