Little more could be added to the overwhelmingly positive reviews of this book. For years, I've had my eye out for something I could ask my friends and relatives--who are not wealthy but nevertheless voted for Bush--to read. See, I know most of them are liberal, issue by issue, but are duped into believing the neocons somehow have the best overall plan for their own pocketbooks (if not for America).


Until now, I never found anything quite suitable. I cannot imagine anything more fair, less biased, less offensive to the other side than this book. The author, while articulate and firm about his beliefs, is gracious and gentle. If this isn't a painless read for those who want to learn how the other side thinks, then nothing is. You can only respect Robert Reich for his evenhandedness, directness and simple, easy-to-read discussion of complex issues. If people can't take this book, then--hello!--that explains how they can be so easily duped.

 

My Last Chance to be a Boy

by Joseph R. Ornig


Here’s the first full account of an amazing exploration adventure since Theodore Roosevelt was alive to tell it himself. Thanks to the author's years of meticulous research, we get to see the ex-president up close as every ounce of courage and determination that can possibly be required of a human being is exacted by this perilous expedition.


Why would a man, having already carved his name in history, literally risk his life in service to exploration? The title is informative; it was the kind of thing he loved to do. Roosevelt's passion for for life was abundantly demonstrated on the River of Doubt as he and his party encountered one life-threatening obstacle after another. If it wasn't the hostile natives who tracked them, it was the piranhas. If it wasn't a lack of food and supplies, it was flesh-eating disease.... As if fighting just to survive the forces of nature weren't enough, there was also the recklessness of some, including his own son. And there were personal conflicts among the explorers--disagreements, arguments, theft--and a murder. This wilderness adventure had it all--and it wasn't reality TV. No camera crew, no global positioning system, no one to bail them out at any point. In this age of apathy and plasticized existence, this story is all the more striking.


Out of this book emerges a fresh portrait of Theodore Roosevelt. We learn a great deal about him under conditions of maximum stress. We also get to know the group of explorers who accompanied him. And the generous 48 pages of maps and photographs are a real plus. Many thanks to the author for rediscovering this story and dusting it off for us with such literary finesse. For a non-fiction history work, it reads like a novel.

 


This little book should be required reading in any formal education, so that more people become aware of exactly how politicians, journalists, preachers and "other serial offenders" use bogus arguments through empty words, inconsistency, equivocation, begging the question, misusing statistics, putting a fancy dress on prejudice, etc.


So many specific examples have already been given in other reviews that I'll add my two cents in support of this work by offering a couple of page-long quotes. Although both of my selected quotes relate to religion (they could be read as the introduction to my essay on why I left Christianity), most of the book is not about religion.   Read the quotes...

 

                 Into the Arms of Africa

                      Minutes ago I was in a coffee shop fighting back emotion as I read the last words of this book that so

                      effectively made me feel like I actually knew these guys, Colin and Joe. It was sad to observe their

                      painful ends. I frankly don't know what to think of this book; it was powerful, to be sure, yet doesn't

                      lend itself to a quick and tidy analysis....


                      The word "profundities" comes to mind. What does a life mean, in the end? What makes life profound?

                      How are we to process its mysteries? To what extent were these two guys crazy? Or would it be the

                      observer who is “crazy” for thinking them essentially unusual? As the last line of the book alludes, to

                      what extent did their lives and deaths matter?


I must confess to identifying with Colin Turnbull perhaps more intimately than the average reader, given my own similar interracial attractions, interests in social betterment and travels to, and fascination with,  Read more...

The Road Less Traveled: Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth

     How amazing that we are still writing reviews on this record-breaking book 30 years after its writing! As one reviewer said, "The Road Less Traveled had an epiphany effect on my life." That has surely been the case for thousands. The author’s insights into spirituality had a far more profound, immediate and direct effect on my adult spirituality than did my strict religious upbringing and my entire education at private religious schools (not to disparage the lessons of my childhood rearing).


The section of this book titled "Discipline" taught me that "spiritual" means more than just religious--and I have been infinitely more in tune with my spiritual side (the non-physical aspects of who I am) in the 20 years since my first reading of this book than I ever was before.


The advice on love is indispensable. I used to tell everyone I dated that our relationship could not proceed until after they'd read that section--so they'd know what love is and is not! Another favorite section is where Peck talks about how most people stop drawing their maps of the world (their view of reality) at an early age because it is extremely painful to make revisions. But wise people embrace the pain of constantly redrawing our maps because it results in great rewards of meaning and purpose.


Some have mocked Peck's first sentence, "Life is difficult," as a big "duh." They fail to mention  Read more...

 


I'd heard many passing references to this 1945 classic, but somehow never in a context sufficient to wake me up to it's timeless political theme. (I think I vaguely confused it with Animal House, and I'm not interested in bratty frat boys.)


Hundreds of readers have already praised this book, so I’ll just say that what amazes me most is how universal its lessons are. One cannot help but see a parallel in the gradual watering down of the 7 commandments on the Animal Farm to today's Bush Neocons slowly but methodically dismantling the great principles of our country's foundation (USA) and our great social structures, little by little, while most of the people, as in Animal Farm, don’t notice. Before long, what was utterly unthinkable is considered, accepted, embraced. Likewise, we continue to see, as in Orwell's day, the rewriting of history through a sinister use of language and phraseology (including but not limited to fear) to deceive and control. If we don’t even bother looking at the past, we’ll lack that insight and leave ourselves more easily duped.


This book should be required reading for every human being, especially during this time of dangerous apathy. Sadly, even students are largely apathetic today. Once relied upon to be the cutting edge of protest, today they rally behind the hit song, "Waiting for the World to Change," —waiting it out instead of participating.


Truly there is nothing new under the sun, as Orwell's allegory helps to illustrate. We need awareness, and there is enough history behind us that we can easily BE aware. If not, woe are we.

 

Book Reviews


by Larry Hallock



Here are my thoughts on some great books I think others would enjoy.


Too many who honorably write to expose biblical and Christian shortcomings do so with an annoying, polemic tone. Sam Harris, not one of those, is straightforward but gentle in saying what must be said. I can easily recommend this book to Christian friends and relatives who ask why I left Christianity, without fear of it being offensive in its presentation.


Harris is able to focus on the basic themes of the Bible rather than utterly shred the book line by line until its every tedious contradiction is confetti, as so many writers do with great ceremony. In the big picture, not that much is required to make the point, and Harris does not need to quote much scripture. For example,       Read more...


 

Favorite coffee table books

on Africa

...and I have dozens!

The Burden of Bad Ideas (Yes, I read conservative stuff too)


If you are a dyed-in-the-wool conservative merely looking for a feel-good experience in the form of an endless diatribe against liberals, this book is for you. Read no further. Buy the book.


If, however, you are interested in solving the social problems that face our country today, and want to learn about the various merits and pitfalls of programs and suggestions for solving those problems, then you should forget this book and go in search of an author who cares at least as much about solving the problems as she does about dumping on liberals.


Anybody can blather endlessly on what's broken; but to impress me, you have to suggest a better way--or at least give the impression you actually care about resolving the problems in the first place. The problems historical to our welfare system, for example, are no secret to anyone. But hats off to those who care enough to keep trying to get it right. For her obvious lack of empathy, I can only assume       Read more...

 

                 The Age of Reason

                       This review is incorporated in my short article, "Bubba Rules!—How to Worship God Without the

                       Baggage," which includes "an exercise you can try at home." I suggest checking out that piece

                       instead of this book review.


                       Given the vitriol with which Christians have denounced Thomas Paine for more than 200 years,

                       one may be under the impression, as I was, that he was an atheist. He was generally denounced

                       as such, and Theodore Roosevelt's reference to him as a "filthy little atheist" was not atypical. But

                       upon actually reading his famous tome, I discovered he was in fact a devout man of God. It was

                       only Christianity and other organized religions he had a problem with, and he explains why.


Paine was a creationist who believed nature is God's primary revelation of himself to humankind. In this revelation are all the tools we need, to understand, to behave, to treat others with respect and kindness, to stand in awe of the creator and worship him. Thomas Paine did not appreciate anyone belittling God by suggesting he behaved as "revealed" in those old writings of men who did dastardly things and then justified their behaviors by claiming God told them to do it! Paine could see that the biblical God was created     Read more...

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                 What’s the Matter with Kansas?

                      by Thomas Frank

        

                       Highly recommended, but I haven’t written a review yet.


                       His sequel, The Wrecking Crew, is also highly recommended.

Not recommended

Homosexuality in History and the Scriptures


When the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference [of Seventh-day Adventists] publishes a paper, it means something. The institute's approval, since it is a General Conference organization housed in its Silver Spring headquarters, is like a Seventh-day Adventist imprimatur. So when the institute decided to publish Ronald Springett's paper on homosexuality, many hoped it would be a turning point in Adventist thinking, demonstrating a clear and honest understanding of homosexuals and homosexuality. But it wasn't....


                                                       Read the full review at the Amazon site

    I cannot be quite as generous as some of the other reviewers. Four stars for the church history, minus 2 for the gimmickry. I'll speak to that first, then follow with a couple of more substantive (if not deal-breaking) criticisms.


                This is a great book on church history. But it's packaged as a book about "eternity." It's like a present wrapped for the wrong occasion. Frankly it seemed to me that the author went in search of a new twist on an old topic--that would sell. Indeed the title, "A Very Brief History of Eternity," does sound more exciting than "A Very Brief History of the Church" or of Christianity.


                To pull off this rather gimmicky approach, the author repositions "eternity" as the main theme of Christi-anity, repeatedly harking back to his title by plugging in the word "eternity" at every possible


                                                                                               Find my 2-star review on Amazon...