Our reading group nicely disposed of Harry Potter with some comments you'd expect--many decrying the lack of literary substance and the formulaic nature of the stories (both of which points I tend to disagree with). But more interestingly, we chose our book for next month and it took a bit of wrangling to work it around, but it is a wonderful possibility. We'll be reading "The Merchant of Venice" along with a book by John Gross called, "Shylock."
"The Merchant of Venice" is a wonderful play because of the way it shows up the essential shortcomings of most Christians. Portia's caskets are a prime example--the choice of the three is obvious, and yet she needs to help the person she wants to choose the correct casket (if I remember correctly). And then there's the impassioned and gorgeous "The Quality of Mercy" speech followed immediately both by Shylock showing none and then by Portia as judge showing little-to-none. It can be read as an elegant indictment of Christian hypocrisy in action (I suppose). But then, that's the dangerous attraction of Shakespeare--it may probably also be read as a Marxist parable of class struggle and a freudian analysis of the war between the sexes. I had a very wise professor once tell the class, "Whatever methodology or system you bring into contact with Shakespeare will light up--the trick is to read him without any prior conceptions, to find out what he actually said."