Search This Blog

Saturday, December 31, 2011

My 2011 Reads

The books at the top of the list I read before I started blogging, so I included on this list a short description of each book. For the books I've already blogged about, if you're interested in reading the post, you'll have to search the blog for it. I'm not sure how to include a separate link to each entry.

Super Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. I enjoyed this book enough that I've put Freakonomics on my TBR. The authors seek to explore the hidden side of everything.

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, by Anthony Esolen. Two thumbs up. He writes with his tongue in his cheek, as if he and his audience want to destroy the imagination of children. I did find his contrarian stance a bit tedious at times, but agreed heartily with his message.

Tales of the Kingdom, by David and Karen Mains. Tales like fables or fairy tales. Recommend for children.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself, by Harriet Ann Jacobs. A heart-wrenching, true, first-person account of being a slave in the American South leading up to the Civil War.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Interesting perspective, but with too much of a preoccupation with sex.

The Mind's Eye, by Oliver Sacks. Sacks must be a wonderfully humane doctor.

The Journal of John Woolman, by John Woolman. John Woolman was a prominent Quaker in early New England.

The Last Dickens, by Matthew Pearl. Pearl's works involving historical personages are gripping and thrilling,  but occasionally gruesome.

The Death of Corinne, by R. T. Raichev. To be honest, I don't really recall this work. I think it was a modern murder mystery set in England.

Beatrice and Virgil, by Yann Martel. Odd, but intriguing.

The Bride Collector, by Ted Dekker. Far too gruesome for me.

The Brothers Boswell, by Philip Baruth. Literary, skillful writing, but with some brief explicit sexual scenes.

Portuguese Irregular Verbs, Alexander McCall Smith. Amusing stories about a professor.

Blue Shoes and Happiness, Alexander McCall Smith. One of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books, which I thoroughly enjoy.

The Stones Cry Out, by Sibella Giorello. Giorello is one of my best finds of 2011. Her books are mysteries.

The Rivers Run Dry, by Sibella Giorello

The Clouds Roll Away, by Sibella Giorello.

Maiden Voyage, by Tania Aebi. Ms. Aebi's father offered to buy her a sailboat, if she agreed to sail it alone around the world, or pay for her college education. She opted for the boat, and became the youngest, at age 18, to circumnavigate the world.

Chop Shop, by Tim Downs. A mystery with a fair deal of philosophical/ethical discussion in it. A bit gory in parts. I thought the ending rendered the ethical thrust of the book moot.

The Mountains Bow Down, by Sibella Giorello.

Some Fruits of Solitude, by William Penn.

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, by John McWhorter. McWhorter tells the 'untold history of English.'

More Fruits of Solitude, by William Penn.

Enchanted Hunters, by Maria Tatar. Tatar discusses the importance of reading in childhood. She suggests that all the terms we use to describe avid young readers put them down. She suggests we use the term 'enchanted hunters' instead.

Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, by Octavius Winslow. An excellent book outlining the importance of drawing close to God throughout life, and the dangers of not drawing closer to God.

The Great Typo Hunt, by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson. A light-hearted, and yet surprisingly philosophical account of a cross-country road trip undertaken by two men looking for and correcting typos.

Manning Up, by Kay Hymowitz. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in current trends in America.

Plague Maker, by Tim Downs.

Factory Girls, by Leslie T. Chang. A fascinating description of life for women in China today.

Righteous Indignation, by Andrew Breitbart. Not nearly as compelling as Steyn.

Histories by Herodotus, books I-IV

I blogged about the remaining books on the list.

A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry.

Unnatural Death, by Dorothy L. Sayers.

The Double Comfort Safari Club, by Alexander McCall Smith.

The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennet.

True Grit, by Charles Portis.

A Child's Own Book of Verse.

Glorious Freedom, by Richard Sibbes.

My Old Man and the Sea, by David Hayes and Daniel Hayes.

Celebrating Children's Books, edited by Betsy Hearne and Marilyn Kaye.

Master Georgie, by Beryl Bainbridge.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke.

The Still Point: A Novel, by Amy Sackville.

Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart, by Carol Leonard.

ALONE: Orphaned on the Ocean, by Richard Logan and Tere Duperrault Fassbender.

Into These Hands: Wisdom from Midwives, edited by Geradine Simkins.

The Dog Who Came in from the Cold, Alexander McCall Smith.

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, Alexander McCall Smith.

Three Dialogs of Plato.

The Wordsmith's Tale, by Stephen Edden.

The Three-Arched Bridge, by Ismail Kadare.

The Golden Sayings of Epictetus.

On the Narrow Road, Lesley Downer.

The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli.

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.

Multiple Bles8ings, by Kate Gosselin.

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs.

In the Land of Invisible Women, by Qanta Ahmed.

A History of the World in 6 Glasses, by Tom Standage.

The Horse that Leaps through Clouds, by Eric Enno Tamm.

eye of the god, by Ariel Allison.

The Hawk and the Dove, by Penelope Wilcock.

The Wounds of God, by Penelope Wilcock.

The Long Fall, by Penelope Wilcock.

The Unquiet Bones, by Melvin Starr.

Gargantua, by Rabelais.

It's Probably Nothing, by Beach Conger, MD.

The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz.

Devices and Desires, by P.D. James.

Read my Hips, Kim Brittingham.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

After America, by Mark Steyn.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken.

Why Read Moby-Dick?, by Nathaniel Philbrick.

The New Road to Serfdom, by Daniel Hannan.

Crazy U, by Andrew Ferguson.

The Winged Watchman, by Hilda van Stockum.

The Wonder Clock, by Howard Pyle.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin.

Dead Aid, by Dambisa Moyo.

I Dreamed of Africa, by Kuki Gallmann.

How the West Was Lost, by Dambisa Moyo.

Tell Me, Pretty Maiden, by Rhys Bowen.

Wow. A total of 84 books (one I left off the list). A personal record, and that in a year in which I moved and had a baby. And started a blog. :-)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Books I've Loved Reading to My Children

I don't think the books on this list need any sort of introduction from me, being as they are classics.

Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame.

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. In fact, I think it's time to read this again.

D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, and their Book of Norse Myths. Their book on Trolls is fun, too.

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The Arabian Nights Entertainments, edited by Andrew Lang. Also those color fairy books of his which we've read (we have not yet read all of them).

The Winged Watchman, by Hilda van Stockum.

The Wonder Clock, by Howard Pyle.

The King of Ireland's Son, by Padraic Colum.

A Picturesque Tale of Progress, by Olive Beaupre Miller, in nine volumes.

Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie.

Charlotte's Web, by E. B. White.

The Princess and the Goblin, and The Princess and Curdie, by George MacDonald.

Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi.

Scottish Seas, by Doug Jones.

Black Ships before Troy, by Rosemary Sutcliff.

Viking Tales, by Jennie Hall.

Reading this list makes me think of all the good books I haven't yet read to them. Sigh.

Books I Loved as a Child

Freckles, by Gene Stratton Porter. Freckles was long my ideal of manliness.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C. S. Lewis. When reading this I experienced what Lewis in Surprised by Joy called 'northernness.' This book made me long for heaven.

Eight Cousins, by Louisa May Alcott. I delighted in the relationship the one little girl had with her seven boy cousins. It made me want brothers.

George MacDonald's fiction which was edited by Michael Phillips.

Brock and Brodie Thoene's books, especially the ones set during WWII.

The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom.

The Anne of Green Gables series, by L. M. Montgomery.

My Lady of Doubt, by I'm not sure who. This was a romance set during the American Revolution.

Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare. Is a 15yo still a child? There was a time in my life when I could recite most of this play, thanks to repeated readings and watchings.

Mostly, though, I read junk as a child.

Books That I Read Again and Again

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I have also read Vilette and The Professor by Bronte, and those would also be on this list, if I owned copies. I will admit, shameful though it be, that when I first read this book at around the age of 17, I was such a foolish little girl as to prefer St. John Rivers to Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester. Now one of my daughters has the middle name of Fairfax (for reasons of personal history, world history, and geography, as well as literature, just so you don't think I'm a little too attached to Mr. Rochester these days).

Till We Have Faces, by C. S. Lewis. I am drawn into Orual's tale every time I pick it up. I read once that this book is just as much the work of Joy Davidman as of Lewis, that her influence and thought can be seen on every page.

Thursday Next books, by Jasper Fforde (I haven't read the latest installment.) I must admit that the first couple times I tried to read these, I just didn't get it. But then I did get it, and now I love these books. They are by far the lightest books on this list, but sometimes one needs something light. And I use terms from these books, such as 'echolocator' when I think an author has used the same word too many times in a row.

Perelandra, by C. S. Lewis. I was interested to learn that this book and Till We Have Faces were Lewis's own favorites among his works.

Glorious Freedom, by Richard Sibbes. I keep mentioning this book. You may have grown tired of hearing of it, but it means a lot to me.

Dorothy Sayers's mysteries, the other lightsome choice on my list. I think I had a crush on Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey ages ago, when I first read these books. The fact that I'm making that public knowledge would probably chagrin my husband, who holds Wimsey in contempt.

The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins. I am amused by the butler who practices sortes with Robinson Crusoe.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. I read this to my children most Christmases, mostly in a tip of my hat to my mother's tradition of reading it to me.

Silas Marner, by George Eliot. I think this is a lovely tale of a miser exchanging gold for golden hair, the love for inanimate objects for the love of another human being. This is one of the few works of fiction that I underline. That said, however, Romola by George Eliot deeply disturbs and depresses me (I've only read it once, and have no plans to pick it up again).

The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco. One of the most philosophical mystery novels I've ever read. Don't judge this book by its movie, please.

I'm a little surprised to see how many mysteries made it onto this list.

And all of Jane Austen's works.

And Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Most Eye-Opening Books I've Read

I could also title this, 'Most Life-Changing Books,' or 'Philosophy-of-Life-Shaping Books,' or 'Books You Should Read' if I'm feeling bold enough, or 'Books You'd Benefit from Reading' if I'm not. I'll be culling books for this list from years worth of reading, so don't expect a separate link to a separate review of each title.

In no particular order:

Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon. A cookbook? Yes, but so much more. This book has changed the way I look at food (though you might not be able to tell by looking at me).

The Closed Circle, by David Pryce-Jones. Mr. Pryce-Jones offers an illuminating description of Arab culture in this book.

Glorious Freedom, by Richard Sibbes. I would put in The Bruised Reed by Sibbes as well, but for the fact that I'm still reading it. I read Glorious Freedom when I was going through a period of depression, and Sibbes's book graciously pointed me to the only true consolation of the believer. I think, however, that The Bruised Reed might be even more powerful.

Giving Birth, by Catherine Taylor. Alright, my eyes were already opened to the message of this book before I read it. However, this is the book I give to people who are willing to have their eyes opened to the possibility of having a safe birth outside of the hospital.

The Trivium, by Sister Miriam Joseph. This book is so life-philosophy-shaping that I haven't even gotten all the way through it. I've decided that if I can but teach the contents of this book to my children, that I will have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams at home schooling.

Liberal Fascism, by Jonah Goldberg. I understand so much more about totalitarianism and its evils for having read this book.

Shepherding a Child's Heart, by Tedd Tripp. This is, hands down, the best book about child-rearing I have ever read.

Endangered Minds, by Jane M. Healy. This book informed my understanding of how to instruct my children. It's time to read it again.

Tending the Heart of Virtue, by Vigen Guroian. This book first underscored for me the importance of reading imaginative literature to my children. I am very grateful I read this book when my oldest children were still quite young. I see the influence of this book everywhere I look in my house, and hear the influence of this book in almost every conversation with my children (they often speak in a sort of courtly way, thanks to the fairy tales they took in with their mother's milk).

The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, by Walter Marshall. Another book along the lines of Sibbes's books: sanctification is a work of the Spirit.

Oliver Sacks's works make me want to become a neurologist.

Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Redemption Accomplished and Applied, by John Murray. I read this for the first time as I was being introduced to Reformed theology. Powerful stuff.

Knowing God, by J.I. Packer. I read this one also when I was being introduced to Reformed theology. The God of Knowing God was so much bigger than I had ever imagined, or been taught.

Heaven and Hell, by Edward Donnelly.

Les Miserables, the movie with Liam Neeson. OK, it's not a book but a movie, but the Lord used it to bring me to a deep conviction of my legalism. I identified with Javert.

The first half of How Civilizations Die, by David P. Goldman certainly makes the list, and I expect the second half will, too. I expect, in fact, that I should start again at the beginning just as soon as I get to the end. Better and broader than Steyn's After America.

One list done! Here's to more happy list-making in the coming days.

Oops, I forgot Who Killed Homer? by Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath.

On Lists

Apparently 'tis the season for making lists. I love lists of books. I've been reading other people's lists, and realized, I could make my own! Yippee! As I lay in bed last night, instead of sleeping, I thought about all the different sorts of book lists I could make, which was a list of lists, or at any rate an actual, if not written, list of potential lists.

Can you tell that I'm excited at the thought of making my own book lists?

So, time permitting, which is to say Little Ceasar permitting, I will be typing list upon list and inflicting them upon you in the next few days.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The New Road to Serfdom, by Daniel Hannan

This was a more uplifting, heartening read than Steyn's After America. Daniel Hannan is a British member of the European Parliament. He loves British liberties, and believes they are thriving best in America. He wrote the book to warn Americans not to allow their country to follow down the path of socialism that Britain and Europe are skipping down.

I was especially interested to read an outsider's take on America. He pricked the bubbles of many European myths about America (such as, that American television programming is trash in comparison with European television).

He explained that much of the legislation which passes the European Parliament is what he calls 'declamatory lawmaking.' The MEP feel they 'ought to do something about it,' and so they pass a law, whether or not their law will make any difference.

Where Steyn paints with the boldest colors and broadest brushes available to convey the truth of his message, Hannan writes with more precision.

This book lifted my pride to be an American. I'd recommend it to any lover of America.

On Commenting

I want to thank those who have commented on my blog posts. I enjoy the opportunity to interact about these books, even if only over the internet and not in person. Your comments also help me think more deeply about what I've read. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why Read Moby-Dick?, by Nathaniel Philbrick

True confession: I have not yet read 'Moby-Dick.' It has long been on my TBR (To Be Read) list, but I was happy to leave it near the bottom of that list. Reading Mr. Philbrick's book, in which he not only poses but answers the question of the title, definitely excited me about the prospect of reading 'Moby-Dick,' and raised 'Moby-Dick' several slots on my TBR list.

Mr. Philbrick wrote in an engaging manner. He used short chapters, which I appreciate, because I could pick it up for a few minutes and complete a chapter (a small accomplishment with a big emotional satisfaction). I was a little surprised, though, at how often he managed to turn his discussion of 'Moby-Dick' into a condemnation of American slavery.

I found this quote by Nathaniel Hawthorne about Herman Melville worthy of consideration: "He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other.'

I would recommend this book to anyone who thinks they ought to read 'Moby-Dick' but lacks sufficient enthusiasm to begin.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken

A children's book I read, not surprisingly, to my girls. Poor, orphan Sylvia Green is going to live with her rich cousin Bonnie. Bonnie's parents are about to leave on a long journey for the sake of Bonnie's mother's health. They have hired a distant relative to look after and teach the girls in their absence. But Miss Slighcarp, that distant relative, is not all that she seems to be. There follows a series of adventures for the two girls, which concludes happily. My girls were enthralled, and I was happy enough to comply with their repeated requests for more, and more, and yet more. They have commissioned me to search out other books by Joan Aiken.

After America, by Mark Steyn

Inimitable. Irresistible. Bleak. Hopeless. Grim. Hilarious. These are the words that come to mind when I read Mark Steyn. As Ann Coulter said, 'Only Mark Steyn can write about the decline of America and leave you laughing.' Take this sample, for instance, in which Mr. Steyn describes American descent into Big Government paternalistic socialism as resembling European descent into Big Government paternalistic socialism: 'This isn't a bright new future, it's a straight-to-video disco-zombie sequel: the creature rises from the grave to stagger around in rotting bell-bottoms and cheesecloth shirt terrorizing a new generation. Burn, baby, burn, it's a Seventies-statist disco-era inferno!'

The picture Mr. Steyn draws is so bleak I found myself asking why I ever brought children into such a world. I'm grateful that this world is not ultimate, that I have a hope beyond this world.

If you are a lover of small government and big liberty, if you like to read insightful and incisive commentary about America and the trajectory she is on, read 'After America,' sigh, and push back. If you aren't and don't, read 'After America' and be persuaded to take a different view of matters.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

Dickens, a man who uses adjectives in a liberal manner, gave rise to a new adjective himself: dickensian. 'A Christmas Carol' is a dickensian tale. Who reading this post (all six of you, if I'm lucky) doesn't know the story? I love the beginning, with its discussion of the deadest piece of ironmongery. I read it to my girls, who enjoyed the story a great deal. It prompted many deep discussions with them about morality, liberality, and salvation. Can a man save himself?

If you've not read 'A Christmas Carol' yet, don't wait.

Read My Hips, by Kim Brittingham

This book, written by a self-described 'fat girl,' decries our society's skewed perception of weight. She argues, not that being fat is healthy, but that an obsession with becoming thin is unhealthy, and that a culture-wide push to make people feel guilty for not being thin is a mistake. Ms. Brittingham often strikes a funny note as she discusses her experience of being fat in a culture that worships skinniness, her early attempts to lose weight, and her eventual acceptance of herself as she is.

I would neither recommend this book particularly, nor suggest that people avoid it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Devices and Desires, by P.D. James

What can I say? I love a good mystery, and P.D. James writes good mysteries. Good novels, really.

In 'Devices and Desires' Adam Dalgleish has to decide what to do with a home he has inherited from his aunt. He decides to visit it on holiday before making a final decision. At this time a serial killer has been terrorizing the area. Dalgleish finds a body. Is she a victim of the serial killer, known as the Whistler? Or is another murderer on the loose?

I kept asking myself as I read the book why I likes James's work so much. I think it has to be her characters, and Dalgleish in particular. I like him as a character, as a person. He's a police detective and a published poet. I think he's something of a philosopher as well. I sympathize with his introversion.

If you like to read mysteries, can handle a tense one with some sexual content (but not of a titillating sort), and you haven't yet tried out P.D. James, don't wait. I understand she has a new one out set in Pemberly. I'm eager to get my hands on that one.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On Being a Novice Blogger

I think I just accidentally deleted a blog post, in my attempt to respond to someone's comment on it. Oops! Deb, if you see this, I'm sorry.

A List

Because once again I am several books behind. Has it really been nearly a month since I last blogged? Shocking and shameful.

The Hawk and the Dove; The Wounds of God; The Long Fall, a trilogy by Penelope Wilcock. I thoroughly enjoyed each one and highly recommend them to any fiction reader. This trilogy tops this list of books; it is my favorite selection here.

It's Probably Nothing, by Beach Conger, MD. Fun and mostly true recollections of a country doctor. The author also wove in some history of medicine. I would recommend this to those who enjoy reading true medical anecdotes.

Gargantua, by Rabelais. This reminded me of Sterne's Tristram Shandy, in terms of the bawdiness and the frenzied pace of its humor.

The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz. A true account of a bid for freedom from a Siberian concentration camp. Seven men escape; who makes it to British India? They have recently made a movie of this book, but I can't speak to that, as I haven't watched it yet. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in accounts of survival in extreme situations.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In the Land of Invisible Women, by Qanta Ahmed, MD

Doctor Ahmed grew up in Britain, and trained in the US to become a doctor. When her visa to remain in the States was denied, she decided to go practice medicine in Saudi Arabia. She assumed that because she was Muslim, she would fit right in. This book recounts her experiences living and working in a country where women are not allowed to drive, where women are required to be completely veiled whenever in mixed society, where it has been suggested that women shouldn't even wear seat belts because the belts define the woman's cleavage, where married couples carry their marriage licenses with them when they go out in public because they may need to show proof that they're married.

I really liked this book. I appreciated the half-insider, half-outsider view that the author brought to her subject. She is a Muslim with Western, liberal views. She valued some of the ways in which people in the Kingdom strive to live according to Islam, and denounced some of the other ways. She records her disgust at the gleeful reactions of her Saudi coworkers to the news of 9/11, and to their reflexive anti-Semitism. She discusses Islamic principles at length, concluding that anti-Semitism and Wahabiism are not in line with a true understanding of Islam.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of Saudi Arabia, women in Saudi Arabia, or Islam.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The History of the World in 6 Glasses, by Tom Standage

The six glasses are: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coke. I thought the title probably over-promised the contents of the book, but I was mistaken. The author does touch on the history of the world, through the lens of the six glasses.

The first three drinks contain alcohol, and the second three contain caffeine. The account of the first two relies a bit more on conjecture, given the age of the drinks and the scarcer historical documentation from those time periods.

I learned a lot about the drinks themselves, as well as about history. For instance, a naval officer by the name of Grogram made the first proto-cocktail when he commanded that sailors should drink their ration of rum mixed with some citrus juice and sugar. This concoction became known as 'grog' and gave the Brits an edge over the French navy, thanks to the presence of vitamin c in grog.

I gained a greater appreciation for coffee-houses and their association with scientific advances and free speech. Charles II tried to shut down coffee-houses when he ascended to the throne because they had provided a venue where the citizens could voice their opinions freely. He did not succeed. Coffee-houses were called 'Penny Universities,' because for the price of a cup of coffee you could gain an education (scientists would lecture there). Let's raise a cup of coffee!

I also gained a greater appreciation for Coke and its association with American democracy. Did you know that Coke went around the world on the tails of the American military during World War II? Coke was exempted from sugar rationing during the war because it was seen as vital to the war effort. Did you know the Arab world boycotted Coke for 30 years after Coke opened a bottling facility in Israel? Let's raise a bottle of Coke!

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in history or in drinking.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs

I had tried a few times before to read this book, but bogged down somewhere in the first half of the book. This time I completed it. Yay!

This book offers an explanation of what Christian contentment is, many reasons why Christian contentment is excellent, and many reasons why discontent is a terrible evil. It convicted and comforted me. It does not move me as much as Richard Sibbes's 'Glorious Freedom,' but it was a worthwhile read, and I would highly recommend it to all my Christian brothers and sisters.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Multiple Bles8ings, by Jon & Kate Gosselin and Beth Carson

In honor of the birth of our sixth child a few weeks ago, a coworker of my husband gave this book to us, with a note attached indicating we only need two more to have eight. If we had not received the book as a gift I do not think I would ever have picked it up. I've never watched the reality show about the Gosselins, and found the photos of the family plastered on the covers of tabloids rather tedious.

I did not have high expectations for this book. In the beginning, though, even my low expectations were not met. As the book moved on through their experiences, however, I was surprised at how much simple human interest I found in the story of having sextuplets. I became more interested in the story than I had expected to be. Nevertheless, I would not recommend the book (I would not oppose it either).

Each chapter starts with a Scripture. There are many references to God, salvation, Jesus, prayer, etc. throughout the book. This made their recent highly public divorce sadder and more lamentable to me. I can't help but think that the pressure of being on a reality show could not have been healthy for their marriage.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

M. Aurelius became emperor of Rome when his adoptive father died. He was, by and large, a just man and a wise ruler, with the glaring exception that he persecuted the Christians during his reign. He became an adherent of the Stoic school of philosophy at a young age. In his 'Meditations,' M. Aurelius urges and seeks to persuade the reader to view life through a Stoic lens.

I did not enjoy the 'Meditations' as much as the 'Golden Sayings' of Epictetus. M. Aurelius was not nearly as pithy as Epictetus, and he went on at considerable length (i.e., I found his book somewhat tedious and repetitive). I would recommend the 'Golden Sayings' over the 'Meditations.'

The Horse that Leaps Through Clouds, Eric Enno Tamm

Subtitled: A Tale of Espionage, the Silk Road, and the Rise of Modern China

Around a hundred years ago the Russian Empire sent a military man by the name of Baron Mannerheim on a two-year-long mission to spy on China. A few years ago a journalist spent seven months retracing the Baron's steps.

Mr. Tamm wrote an engaging narrative about his trip, quoting from the Baron's diaries, letters, and military report to compare the awakening China of the early 20th century with the rising China of today.

What has changed? What has remained the same? What will China be like during this coming century? Mr. Tamm meditates on these questions and their answers.

I liked this book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in China in particular, or current affairs in general. Also, one can visit Mr. Tamm's website and see many pictures of his trip, a neat use of social media.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Prince, by Machiavelli

What remains for me to say about such a legendary book? Machiavelli had been exiled and excluded from political life. While exiled he studied history and political philosophy. Machiavelli distilled what he learned from his studies into this little treatise, which he offered to the Medici when they regained power. He was not restored to any position in political life.

In 'The Prince,' Machiavelli poses the question 'Is it better to be feared or loved?' He approaches the subject in a very logical way, dividing and subdividing his subject and posing and answering questions in a coherent manner.

This was a surprisingly easy read.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

eye of the god, by Ariel Allison

The Hope Diamond, seen by around 100 million people since being donated to the Smithsonian, holds a deep attraction for many. Is the attraction due to the beauty of the gem? The size? The legacy of being cursed? I know it was my favorite exhibit when I lived close to the Smithsonian and could visit it at my leisure. I didn't even care about any of the other exhibits.

In 'eye of the god,' Ariel Allison explores some of the true history of the stone and the nature of the curse on it, in a modern-day fictional intrigue to steal it. Will the would-be thieves succeed?

I thought it was fairly well-written, though there seemed to be some discrepancies between early parts of the story and later parts of the story (such as the chronology of the days leading up to the heist, for instance). I was surprised by one of the late twists in the story, which impressed me. The telling of the history was more enticing and enthralling to me than the contemporary scenes in the book. I did have a little difficulty in believing the character changes which one of the characters undergoes (I won't be more specific than that, to avoid spoiling the story).

All in all it was a decent, exciting, quick read.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A List

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, by Alexander McCall Smith. Does Mma Makutsi finally get to wed her beloved Phuti Radiphuti? What do her shoes tell her in this installment? Does Precious Ramotswe finally confront a case which she can't quite unravel? I like this series, and this newest book in the series does not disappointment. I like the courtesy of the old Botswana ways. I like the genuine but not showy affection Precious Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni feel for one another. These books are comfortable.

Three Dialogs of Plato, translated by Benjamin Jowett. I read this because it was the next book in a course of study I have set myself. The three dialogs are The Apology, Crito, and Phaedo. It's been long enough since I finished Crito (my course of study is going forward slowly) that I don't recall what it's about. Oops; so much for learning anything from my course of study. The Apology is Socrates' defense of himself when he was brought up on charges of corrupting the youth and corrupting worship. Phaedo is an account of the conversation Socrates had with his followers when in jail on the day he was to drink the hemlock. I like The Apology. If Socrates was as he is presented as being, he was a truly noble man.

The Wordsmith's Tale, by Stephen Edden. This was interesting and well-written, poetic and whimsical. The narrator tells his family story, beginning with his great-grandfather, which is a story interwoven with English history. It begins before William the Conqueror sets foot on English soil, and ends after his death. As the narrator was a storyteller by trade he shares some of his stock of stories as he tells his family story, and his stock resembles, in a primitive way, tales familiar to us as folk and fairy stories. There is much sadness in this book, and a fair amount of sexual references, but the story was interesting and the writing was fine.

The Three-Arched Bridge, by Ismail Kadare. I believe this is the first book by an Albanian author I have ever read. It was great. Spooky, like Poe. I was reading it one night, when my husband was at work, and I had to set the book aside to wait either for morning light or for the presence of another adult in the house. And yet the spookiness is not the point of the story. The story of the book takes place in Albania a long time ago. The narrator is a learned monk. The threat of Turkish domination is looming on the horizon. Of all the books on this list, this book has the distinction of possessing the greatest literary merit. (We'll allow The Apology to have the greatest philosophical merit.)

The Golden Sayings of Epictetus, translated by Hastings Crossley (isn't that a great name?). Epictetus was a Stoic. These Golden Sayings of his promote that bracing view of life. As it happens I am also reading The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs. The contrast between the two books is striking. While to some degree they counsel reaching for the same goal, that of not complaining, but accepting one's lot (Epictetus of course refers to gods, while Burroughs to God), yet they are worlds apart. Epictetus expects you to find the strength you need to be stoical within yourself. Burroughs offers the help of the Holy Spirit. Epictetus speaks as if one can stand before the gods and sincerely claim to merit their approbation. Burroughs confirms that one needs a mediator between oneself and God. Epictetus does away with all excessive feelings. Burroughs allows that one may feel the pain of one's circumstances, may plead with God with tears and lamentations, yet submit to His will. I do think there is value in reading Epictetus; it could stiffen one's spine with good, but not with the best, reasons. But it is not a work of grace (not that I expected it to be).

On the Narrow Road: Journey into a Lost Japan, by Lesley Downer. The author took a walking tour of Japan, following in the footsteps of Japan's Shakespeare, Matsuo Basho (of the 17th century). The author weaves together her own experience, the experience of Basho, and the more distant history of Japan (Basho himself followed in the footsteps of a legendary Japanese warrior, Yoshitsune). I enjoyed this book and appreciated the view it provided into a culture I know very little about. Ms. Downer jumped around chronologically a bit too rapidly from time to time, leaving me occasionally confused as to which of the three eras she was talking about. Aside from that problem I thought the book was well-written. She mentioned that 'why' is not a question considered appropriate in polite Japanese circles. That left me wondering, do the children there not go through a 'why' phase? Or is just squashed quickly? It also made me aware of how often I ask why. It's a word that escapes my lips multitudinous times a day.

And with that I am caught up! Time for a little victory dance. I had begun to wonder if I could maintain a blog.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Dog Who Came in from the Cold, Alexander McCall Smith

I am a fan of Smith's Botswana stories, and so decided to try one of his Corduroy Mansions series. I think Smith excels at characterization; that skill was evident in this book. However, I did not care for the characters as much as I care for the characters of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. Nor did I care as much for the looser morals embraced by the Corduroy Mansions characters. It was a pleasant read, but I don't know that I'll read the other book(s) in the series (I think there's only one other at this time).

And I am being brief because I am still behind by five books! Plenty of time to read, very little time to type with two hands.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Celebrating Children's Books, edited by Betsy Hearne and Marilyn Kaye

This book includes essays by authors, artists, critics, editors, and publishers of children's books. Given the great number of different authors, the writing covers a wide range of styles, some very gripping, some enlightening, and some, frankly, boring. It tackles such topics as imagination, realism, the grammar of story, the standards for critiquing scientific works, how to select a reviewer, and the role of librarians in putting the right book in the right hands.

I would recommend it to anyone interested in children's books, or in gaining a backstage view of the publishing industry. But then, I love reading books about books, and especially books about children's books.

Some favorite passages:

"Indeed, one of the purposes in presenting the past is to develop the watcher in children, for the living of life and the watching of life are bound by one cord...And I want them to be exposed to those specific and unforgettable bits of information and snatches of anecdote that cling to memory like barnacles, part and parcel forever of the momentous occasions, the tragedies, the shocks that each generation suffers." Jean Fritz

"Young as Alex is, already he has learned to detest history. The only history he has been taught is obviously not very good history: dates and boring facts--littering the textbook, dirtying the blackboard, befouling the wall charts; and on the quizzes the unrelenting demand for the names of presidents and battles...{Learning history} 'is a step aside from self, a step out of the child's self-preoccupation, and therefore, a step toward maturity'...To have a sense of history is to have a sense of one's own humanity, and without that, we are nothing...In totalitarian countries, governments amputate the collective memory." Milton Meltzer

"...many science programs reinforce the notion that doing science means memorizing facts, jargon, and numbers that seem irrelevant to everyday life. As a result, the public feels that science is much too complex for ordinary folks, and that it is a source of final, absolute answers rather than a continual search for truth." Laurence Pringle

At any rate, I have now put off that ironing pile yet again.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke

This was a long (in terms of number of pages and the amount of time it took me to read) and broad (in terms of how many characters and how much action it encompasses) book which I would describe as a sort of light-hearted Harry Potter for adults (and yet I don't know why someone old enough to read Harry Potter wouldn't also be able to read this). I would recommend it to people who enjoy works of fancy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Master Georgie, Beryl Bainbridge

This novel relates the story of Master Georgie's life, as told in first-person narration by three different people who know him: a servant girl, his brother-in-law, and a sometime employee. I thought the author did a great job of revealing the character of each narrator in the narrator's voice. The ending did not satisfy me. I find as I get older that the hopes and desires of fictional characters seem hollow to me. I used to enter the secondary world with great gusto, and could almost believe myself an inhabitant of it. Now I am more aloof.

My Old Man and the Sea, David Hayes and Daniel Hayes

A father and his son bought and finished a 25-foot sailboat, and then sailed it around Cape Horn. They became the first Americans to sail around the Horn in a boat less than 30 feet long. They alternate telling the tale of their adventure. The most touching aspect of this book was the love they display for one another, and their musings on the father-son relationship and all that it entails.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

An Announcement, and an Explanation

It is with great joy that I announce the safe arrival (nearly four weeks ago) of the baby boy we expected. This is for those of you (I think there's at least one!) who read my blog but are not friends with me on facebook. Thus the lengthy break since my last book blog. I am several books behind now, and am foolishly hoping that someday soon I'll have the opportunity to sit and type out verbose opinions about each book. Ha.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart: A Midwife's Saga, Carol Leonard

This 'Midwife's Saga' was more interestingly written than 'Into These Hands.' Ms. Leonard is a great storyteller. Some of her stories made me laugh, and some made me cry (a rare feat for a book).

She uses a fair amount of salty language, so reader beware. She also frequently describes herself as praying to the Goddess.

This book would appeal to those who enjoy reading about birth, and who can handle salty language and pagan spiritualism.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, Ina May Gaskin

This is now my favorite guide to childbirth. I loved it. I've already begun recommending it to expectant mothers of my acquaintance. Ina May states that she set out to write a book which would affirm for women that, by and large, they are capable of giving birth naturally. She succeeded at her goal admirably.

Reading it felt like having a cozy chat with a loving, wise, and educated grandmother. I much preferred this book to Ina May's 'Spiritual Midwifery,' perhaps because she doesn't come across as quite so hippy in this newer book. She sticks to generally used anatomical words (if you've read 'Spiritual Midwifery,' you know what I have in mind by contrast). I appreciated her reasons why a woman would want to give birth without pain medications.

I would like to have several copies of this book on hand in order to loan/give to my friends. I think this book would be a wonderful read for anyone wanting a solid guide to childbirth, a refreshing view of childbirth, a well-articulated rationale for natural childbirth, or reassurance that natural childbirth is not the freaky choice that the modern medical establishment would lead you to believe. Five stars.

The Still Point, Amy Sackville

This novel, which tells the stories of two couples, one modern-day and the other from an earlier era, is beautifully written, with a tight formal control (for instance, the story of the modern couple takes place over 24 hours, fulfilling the ideal of the unity of time of the ancient Greeks). Each sentence is hauntingly beautiful. The novel as a whole is incredibly well-structured.

Nevertheless, I was halfway through the book before I cared about any of the characters, and even at that point I only began to care for one. By the end of the book I was involved and caring and hoping for a happy ending. I did not find the book very engaging.

In spite of the novel's obvious strengths, I would be surprised if many readers actually liked this book. I would expect it to win awards for the skill the author brought to bear in crafting it, but I would not expect the normal, every-day, run-of-the-mill reader to care a great deal for reading it.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

ALONE: Orphaned on the Ocean, Richard D. Logan and Tere Duperrault Fassbender

I first heard about this book on another book blogger's blog. The idea intrigued me. When Tere Duperrault was eleven years old she went on a dream sailing vacation with her parents, older brother, and younger sister. After a week of sailing the captain of the ship was drawn from the waters, apparently the sole survivor of a tragic accident. A few days later, while the captain was giving his testimony about the accident to the Coast Guard investigators, someone rushed in with the news that Tere had just been rescued.

Tere had nearly died, after three nights and four days in the burning sun and frigid nights, without food or water. She spent several days in a coma after being rescued. When she did revive, the story she told differed significantly from the story the captain had told.

This is a true tale of survival against seemingly insurmountable odds. This is a true tale of the difference between appearances and reality. It was a quick read; I consumed it in 24 hours. I think this book would appeal to those who are interested in survival and true crime.

Into These Hands: Wisdom from Midwives, edited by Geradine Simkins

I read this book because I am quickly approaching the due date for my sixth child and realized that I had not yet done any 'birth' reading this time around. This book collects the autobiographies of 25 modern day midwives. These 25 women share some characteristics in common (most, if not all, seemed to have been influenced to become midwives by the revolution of the late 60's and early 70's), but they also followed different paths to becoming midwives. Some are certified nurse midwives (CNMs), some are licensed midwives or certified professional midwives (CPMs), some are lay midwives. Some have worked in hospitals, some both in the hospitals and homes, and others only at home.

Because the book was written by 25 different authors, many different views in many different voices are presented. The women represent the gamut of world religions (Jewish, Islamic, Christian, Hindu, Goddess worshippers, agnostic). Some wrote much better prose than the others wrote.

I have to say that I would only expect this book to be of interest to those who are already intensely interested in midwifery and alternatives to the 'normal' birth choices of modern-day America. I would not recommend this book for those who would like a first introduction to midwifery.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dead Aid, Dambisa Moyo

In this book Ms. Moyo first documents the fact that aid has not alleviated the poverty of Africa, has in fact worsened the situation in Africa, and why that is so. In the second part of the book she talks about alternatives to aid which have been tested and proven in other countries, and how they might work in Africa.

I found this book much  more compelling than Ms. Moyo's other book, How the West Was Lost. I found a lot less to disagree with.

The statistics she marshals to demonstrate that aid has not worked, despite 60 years of trying and billions of dollars and various emphases for the aid, are truly startling and dismaying. "But has more than US$1 trillion in development assistance over the last several decades made African people better off? No. In fact, across the globe the recipients of this aid are worse off; much worse off. Aid has helped make the poor poorer, and growth slower." p. xix.

"Even the most cursory look at data suggests that as aid has increased over time, Africa's growth has decreased with an accompanying higher incidence of poverty. Over the past thirty years, the most aid-dependent countries have exhibited growth rates averaging minus 0.2 percent per annum." p. 46.

"And between 1970 and 1998, when aid flows to Africa were at their peak, poverty in Africa rose from 11 per cent to a staggering 66 per cent. That is roughly 600 million of Africa's billion people trapped in a quagmire of poverty--a truly shocking figure." p. 47.

Ms. Moyo offers many reasons why aid does not work, such as corruption in government (which is spurred on by aid), and many alternatives which could turn the tide for Africa, such as micro-financing. She recommends that those nations and institutions which give aid to Africa should decide to gradually decrease aid over five years, and then turn off the taps permanently.

One can only hope that this book finds its way into the hands of influential people, who act on its message. Aid has failed, but there is a better way.

Glorious Freedom, Richard Sibbes

I cannot highly enough recommend this book to the attention of my fellow Christians. I have read it a few times now, and it has not failed to move me powerfully each time, to grow me in grace, to enrich my understanding, to strengthen my faith.

If you have a tender conscience, if you struggle with guilt, if you desire to better understand your position in Christ, if you desire to better understand the work and role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer, if you like to contemplate the glories of heaven or the marvelous free grace of the Savior, if you seek assurance of salvation or long to know more about the certainty of God's work in His people, this is the book for you.

The work is a pastoral exposition of 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. Every word is full of grace and truth and life. My copy is more underlined than not.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Sampler

"Some, on the pretext of this freedom {Christian freedom}, shake off all obedience toward God and break out into unbridled license. Others disdain it, thinking that it takes away all moderation, order, and choice of things. What should we do here, hedged about with such perplexities? Shall we say good-by to Christian freedom, thus cutting off occasion for such dangers? But, as we have said, unless this freedom be comprehended, neither Christ nor gospel truth, nor inner peace of soul, can be rightly known." Calvin's Institutes, Book III, Chapter XIX, section 1. This caused me to reflect, as I have so often reflected during the course of reading The Institutes, that Calvin is much more balanced than the caricature of him which is most popular suggests. It also reminded me of what I heard Doug Wilson say many times during my three years in Moscow, Idaho: that there is a ditch on each side of the road.

"Let us labor to grow 'from glory to glory,' though we lose in other ways. What is lost and parted with in the world is well lost if it is for the gain of any grace, because grace is glory. It is a good sickness if it increases patience and humility. It is a good loss if it makes us grow less worldly-minded and more humble. Everything else is vanity in comparison. And that grace that we get by their loss is well gained. Grace is glory; and the more we grow in grace, the more we grow in glory." "Glorious Freedom," Richard Sibbes, p. 161. As Sibbes says elsewhere, "Grace is glory begun; glory is grace perfected."

Friday, July 29, 2011

I Dreamed of Africa, Kuki Gallmann

Kuki Gallmann was born in Italy, but as a child dreamed of living in Africa one day. She made the dream come true when she and her second husband bought a large ranch in Kenya. After several years, her husband died in a car crash. Three years later her teen-aged son died, bitten by a snake whose venom he was trying to milk. Rather than turn from Africa to Italy, as her family and Italian friends tried to persuade her to do, Mrs. Gallmann stayed in Kenya and founded the Gallmann Memorial Foundation, with an environmental/conservation focus.

Mrs. Gallmann wrote her prose poetically. My favorite parts of the book were her lovely descriptions of the wildlife and natural beauty of Kenya. Her ability to write extensive and nuanced pictures of the personalities she met impressed me. The story of her grief over the two tragedies in her life did move me.

I did not, however, find the book compelling as a whole. I disliked the mysticism she displayed when writing about death, especially the death of her husband, when she suggests that the daughter she was carrying when her husband died was the reincarnation of her husband. Her husband and son seemed a bit larger-than-life, and I found myself wondering if they could possibly have been quite as wonderful as she describes. She defends one of the affairs she had (with a married man, lest I be misunderstood) after her husband died as 'pure.' She condemns the influence foreigners have had over Africa and Africans, yet she herself both exercises and seeks influence over the land and the people. I concluded the book thinking that Mrs. Gallmann probably thinks too highly of herself.

I do not regret reading the book, but I do not intend to keep the copy I own, having no desire to read it again, or loan it out, or encourage my children to read it. As capacious as my bookshelves are, I must draw the line somewhere.

I have not seen the movie based on the book.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Child's Own Book of Verse, Book One

I've been reading a few poems a day a few days a week out of this sweet little volume to my 4yo daughter. We both enjoyed this book.

Ada M. Skinner and Frances Gillespy Wickes edited it. Maud and Miska Petersham illustrated it. It was originally published in 1917. My copy is a republication by Yesterday's Classics (if you're a parent and you're not yet familiar with Yesterday's Classics, I urge you to become familiar with them). By my count there are 105 poems by 42 different poets and Anonymous (who wrote more than anyone else). There are two succeeding volumes, which my 4yo and I are eager to read.

In my opinion this volume of poetry far excels more modern poems. I don't have a problem with most modern poetry written for children, but I do not think it as high quality as the poems contained in this book.

Here is one of my favorite poems in the book:
"What can I give Him?
Poor as I am?

"If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb.

"If I were a wise man,
I would do my part.

"Yet what can I give Him?
Give my heart."  by Christina G. Rossetti

Crazy U, Andrew Ferguson

In Crazy U, Andrew Ferguson uses his personal story of guiding his son into college to examine the current situation for those heading to college in America. Mr. Ferguson is a very humorous writer, causing me to nearly laugh out loud at several points in the book. The photo of him on the inside back-flap of the dust jacket calls to mind Mark Twain (perhaps simply because of the hair and mustache).

Here Mr. Ferguson discusses the essay: "As we've seen, admissions people tend to be chipper folk, serotonin-soaked and caffeinated from birth, and they assume that every high school senior should be too. In the trade, essay questions are called 'prompts.' It is a revealing term of art. It suggests that the purpose of the question isn't really to draw out information, it's to offer a nudge--to perch the kids at the top of a verbal toboggan run and then give a little push, so they take off yapping and don't stop till they reach the five-hundredth word. Prompts work better for some kids than others; some kids, I mean, are promptable by nature, while some could be tied to the mast and lashed with prompts till the welts rise and yet not give up a syllable."

Here he summarizes Professor Richard Vedder's explanation of why college costs have risen dramatically: "Why are there no incentives to cut costs?...a large portion of the people consuming the services aren't paying for the services out of their own pocket. The costs are picked up by third parties...In the case of higher ed it's the government again, plus subsidized loans and scholarships that pass though the schools themselves. The self-regulating system of supply and demand breaks down...Normally, an increase in price reduces demand, which in turn moderates prices. In higher ed, that doesn't happen. When the prices rise, subsidies increase. With more Pell grants available for low-income students, more scholarships and cheap loans given to the better-off families, the school are free to raise tuition again."

In fact, the explanation sounds alarmingly like the explanation of the sub-prime mortgage bubble. One has to wonder (Mr. Ferguson wonders in the book) whether the financing of higher education is headed for a similar burst. This point reminds me also of a book I read a little over a year ago, DIY U. Higher education is priced unrealistically high; something has to break in the system at some point, but what and when?

In the course of the book Mr. Ferguson examines such issues as the SAT, what it measures, what its importance is, how it has been changed over the years to answer its critics; the application process; the FAFSA; what is college for; growing up enough to let go of one's kids; even how the sexual culture of the college campus has changed since his own student days.

I enjoyed reading the book. I enjoy contemplating the topic of education. I enjoyed the humor of the book. However, I do not think the book will be of much interest to those who are not either in the midst of launching their own children into college, about to begin the process of launching their children into college, or generally interested in the subject of education.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

How the West Was Lost, Dambisa Moyo

I have been putting off blogging about this book, because I am rather daunted by it. I did try blogging about it earlier this week, only to be disappointed by what I wrote. I am approaching this attempt to review the book with lowered expectations of my ability to review the book. Which hopefully means I will meet with some level of success this time (waiting to blog about this book is actually slowing my reading of my next book, as I don't want to get too deep into the next book with this review still hanging over my head).

On the whole I would recommend this book. I take but two main exceptions to the message of the book.

First: in the early part of the book Ms. Moyo details the causes of the 2008 subprime mortgage fiasco. In this portion of the book she clearly lays a great deal of blame for the fiasco at the feet of the federal government, which promoted the idea of the mortgage industry loaning to those who really could not afford to borrow. "Despite the opprobrium heaped upon the bankers for their enthusiastic role in the financial wizardry around the sub-prime industry, the responsibility must also lie with well-intentioned policymakers stretching as far back as the post-Second World War period...Well before the sub-prime fiasco, the US government had established Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were precisely mandated to provide easy access to subsidized home loans and mortgages...The mandate came from on high, with an increase in homeownership a stated goal of both the Bush and Clinton administrations (and even that of Jimmy Carter)." p.70

 Later in the book, in a section titled "The Fork in the Road: The Case for State-Led Development," she argues for a state-led capitalist system, and she uses the 2008 financial crisis as the strongest plank in her argument. "The case for a government-led capitalistic approach (and for not allowing the free market to run roughshod) has seen no more compelling evidence than the 2008 credit crisis." p.141. I thought this a bit contradictory.

Second: later in the book Ms. Moyo shows apparent admiration for the way the Rest (the economically-rising non-Western nations, such as China and India) organize the affairs of their citizens. "The Rest have taken a more cynical (but perhaps the more realistic) view of the world in which we live. Their political and economic systems are guided by a dogged belief in the state, and a suspicious apprehension as regards the behaviour and motivations of the individual." p. 145 As a Westerner with a deeply entrenched view that individual civil liberty is a beautiful thing, I find government intrusion into such matters as how many children I have and whom I marry repulsive.

There is, of course, a lot more to this book than these two points I am taking exception to. I do think the book is worth reading.

Sunday Sampler

"Then said Saul unto his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him. So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armourbearer, and all his men, that same day together." I Samuel 31:4-6. So much death, all on that same day together. Such a bleak and grim and gory ending for I Samuel.

"Indeed, he states that 'he has chosen us in him' from eternity 'before the foundation of the world,' through no merit of our own 'but according to the purpose of divine good pleasure;' that by his death we are redeemed from the condemnation of death and freed from ruin; that we have been adopted unto him as sons and heirs by our Heavenly Father; that we have been reconciled through his blood; that, given into his protection, we are released from the danger of perishing and falling; that thus ingrafted into him we are already, in a manner, partakers of eternal life, having entered in the Kingdom of God through hope. Yet more: we experience such participation in him that, although we are still foolish in ourselves, he is our wisdom before God; while we are sinners, he is our righteousness; while we are unclean, he is our purity; while we are weak, while we are unarmed and exposed to Satan, yet ours is that power which has been given him in heaven and on earth, by which to crush Satan for us and shatter the gates of hell; while we still bear about with us the body of death, he is yet our life." Calvin's Institutes, Book III, Chapter XV, section 5. What a glorious salvation! What a glorious Savior!

"Of all contemplations under heaven, there is no contemplation so sweet and powerful as to see God in Christ and Christ first abased for us, and to see ourselves abased in Christ, and crucified in Christ, and acquitted in Christ. And then let us raise our thoughts a little higher, to see ourselves made little by little glorious in Christ; to see ourselves in him rising and ascending and sitting at the right hand of God in heavenly places; to see ourselves, by a spirit of faith, in heaven already with Christ. What a glorious sight and contemplation this is! If we first look upon ourselves as we are, we are as branches cut off from the tree, as a river cut off from the spring, that dies immediately. What is in us, except what we have derived from Christ, who is the first, the spring of all grace, the sum of all the beams that shine upon us? We are as branches cut off. Now to see Christ, and ourselves in Christ, transforms us to be like his image. It is the sweetest contemplation that can be." Richard Sibbes, Glorious Freedom

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sunday Sampler {a day late}

"And he changed his behavior before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard." I Samuel 21:13. I have always been fascinated by the idea of David, fleeing for his life from King Saul, taking refuge with the king of Gath, feigning madness so as not to alarm the king of Gath.

"...his free goodness, with which the Father embraces us in Christ when he clothes us with the innocence of Christ and accepts it as ours that by the benefit of it he may hold us as holy, pure, and innocent. For Christ's righteousness, which as it alone is perfect alone can bear the sight of God, must appear in court on our behalf, and stand surety in judgment. Furnished with this righteousness, we obtain continual forgiveness of sins in faith. Covered with this purity, the sordidness and uncleanness of our imperfections are not ascribed to us but are hidden as if buried that they may not come into God's judgment, until the hours arrives when, the old man slain and clearly destroyed in us, the divine goodness will receive us into blessed peace with the new Adam. There let us await the Day of the Lord in which, having received incorruptible bodies, we will be carried into the glory of the Heavenly Kingdom." Calvin's Institutes, Book III, Chapter XIV, section 12. What a glorious Savior we have! He does all the work, and invites us to share in His glory.

"So by the virtue of Christ's resurrection I am conformed more and more to the graces in him. As the power of God's Spirit raised him up when he was at the lowest, after three days in the grave, so the Spirit in every Christian raises him up at the lowest, to comfort, to a further degree of grace, more and more. When Christians are fallen into any sin or any affliction for sin, when they are tripped and undermined by their corruptions, the same power that raised Christ from the grave raises them from their sins daily, that they gather strength against them. And when we are at the lowest, in the grave, the same power will raise us like Christ in every way." Glorious Freedom, Richard Sibbes, p. 118. True believers have the very same Spirit at work in them who raised Christ from the dead. How could God possibly fail to save His own?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

True Grit by Charles Portis

Such is my ignorance that, up until a couple weeks ago, I did not know that True Grit was a book before it was a movie. When we had watched the newer version I looked into the differences between the story told in the older movie and the story told in the newer movie, and thus came to know about the book. I had been happy with the older movie, and scared of what the Coen brothers might do to mess up the newer movie (I especially feared they would find some way to sexualize the story). Now that I've seen the newer one, I'm very impressed by it and, on the whole, prefer it to the older one.

Now I have read the book. I believe the older movie stays closer to some of the details of the working out of the story told in the book, but the newer movie captures more of the true spirit of the book. Both movies are remarkably faithful to the book (something I rarely find myself saying; don't even get me started, for instance, on the terrible and needless change to Faramir's character in The Two Towers).

I liked the book and found it to be a quick read. It is clean enough that I am allowing my 8yo daughter to read it (I'm not sure she'll finish it, but at the moment she's excited to try). Several of the reviews quoted on the copy I read speak of the wide range of ages the book appeals to.

Interestingly, Mattie in the book is an outspoken Presbyterian, right down to directing the reader to look up several passages to prove the doctrine of Election. The movies kind of leave that out. Also, in the new movie the Indian who is hanged towards the beginning is not allowed to speak any last words (in stark contrast to the two white men who are being hanged at the same time). In the book he makes a sort of profession of faith: "I am ready. I have repented my sins and soon I will be in heaven with Christ my savior. Now I must die like a man."

I enjoyed the book enough that I am interested in reading the other books of Charles Portis. I also hope to add True Grit to my personal library. The old-fashioned language used in the book offers one of the chief delights of reading it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Sampler

"And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble. The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them. He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed." I Samuel 2:1-10.

"In short, when it is a question of the righteousness of works, we must have regard not for the work of the law but for the commandment. Therefore, if righteousness is sought from the law we will in vain bring forward one work or another, but unceasing obedience to the law is necessary. Therefore, God does not, as many stupidly believe, once for all reckon to us as righteousness that forgiveness of sins concerning which we have spoken in order that, having obtained pardon for our past life, we may afterward seek righteousness in the law; this would be only to lead us into false hope, to laugh at us, and mock us. For since no perfection can come to us so long as we are clothed in this flesh, and the law moreover announces death and judgment to all who do not maintain perfect righteousness in works, it will always have grounds for accusing and condemning us unless, on the contrary, God's mercy counters it, and by continual forgiveness of sins repeatedly acquits us. Therefore, what I said at the beginning always holds good: if we are judged by our own worth, whatever we plan or undertake, with all our efforts and labors we still deserve death and destruction." Calvin, Institutes, Book III, chapter XIV, section 10

"You see, then, that the grace in the gospel is not mere persuasion and entreaty, but a powerful work of the Spirit entering into the soul and changing it, and altering the inclination of the will heavenward, whereas corruption of nature turns the soul downward to things below. The soul is carried up and shut to things below. We must have great notions of the work of grace. The Scripture has great words of it. It is an alteration, a change,  a new man, a new creature, a new birth." Richard Sibbes, "Glorious Freedom," p. 106.

Last week I quoted Calvin quoting Ambrose pointing out that we are like Jacob, approaching our Father dressed in our elder brother's clothes, to receive a blessing we do not deserve. I mentioned that I had never looked on the story of Jacob in that light. Today I read this in Sibbes: "In the gospel, faith works in us to see God's face openly, and to come boldly with...Esau's garments; that is, to come with Christ, and we cannot be too bold."

It is interesting how reading one book can open one's eyes to see something in another book. I have read both Calvin's Institutes and Sibbes' "Glorious Freedom" before, and never took notice of the mention of our story being like Jacob's story, and now I have seen it once in each book in the course of one week. That makes me eager to read even more: broadly, deeply, promiscuously.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"The Uncommon Reader" by Alan Bennett

This novella posits a reigning queen of England who comes to the pleasures of reading late in her life. One book leads her to another, and before long she has become an avid reader. Her course of reading enlightens, liberates, humanizes her; as she puts it in the book, 'tenderizes her.' For the first time she has sympathy for others, and learns to put herself in their shoes.

The story is pretty simple and straightforward. In reading it, I chiefly delighted in some of the descriptions of the reading experience.

"What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren't long enough for the reading she wanted to do."

"...but briefing is not reading. In fact it is the antithesis of reading. Briefing is terse, factual and to the point. Reading is untidy, discursive and perpetually inviting. Briefing closes down a subject, reading opens it up."

"Books are not about passing the time. They're about other lives. Other worlds. Far from wanting time to just wishes one had more of it."

"Once she would have let this pass, but one effect of reading had been to diminish the Queen's tolerance for jargon."

"...and she felt about reading what some writers feel about writing: that it was impossible not to do it..."

"And it occurred to her (as next day she wrote down) that reading was, among other things, a muscle and one that she had seemingly developed. She could read the novel with ease and great pleasure, laughing at remarks, they were hardly jokes, that she had not even noticed before."

"Undisclosed" by Unnamed

A couple days ago I finished a book in which Oscar Wilde figures as a detective (!). Because of certain parts contained in the book, I don't care to review the book in the traditional sense. I did not want to acknowledge publicly that I had read it, nor did I want to ignore the fact that I had read it. Do not ask me why I read the whole of a book I do not care to acknowledge having read. I had my reasons, but, as they are probably not good reasons, I shall not share them.

The book did pique my interest in Wilde, though. I thought that in this blog post I would share some of Wilde's witticisms.

"A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's face is her work of fiction."

"A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally."

"Anybody can be good in the country. There are no temptations there."

"Arguments are extremely vulgar, for everyone in good society holds exactly the same opinion."

"Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative." (That is for all my friends who are unregulated in their habits, as I am in mine.)

"Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught."

"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months."

"I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself."

"I can resist everything except temptation."

"I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best."

"If one cannot enjoy reading a book again and again, there is no use in reading it at all."

"In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience."

"It is only the modern that ever becomes old-fashioned."

I suppose I should close with that, though I have found ever so many more Wilde witticisms worth remarking.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"The Double Comfort Safari Club" by Alexander McCall Smith

I can remember being disappointed with the first book in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novel I read several years ago. I believe I expected more thrill, more plot, more mystery than it contained. I have since come to value the series highly. The characters are believable, sympathetic and consistent. Each book is chock-full of sage reflections on human nature. From being disappointed, I have come to find comfort in reading these books.

In "The Double Comfort Safari Club," Mma Ramotswe tackles several cases: she is asked to locate a beneficiary of a will, whose identity is not known; a man and his wife separately ask her to find out if the other is having an affair; a victim of a ruthless woman enlists Mma Ramotswe's help in securing justice. In addition to all that, her assistant's fiancee suffers a terrible accident, and a member of his family tries to turn that into an opportunity to keep them from marrying. That's plenty for Mma Ramotswe to take on in one book, but she does so gracefully (for a woman of traditional build), graciously, and ably, bringing each one to a satisfying conclusion.

This series is also notable among recently published works for not containing explicit sexual content. Indeed, when my six-year-old (let us call her The Lawyer) asked if she could read the book, I said yes (not that I expect her to read it, but I did not feel that I must rush the book out of her hands, lest her eyes chance upon a sordid or lurid comment).

These books make for pleasant, philosophical reads. I would recommend them to my friends, and I will be searching out the ones I haven't yet read. I would keep them on my shelves (few mysteries make it there).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday Sampler

I thought perhaps I could make a habit of sharing samples from my devotional reading on Sundays. Here's take one.

"And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now, therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines." Judges 13:3-5.

It is interesting to me to notice how often, as the Old Testament saints waited for God to fulfill His promise of a Seed who should deliver them, God sent men to deliver them temporarily, and how often in doing so He opened a womb that had not before borne a child.

"For this reason, it seems to me that Ambrose beautifully stated an example of this righteousness in the blessing of Jacob: noting that, as he did not of himself deserve the right of the first-born, concealed in his brother's clothing and wearing his brother's coat, which gave out an agreeable odor, he ingratiated himself with his father, so that to his own benefit he received the blessing while impersonating another. And we in like manner hide under the precious purity of our first-born brother, Christ, so that we may be attested righteous in God's sight." Calvin, Institutes, chapter XI, section 23.

That is a view of the matter that I'd never considered before!

"Do consider what a loving God we have, who would not be so much in love with his only Son as to keep him to himself when we needed him; a God that accounts himself most glorious in those attributes that are most for our comfort. He accounts himself glorious not so much for his wisdom, for his power or for his justice, as for his mercy and grace, for his philanthropia, his love of man. Shall we not therefore be even inflamed with a desire to gratify him, who has joined his glory with our salvation: who accounts himself glorious in his mercy above all other attributes?...What a comfort this is to sinful man, that in casting himself upon Christ and upon God's mercy in Christ, he yields glory to God; that God has joined his glory with our special good; that here is a sweet concurrence between the chief end and the highest good of man!" Richard Sibbes, Glorious Freedom

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Tell Me, Pretty Maiden" by Rhys Bowen

A short post for an acceptable, but not exceptional, mystery. Molly Murphy is an Irish woman transplanted to New York in the early 20th century. She opened her own detective agency in order to make her way in the world. In this book she ends up working three separate cases, which she resolves by the end of the book. Molly was likable. The book is written in the first-person, which I don't prefer, but got used to before long. I thought that the lengths she went to in order to resolve the final case near the end of the book stretched my belief almost too far, except that they did seem in keeping with the somewhat impetuous character of Molly. I would be willing to read other books in the Molly Murphy series. I must commend the author for keeping obscene subjects offstage. Sexuality is present, but implicitly, not explicitly. It was a relief to read a book which contained merely implicit references to sex. A couple of the characters seemed to have suspiciously modern outlooks, but I'm no expert on what mindset most people might have entertained in 1903. As I said at the beginning, an acceptable, but not exceptional, mystery.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Unnatural Death" by Dorothy L. Sayers

Ah, nothing like a little Sayers mystery when one needs something clever but light to read. She is one of my favorite mystery novelists. I will admit that I had something of a crush on Lord Peter Wimsey, in the days before I got married. Now I think I would find him somewhat intolerable as a real-life companion. As a character in a book, though, he's great fun.

"Unnatural Death" strikes me as a bit unusual for a murder mystery, in that the culprit is correctly suspected from nearly the beginning of the book, even in the absence of any clear motive. The means of death, however, remain a mystery until near the end.

I was happy to catch a literary allusion this time which completely escaped me the first time I read this book, lo, these many years ago: Lord Peter quotes a line from "The Walrus and the Carpenter." "'I weep for you,' the Walrus said: 'I deeply sympathize.'" I suppose that's what one gets after years of reading aloud to one's children.

Sayers's writing is delightful. "She was (she did not attempt to hide it from herself) precisely the type and build of person one associates with the collection of subscriptions." As if those who solicit contributions to charity ran true to a specific physical type! And we admire Miss Climpson's modesty in not attempting to hide it from herself.

I take delight, too, in Miss Climpson's epistolary style, with all its underlinings and exclamation points. Her letters serve to illustrate her character.

"Mrs. Cobling turned out to be a delightful old lady, exactly like a dried up pippin..."

"Oh, gods of the wine-flask and the board, how long? how long?--it is a ham sandwich, Goth, but not an ordinary one. Never did it see Lyons' kitchen, or the counter of the multiple store, or the delicatessen shop in the back street. The pig that was sacrificed to make this dainty tidbit fattened in no dull style, never knew the daily ration of pig-wash or the not unmixed rapture of the domestic garbage-pail. Observe the hard texture, the deep brownish tint of the lean, the rich fat, yellow as a Chinaman's cheek; the dark spot where the black treacle cure has soaked in, to make a dish fit to lure Zeus from Olympus. And tell me, man of no discrimination and worthy to be fed on boiled cod all the year round, tell me how it comes that your little waitress and her railway clerk come down to Epping Forest to regale themselves on sandwiches made from coal-black, treacle-cured Bradenham ham, which long ago ran as a young wild boar about the woodlands, till death translated it to an incorruptible and more glorious body?"

I could go on, but you'd do better to pick up a Sayers book and read it for yourself.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"A Fine Balance"

"My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus' blood and righteousness..."

Reading "A Fine Balance" by Rohinton Mistry caused me to reflect on the nature of hope. His novel is set in India in 1975. Four people, from three widely disparate backgrounds, are brought intimately together for about a year under trying circumstances. They start by distrusting one another, and end up caring for one another. Several smaller characters feature in the story, as well (one reviewer described Mistry's work as being 'Dickensian' in scope). Mistry wrote believable, likable characters who have continued to live in my memory after closing the book. I am haunted by their troubles.

As the book goes along we hear of the unspeakably inhumane and cruel treatment that these four characters have suffered, and of the similar treatment the lesser characters have suffered. Misery abounds in the novel. Injustice is everywhere. The whole political system is rotten and corrupt through and through. Even those people who desire to be honorable and upright are forced, through their fear of their superiors, to be unkind to those under them. Anyone lacking authority or raw power has no reliable recourse to redress their grievances. Life is perilous. One's hold on the good things of life is tenuous.

One of the lesser characters, who appears only a handful of times in the book, is the only one to use the phrase 'a fine balance.' He speaks of the misery that lies on all sides, that afflicts every person he knows of or sees. He says the only possible response is to strive for a fine balance, between misery and hope. But the hope he offers is baseless. Given the almost constantly cruel way people treat one another, and the absence of power to achieve what one hopes for, there is no basis for hope.

And what is the object of hope? A crowded and uncomfortable residence instead of a crowded and uncomfortable pavement. A hope that someday one might encounter a truly kind person. A hope that Lady Justice will blind her eyes to the bribes being offered her on all sides. At best, a hope that one might not lose what one has, or that one might gain slightly better circumstances.

Contrasted with the eschatological hope of a Christian, based upon the finished work of Christ, I found the hope urged on the characters in the book woefully inadequate, without a foundation, and directed towards a trifling and temporary benefit. In the recent words of a friend, reading the book caused me to 'cry out to God for the human condition.'

On a side note, I must lament the fact that so many of the newer books (let's say 20 years or younger) which I read include so much gratuitous, sexually explicit descriptions, either of acts or of parts. Even the more literary works such as this one include them. I find such books marred by such descriptions.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Few of The Tyrant's Favorite Books

Let us call 5th dear daughter (2yo) The Tyrant. The Tyrant has no shame about demanding that I read to her, no matter the day, or time, or place, or other-activity-already-engaged-in. The Tyrant has actually begun waking up, in the middle of the night no less!, with these words on her pink lips: "Read to me, Mommy!" I thought I would share some of my thoughts about the titles she requests over and over and over and over and, well, you get the idea.

"Welcome, Little Baby" by Aliki. This book offers simple, loving text and soft, sweet illustrations. The text is written from the parents' perspective and addressed to the baby. One of my very favorite illustrations in the book is of the new mom nursing her new baby. The Tyrant gets excited about that, too. 'Baby wants nigh-nigh!' she squeals every time we get to that page (nigh-nigh being our family term for nursing).

"McDuff and the Baby" by Rosemary Wells. This book likewise offers simple text, but with more colorful illustrations. The story centers on how a loved dog reconciles himself to the new baby in the family. My favorite part of this book is how the dog is illustrated: cute and very expressive, without being anthropomorphised.

"All Together Now" by Anita Jeram. This book tells how Mommy Rabbit came to have Miss Mouse and Little Duckling for children. The author illustrated her own book, and it looks just like "Guess How Much I Love You," because she illustrated that book, too. I've long thought this book would be good for families who have adopted children, on account of the subtle and implied support for adoption, as, for instance, when Miss Mouse and Little Duckling think 'It means, even if I don't look like a bunny, Mommy Rabbit's still my mommy just the same.'

"We're Going on a Bear Hunt" by Michael Rosen. This book is written with repetitive, poetic text, interspersed with fun sounds (such as 'squelch, squerch' to represent the sound of walking in mud). A father and four children set out on a bear hunt on a beautiful day, and encounter many obstacles along the way. This book lends itself well to changing one's voice to suit the mood of the page, even though the text is almost the same on every page.

"Aunt Pitty Patty's Piggy" by Jim Aylesworth.  This book has cumulative, repetitive text, and illustrations which evoke an earlier era. Aunt Pitty Patty buys a piggy who refuses to go through the gate into her yard. Aunt Pitty Patty entrusts Little Niece Nelly with the task of getting the piggy through the gate, while Aunt Pitty Patty goes on to make supper. Little Niece Nelly seeks help from many near her, who each in turn deny her request, until at last she finds one who complies, which causes a whole chain of events to occur, concluding with the piggy going through the gate. The Tyrant loves to chime in on this line: 'No, no, no, I will not go!'

The same author and illustrator team also wrote "The Tale of Tricky Fox," which is another favorite of The Tyrant, though not requested quite as often. Tricky Fox brags that he can steal a pig, if he can only trick a human into putting one into a sack for him. He succeeds in tricking a couple people in order to lead up to his final trick. He thinks he succeeds at his final trick, and carries off a bag heavy with what he takes to be a pig. To his 'sorry surprise,' he learns it's not a pig when he gets the sack home and opens it up.

"Circle Dogs" by Kevin Henkes. This book features not so much a story as a description of the life of two 'circle' dogs (dachshunds, I believe) throughout the day. The illustrations are bright, bold, colorful, simple, almost geometric.

"The Napping House" by Don and Audrey Wood. This book, in cumulative and repetitive text, tells how it comes to be that everyone who was napping gets awakened. The illustrations display a subtle shift in color from the beginning of the book until the end, going from a gloomy, rainy day to a bright and sunshiny day.

I could go on, and perhaps will another day, as The Tyrant does like yet more books. Strange, isn't it, that a two-year-old Tyrant should favor cumulative and repetitive texts?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Link to Burt Dow

A Short Note about the Books in the Picture

I selected the blog template I did because, of the eight or so choices offered to me, it seemed the most in keeping with my intended theme. I wanted to point out, however, that, in contrast to the pictured books, the actual books sitting on the actual shelves in my actual home have titles. The books pictured in the template appear to be wordless.

A Short Note about the Title

'Giggling Gull' is the name of the pet seagull of Burt Dow, Deep Water Man, in the book of the same name by Robert McCloskey. I decided to use it as the name of my blog because I thought it would help keep me from taking myself too seriously. My thoughts are nothing more than the giggles of a gull.

Calvin's Institutes

I have slowly been making my way through Calvin's 'Institutes of the Christian Religion' (slowly means I started a year and a half ago and am not quite halfway through). I do not count myself equal to writing a review, or even an opinion, of Calvin's magnum opus worth anyone else's serious attention. I thought, however, that I might share small selections of his work. Here is a paragraph I read this evening:

"That God has promised to be with believers in tribulation they experience to be true, while, supported by his hand, they patiently endure--an endurance quite unattainable by their own effort. The saints, therefore, through forbearance experience the fact that God, when there is need, provides the assistance that he has promised. Thence, also, is their hope strengthened, inasmuch as it would be the height of ingratitude not to expect that in time to come God's truthfulness will be as constant and firm as they have already experienced it to be. Now we see how many good things, interwoven, spring from the cross {the Christian bearing the cross, that is}. For, overturning that good opinion which we falsely entertain concerning our own strength, and unmasking our hypocrisy, which affords us delight, the cross strikes at our perilous confidence in the flesh. It teaches us, thus humbled, to rest upon God alone, with the result that we do not faint or yield. Hope, moreover, follows victory in so far as the Lord, by performing what he has promised, establishes his truth for the time to come. Even if these were the only reasons, it plainly appears how much we need the practice of bearing the cross." Book III, chapter VIII, section 3.

This passage is poignant to me at this time because of my decreasing ability to serve my family on account of my increasing pregnancy. This cross certainly is striking at my perilous confidence in my flesh.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My First Ever Blog Post

Well now, I can hardly believe I'm jumping on the blog bandwagon. I can't believe that I really have the time to start a blog. I guess we'll just wait and see how long I keep this up before I peter out.

I've been thinking about starting a book blog for several weeks now, mainly because I like to read books, think about books, and talk about books. I have few enough opportunities to discuss books these days, and hence the blog as a venue at least for monologuing about books, even if not for dialoging about books.

My dear husband is putting the children to bed right now, giving me a rare opportunity to sit at the computer without (too many) interruptions.

Now, to finish a book so I have something real to blog about!