02 July 2012

Finished blogging for a while

I am going to quit blogging about the books I read. It is not as much fun as it used to be and I have lost interest in it. Blogging has become more of a chore than a joy. It has become something I feel "obliged" to do without even having a reason for the obligation.

Weird, huh?

Maybe I will pick it back up some day. Maybe I will pop in and blog if a book is particularly blog-worthy. No matter what, I will continue to read...and read some more.

Thanks to all those who followed along. I hope your lives will not be turned upside down if I fail to post regularly.

It has been quite a run. :-)

52. The Book of Dragons

The Book of Dragons - Edith Nesbit

A book of classic dragon tales.

Too immature for me to enjoy.

Too mature for my little girls to enjoy.

Probably well suited to 10-12 year old boys who really like to read.

27 June 2012

51. Fair Ball

Fair Ball - Bob Costas

I had to take a short road trip a few days ago and threw this book into the CD player for the ride. I am glad I did. Bob Costas would get my vote for Major League Baseball commissioner. I like the way he thinks.

This book was not a bunch of baseball stories turning ballplayers into larger than life heros. This book discussed what Bob would do to fix some of the problems with MLB as he sees it. Well, as he saw it in 2000 anyway.

I liked it. I think his ideas for revenue sharing were sound, though the owners will never go for it without twisting their arms. I think his ideas concerning salary caps were sound, though the players union will never go for it without twisting their arms. Maybe if, like he says, both sides thought of the game rather than themselves it would work.

His comments about realignment were great. Some of the crackpot ideas are just ridiculous. Especially the radical realignment into strict geographical regions. I hate it. I am glad he sees it the same way. Realign into two fifteen team leagues with five per division...Houston moves to the AL West. I get it. I like it.

I love his comments on the wild card playoff spot. I hate it too. It takes so much away from the pennant races in each division. I love the idea of winning each of the three divisions to get into the playoffs with the number one team getting a bye in the first series. All the teams would be busting butt to be that number one team all year long.

As far as the DH? Yeah, there was a time for it. That time has passed. Lose the chump and make the pitchers hit. It adds so much to the strategy of the games. That is what baseball is all about.

He also said something that made a lot of sense concerning a great team compared to a crappy team. It comes down to the same result of a seven game series ending 4-3. If a crappy team adds all the wins after splitting 4-3 all year long you will end up with 60 something wins. Bad teams do that.  If a great team does the opposite and wins 4 of each 7 game series it will end up with 60 something losses. Prescisely what a great team ends up with, 90-100 wins. So, the difference in the best and worst teams comes down to winning or losing ONE game in each series all year long....and that is why the baseball season needs so many games to figure out who really is the best. That is also why the wild card should be eliminated. It allows chump teams a second chance with no risk. Silliness.

I love baseball!

25 June 2012

50. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream

My wife gave me this one. I put it to the top of the list for a number of reasons. 1. It happened to be on the same subject we were discussing at church. 2. My wife got it for me. ;-)

The author is correct. Using Matthew 10 as the example of what discipleship is supposed to be he points out how culture, prosperity and materialism have given Americans an "excuse" to avoid being a real biblical disciple. It was fascinating, and I agree.

19 June 2012

49. 100 Quotations To Make You Think

100 Quotations to Make You Think - Wolfgang Riebe

Really, it is. It is 100 quotes. Did they all make me think? No. Have I heard them before? A few. Mostly they are new to me.

One that I liked and it made me think...

"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."

That one made me think. It was also one of the shortest in the little book, but it made me think more than any of the others.

What did I conclude at the end of the massive pondering I undertook? Well, it really depends on what kind of tree they are planting as to whether I agree with the quote or not. There, think about that.  :-)

48. Rules For Patriots

Rules For Patriots - Matt Kibbe

Supposed to be modeled as a response to Saul Alinsky's Rules For Radicals...put out by Freedomworks...a Tea Party group.

Eh. It left a lot to be desired and has taken a good idea and made it into a political organization that becomes so big that it means nothing any longer. Too many differing opinions and compromises to bring in others lead to watering down the message.

I used to agree with Freedomworks much more than I do now. Not because I have changed my views, because they have changed themselves to include more "issues" and then I have more to disagree with than I did before.

What makes a patriot? When did patriot become synonymous with falling in line with all the political agenda crap of a single party? Puhleeeeaase.

17 June 2012

47. The Highest Treason

The Highest Treason - Randall Garrett

I read this description and was intrigued...

"Set in a future in which humanity’s dream of total equality is fully realized and poverty in terms of material wealth has been eliminated, humanity has straight-jacketed itself into the only social system which could make this possible. Class differentiation is entirely horizontal rather than vertical and no matter what one’s chosen field, all advancement is based solely on seniority rather than ability. What is an intelligent and ambitious man to do when enslaved by a culture that forbids him from utilizing his God-given talents? If he’s a military officer in time of war, he might just decide to switch sides. If said officer is a true believer in the principles that enslave him and every bit as loyal as he is ambitious, that’s tantamount to breaking a universal law of physics, but Colonel Sebastian MacMaine has what it takes to meet the challenge."

It turned out to be a great little sci-fi story that damned socialism and also a severely patriarchal society where women are considered property. It was fascinating to read along as the author pushed further and further into the extremes of the doctrines of the two societies.

I loved it.

14 June 2012

46. From October to Brest-Litovsk

From October to Brest-Litovsk - Leon Trotsky

Trotsky was a Russian Marxist revolutionary who was instrumental in the Russian Revolution and afterward. He was a Soviet politician and the first leader of the Red Army.

He wrote this book about the Russian Revolution. It was very interesting to hear the story from the point of view of the revolutionary.

It was not exciting. It was downright boring at times, but those periods were fleeting. Overall it was a decent read that added a little understanding to my history database hidden deep in my brain.  :-)

12 June 2012

45. Frenzy

Frenzy - Jonathan Craig

This was a foray into an old pulp fiction crime novel. It was kind of fun. An enjoyable plot with characters that were interesting and full of the expected stereotypes. The book was originally published under the name "Junkie!".

Steve is a trumpet player in a jazz ensemble. The chics really dig him. Kathy is an ex-heroine addict that he has fallen in love with. She is being framed for murder...by Lois, who is in love with Steve but married to Mel. Lois and Donna also happens to run a call girl service disguised as a secretarial pool. Hey, if Lois can get Kathy to work for her then maybe she can get her hooked on drugs again and Steve will be free again... Wait, Donna is also a nymphomaniac? Wow! There is a real twist.

Poor Loreen. All she wanted to do was go to work as a secretary. She did some work at the Pentagon and then embezzled a grand from Lois thinking it would be OK because Lois would not want to make noise. I will bet Loreen's dying body sure made a noise as she was run down by that huge Chrysler! 

Steve needs to be taught a lesson. Ahh...let's frame him for the murder of Mel. If Lois can't have him then NOBODY WILL! Lois and Donna will run off to Mexico with the profits from the call girl business and start a new life... but the double-cross happens and Lois kills Donna and tries to force Steve to go on the run with her...   Oh, the tangled webs that get woven.

It was great fun.

10 June 2012

44. The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki

The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki - US Army Corps of Engineers, Manhattan District

I wish I could call this science fiction or dystopian or even an alternate history. Sadly, the events were real.

This book was an assessment of the effects of the nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It reads much like a battle damage assessment. It is very "scientific" in the way things are reported and how the findings are translated.

Then, at the end of the book, is a great first hand account of a man who witnessed the bombing and the aftermath. Talk about a change of direction. Wow. It went from statistics and distances from x....to emotion and opinion. It changed from the effects on concrete or metal frame buildings at carrying distances from ground zero to how people were in a dazed and bewildered state of confusion and unable to gather themselves together to for any kind of rescue efforts.

As for myself...I hate nuclear weapons and find them useless. I hope this type of assessment never needs to be done again.

05 June 2012

43. On Loving God

On Loving God - St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Another one of those outstanding Christian classics that get lost in all the horse poop interpretations and modernizations of modern writing.

I enjoyed it. Not as much as All Of Grace, but more than The Practice of the Presence of God. Worth a read.

02 June 2012

42. The Adventures of Pinocchio

The Adventures of Pinocchio - Carlo Collodi

This is definitely not your Disney Pinocchio! Yes, Disney adapted the story, so, technically this is the Disney Pinocchio. What I mean is that the story is much different. It is not so kid friendly. It is dark and mean and full of stuff that would never be in a Disney flick.

Pinocchio is hung from an oak tree until he dies so a gang of deviant con-man animals can steal his money.

Pinocchio is sold as a donkey to a circus trainer that abuses him until he is lame. He is then sold to a man who tries to drown him in the ocean so he can use his hide to make a drum.

Gepetto is abusive, jailed, and eaten by a huge shark.

The talking cricket (Jimeny in the movie) is killed by Pinocchio when he throws a hammer at the little fella.

Pinocchio is purchased as a slave by a farmer. He is tied to a dog chain outside and is told to bark if some weasels come and try to steal the chickens.

Lampwick is sold as a donkey and works very hard until he dies.

A serpent laughs at Pinocchio's misfortunes in some mud. He laughs so hard his heart bursts and he dies.

Pinocchio finds Gepetto inside a giant shark...which just happens to be asthmatic and has a weak heart so it has to sleep with it's mouth open.

These kinds of things made the story great for me. They are definitely not Disney. There are many similarities and some common story lines, but the book is much much better...for an adult.

29 May 2012

41. The Little Red (Sox) Book

The Little Red (Sox) Book: A Revisionist Red Sox History - Bill "Spaceman" Lee

Bill Lee was one of those larger than life baseball players who were my heros in the mid 70's. He is one of the stars that helped me become a Red Sox fan. Fred Lynn, Rick Burleson, Yaz, Dewey, Jim Rice, Louis Tiant, Eck, Fisk, Denny Doyle, Butch Hobson, Rico Petrocelli, Bernie Carbo, Bob Stanley,  etc etc. I loved those guys...they thrilled me...and they broke my heart (along with a million other fans over many many decades.)

So, Bill Lee rewrote history in this book. It is full of what-ifs. What if Babe Ruth never left Boston? What if Jackie Robinson was signed by Boston? What if Ted Williams didn't go off to war? What if Bucky Dent was a pianist rather than a baseball player? What if Buckner wasn't on the field in '86? What if the Green Monster was in right field? What if Conigliaro didn't get beaned in '67? What if the Rocket stayed in Boston? What if, what if, what if?

Lee has written history the way Boston fans would prefer things happened. New York ending up a cesspool with a team that struggles to even maintain itself in MLB. Boston winning again, and again...and it is awesome!

What fun. Especially now that the Red Sox have actually won a few World Series and it makes the whole thing easier to laugh about. ;-)

The stories of the perpetually hapless Yankees are funny. The rewrites of the story lines for the '75 Reds, '78 Yankees and '86 Mets are especially touching to me.

The funniest "revision" was how Ted Williams killed Hitler with a line drive and thereby prevented World War II (at least in Europe).

The Spaceman cracks me up.

40. The Practice of the Presence of God

The Practice of the Presence of God - Brother Lawrence

This is a collection of letters written by a Carmelite monk and the recollections of some of his speakings in the 1600's. It is a bit repetitive, but I guess the idea was important to him.

How do you get and stay in the presence of God? Practice, of course. How do you practice? Think about God. Read about God. Talk about God. Pray to God. Constantly strive to include God in everything. His presence in your life will become habit. :-)

This is no "All of Grace". OK, but no revelation from this one.

24 May 2012

39. All Of Grace

All Of Grace - Charles H. Spurgeon

One of the best books I have ever read. I loved this one. I will read it again...right now.

21 May 2012

38. The Mystery Of The Yellow Room

The Mystery of the Yellow Room: Extraordinary Adventures of Joseph Rouletabille, Reporter - Gaston Leroux
 
An old mystery novel first published in 1908. Think Agatha Christie who-dun-it detective novel and you will be dead on.
 
This one is about a crime committed that is impossible to solve, but it does get solved eventually. There is the massive explanation in a court of law to save the day and prevent the conviction of an innocent man...all in the nick of time. Whew!
 
It was a good story and a decent who-dun-it. I could not figure it out at all.
 
Once again though, a detraction for me was all the French words and name pronunciations. French really bothers me for some reason. It is probably due to bad memories from Miss Roberts class in Junior High School and not actually caused by anything with a rational explanation. :-)

04 May 2012

37. The Diary of a Nobody

The Diary of a Nobody - George and Weedon Grossmith

Originally published in 1892. Funny. Nothing really happens other than the normal day to day grind of an average guy. Still, it is funny.

36. Black

Black - Christopher Whitcomb

Run of the mill thriller. I expected more. I read the book because of the helicopter on the front. I maintained those beautiful machines. They were never used int he book. Stupid book. LOL

I expected more of a military techno thriller from the cover and the description. It was not. It was more of a crime novel with some politics and a bit of terrorism. Whoop-de-doo.

It did not suck, but it was a waste of time compared to other books I have read.

30 April 2012

35. The Cossacks

The Cossacks - Leo Tolstoy

Bah. It bored me. Too much soap opera drama garbage to keep me interested. Good writing, but not interesting. Maybe I was looking for something else.

18 April 2012

34. Dracula

Dracula - Bram Stoker

Outstanding!

Although, after loving the buildup...and the chase...and the total suspense of the final showdown... what a bummer that it ended so fast and so easily.

I loved this story, except that poor Lucy got screwed. Other than that it was great. I can't believe I spent 49.5 years having not read this book. Silly me.

06 April 2012

33. The Glow

The Glow - Brooks Stanwood

A suspense novel written in the mid seventies. Supposedly along the lines of Rosemary's Baby. I hate to say it, but this is definitely not Rosemary's Baby, nor is it even close.

There is this group of mid-fifties folks who are health nuts and spend a lot of time jogging and working out. They welcome a young couple into a very exclusive upper east side apartment (Manhattan, of course). The couple joins them in the ultra-healthy lifestyle. Weird stuff happens. People disappear.

Come to find out...and I will spoil this one because I doubt anyone will go find it or read it if they did...the old folks stumbled upon a secret tribe of cannibals in the Amazon and discovered a secret to staying youthful forever. The problem is that it requires the blood of super healthy young people mixed with the roots of very special trees.

So, to stay alive the oldies (which are actually around 90 years old) must occasionally drink the blood-root juice mixture in order to stay young. They devised this entire lifestyle and plan to maintain the illusion and the trap into which they lure young couples over and over again.

It was alright. No big thrill and definitely not worth searching for.

28 March 2012

32. The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

This was a great book. I loved it. I thought it got a little soap-operaish at times, but other than that it was fantastic. BIG, and fantastic. All the French words made me mad.

22 March 2012

31. The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse - Robert Rankin

Very different. Very fun. Made me laugh a lot and was still interested enough to keep wondering what would happen next.

I am not sure how to categorize this book. Science Fiction using nursery rhymes and toys? It is odd. Then again, why does it need a category at all. Let it be outside the main stream.

The story is about a guy named Jack who sets out to the big city to seek his fortune. When he gets to the city he finds that it is a Toy City...yes, actually populated by living breathing toys. He also finds that there is a serial killer on the loose who is killing all the old rich and famous nursery rhyme characters (Humpty Dumpty, Mother Goose, Little Boy Blue, etc.)

Jack falls in with Eddie Bear, who is a private detective who works with the recently "disappeared" Bill Winkie. Jack and Eddie embark on an adventure to solve the crimes and catch the killer. Along the way there is much debauchery, car chases, gratuitous sex and violence, heavy drinking, bad behavior and much more.

There is also some really interesting use of language and "linguistic trickery" used by the author that makes it even more fun to read. This is a crime novel in a fantasy world and written in a nursery rhymey happy-happy joy-joy way at times. I really enjoyed it.

As I was reading I tagged a bunch of areas with post-it-notes to use in this blog. That is the only way I can explain what I mean by the author's writing style was fun. Robert Rankin is a strange fellow.

FYI...that stupid Read Like a Professor book did make me see things differently. That bastard! Like Jack falling into a hole, and then falling some more...and then things got weird. Much like Alice.

I found one of the most interesting character flaws in all of fiction to be an idiosyncrasy of Eddie. Eddie was unable to use corroborative nouns. It was hilarious at times and was used over and over in the book. So much in fact that Jack even picked up on speaking that way toward the end of the book. It became "normal". "But I can't do corroborative nouns. None of us are perfect, are we? I can get started. As big as, as foul as, as obscene as. But I can't get any further. But that's life for you again. As unfair as.... Listen, wouldn't you rather go to a bar and have a drink?"

I read the following paragraphs many times. There is a lot of truth to it and much more than just from the perspective of a silly novel. I loved this... "We really can only truly know what we personally experience. And when we experience something entirely new, something that we have never experienced before, it can come as something of a shock. And it can be hard at first to fully comprehend.
    Jack, for instance, had never before heard a really big, expensive silkwood apartment door being smashed from its hinges. And so the sounds of its smashing were alien to his ears.
    The frabious grametting of the lock against its keep was positively malagrous in its percundity. The greebing and snattering was starkly blark.
    And as for the spondabulous carapany that the broken door made as it struck the vestibule floor...
    ....the word phnargacious is hardly sufficient.
    Rapantaderely phnargacious would be more accurate.
    And as for what happened after this, it is probably all for the best that Jack neither heard nor saw any of it."

Rankin even used a form of somnambulist..."For those who are unacquainted with the career of Little boy Blue subsequent to his period of employment as a somnambulant shepherd...."

Beautiful quote..."And, as every successful dictator knows, it's far easier to convince a thousand people en masse of a bad idea, than it is to convince a single individual. It's a herd thing."

Rankin would use this little ditty repeatedly when he wanted the reader to understand something. "Now it is a fact, well known to those who know it well...." followed by what he wanted the reader to know. That cracked me up every time.

Every once in a while the writing would just go off on a wild ride for no apparent reason. Like this..."It was a suspicious affair, with man sized chairs and tables. These were all of pink plastic and pale pitch-pine. The walls were pleasantly painted with pastel portraits or portly personages, pigging out on prodigious portions of pie - which, considering the alliterative nature of the breakfast served by the toymaker, may or may not have been some kind of culinary running gag."

Humor abounds..."You're not supposed to be drunk when you get involved with matters such as this: Big Matters, Matters of an Apocalyptic Nature. You're supposed to be coldly sober. And you just can't be coldly sober when you're drunk. But then, if you really did find yourself involved in Matters of an Apocalyptic Nature, you'd need a few stiff ones under your belt before you got going with saving the world."

More humor..."'Some other pretext then. We'll engage him in casual conversation and subtly draw him into a theoretical discussion. Then you could put your theory to him in a hypothetical manner, which will not imply any implicit knowledge on our part as to his potential status as a deity.'
    "Say all that again", said Eddie
    "Don't be absurd,' said Jack, 'I don't know how I managed it the first time. Somebody help me."

One last example... "We all know who is doing this to us. We dare not wait for the inevitable to occur. We have to take steps. Do something about it.'
    'I don't agree.' said Mary Mary.
    'Well, you wouldn't, would you dear? You being so contrary and everything."

30. The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw - Henry James


Henry James was definitely a guy who liked words. He uses a lot of them. A thought that could be conveyed with ten words takes James thirty. That being said, it is my only "complaint" with this book.

It was suspenseful and interesting....and old.

07 March 2012

29. The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

A friend wrote this synopsis and little review a while ago.
"Twenty-four children: twelve boys, twelve girls, tributes selected by random lottery every year and sent to the capitol city of Panem to compete in a brutal, bloodthirsty fight for survival, with the last participant standing declared champion.
Welcome to the Hunger Games, a grim reminder to those living in the twelve districts comprising what was once the United States of their place as virtual slaves to the gleaming Capitol at their center.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen is this year's female representative for District 12, having volunteered to take her younger sister Prim's place. Sent to the arena with the baker's son and classmate, Peeta Mellark -- a boy who, several years prior, saved Kat and her family from the ravages of starvation after her father's death in a coal mining accident -- neither competitor from the final district seem to be contenders.But Peeta's good nature and Kat's small stature belie the former's cunning intelligence and the latter's experience as a hunter; while a revelation from Peeta during the introductory ceremonies sends Katniss into the first day of competition more than a little off-kilter.
The stage is set, the tributes have arrived, and the cameras are watching...let the games begin.
It is no exaggeration to call THE HUNGER GAMES a pulse-pounding page-turner. Collins grabbed me from the first page and didn't let go. While Katniss isn't always the most likable character (in fact, there were plenty of times I much preferred the affable Peeta, or even sweet, birdlike little Ruth), she is always compelling, thanks to her rational approach to every challenge and her dogged determination.While THE HUNGER GAMES is a plot-driven novel, the characters and their relationships are the heart of the story. Ms. Collins has created a dystopian tale of Orwellian caliber for young adults."
 
I agree with that assessment. It is a great read and is exciting. It is definitely not difficult. It is Young Adult fiction. How difficult can it be?
 
I saw reviews for the movie coming out soon. I will go see it and hope they stick to the book. Will I read the rest of the trilogy? Probably not. There are so many other books to read. I did pass this one off to my teens. Two of them are "already reading something", one has no interest in the book but will watch the movie, and one grabbed it hoping it didn't suck. She will probably be happy with the read.
 
The ruthlessness of some of the children really threw me, but it is supposed to be a different time and their society has changed a lot.
 
The character of Rue fascinated me and I felt genuinely sad when she died. Poor kid.

05 March 2012

28. How to Read Literature Like a Professor

Hot to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines - Thomas C. Foster

I was really hoping to enjoy this book more and to learn a lot more than I did. I picked up a few tips and hints, but nothing like I had envisioned before picking up this book. The biggest thing I learned was that even at a professorial level you are still limited by your own experiences and your own memory as to how you are going to translate or interpret literature. Everyone will see things differently. The same person at different times will see different things.

What is the point then? Mostly it is to get past the emotional reader level as the only reaction to a book. That will always be a prime reason for me to read. I like how a book can repulse me or make me smile. Those are emotional reactions. But this book tries to explain why I get those reactions on more than just a feel good or bad level.

It was interesting to read about the different topics the author wanted to discuss. There were chapters called: Every Trip Is a Quest (Except When It's Not), If It's Square, It's a Sonnet, When in Doubt, It's from Shakespeare..., ...Or the Bible, It's Greek to Me, It's More Than Just Rain or Snow, Is That a Symbol, It's All About Sex..., ...Except Sex, and so on. Each one of them showed how an author uses little tricks of the trade to relate his story back to something you have seen before in order to elicit a given response.

There were some highlighted one line tidbits throughout the book that explained a lot:
"The real reason for a quest is always self-knowledge."
"Ghosts and vampires are never only about ghosts and vampires."
"There is no such thing a wholly original work of literature."
"It's never just rain."
"Flight is freedom."
"Irony trumps everything."
"When writers send characters south, it's so they can run amok."

You know what really pissed me off about this book though? I was hoping to learn from it. I was hoping to garner some kind of secrets from the inner sanctum. I was hoping to get a peak into the workers of a secret society, if only for a second. I went in with high expectations and even higher hopes...until page three. Yep, page THREE!

The first example the author used to explain something he wanted his reader to understand...the one he found to be the perfect example to go first...was this...
"I always begin with the greatest quest novel of the last century: Thomas Pynchon's Crying of Lot 49 (1965)."
As you may remember from my review about two weeks ago concerning The Crying of Lot 49...I didn't like that book. So, this man told me on page three that he was one of those pretentious asses that is going to turn crap into something significant because it is so beyond anything of it's kind...blah blah. From that moment I knew I was not going to get what I was looking for and hoped to pick up a little thing here or there that I could use. I did that. But, overall the book ended up solving nothing and leaving a ton of stuff open to whatever the reader wanted it to be.

Is that a symbol for something? It can be if it symbolizes something to you. It is whatever it is for whomever wants it to be whatever they want it to be. Yackity yack yack yack. I think I will just stick to enjoying a book and not analyzing it through the eyes of Plato or Shakespeare. I am perfectly happy being one of the ignorant masses that will never be a snobbish member of the elite academia. Whatever.

I am glad I didn't pay for this one.

27. Pastor Dad

Pastor Dad: Scriptural Insights on Fatherhood - Mark Driscoll
This is a free e-book that began life as a sermon given by Pastor Mark Driscoll in Seattle.

You can read it on line or download a pdf file here.

I downloaded it and read it on my kindle.

The description of the book says:
"Every dad is a pastor. The important thing is that he is caring for his flock well. This book by Pastor Mark Driscoll looks at the ways that a father can raise his children well."

The things this little book covered as far as what a father should be and what his biblical duties are are quite correct. I agree with him and think that biblically defined fatherhood has declined and it has had serious repercussions in our society. So, I utterly agree with the premise of this book.

That being said, I didn't like some of the "all or nothing" extreme examples left me turned off. An example of what I mean? At the end of a long explanation of what the church can do to change the way men look at fatherhood. What is the result they are looking for? "We can point them to Proverbs, by which they will become wise men who think about the joy of playing with their grandkids one day rather than being yet another dirty old man sitting in the corner of some dingy strip club by himself on Christmas Day."

What is my problem with that? It assumes you will either be a wonderful biblical dad, or you will be a sleazy lonely pervert. I ran into those kind of extremes a few different times in the writing. I disagree with that. I don't think those kinds of statements help make a point. It just leaves room for people to discount the good points made because it used bad examples.

The little book was great and full of good biblical advice for fathers.

(FYI...I am not advocating for nor do I know enough to form an opinion on; Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, The Resurgence or The Acts 29 Network. That stuff might be wonderful. It could also be the next big flop due to the normal failures of churches and movements in our society. I have no idea.)

03 March 2012

29 February 2012

25. Dominion

DominionJ.L. Bryan
I stumbled upon this book while searching for something else on the internet. I had heard the name once before through some US Marine Corps friends. Supposedly this book has or had some kind of a cult following with US Marines deployed in Iraq. When I stumbled on it I remembered that and decided I wanted to read it. That worked perfectly for me since I had just gotten a kindle for free and this book was in that format. That is how I read this one.

This is my first time reading a book that the author does not sell at all. It was written and given away freely. The book is “licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License” (creativecommons.org). The author says “this means you’re free to make copies of this book and give them away. Hey, why don’t you give away a copy right now? Thanks!” I have never heard of this before. Get the book for free in .pdf format HERE.

I think musicians should do this online. Give away the music content and earn money on merchandise, concerts, etc. Adapt to the 21st century and stop worrying about anti-piracy. The more people hear, the more junk they will buy.

Anyway, this book is about America in the future. Terrorists have detonated a nuclear weapon in Columbus, Ohio and killed millions. The government has drastically changed to protect the citizens. They now have a Dept. of Terror and have a state sponsored and run Dominionist Church. Child and Family Services mean something entirely different. The state run news agencies manufacture news to form opinions in the population that they wish to see. Non-conformists are eliminated through mass hangings at sporting events. Lots of stuff like that. It is a very interesting and unfriendly world.

The story is full of adventure and discovery as a man’s eyes are opened further as events unfold. The ending is pretty decent too. It was a fun read and has some pretty good potential to be a great action adventure movie. I am thinking along the lines of Mad Max meets Diehard.

25 February 2012

24. The Crying of Lot 49

The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon

"The letter itself had nothing much to say, had come in response to one of her dutiful, more or less rambling, twice-a-week notes to him, in which she was not confessing to her scene with Metzger because Mucho, she felt, somehow, would know. Would then proceed at a KCUF record hop to look out again across the gleaming gym floor and there in one of the giant keyholes inscribed for basketball see, groping her vertical backstroke a little awkward opposite any boy heels might make her an inch taller than, a Sharon, Linda or Michele, seventeen and what is known as a hip one, whose velveted eyes ultimately, statistically would meet Mucho's and respond, and the thing would develop then groovy as it could when you found you couldn't get statutory rape really out of the back of your law-abiding head."

I understand it...but the author is being difficult just to be difficult?

"Either you have stumbled indeed, without the aid of LSD or other indole alkaloids, onto a secret richness and concealed density of dream; onto a network by which X number of Americans are truly communicating whilst reserving their lies, recitations of routine, arid betrayals of spiritual poverty, for the official government delivery system; maybe even onto a real alternative to the exitlessness, to the absence of surprise to life, that harrows the head to everybody American you know, and you too, sweetie."

That kind of writing occurs over and over throughout the book and it makes the flow so choppy and deliberately complex that it is agony to try and figure out what the heck is happening.

I had high hopes for this book. The further I got into it the more I hated it. I realized something. It was written in the 60s. It was about California. I was a time of social and political upheaval. The drug culture was in full swing. This was a time of major change in American society. Some change was stupid. That whole acid dropping culture was so self-destructive, yet, the participants thought they were so enlightened. That is what this book was about to me. It was Pynchon trying to fit in with the culture of the day.

It reminds me of the poop on canvas and call it art crowd. It reminds me of the people who do controversial things just to be controversial and swear they are doing it for the art. It is all a load of stupid to me. (Yes, I used stupid as a noun.)

This book was funny. The satire and imagery used was what kept me going. It has it good points. The flow and the weirdness is what makes me say this was a dookie of a book. All those literary analysts that think it is a masterpiece can eat it. There are tons of masterpieces that don't suck. Read those.

24 February 2012

23. The Girl Next Door

The Girl Next Door - Jack Ketchum

Extremely disturbing. Haunting. Intense. Very unpleasant subject matter written in a way that grabs you by the throat and forces you to slam the gas-pedal to the floor knowing the bridge is out ahead and the pain is coming. I absolutely could not put this book down.

I will now have to watch this movie. The author approved. That is different.

This is a story loosely based on a real event from 1965 but placed in the more familiar surroundings of the authors childhood neighborhood. The real world events involved Sylvia Likens and Gertrude Baniszewski.

This book is full of mental illness, child abuse, and eventually murder. Knowing that these things happened make it even worse.

The involvement of the other children in the house and from the neighborhood in the abuse of this teenage girl remind me of Lord of the Flies. Far more violent and disturbing, but similar.

This book really left me feeling uncomfortable, angry and frustrated. It is rare for me to get real emotion from a read, but this one did it.

20 February 2012

22. Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

This is a seriously long book. I was never going to read the written word, so I downloaded the book and listened to it in audio format.

The writing is amazing. The characters are some of the most well defined I have ever encountered. That probably comes easily when you use a zillion pages. I think the reader did an outstanding job with this humongous task.

So, why is it just OK? Because the whole book is just total soap opera. Ugh.

Tolstoy's writing is awesome. Tolstoy's story? I found it laborious and uninteresting. But, I am a man living in 2012.

18 February 2012

21. Dark Places

Dark Places - Gillian Flynn

Back in 2009 I read Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. I liked it. I said I would read more of her writing. I am glad I finally did. Ms. Flynn's writing has made her one of my favorite female authors.

He stories are not happy. They have a very dark side to them. They are full of dysfunctional families and females with violent streaks. Her website says one reason she writes these novels is because:

"I think women like to read about murderous mothers and lost little girls because it’s our only mainstream outlet to even begin discussing female violence on a personal level. Female violence is a specific brand of ferocity. It’s invasive. A girlfight is all teeth and hair, spit and nails — a much more fearsome thing to watch than two dudes clobbering each other. And the mental violence is positively gory. Women entwine. Some of the most disturbing, sick relationships I’ve witnessed are between long-time friends, and especially mothers and daughters. Innuendo, backspin, false encouragement, punishing withdrawal, sexual jealousy, garden-variety jealousy — watching women go to work on each other is a horrific bit of pageantry that can stretch on for years."

This book is full of all that. The book bounces back and forth between present day investigation and past events that took place 24 years ago (1985). A family was devastated by the murder of a mother and two sisters by their teenage brother. A surviving sister testified against him. She was seven at the time. All these years later she is finding out that maybe what she said was not true and her brother was wrongfully convicted. Unraveling the events of that time and the repercussion it had on the lives of many people is an outstanding tale.

Sharp Objects was good. Dark Places was even better. I will read anything Flynn writes.

"I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ."

17 February 2012

20. Four Weeks in the Trenches

Four Weeks in the Trenches: The War Story of a Violinist - Fritz Kreisler

This was an outstanding and quick read. It was only fifty pages, but it was fantastic.

The story is an autobiographical account of Mr. Kreisler's experience as a member of the Imperial Austrian Army fighting against the Russians on the eastern front in 1914.

The book sticks to the first hand experiences of the author. It does not elaborate on political themes. I really enjoyed that. Nothing but the guts of the front line and a recollection of this one man's experience.

One of the insights that I found interesting was this: Mr. Kreisler says that as time passed in the trenches and you could see the enemy faces through field glasses (binoculars) that the hatred faded. When it is one army fighting against another it is done with hatred in the heart. As time went on and he "got to know" the other side, the hatred diminished and it became more like a sporting event that both sides wanted to win. He even went as far as to say that when a member of the other side was taken down that he felt a sadness for the loss experienced by the other side. That was a very interesting perspective.

I loved this little read.

16 February 2012

19. Utopia

Utopia - Sir Thomas More

This book was originally published in 1516. That makes it one of the oldest books I have ever read. It is quite possibly the first of it's kind, those books describing a "perfect" society. Who knows?

I liked reading it. I didn't see much that was new to me, but did see how all those common themes keep coming up in so many other books where there is a supposed perfect society.

I also think this book must have had some influences on Marx and Engels. That is just my opinion.

Some interesting little tidbits I learned while reading...

Raphael Hythloday (a narrator)...his last name, in Greek, means "speaker of nonsense".

The Greek word for Utopia means "noplace". There is another interpretation that says the Greek word was actually Eutopia, meaning "good place". I don't know which one is true.

It was an interesting book, but I can't say it was very fun or even enjoyable to read. It was different. I kept going because it was so stinking old. I kept reminding myself that this was written over 250 years before the Communist Manifesto (not that it is exactly the same, but the principles definitely are). That made it interesting.

13 February 2012

18. Babbitt

Babbitt - Sinclair Lewis

I read this review of Babbitt a long while back and said I would read it. Yes, it took three years, but I got it done.  :-)

Anyway...that review was correct. Babbitt pretty much sums up the problems with societal conformity en-mass. George Babbitt politically thinks exactly what his Republican Senators tell him to think. George Babbitt religiously thinks exactly what his Presbyterian minister tells him to think. George Babbitt socially thinks exactly what his friends in the boosters club tell him to think. He regurgitates all those thoughts throughout his life.

Stuff happens...he takes a walk on the wild side...then he comes back to the comforts of conformity. End of story.

It is a funny book in a way. It made me laugh as George was cramming his thoughts and ideas down other people's throats.

One of my favorite lines, or conversations, or pieces of dialog, or whatever you want to call it...George was talking about his children. His son didn't want to go to college. He wanted to be an auto mechanic. Needless to say, George was less than thrilled. Then he was talking about his daughter, who was into the arts and attended many gatherings for cultural events. George's opinion was that all she wanted to be was "some kind of Socialist agitator". I thought the way he said that was hilarious.

Anyway, Sinclair Lewis is an outstanding writer. His characters are real. I thoroughly enjoyed Babbitt and hope to read Main Street and Arrowsmith some day. If you have not read Babbitt, you should.

04 February 2012

17. The Cosmic Computer

The Cosmic Computer (Junkyard Planet) - H. Beam Piper

Here is a great science fiction novel first published in 1958.

There are a whole lot of sci-fi/ space novels from around that time. What is different about this one? Well, for one, I REALLY liked it. I think this is just as good as Jules Verne and H G Wells. Yes, it is that good.

I listened to this one on audio. I downloaded it for free. You can try it out on an mp3 player and see what I mean. You can get it here: The Cosmic Computer at Librivox.com

You won't be disappointed.

16. Kiss Me, Judas

Kiss Me, Judas - Will Christopher Baer

"The judgement of Phineas Poe, ex-cop, is not at its best. Just released from a psychiatric hospital, he is lured into bed by a beautiful and menacing woman who calls herself Jude. He wakes up in a hotel-room bathtub packed with ice, holding a damp note that reads, "If you want to live, call 911." Jude has stolen one of his kidneys. "Don't worry," she whispers in his dreams, "you really only need one." This brilliantly minimalist novel follows Poe--a grungy, seductive, and deeply vulnerable antihero--as he pursues the mysterious Jude and is plunged into an edgy, drug-blurred underworld where he almost feels like he's come home. Falling helplessly in love with a cruel but tender killer, he fights to avoid becoming her accomplice as well as her victim. As Kiss Me, Judas propels its cast of comic and sinister characters toward a shocking climax. This rare new voice glitters with corrosive wit and razor-sharp images that invade the mind with the arrogance and sexual intimacy of film. Will Christopher Baer doesn't describe arousal and vertigo--he evokes them."

That is what made me want to read this book. It lived up to everything I thought it would be and more. It is dark and disturbing. It is unpredictable. I was constantly trying to figure out what was going to happen next and getting it wrong 90% of the time.

If you want to go for a wild ride in a book that kept me engrossed and turning pages, this is one to do just that.

The characters throughout this book were outstanding. I could really hate them, or feel for them, or be disgusted by them...and sometimes it was multiple feelings at one time. Rarely would I feel bad for a dude that is a big a douche as Phineas Poe, but I did.

Here is the books description from the author's website: "Have you ever loved someone who's mortally wounded you? Phineas Poe, disgraced cop and morphine addict has just been released from a psych ward. He meets a beautiful woman and killer-for-hire named Jude in a hotel bar. Red dress. black hair, body like a knife. He takes her back to his room and wakes the next morning in a bathtub full of blood, missing a kidney. Dragging himself from a hospital bed, Phineas discovers he wants to get close to Jude like a hunger--and he wants to kill her. Finding her is a downward spiral. Falling for her is the start of a twisted love story that takes him from the snowy streets of Denver to the high plains of Texas where the boundaries between victim and torturer — killer and accomplice — become nightmarishly distorted."

If you are looking for any happy-happy/joy-joy, look elsewhere. It will not be found in these pages, but it is a great read.


30 January 2012

15. Downsizing the Federal Government


Downsizing the Federal Government - Chris Edwards

Here is a book full of awesome ideas to fix problems our country is having. I love most of them and have for quite some time. I have voted for people who promoted these ideas for decades now. The problem is that those people wither failed to follow through or were blocked in their efforts. That does not mean I will change. I still vote this way.

Chris Edwards is an economist who works with the Cato Institute. That is a Washington DC think tank along the lines of the Brookings Institute and Heritage Foundation. The big difference is that Cato is not liberal or conservative. They are a mixture of both. They are pro free markets and also anti war with liberty being a huge factor. They are libertarian if you had to put a label on them. You can keep your Democrats and Republican die hard garbage. Neither party is right or does what they say they will do. I will vote with the guy who is closest to doing what Cato stands for every time, and that has been from different parties all my life.

I have been reading articles and content on the website Downsizing the Federal Government for years. The site is an offshoot of the same ideas displayed in the book. You don't have to read the book if you don't want. You can go the website and see the same ideas in a different format. You won't see as much depth or explanation, but maybe it is enough to get you to want to learn more.

There is a free ebook version of this book on that site. I had downloaded it a long time ago. This is exactly why having that free kindle is awesome. I just loaded it on that little gadget and took it with me when I went places. I was never going to sit in front of a computer and read this and I would not spend the money to buy a new print version when I have a stack of other printed books sitting here waiting to be read. So, the kindle allowed me to read this book.

I think it is awesome! I love these ideas. I totally believe that most of what Mr. Edwards say is absolutely the best course of action.

I found it funny when he was busting chops of politicians in the book. He slammed Newt Gingrich and George Bush a few times because they were supposed to be budget watching smaller government proponents and both did exactly the opposite when they got into a position to make a difference. I liked that.

He didn't slam Democrats much. Why? He explains that it is because they don't say they are going to make government smaller and therefore can not fail to live up to that expectation. He just plain old disagrees with their philosophy of what government is and should be doing...just like I do. He did give a few Democrats some props though. He mentioned a few that actually did push a limited government agenda. He mentioned Paul Douglas, an Illinois Senator from 1949-1967, who was a harsh critic of government waste while also a champion for civil rights. Another guy was William Proxmire, Senator from Wisconsin from 1957-1989, the inventor of the "golden fleece" award for the biggest tax-payer ripoffs each month.

Anyway, promoting the ideas are what this book is really about. Stuff like cutting Defense, Education, Energy, HHS, HUD, Transportation, Labor and many other departments where there is wasteful, duplicated or obsolete programs. He is a proponent of privatization of much of what the federal government controls.

He suggests we sell assets; make discretionary spending cuts; make entitlement spending cuts (don't freak out, it is not what you are told by the fear-monger people); make 10 year budget plans; hammer waste and then hammer is some more; attack government fraud and abuse; erase duplicate programs across different agencies; eliminate obsolete, ineffective and chronically mismanaged programs; reform government bureaucracy; enact Congressional term limits; reign in the special interest spending and lobbying; eliminate corporate welfare; deal with economically damaging programs; freedom limiting programs; socially damaging programs; environmentally damaging programs; correct the size and scope of federal grants for all kinds of things; privatizing stand-alone businesses such as postal services and passenger rail services; privatizing infrastructure; tax reform!; budget process reforms; and so on and so on....

Mr. Edwards goes into specific examples of each category he brings up. He explains why he has his opinion and what he would do to fix a problem. If you want to see those details you will undoubtedly have to read the book, or at least the website.

I loved it.

28 January 2012

14. The Freakshow

The Freakshow - Bryan Smith

What possibilities this horror story would have...a bizarre freak show carnival from another dimension sets up shop near a different small town every few years. Everyone gets killed by the freaks and replaced by clones.

The potential is huge. Unfortunately it was not hit out of the park. Don't get me wrong, it was a good book full of horrible atrocities and nastiness, but it could have been much much more. I had such high hopes for this one. It was OK, but didn't go where I would have taken it if I was the author. It kept me interested. It was a real page turner. I just kept waiting for the huge "thing" that made me take a deep breath and say "Dude!" (or something like that.)

I am betting that the author actually wanted to write a lot more in this story but the editor and publisher told him to keep it around 300 pages (324). Many scenes could have been expanded and enhanced the story. To do that would have made the book into a 900 page Stephen Kingish sized horror novel. Is there a market for that these days? Probably not like there was in the 80's. That is a bummer because in my head there was so much more going on.

I hate to harp on that issue. I did have a blast reading this one. I will read more Bryan Smith.

27 January 2012

13. Helen's Babies: With Some Account of Their Ways Innocent, Crafty, Angelic, Impish, Witching, and Repulsive, Also, a Partial Record of Their Actions During Ten Days of Their Existence.

Helen's Babies: With Some Account of Their Ways Innocent, Crafty, Angelic, Impish, Witching, and Repulsive, Also, a Partial Record of Their Actions During Ten Days of Their Existence. - John Habberton

This is a humorous novel published originally in 1876. I like old books sometimes.

It is considered a children's book, but it along the lines of The Jungle Book, Peter Pan or Narnia. Definitely not a child's book as far as reading, but probably pretty entertaining for a child if it is read to them.

This one is about a man who lives in the city who gets a letter from his sister asking if he will spend a few weeks at their country home with her children while she goes on vacation with her husband.

He agrees. The children are five and three year old boys. They are feisty little buggers and get into a bunch of boy trouble. It is quite funny.

Oh, and the uncle falls in love with a country girl and moves to his own little plot and starts a whole new kind of life. Whatever.

It was fun reading this book and living in a different era for a while. The kids had a cart pulled by a goat. What fun that would have been growing up. Darn.

26 January 2012

12. Monstrosity

Monstrosity - Edward Lee

This book was a let down for me. I was hoping for the suspense of Flesh Gothic. I never got it. The ending was a dud. It had some cool parts, but when I read a horror novel I want to feel that spine chilling thing. It was nowhere near that.

I will read more Edward Lee, but I am left feeling short changed by this book.

(I went back and read my review of Flesh Gothic. I didn't like that book either. For the same reason. For some reason I remembered it differently. I guess I will not read more Edward Lee.)

21 January 2012

11. Dubliners

Dubliners - James Joyce

This is some awesome writing. It must be. The stories sure didn't keep me captivated. It was all about making the scene come to life reading this book. That is what kept me interested.

10. Constitutionalism And The Rule Of Law In America

Constitutionalism And The Rule Of Law In America - Herman Belz

Probably the dryest read I have ever finished.

17 January 2012

9. Orange Crush

Orange Crush - Tim Dorsey

This book has been on the active reading pile for about a month. I think I started it about that long ago anyway. It is finally finished. I am finally done wrapping up the unfinished business from 2011. :-)

This is a funny book full of humor and satire concerning politics in Florida. The Lt Gov of the state is a shoe in to become the next governor because he tows the party line. In fact...he IS the party line. he has lived it so long that he can't think any other way.

Then, by a fluke, he is sent with the Florida Army Guard to Bosnia. He gets involved in events that change his perspective. Well, it is more like it actually changes who the man is.

When he returns he is suddenly concerned about issues and justice and reform and all that stuff. Not just yakking, but actually doing it.

During the course of his campaign there are many hilarious events and numerous outstanding characters. It is a raucous good time and full of stereotypical political joking.

If I didn't have a to be read pile as high as my house I might go look for more from this author. I do have that pile, so, sorry Mr. Dorsey. Maybe some time in the future if I live a long time.

8. Play Ball: A Tribute to Our National Pastime

Play Ball: A Tribute to Our National Pastime

This time of year is hard for me. I am a huge baseball fan and I really miss it in January. Football is OK, but it is winding down as the playoffs proceed. Hockey is ongoing, but it is not a huge deal in the south and is tough to follow here. Basketball, well, I don't like it or care about it at all. NASCAR is just beginning to show signs of life with the very first runs at Daytona. Even that is way too early to give it more than a passing glance.

So, I start looking toward baseball and hope that teams will start talking about the upcoming spring training. Who will be playing where? What are the expectations? But, alas, it is still too early. I miss my game.

I tried to give myself a baseball booster shot by listening to this audio book. Maybe it would help me get through these winter baseball doldrums. It failed to do what I hoped it would. I miss the game even more now that I ended up teasing myself. Can you say "backfire"?

The audio book was cool though. Some pretty famous voices read some of the classic baseball writings. Baseball is dramatic to begin with. These guys made it even more so.

Casey at the Bat was written by Ernest Lawrence Thayer and read by Len Cariou.
Jinxes and What They Mean to a Ball-Player was written by Christy Matthewson and read by Charley Steiner.
Shoeless Joe was written by W. P. Kinsella and read by Grover Gardner.
An excerpt from If I Had a Hammer was written and read by Hank Aaron.

These were just a couple of the classics on these discs. They stirred my emotions with stories of the game I love about the legends of that game.

Damn, I miss baseball.

16 January 2012

7. The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything

The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything - Mark Reiter and Richard Sandomir

This book shows me the most awesome idea I have seen in a long time. What is your favorite movie? What is your favorite restaurant? What is your favorite anything? This book shows a way to reach a definitive, once-and-for-all answer to all of those questions.

"What is enlightenment?

Better question: What is Bracketology?

Bracketology is a way of seeing the world so that we can become more enlightened- about what we like, favor, prefer, abhor, or abjure. It is a system that helps us make clearer and cleaner decisions about what is good, better, best in our world."

"Bracketology- the practice of parsing people, places and things into discrete one-on-one match ups to determine which of the two is superior or preferable- works because it is simple."

I had this book on the counter when friends came over this weekend. We made some brackets to figure out "what sucks the most" just for fun. It really was fun going match up for match up and figuring out why a hangnail sucks more than running out of gas, or vice-versa. Between the tree of us we came up with different answers to what sucks the most. There winners were terrorists, cancer and the IRS freezing your bank accounts. The process of reaching those conclusions from the beginning 32 sucky things was a lot of fun.

Later I took that a step further knowing I was going to be blogging about this book. I created a single elimination bracket of 128 books I liked. What would be my favorite book when they are all pitted in head-to-head?

There were some very tough decisions along the way. There were also some no brainers. It is easy to say "Slaughterhouse 5" beats "Logan's Run". It is not so easy when "The Great Gatsby" and "Into The Wild" meet in the sweet 16. That was one of the hardest decisions. I went with "Into The Wild" after much thought. I still wrestle with that one.

"Darkness At Noon" beat out "Shutter Island" then lost the next round to "The Kite Runner", which in turn lost in the following round to "Lolita". Any one of those four is an outstanding book. It stinks to have to eliminate any of them at all, but something had to win.

I had fun doing this bracket. The overall winner? For me, at this time, it was "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I have no regrets in that book winning. It was great. Along the way it took down two outstanding books about Vietnam. "The Short-Timers" and "The Things They Carried". Both amazing books in themselves.

I am including a copy of this bracket below for your perusal. I am sure yours would be different. Go for it. I would love to see what happens with others doing the same.
You can get your own brackets here? http://www.printyourbrackets.com/

6. The Claims Of Christ

The Claims Of Christ - Chuck Smith

This was a little book about what Jesus Christ actually claimed to be in the pages of the bible. It eliminates all the extra stuff that people say and just used the words Jesus spoke. "I am....." That kind of thing.

Then Pastor Chuck explains how those claims affect our world and how we live.

Awesomeness in a little tiny package.

10 January 2012

5. The Idiot

The Idiot - John Kendrick Bangs

This was first published in 1895 and was the first in a series of "Idiot" books.

This entire book was conversations between a group of friends who lived in a boarding house and would have discussions over breakfast. The dialog was captivating and fun. I loved the way the book flowed despite jumping around.

The characters included a lawyer, a doctor, a priest, a teacher, a librarian, and a man who worked as a clerk that later became business partners with the owner...that they called "the idiot". I am unsure why they called him the idiot. The man definitely was not ignorant or stupid. Maybe unorthodox or unconventional, but not dumb. Maybe he was an idiot because he did not have a title to identify himself with?

Anyway, I found the conversations fascinating. I also found it interesting that the men would enjoy these conversations so much despite all the disagreement and verbal abuse they heaped upon each other. It kept me engaged, and that is all I ask from a book most of the time.

08 January 2012

4. Liberty And Property

Liberty And Property - Ludwig von Mises

Austrian economics and capitalism duke it out with socialism and statism. I loved this book! This was originally a lecture given by von Mises in October 1958 at Princeton University. Some adjustments of thought must be made in that socialism has progressed far beyond the Soviet model, but it is essentially the same principles as far as economics are concerned.

Some parts I found very interesting:

"...the liquidation of all dissenters is the condition that will bring us what the communists call freedom."

"The admirers of the Soviet system tell us again and again that freedom is not the supreme good. It is "not worth having," if it implies poverty. To sacrifice it in order to attain wealth for the masses, is in their eyes fully justified. But for a few unruly individualsists who cannot adjust themselves to the ways of regular fellows, all people in Russia are perfectly happy. We may leave it undecided whether this happiness was also shared by the millions of Ukrainian peasants who died from starvation, by the inmates of the forced labor camps, and by the Marxian leaders who were purged. But we cannot pass over the fact that the standard of living was incomparably higher in the free countries of the West than the communist East.. In giving away liberty as the price to be paid for the acquisition of prosperity, the Russians made a poor bargain. They now have neither the one nor the other."

"As far as individuals have the opportunity to choose, they are free; if they are forced by violence or threat of violence to surrender to the terms of an exchange, no matter how they feel about it, they lack freedom."

"As regards the social apparatus of repression and coercion, the government, there cannot be any question of freedom. Government is essentially the negation of liberty. It is the recourse to violence or threat of violence in order to make all people obey the orders of the government, whether they like it or not. As far as the government's jurisdiction extends, there is coercion, not freedom. Government is a necessary institution, the means to make a social system of cooperation work smoothly without being disturbed by violent acts on the part of gangsters whether of domestic or of foreign origin. Government is not, as some people say, a necessary evil; it is not an evil, but a means, the only means available to make peaceful human coexistance possible. But it is the opposite of liberty. It is beating, imprisoning, hanging. Whatever a government does it is ultimately supported by the actions of armed constables. If the government operates a school or a hospital, the funds required are collected as taxes, i.e., by payments exacted from the citizens...we may call government the most beneficial human institution. But the fact remains that government is repression not freedom."

"The socialists must admit there cannot be any freedom under a socialist system. But they try to obliterate the difference between the servile state and economic freedom by denying that there is any freedom in the mutual exchange of commodities and services on the market. Every market exchange is, in the words of a school of pro-socialist lawyers, “a coercion over other people’s liberty.” There is, in their eyes, no difference worth mentioning between a man’s paying a tax or a fine imposed by a magistrate, or his buying a newspaper or admission to a movie. In each of these cases the man is subject to governing power. He’s not free, for, as professor Hale says, a man’s freedom means “the absence of any obstacle to his use of material goods.” This means: I am not free, because a woman who has knitted a sweater, perhaps as a birthday present for her husband, puts an obstacle to my using it. I myself am restricting all other people’s freedom because I object to their using my toothbrush. In doing this I am, according to this doctrine, exercising private governing power, which is analogous to public government power, the powers that the government exercises in imprisoning a man in Sing Sing.

Those expounding this amazing doctrine consistently conclude that liberty is nowhere to be found. They assert that what they call economic pressures do not essentially differ from the pressures the masters practice with regard to their slaves. They reject what they call private governmental power, but they don’t object to the restriction of liberty by public government power. They want to concentrate all what they call restrictions of liberty in the hands of the government. They attack the institution of private property and the laws that, as they say, stand “ready to enforce property rights—that is, to deny liberty to anyone to act in a way which violates them.”"

"The self‑styled champions of the common man are still guided by the obsolete idea that a policy that favors the debtors at the expense of the creditors is very beneficial to the majority of the people. Their inability to comprehend the essential characteristics itself also in their failure to see the obvious fact that those whom they feign to aid are creditors in their capacity as savers, policy holders, and owners of bonds"