30 January 2009

A Child's Night Dream

A Child's Night Dream by Oliver Stone

"Shyly into the Tuesday night party in May of '65. The year the world hinged. All of seventeen. Here on West 57th Street. Do come. With your erection. It may wish to emote. In tune with Truth. What am I looking for? And tomorrow, at Yale, where I'm supposed to be tonight, the last examination. In Ancient Greek. Which I'm failing, and if I fail tomorrow, I somehow sense. Some great Big Break in my life."
That is paragraph number one.
What the hell is that? They are all written like that. I have no freaking idea what he is talking about when I continue to read.
I read most of chapter one...and I quit.
This book SUCKS!
Oliver Stone created films called "Platoon", "JFK", "Natural Born Killers", "Born on the Fourth of July", "Salvador", "Wall Street" and others. These are fabulous films. He should stick to directing motion pictures and not pretend to be a writer.

29 January 2009

10. 13 Little Blue Envelopes

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

I chose this book because I "know" the author. I have never met her in person. I know her through some blogs, video blogs, and Facebook. I thought I should read her work just because I have a cyber connection with her. She is a young adult author. Her fans are 99.9% teenage girls. I did not expect to or think her stories would be my cup of tea.

13 Little Blue Envelopes is about a 17 year old girl whose aunt has died. This aunt is an artist, is flighty, and is in some ways her hero. This aunt packed up and moved to Europe a few years earlier with no explanation and no contact. One day a package comes in the mail that says the aunt has died and it contains 13 envelopes. In these envelopes are letters from the aunt. The girl, Ginny, opens the first one and it says buy a plane ticket to London and do this and that.

The letters end up being a string of tasks for Ginny to complete while traveling through Europe. The aunt is trying to teach Ginny something, but does it in a very "aunt like" way.

Ginny spends a month bopping around England, Scotland, Denmark, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, and Greece. She is doing all sorts of seemingly random things that all have a meaning or purpose that is explained in the next letter...and much more at the end of the book.

The story was OK. It was a teenage romance with some exciting moments and a few unexpected twists. Seeing how Maureen Johnson writes on the blogs, I could "hear" her telling this story. It had a lot of her personality in the words. There is a third person narrator telling the story, and I could hear Maureen's voice and sense her attitude while reading the words. That added quite a bit to the book for me. It personalized it.

Can I recommend this book as something you should read? I don't think so. Unless you are a teenage girl or course. It was good for it's target audience. Young adult, teenage, female.

As a 46 year old man there are way too many other options for me. I doubt I will be picking up any more of Maureen's books for a while. Maybe some time when I have a day or two to kill and don't feel like hitting a book store. We will see.

Speaking of "hearing" the author. My brother started writing a novel years ago. I wonder if I will ever "hear" his voice.

27 January 2009

9. Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser

I wanted to read something that was not fiction. I chose this one because my wife has recently decided to become vegan again. I doubt I will give up all meat, but I thought maybe this book would make it easier to give up fast food. At least it would reduce my intake of junk in some way.
I knew before starting that this book would not paint a pretty picture for McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell or countless of my other favorites.

I learned a little bit more than I expected.

The book starts out with the history of fast food. How it became part of our culture. How it has influenced the way we live. How our society is so intertwined with the fast food mentality that we have no idea how to live without it any longer.

Then the author moves on to the effects of the fast food companies on farming and ranching. How did we go from family owned farms to huge conglomerates like Con-Agra? How did the meat-packing industry go from being a highly skilled desirable career to a meaningless job only being completed by migrant workers and the dregs of society? Why are the USDA and FDA unable to do anything worthwhile as far as making food safe for consumption? How and why the fast food industry supports Republican candidates and hates Democrats. Why do we still have people dying from E-Coli and Salmonella? How has the American fast food culture influenced foreign countries and how does it affect their citizens?

The author addresses these problems using real life people as examples. He interviewed many people and traveled all over the world while writing this book. It was originally a set of articles written for Rolling Stone and later he wrote the book. Now it is even a movie.

Did you know that our public school lunch programs get the meat that the fast food chains will not use? That is because it is cheap. It is cheap because it is junk.

Did you know that there is shit in your meat? Yes, you eat shit, and you like it.

Did you know that Fast Food restaurants and meat-packing plants have 200-400% personnel turnover per year? Did you know that this is done on purpose? Low wages encourage it. The teenagers and the immigrants are more easily controlled. It reduces costs because the employees move on before any benefits are ever available. The lack of continuity in personnel also means it is almost impossible for any labor organization to get any kind of backing from the people.

There is so much more.

It is not all bad though. There are examples of good being done. There are reasons that fast food companies have had positive influences. There are people and corporations that are not falling into the same traps as the rest.

In-N-Out Burger in California is an example. I loved that place. They had great food. They had great prices. Now I know why. In-N-Out does not operate as a normal fast food chain. :-)

Eric Schlosser is a muck-raker. Kind of like Michael Moore...but at least I believe Mr. Schlosser.

22 January 2009

8. Property

Property by Valerie Martin
This is yet another used book store find. This one I took off the shelf because of the cover photo. When I read the description on the back cover I thought I had never read anything like that, so why not give it a try. On the front cover was a blurb that said "This fresh, unsentimental look at what slave owning does to (and for) one's interior life must be a first." This book was about the effects of owning slaves, not being a slave.
The book's back cover description said "Valerie Martin's Property delivers an eerily mesmerizing inquiry into slavery's venomous effects on the owner and the owned. The year is 1828, the setting a Louisiana sugar plantation where Manon Gaudet- pretty, bitterly intelligent, and monstrously self-absorbed- seethes under the dominion of her boorish husband. In particular she resents his relationship with her slave Sarah, who is both his victim and his mistress" It sounded interesting, and it was written by a female author, so I took it home.
It is an easy read. Manon is the narrator. She is miserable in her life. There is nothing she likes. Everyone and everything has faults, except her deceased father, he is help up as the standard for everyone else. That is until she realizes he was like all the rest. She is completely absorbed in herself and her own world. Everything is about what is good for her, what she wants, and what she likes. She hates her husband. She hates her slaves. She hates the other farmers. She wishes more than once that her husband would die...and then there is a slave uprising.
Then there is the empathetic look at this book. Manon is a woman in the early 1800s. She has no rights. She is completely dependent upon a man she hardly knew when they were married. She has no safety net. She is stuck and scared and worried all the time. She sees the debt mounting at the plantation and knows her husband has indebted them to bankruptcy. Would anyone be "self-absorbed" when their thoughts are always about self-preservation? Probably.
This book has lots of fun things. Stuff like cholera, yellow fever, hangings, beheadings, murder, manipulation, rape, bounty hunters, bastard mulatto children, etc.
Word Alert:
vetiver: the long, fibrous, aromatic roots of an East Indian grass, Vetiveria zizanioides, used for making hangings and screens and yielding an oil used in perfumery.
epistolary: contained in or carried on by letters: an epistolary friendship.
manumission: To free from slavery or bondage; emancipate.
This was a very quick read. The book is 193 pages and it flows easily. It gives a little insight into what life may have been like in New Orleans and the surrounding area in 1828, thought I believe if it was like that all the time the people would have moved away. That is one more reason to think that Manon is just a very negative person.

18 January 2009

7. Monstrum

Monstrum by Donald James
This one was a total shot in the dark. I grabbed it off the shelf at the used book store. I wanted to read a book from an author I had never heard of. Mixed in with all the Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, etc., was a single copy of this book. I think I picked it up because the name of the beast in the book "Night Church" was called Monstrum. I didn't know the story took place in Russia. That was a pleasant surprise.
Russia. 2015. A revolution between the Nationalist-Democrats and the Anarchist-Communists has ended with the former victorious. Inspector Constantin Vadim, a nationalist policeman, is the ex-husband of Julia Petrovna, an infamous anarchist general who leads an all female army. Vadim is assigned to lead a homicide unit in Moscow and must catch a serial killer who is murdering young women and stealing their organs. Vadim is also a double for the new vice president and fills in as the later at some events.
There are multiple plots in this story. The murders and the serial killer are completely separate from the story line concerning Julia and the heads of government. In typical thriller fashion it all gets tied together in the end.
The story was pretty good. It took me a while to get interested, but after reading the first two thirds of the book it got very exciting. I had to turn the page to see what happened. I could not put it down for the last 150 pages.
I found something interesting. There are characters in the book that are street children. They live in an old abandoned metro station with other displaced people. In the story the street kids have strange names. Sex-change, Doc Marten, Sparkplug, Lemon, Burger King. It explains that the children have been orphaned and lived there for so long that they did not know their own names. They gave themselves names. These are the names they chose for themselves.
I know these street kids really exist. They live in the sewers and metro stations in Kiev. We have seen them walking around. The book made me think. I wondered if any of the people I saw did not know their own names. How many have no idea who they are?
SAT Words:
Sozzled drunk; inebriated
Anathema a person or thing detested or loathed
Satyriasis Excessive, often uncontrollable sexual desire in and behavior by a man.
an office or position requiring little or no work, esp. one yielding profitable returns.
Detritus any disintegrated material; debris.
Insouciant free from concern, worry, or anxiety; carefree; nonchalant.
Bacchanalian used of riotously drunken merrymaking

14 January 2009

6. The Zombie Survival Guide

The Zombie Survival Guide; Complete Protection from the Living Dead - Max Brooks
I hate zombies!
This book is supposed to be some kind of field manual for when zombies attack. It could be anything from some low level skirmish with a single zombie wandering into the neighborhood, or an all out invasion of millions of zombies taking over the earth. This book teaches you how to protect yourself and your family so you can survive.
It is categorized as humor though it is not funny. It is a parody, not stand up comedy.
There are chapters that explain the myths and realities about zombies, weapons and combat techniques, what to do when you are defensive, offensive and on the run, what it will be like living in a world overrun by undead, and stories of "factual" and "documented" zombie attacks through the ages.
All this is written as if it is real. No clues as to it being a farce in any way. It stays true to the title and the goal of the book.
In case you care...zombies can only be killed by destroying the brain. Head shots from firearms, and axe in the skull, decapitation. Anything else is a waste of time.
Also...we should all build 10 foot high concrete walls around our homes and have sliding metal gates...and we need to keep thousands of rounds of ammo for all our weapons...and we need dirt bikes because the roads will be blocked...and we need to have a generator available that is pedal powered...and machine guns are a waste of ammo...and cut out the staircase in your home and use ladders because zombies can't climb...and own a really good machete...and don't go to the hospital or police stations during an undead attack...blah blah blah.
This book is stupid. Unless you are a real zombie fanatic don't waste your time reading it. I didn't hate it, but i feel like all I did was occupy some time.


12 January 2009

Curiosity and An Observation

I am curious because my thoughts keep returning to Iron Tracks even after having read three more books.
The Kite Runner was awesome.
Sweet Fire was interesting.
Heart of Darkness was dark and classic.

So, why do I keep thinking about Iron Tracks?
Why do my thoughts keep going back to that story?
I will have to think about that.

The observation:
I have never seen the word somnambulist in my life until I read Heart of Darkness. What word is in the first sentence of The Zombie Survival Guide? Yep, that's the one. I am glad I looked up the definition.

5. Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

I read this novella because it was mentioned a few times in the last book I read. I had never heard of it before. I found out it was published in 1902 and was adapted (heavily, I might add) by Francis Ford Coppola for the movie "Apocalypse Now", one of my favorite movies. When I learned that I wanted to read this book.

When I first started reading I got a little confused. The story was being told within the story. I mean, the story of the steamship going up the river to find Kurtz was being told while sitting on another boat in London. It took me a few pages to figure that out. I thought the boat in London was going to head to the river, but it was a sailing ship and that makes no sense. My error became pretty obvious within a few pages and I enjoyed the story from that time on.

It is dark. It is sad. It is depressing.

As far as the movie connection, both travel up a river to find a man named Kurtz. Everything that happens on the river, save for the narrator's reflections, is completely different. Then we get near Kurtz and the compound. The stories were very similar. One of my favorite characters in the movie was Dennis Hopper. The same character in the book ended up being fascinating to me also. That character ends up explaining a lot about why things are the way they are with the Kurtz followers.

Something else that struck me: I think I learned more new words from this book than any other book I have ever read. Even with all these new words the story was fun to read. After looking up the definitions it does give you an idea of the "darkness" of the book. Most of the words all seem to have something negative about them.

somnambulist; someone who walks about in their sleep
cravat; a cloth, often made of or trimmed with lace, worn about the neck by men
sententiously; given to or using pithy sayings or maxims
lugubrious drollery; mournful, dismal, or gloomy but something whimsically amusing or funny
athwart; from side to side
declivity; a downward slope
moribund; near death
trenchant; caustic; cutting
rapacity; greediness
assegai; the slender javelin or spear of the Bantu-speaking people of southern Africa
superciliousness; the trait of displaying arrogance by patronizing those considered inferior
prevaricator; a liar; a person who speaks so as to avoid the precise truth; quibbler
pestiferous; bringing or bearing disease
serried; pressed together or compacted, as soldiers in rows
fecund; producing or capable of producing offspring, fruit, vegetation, etc., in abundance; prolific
obsequiously; characterized by or showing servile complaisance or deference; fawning

Why so many new words? Was it because the book is over 100 years old and the language was different then? Was it because the man was European and I am American? Was it because the author was far more educated than myself? Probably a mixture of all of the reasons.

So, I am writing this blog entry and looking up information on the author. I like to learn a little about the person who wrote these books. Get a little background and biographical info after reading. Anyway, what did I learn? Joseph Conrad was born in what is now Berdychiv, Ukraine. One more connection to Ukraine. I wonder why that country keeps popping up. No, really. It comes up in odd places. Am I just noticing it because I choose to or am I noticing it because it is really showing up disproportionately to other places. I will probably never know.

I did not know if I was going to count this as a book read for 2009, but after some brief internal reflection and confirmation from the 50 book challenge gods, i found that there are no freaking rules...so it counts...and even if there were rules, who the heck cares...it counts. Besides that, it really wasn't nearly as short as I thought it would be. It is published as a stand alone novella. Whatever. 5 down for 09!

10 January 2009

4. Sweet Fire

Sweet Fire by Pat MacEnulty
I did not know what to expect when I picked up this book. It is another of the used book store blind purchases based on something attracting me from the cover.
Before I begin writing about the book, I want to make a few observations.
1. Pat MacEnulty is female. I did not know that until after I read the book. I wondered how many other books I have read were written by females. I was surprised to discover it was few and far between. I wonder why that is.
2. In the book the protagonist (our heroine as comapred to heroin, LOL) reads "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad, twice. It mentioned some things about that book that sounded an awful lot like "Apocalypse Now", the movie. I did an Internet search and discovered that the novella "Heart of Darkness" was indeed adapted to make one of my favorite movies. I added "Heart of Darkness" to the reading list.
3. I was trying to figure out why an author would write about this subject for their first novel. I think I may have found the answer...
4. I checked out Pat MacEnulty after reading the book and found this bio on her publishers website:
"Pat MacEnulty is the author of three novels and a book of short stories. She grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and, after a period of drug addiction and imprisonment began writing. She now runs writing and drama workshops for prisoners and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina."
So, The author and Trish, the main character, have a lot in common. Maybe it is based on the authors own experiences. I do not know the answer to that, but it seems to be quite the coincidence.
Then I found this book description on the author's own site:
"This is Pat’s first novel, based loosely on experiences she had as a young woman with a serious drug problem."
Also, the author lives in my home town. :-)
Anyway...on to the book.
The book is a story about a teenage heroin addict and the events of her life. People around her end up dead or imprisoned. All the relationships in her life are destructive and fall apart. There is a slow and consistent escalation of problems and "scams" pulled.
Escalation scenarios: Selling placebos to strangers, ripping off family, ripping off friends, sex (lots of using sex to get the drugs), getting busted while breaking into pharmacies to steal drugs, stealing drugs from known violent bikers running a crystal meth-lab (not smart).
The writing seemed like it was a bit of a documentary. Descriptive documentary, but still kind of planned out in a strict chronological order with occasional flashbacks. "We went here, we did this, then we went here and we did this." It was getting to be like a broken record. Let's see, the drug addict hooks up with some guy, they feel sick, they try to find drugs, they get drugs, they use drugs, they sleep. OK, next chapter. The drug addict hooks up with some guy, they feel sick, they try to find drugs, they get drugs, they use drugs, they sleep. Get it? Over and over for half the book. I almost stopped reading it, but I pressed on thinking that there is no way the entire book can be like that. (It wasn't)
Then I realised something. What is a drug addict's life like? Probably exactly like what was being written. Did anything else matter? Family were afterthoughts and guilt causing burdens, just as should be expected. Friend's mattered immensely, when they were able to supply something needed, otherwise they were tossed aside. Yes, that too would be true. Lot's of people tend to die or end up in prison and the character blames it on bad luck, snitches, and cops. Yep, that too would fit. Especially the part about denying the lifestyle is causing a problem.
After realising that this was probably a little more true to life it explained why it felt like a bit of a documentary.
Oh, I almost forgot. It seemed important that the writer tell us the color of all kinds of objects. I noticed it often enough that it annoyed me. It seemed like some other description would have worked rather than once again telling me what color something was. Was it just amateurish (it is a first novel)? Was it planned to make me feel like the character's were simplistic? I have no idea, but it bugged me a little.
I wouldn't recommend anyone goes out of their way to find this book, but if you happen to see it at a yard sale or something go ahead and grab it for a buck. It would be OK to read when you are looking for something to occupy time during a trip. Then you can just leave it wherever you finish it or give it to a fellow traveler with nothing better to do. I say it would be a good traveling book because it can be interrupted mid-sentence, mid-paragraph, mid-page, and it is OK. Go ahead, board the plane, pick it up again in an hour when you are in the air. Some books I could never do that with. I would be reading them while walking down the gateway.
C - It's OK. Nothing awesome, but it did not suck. It became a bit more interesting after reading the author's bio and knowing the story was loosely based in fact. It makes me wonder how loosely.

06 January 2009

3. The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

This is one of the best books I have ever read. The story grabbed me from the start, shook me around for a while, and never really let me rest. The array of issues covered in this novel is quite amazing. Family relationships, jealousy, friendship, racism, pedophilia, living under Shari'a law, moral law, fondness for one's homeland, and an endless list of issues.

The story was awesome and made a lot of sense, meaning it was easy to follow along and not have to make stretches of the imagination to understand how things fit together.

I thought two things were predictable. I knew early on what the true relationship was between Amir and Hassan. It was just a matter of time before that was revealed. The other being when the orphanage director said "the man with the sunglasses". The first person that came to mind was exactly who it ended up being. Maybe I am a genius. Maybe it was predictable. I would bet on the predictable part. That being said, it did not matter. Neither of these "twists" made or ruined the story for me. There was a lot more going on that trying to surprise me with a twist.

Rarely have I found myself hating a fictional character. This book succeeded in doing that for me. That to me is a sign of excellent writing. The character Assef really boils my blood. A sadistic and egotistical pedophile, a Hitler loving Nazi-sympathizer. He ends up being a Taliban executioner. He leads a military group to murder Hazara men, women and children. He goes to the orphanage and buys children, male and female, to make his slaves and sexually assault. This character has all the makings of the most evil guy ever. I hated him throughout the story.

The relationships between Amir and Hassan, Amir and Baba, and Amir and Rahim Khan were very well played out. Each interaction gave a little more understanding and insight to the way things were for these people.

I also found that I enjoyed a glimpse into the world of the Muslim faith, a quick history of Afghanistan, the Afghan way of life, the perceived differences between Pashtun and Hazara, and a part of the world that I know little about.

Yes, this is a fiction novel, but I see Afghanistan as something more than a place full of Taliban and Muslim extremists trying to kill Americans. I knew there was more to the country than that, but this opened my eyes a little further. That is always a good result.

What could make this book even better? Not a lot, but I would love to see a sequel where Sohrab joins the US Army and ends up in Afghanistan...and running across, on purpose of course, the Taliban jackass that had stolen so much from his life. :-)

Would I recommend this book? "For you, a thousand times over."
It was excellent.

So, after I wrote this review I did a quick Google search about the book. What came up? A movie? This book was made into a movie in 2007! I had no idea. So, I went right to NetFlix and popped it to the top of the que. :-) I hope it isn't ruined in typical hollywood fashion.

04 January 2009

2. The Iron Tracks

The Iron Tracks by Aharon Appelfeld
I read this book in one day (200 pages). This book was a very pleasant surprise for more than one reason. I found it sitting on a shelf at a used book store. I purchased it because of the short bio of the author on the back cover. I had no idea what to expect, but that is half the fun of starting a book. Will it be good? Will it catch my attention? Will I finish this one?
Yes...yes...yes. The book caught my attention right away. I was trying to place the events into a frame of reference that was familiar to me. That was pretty easy because I have spent time in that part of the world. The more I read, the more familiar it became. There was a reason.
First of all, the reason I picked up this book was Appelfeld's bio. I read this and took an interest in what the man would have to say. This man was born in Romania in 1932 and is a Jew. At eight years old he witnessed the murder of his mother by Nazi troops invading his home. They sent he and his father to a concentration camp. He escaped from the camp and lived in the forest for almost three years. He emigrated to Palestine in 1946 (before it was Israel). He was reunited with his father after years of separation.
The book itself is interesting. It is about a Jewish man who was in a concentration camp in Austria. The setting for the book is 40 years after the end of World War II. This man, Erwin, travels the Austrian countryside perpetually. On March 27th of every year he leaves on a train from the station at Wirblbahn. He travels the same route, making the same stops, seeing the same people, every year...year after year. Each stop is no more than a day here or a day there. The entire circuit takes about 50 weeks. Then he starts all over again. The reasons for it are to collect and sell Jewish antiques and to "hunt and kill" the murderer of his parents. Can you imagine traveling the same circuit like that for 40 years?
Along the way we meet Erwin's friends, learn more about his past and who he is. What I found interesting is that I did not think the narrator in the story was really telling the truth. It was like I was listening to a friend tell me the story of his own adventures. People always leave out the hard truths. Leave out the pain and the fear. This narrator spoke like that. Until the very end.
We learned that Erwin's parents were Communist Jews. They had betrayed the Jewish people in favor of communism. Later they all ended up together in a camp and the Jewish people betrayed them also. In the story it was mentioned that the father was Ruthenian and taught his son the Ruthenian language. I figured that was some fictitious place and language made up for the book, but I looked it up after Erwin asked his mother why she did not speak Ukrainian and then said his father was from Lvov (a Ukrainian city).
This gave the book a personal attachment for me. I have been to Ukraine twice. We have adopted two daughters from Ukraine. We have many friends in Ukraine. We have many friends who have adopted children from Ukraine. I have spent time learning about Ukrainian history and culture.
Just this last September I spent time with Ukrainian friends at a Great Patriotic War museum in Kharkiv that was VERY moving. I had been taught all about the allied fight against the Nazis and how the US saved the world. I went to this museum and learned a whole different front existed. I had learned the trivial parts of the battles fought between the Red Army and the Nazis. This was different, and quite fascinating.
Since this book was about the same war, and now was attached to the same country, and was speaking of a culture I now understand a little, the book became more than just some printed words. Borscht is just food. Borscht is more than just food when you help a dear friend, a rural Ukrainian woman, peel the potatoes in her kitchen in a house that doesn't even have hot water and then watch your daughter pluck the chicken's feathers after they went to the back yard and killed one that wasn't laying many eggs. (Was that the world's longest sentence?) This is why this book came to life for me. It was my personal experience wit some things that came up in the text.
So...more about the actual book.:
I like Appelfeld's style in writing this book. What can I call it? Curt? Squished yet descriptive? Maybe compressed is the right word? It seemed like the words in the book were few, but the meaning in them was huge. Exactly the opposite of that wordy Woodpecker book. :-)
I found it interesting that we did not even learn the main character's name until fully one quarter of the way into the book. Even the man's profession is only alluded to until probably half way through the book.
After reflecting on the book a little I think Erwin is afraid. He is still stuck in the concentration camps. He goes through the same motions and does the same things, despite the lack of happiness or joy, and can not make it change. If it changes then life ceases to exist, almost. Like, maybe he will just disappear. His life is empty. He embraces the emptiness, but fails to admit it even to himself.
I found the confrontation with the murderer, Col. Naftigel, to be different. Erwin had really done nothing at all except wander around reflecting and talking until that moment. That town. That chapter. That was a different Erwin, but the same Erwin.
Can I say this is a great book? Probably not great, but definitely good.
Can I say you should read it? That is difficult because I had an emotional attachment to it that you probably would not.
Will I say you should avoid it? Nope. It is a good book and deserves to be read. Even if you don't like it as much as I did, and it is a pretty quick read.
A- - Recommended because I connected with the story

03 January 2009

1. Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

My first book for the 2009 reading year. This was a birthday gift from my wife, so it bumped to the top of the list. I am glad I did that. I did not know what to expect because all I knew of C S Lewis was that he wrote The Chronicles of Narnia. I never read those books, but I did see the movies. I do recall them being my brother's favorite quite some time ago. This book is not like those books at all.

I enjoyed the way this was written from the very beginning. I felt as if I was sitting in a living room having a discussion with the writer. I felt like he would explain something, that would raise another question, then he would explain that also. It really felt more like a conversation than reading a book.

The subject matter is deeply personal so I will not expand on my personal beliefs in this blog, but I will comment on the book itself. This blog is about the book, not about me.

The author spent a lot of time basing his argument for Christianity on the basis of morality. How the existence of right and wrong in the world lead him from one conclusion to the next. He admittedly argued against his own findings for quite some time, but eventually reached conclusions that caused him to abandon atheism for Christianity.

I enjoyed reading it and will admit it has caused me to reflect on some of my own life.

The book is divided into four sections. I especially enjoyed the first and third sections, 1 being "right and wrong as a clue to the meaning of the universe" and 2 being "christian behavior". I read the sections on social morality and christian marriage at least twice.

I liked some of the analogies the author used in this book; a fleet of ships representing all people and a lock and key representing a man and wife being two.

It seemed to me that this book was written as a way for the author to explain why he made the decisions he had made. He did not do it to confront or to tackle controversial issues. It looks like he was making an attempt to find common ground with everyone in order to explain why he decided Christianity was true.