I've been extremely busy with traveling and such and that has actually afforded me substantial time to read but not to post. So here's an update on the latest reads:
Good Omens by Neil Gaimon and Terry Pratchett--what a good little book. It has definitely inspired me to read more of each author's books. FUNNY! Definitely British humor though.
The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion was informative, a little scary, and parts were boring. The author attempted to be scholarly and to keep it historical, as opposed to editorial in focus. I'm not as familiar with pieces about Islam (other than the Koran) and so I don't have much of a basis for comparison with other works, but it probably compares well with other works of the same type.
Orange Trees of Versailles by Annie Pietri was strange. I thought it was a children's book and it's listed as such, but I don't know that it was. At best it would fit in the Brother's Grimm sort of category of children's stories. It was a quick read, but I am not convinced that I enjoyed it. Nice cover illustration though.
The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success was wonderful. It's nice to read a fact-based history of economics and religion that isn't written by someone with a secularist agenda. I so enjoyed it that I bought another book by the same author and am looking for more. It's dense in terms of subject matter, but it makes for a very entertaining and quick read.
The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil's Biblical Roots was boring. I had a "so-what" response upon finishing it. Plus, I found it very difficult to finish the book. I kept reading and finishing other books before finishing this one. It was thick with information, but I didn't find it at all engaging. I actually felt the book was a little cowardly, safe.
The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments was perfect. I read Gertrude Himmelfarb's The Demoralization of Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values a few years ago, and thought it was extremely thought provoking and well-written. I think the same of The Roads; however, I would recommend becoming familiar with the basics of western philosophy before reading this one. If you're unfamiliar with Kant, Hume, Smith etc...(the list goes on and on), then it would be really difficult to follow or identify with what this author writes.
The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield was ok, not wonderful. I felt like the fantasy/philosophy story was well excuted, but I felt like the religious/philosophical stuff was jumbled. It was a little like: let's put some ancient Greek ideas of religion, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity (and golf) in a pot and see what we cook up. I did like some of the sentiments like God is always with you etc., but I can't quite say I enjoyed it. I also think other books have tried the same sort of thing but have done better. I may retract this later. Maybe I should let the book sit and steep a little.