A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

I liked this book a lot. While much of the story describes acts that would be extremely disturbing, I found it less so because the author wrote the book with made up slang that was not nearly as disturbing to me as an English description would have been. I felt like it was a telling story about the depravity of those in power. Made me dislike government even more than I did before.


Life of Pi - Yann Martel

I finally decided to read this after a lot of pressure to do so. I thought it was more of a philosophical, boy and tiger in boat talking to each other type of book. Thank goodness is wasn't.

I really liked it until the end, and then was not sure how I felt about it. But it makes you think and is well told. I enjoyed it.


Be Tolerant

I had stopped writing about anything other than book reviews here for a while, but something pressed one of my buttons.

I read that 68% of Americans oppose the “Ground Zero Mosque” that is not built on ground zero nor is strictly a mosque, but is a community center. I have heard people say that it is just too close and is an affront to what those people died for. The way people talk it makes it sound like bin Laden is trying to build a victory marker, which is stupid.

For those that oppose the center, would you oppose it if the builders specifically denounced 9/11? Would you oppose it if the builders stated that it was an attempt to show New Yorkers that not all Muslims want to bomb the city? What does it take?

It seems the opposition to the center is around a few points:
1- It is built at Ground Zero. False, it is not even bordering Ground Zero.
2- It is funded by terrorists. False, there has been no fundraising for the project yet.
3- It is built as an affront to those who died in 9/11. I have not seen or heard anything like that. Seems like fear mongering by idiots trying to score political points to me.

Implicit in all of the arguments against the center is that all Muslims are terrorists. That is wrong. This shouldn’t even be a political issue, this is just a common decency issue. Freedom of religion means letting people worship in any lawful way they please.

Finally, we have the opinion that the Muslim world wrongfully hates all Americans. Perhaps they do, that is not important. But can we really criticize them for hating us, when issues like this make it evident that we hate them too. Why should they like us when we persecute and villainize them for doing something legal? If you want a peaceful world, embrace peaceful people of all religions, including Muslims, and all of us can reject violence regardless of claimed belief system.


The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

This was my least favorite Hemingway book so far. It was fairly short, but seemed to drag. There was no point to the story, other than maybe it sucks to be impotent and watch the woman you love with other men. The descriptions of the places and the experiences were classic Hemingway though, so that made it more enjoyable.


The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle

It was interesting to read this and see the original Sherlock Holmes (much like dracula the story is greatly changed from the original). Most of the mysteries that were contained were patently obvious before Holmes "revealed" the answer to the mystery, but some of the mysteries had a twist. In the end it was just a fun read.


Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis

Mere Christianity is an intellectual "proof" of the truth of Christianity. Now you would probably think that as I believe the truth of Christianity I would be right in that book's wheelhouse. However, I was not.

The problem was that lewis arrived at conclusions with which I disagreed because his best tool was to create artificially restrictive dichotomies. He would say "it is either x or y, and since it cannot be x it must be y" while I would think, "but what about a, b, and c."

That being said, not a bad book and there is plenty to give people to think about how to be a better person. A lot on treat others well and don't judge someone because you can't know where they are coming from, which is a good idea for everyone regardless of faith.


A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway

I started this book and was troubled by the unartful writing of the book. While the style worked very well for old man and the sea, it seemed simplistic and unsophisticated in this story. Nevertheless, it was a compelling story.

There were two parts that particularly stood out to me. First was the story of the retreat of the italian army. I think it captured the insanity of war exceptionally well. There was no rhyme or reason, adn the fact that it felt normal that the war was such a mess was what made it more memorable.

The second part was during the childbirth at the end. The ending of was easily forseen. But during that part, while the main character is talking to God, he remembers an incident with a log full of ants, and how they and he responded when the log was thrown into a fire. The ants could do nothing and just burned, and he, the one with power, threw water on the log so that he could get whiskey (effectively steaming the ants). That anecdote made the conversation with God more poignant and haunting.


The Satanic Verses - Salman Rusdie

What is good? What is evil? This book explores those questions. I am not sure that I ever fully understood how the different stories lined up together, but there is a good message here.

Two men fall out of a highjacked plane. They are both transformed by the experience, both physically and mentally. One takes the form of a devil and decides to be a better human. The other takes the form of an angel and becomes psychotic. There are elements of mysticism for both, and I am not sure what was real and what was imagined. But in the end it is a story of redemption and hope. Nothing determines what a person is except that person.


Lord Jim - Joseph Conrad

This is the story of a man who makes a mistake early in life and then runs from the mistake and the notoriety, even the notoriety he made for himself. He eventually finds peace living among the native people on an island. However, the scars of that first mistake colors his life even on the island. He is driven by a need to not fail people again. Thi ultimately leads to him willingly going to his death. It was not a choice to go to his death, but determined by the life he had lead since his first mistake. However, he fails yet again. In his death, he fails those closest to him. And he fails to realize that his last act leads to a failure greater than any to that point.


Tender is the Night - F. Scott Fitzgerald

There are many love stories that end happily ever after. This is a love story that does not, but because it does not end happily, the reader can better appreciate the love story.

Dick Diver is a well respected and beloved psychiatrist. He falls in love with a mental patient and over the next ten years bankrupts himself mentally and emotionally to keep her cured. She eventually is cured and he is broken.

The strangest part of this book is that it appears that Fitzgerald was writing one story, and when he was about 60-80 pages into it, found a better story to tell. Instead of going back and changing the beginning he left it, seemingly letting the reader get to the point of the real story the same way that he did. It allowed him to tell an incredibly poignant story without getting bogged down in the back story in the beginning.

I don't know that everyone will enjoy the book. But if you like the writing style and story telling of The Great Gatsby, you will like this. In my opinion it is a better story, told better, and filled with more emotion.


White Teeth - Zadie Smith

I did not enjoy this book. It is the story of three families, the Iqbals, Jones, and Chalfins. You get the history of each member of the family. The story climax is the unveiling of "Future Mouse" by Marcus Chalfin. All of the characters are there at the unveling for different reasons, most intent on stopping the unveiling. Millat Iqbal shoots Archie Jones who falls on Future Mouse's cage, setting Future Mouse free.

I really got no great lesson out of the book, and it was not very enjoyable. It was simply a story. My biggest complaint was that at the climax of the book, the author tried to wrap all of the past history of all of the character together to show why each story of each character was important to the climax. This was ambitious and mostly well done, but to me it simply highlighted all of the extraneous story that was included. I would read another book by Zadie Smith, but this story was overly ambitious and failed to be all it could have been.


Starship Troopers - Robert Heinlein

Fantastic book. Kind of "Band of Brothers" in sci fi. Plenty of action, but also plenty of character.


Things Fall Apart - Chinnua Achebe

I very much enjoyed this book. It is the story of english imperialism told from the viewpoint of the people the english "civilized." Before the white man showed up, life was happy and peaceful. Bad things happened, but there was always an answer. After the white man showed up and started preaching his religion, son turned against father, traditions that had worked for all of memory no longer work, the sense of community that had led to a mostly peaceful existence was destroyed.

Okonkwo, the main character, refuses to give in to the destruction of his culture, but in the end kills himself in violation of his culture. The message being that when white man "brought civilization" to Africa, the native people were forced to join with them and turn against their culture, or not join and turn against their culture. There was no opportunity to continue their way of life that had worked fine before the europeans showed up.

One of the saddest books I have read.


The Adventures of Augie March - Saul Bellow

Not great. The story is about Augie, as you should have guessed, but Augie is a lazy and stupid character. He flows from one situation to another like a leaf on the wind, with no will of his own. It gets so bad that the author has to address it, and addresses it by having Augie say on numerous occasions that he doesnt know why people are drawn to him and help him, it just happens. In the end, he sacrifices for love and sells stolen goods on the black market to pay for his untalented wife. At one time he does find his calling, running a farm and school house for children so that someone will love him, but gives that up as soon as he runs into someone with more force of personality (anyone) who doesnt like the idea.

On the positive side, it is a very well written book. You feel like you are in the story, you just dont want to be there.


A Bend in the River - V.S. Naipaul

I have admittedly read very little African literature. Yet I feel as though this book seemed to capture the essence of the countries repeatedly torn apart by civil war. The main character is a man who comes to a village to run a store and make his way in the world. He arrives right after a war has finished that destroyed the economy of the village. There is a period of rebuilding and prosperity that is merely illusory and then is crushed again under another war. The man sees his investment grow and then shrink. He makes and loses friends and lovers. All because of the stress of the rebellions and impending wars. Eventually he leaves and goes to Europe. The feeling you get from the book is that no matter how hard you try to build a life for yourself, it will be taken from you and the only way to build a life is to leave Africa. But even when you leave, you cannot escape.

Arrowsmith - Sinclair Lewis

I thought that a book about someone devoted to science would be incredibly boring. To the contrary, it was very interesting to read about Arrowsmith whose dedication to science was more poignant because of his enormous flaws in other areas of his life. He was in part responsible for the death of his first wife and completely responsible for the destruction of his second marriage. In the end he runs off to the woods with his colleague to investigate "phage" turning his back on his wife and child. Yet despite this, he remains noble. After reading the book you both like and despise arrowsmith which is an uncommon feeling at the end of a book.

Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy

An illustration of the worst of human behavior. It follows a kid as he joins with a group that hires out as Indian killers and then goes on a killing raping pillaging spree across the desert. The story seems to really be about a character named "the judge" who initially appears as a sort of renaissance outlaw, but as the book progresses the judge progresses from Renaissance man to sociopath.