Book Reviews

I haven't done as much reading as I know I should have.  I have made it an increased priority in my life in the past few years.  I've always been the type to catalog and collect things and that is why I have a list of the books I've read and when I finished them.  After reading some of them, I was so compelled to share what I learned that I ended up writing down what I thought about them and that is how this sub-section got started.
  • Have You Seen My Country Lately?: America's Wake-Up Call by Jerry Doyle ( reading... )
  • Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould ( reading... )
  • What's So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D'Souza ( reading... )
  • When Religion Becomes Evil by Charles Kimball ( reading... )
  • The New Concise History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden ( 3/13/2011 )
  • The Devil's Delusion by David Berlinski ( 1/15/2011 )
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy ( 1/9/2010 )
  • The Greatest Networker in the World by John Milton Fogg ( 1/8/2010 )
  • 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper ( 6/5/2009 )
  • Who's Looking Out for You? by Bill O'Reilly ( 5/31/2009 )
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman ( 5/30/2009 )

    If you're curious as to the definition of the word "scrobble" apart from the usage, I found Neil's answer on his blog:

    And I just went looking for the query someone sent me about Mr Croup's use of the word "Scrobble" in Neverwhere, used to mean "get at" or "kidnap" and couldn't find it. But for the record, I got it from John Masefield's wonderful book The Box of Delights... (Now out in the US, curiously published before the book it followed, The Midnight Folk. I suppose you don't need to have read The Midnight Folk first, but still.)

    Tuesday, February 12, 2008: pens, bubble wrap and bookends

  • Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny ( 5/24/2009 )
    (2nd read) %REVIEW%
  • The Shack by William P. Young ( 3/23/2009 )
  • Holy Superheroes!  Exploring Faith & Spirituality in Comic Books by Greg Garrett ( 8/4/2007 )
  • Six Battles Every Man Must Win  by Bill Perkins ( 7/4/2007 )
    This book was very easy to read and therefore very practical.  It often read much like a "how to" manual.  I am very interested in books like this that can provide tools for making it through life.

    I have had to struggle with many personal demons in my life.  Several have diminished over time and some are no more.  Recently to my dismay, I've discovered new ones that are much worse than any of their former cohorts.  Books like this one have given me a powerful weapon for my struggles; the weapon is hope.

    According to the author, men must daily battle for:

    • their identity
    • personal holiness
    • their family
    • endurance through pain
    • their friends
    • a strong faith

    I was impressed by the stories the author used to illustrate his points.  For instance, he begins the chapter on personal holiness with this:
    For centuries the garments of European rulers and judges have been lined with ermine fur. The Story behind that custom highlights one of the most unusual behaviors in the animal kingdom.

    An ermine is a cute little animal with shiny black eyes and beautiful fur. It has short legs and a narrow body that's some twenty inches long from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail. The agile animal is found in the northern region of the northern hemisphere. In summer, its coat is a rich chocolate brown except for the undersides of the body and legs. In winter, the color changes to a clear white, broken only by a black tip on the tail.

    If you looked up a picture of the ermine at the library, you would be shocked by the purity of its white fur. The ermine seems to realize the beauty of its coat and takes great pride in maintaining it. Indeed, the animal's most unusual characteristic is its hatred of anything that might soil its fur.

    Hunters who know this will fill an ermine's burrow with filth and wait with their dogs for the furry animal to return. Once the ermine spots the dogs, the snow-white creature will dart for the safety of its burrow. But the ermine will not enter the soiled safety of its home. Rather than flee into the burrow, the ermine will fight the dogs to the death. It would rather die with a bloodstained coat than live with a dirty one.

    That's why the ermine's fur is used on the robes of rulers and judges. It serves as a symbol of the purity of justice and law.

    Don't you find it amazing that God programmed an ermine to prefer a fight to the death over a soiled coat? Its instinct for purity outweighs its survival instinct.

    Mighty men need a similar instinct. We need to realize personal holiness is a value worth fighting for--in fact, it's the second battle every man must win. I'm convinced it's also a battle we won't enter into until we understand the holiness of our God and the holiness he has given us through his Son.
  • Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant?: A Professor And a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism & Christianity  by Preston Jones ( 6/25/2007 )
  • Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning  by Victor Frankl ( 6/16/2007 )
  • What Jesus Meant  by Gary Wills ( 6/16/2007 )
  • Mere Christianity  by C. S. Lewis ( 4/2007 )

  • Asleep  by Banana Yoshimoto ( 7/2006 )
    I had forgotten that I even read this one as I'm entering this in July 2007.  I had read this at last year's Comic-Con while I was waiting for a panel.  This was not the type of book I would have ever picked up if it weren't for a co-worker who recommended it.  I was a dreamy kind of writing, the sort that you would write while you're drifting in and out of slumber.  I enjoyed it but it did not make me want to read more from this author simply because it's not my cup of tea.

  • Wild At Heart  Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul by John Eldredge ( 6/8/2005 )
  • The Gifts of the Jews  How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels by Thomas Cahill ( 5/27/2005 )
  • Cracking Da Vinci's Code You've Read the fiction, Now Read the Facts by James L. Garlow and Peter Jones ( 5/22/2005 )

  • Slaughterhouse-Five: Or the Children's Crusade by Kurt Vonnegut ( 6/20/2004 )

  • The Preserving Machine by Philip K. Dick (3/13/03)
    This was a collection of short stories, 15 to be exact.  For the most part they were science fiction and a few were basically horror in genre.  Most of them were *very* enjoyable with a couple of duds.
    • The Preserving Machine: I loved this one because it explored the types of beasts that would result from differnent works of classical music.  The idea is that the world was headed into another dark age and one person decides to transmute great works of art into living organism to give them a fighting chance of survival when humanity no longer will care for them.  Needless to say things don't go quite as planned.  Hint, just imagine what kind of creature would result from anything done by Wagner ;-)
    • War Game: If you were going to create a game in order to subvert your enemy, just how would you go about it? This one had a cool twist ending.
    • Upon the Dull Earth: I think this one falls into the horror category.  I would love to see this one on film.  It gave me the creeps.  A man loses the girl he is to spend the rest of his life with and then loses her to the other side.  So how much is he willing to risk have her restored to him?
    • Roog: I like how this author incorporates animals into his stories.  Before I had read any of his work, I had seen Blade Runner and was fascinated by how the lack of real animals on earth was portrayed.  Nevermind that glitch of showing all the pigeons in the loft scene... but I digress.
    • War Veteran: Cool time rift plot.  It had a movie like feel to it.
    • Top Stand-By Job: I know a lot of people would probably not mind having a super computer running the country and perhaps someday that's what will.  But will humankind ever really want to give up all that power?  I'm not sure Maximilian Fischer really liked the idea.
    • Beyond Lies the Wub: I've been a vegetarian since June of '98 and so this one tickled me pink.  In some respects, I thought it was similar to Ellison's Mephysto in Onyx.
    • We Can Remember It for You Wholesale: I was very pleasantly surprised as I began this one.  It became more and more obvious that this was the story the movie Total Recall was based on! Hollywood had its way with it as usual but I thought the concept was well preserved from short story to silver screen.
    • Captive Market: I think this one would have made an excellent Twilight Zone episode.  It just had that feel to it and the story could have easily have fit in a half hour show.  Talk about price gouging... ouch!!!
    • If There Were No Benny Cemoli: A large force moves into a situation looking to set things right.  Sometimes having an "in" in the media can be a *very* effective tool.
    • Retreat Syndrome: Have you ever read one of those stories that have the potential to loop infinitely? This one was a very well written one of those.  It injects just the right amount of ambiguity to make you ponder what you just read before you can get to the next story.
    • The Crawlers: This one was very cool as it explored mutations from living too close to radiation labs.  But what do you do with those mutations? Is it humane to eliminate them? Wouldn't it be better to just relocate them to a remote island where they can do no harm to anyone? You had better think that over very carefully.
    • Oh, to Be a Blobel!: I didn't like the ending of this one too much but there were some very humorous parts in the middle that I really enjoyed.  Just imagine a scene where two strong guys are just starting to fist fight and then both of them transform into amoeba like oozing blobs on the floor.
    • What the Dead Men Say: There's no talking to the dead, right? Could it be that someday we'll actually be able to speak with those who've died by maintaining them in a state of "half life"?
    • Pay for the Printer: This was a cool variation on the post nuclear apocalypse scenario.  I think this would have made a great Twilight Zone episode.

  • God: The Evidence by Patrick Glynn (3/2/03)
    By and large... what an incredibly good book this was! I think it is terribly mistitled though. It was much less of an attempt to prove the existence of God as it was a very insightful examination of the secularism of Western thought for the last several centuries and how the spiritual aspect of reality can no longer be excluded.

    He speaks of the "reconciliation of faith and reason in a postsecular world". That struck me as very odd when I first looked at it and in fact the guy at the check out counter even remarked that he thought secularism was alive and well and wondered about that subtitle. But the author makes the case that a purely secular view of the world is no longer sufficient in light of recent scientific discoveries and other societal transformations. For instance, the emergence of the antropic theory and the downfall of communism.

    I honestly don't see how this book would be that good of a book to convince a complete atheist to become a theist. The NDE (near death experience) stuff I felt was the weakest part of the book. While there are many very interesting stories about them, I just felt it was too much in the realm of any other claim of the extraordinary. It almost reminds me of Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, or UFO claims. Lots and lots of tantalizing stories but a disappointing lack of decent evidence. Even if NDEs were confirmed, there is no way of actually determining if people are experiencing the "other side". They could be experiencing another aspect of physical life for all we know. I would have preferred this section be left out.

    The book confirms a lot of the things I've been thinking over the years about how faith and reason should not be set at odds to one another. It seems to me that the faith I embrace demands a clear head and clear reasoning to bring it to a more useful level. There is no doubt that things like the pogrums in Europe against the Jews, the witch hunts in Salem, and the Crusades show how religion can be taken to "evil" extremes. But can we forget that an estimated 60 million deaths can be laid at the feet of an atheistic "crusade" known as Communism?

    I must admit that a part of the coming shift the book describes worries me. Are we setting ourselves up for a rejection of reason and science because it will be seen as incompatible with faith or spirituality? I pray to God that we can avoid that trap! What a calamity that will be for humanity. Can you imagine how many physical advances in health care, food production, and many other boons to the fight against human suffering are at stake if we abandon the "tool" of science?

    I will just conclude this mini review by saying that I think his final section entitled Reason and Spirit was very well put and I look forward to more of us embracing the possibilities that a reconciliation of the two can bring about.
    If the history of this century offers any lesson, it is that goodness--and a relationship to God, to the Absolute by whatever name He is called--is not only the beginning of wisdom but the only path by which it can be attained.
  • The No Spin Zone by Bill O'Reilly (2/19/03)
    A very good and quick read.  Sixteen chapters of inside information and recounts of the interviews he's done over the last few years on his television show, The O'Reilly Factor.  I very much enjoyed it and found myself recalling most of the conversations he covers in this book.  But the discussion around each guest and topic really adds to the interviews that go so quickly on the television.

    The most memorable behind the scenes encounter for me was the Rev. Al Sharpton.  After one of the interviews, he looked Bill in the eye, shook his hand, and told him he "was right on this one".  As Bill says, he respects people who have enough courage to come onto a show that pulls very few punches.  I have very little good to say about Al Sharpton, but I will admit after reading that chapter I felt a heck of a lot more respect for him than I'll ever have for Jesse Jackson who has yet to come on an take on some "real" questions.

    I said this in the review of Bill's other book, I love him not because I agree with him on every issue but because he is honest and cuts right to the heart of the matter with his guests.  He doesn't require anyone to love him and therefore he can ask the questions that very few other interviewers have the guts to.  I applaud Bill for his efforts and I hope his show continues to be number one and that he never gives up his crusade to hold people accountable to their actions, especially our public servants.

  • Islam Unveiled by Robert Spencer (2/15/03)
    I am playing catch-up when it comes to understanding Islam.  I have always been pretty clear on the general precepts and structure of the religion but not too good on the specifics.  This book is an excellent mix of history and scripture that is used to better understand how modern Muslims see their faith and how they think it needs to be applied.  There is no one these days who isn't thinking and/or worrying about what caused the brutal attacks on New York by Osama Bin Laden and his followers.  There has been a large question as to what the world of Islam as a whole thought of the attacks.

    The truth of the matter is that there are a great many teachings at the core of Islam that can be used to justify such actions.  There are verses that command followers of Allah to kill the infidel and precious few that mitigate such pronouncements.  It is not to say that moderate voices are not found in Islam but rather there are relatively few.

    I found this book to be very informative but also troubling.  Aside from the obvious concern I have about the violent nature of much of the religion, I am uncomfortable because much of the same things have been levied against my own faith of Christianity.  I found myself wondering if I was criticizing another religion only to have someone else hit me with the same issues.  However, it must be noted that Christ's commandments to love your enemies and pray for those that hate you mitigate any of the other more venomous passages.  That is the key difference and that is what the book made very clear.

    I recommend this book highly but as with anything, please keep in mind the possible biases lurking under the surface.

  • Project Orion by George Dyson (9/14/02)
    Fascinating... a spaceship capable of exploring our solar system and propelled by nuclear bombs.  It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel.  The only difference being that this was a real project begun in the late 1950s and sadly killed, the year before my birth, in 1965. 

  • The Last Question by Isaac Asimov (9/11/02)
    Really cool short story.

  • The War Against the Terror Masters by Michael A. Ledeen (9/7/02)
    I just had to sneak this one in between the other 3 books I'm working on.  I find that I can get more read if I spread out my interests over a few books at a time.

    Anyway, this one was extremely interesting and it relates very directly to the War on Terror that the free world finds itself fighting whether it's willing or not.  The author makes the case that we not only need to attack, kill or imprison, actual terrorists, but we must destroy the regimes that actively support them.  Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia must all be dealt with if we are going to defeat the Islamists. (please look that newly coined term up just in case you think I meant Muslims).  Each of these countries do not necessarily need to be confronted on the battlefield to accomplish victory.

  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (8/26/02)
    Read it a long time ago and I wanted to read the Lord of the Rings... properly.  That is to say that if one is going to start a trek, it should begin at the beginning.

  • The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (6/1/02)
    A study group that I wanted to join was going through this book.  Since I couldn't attend the meetings, I went ahead and bought the book anyway and I picked it up and just blew through it.  This was a very well organized book.  If you infer a courtroom type of case, then you will have gotten it correct.

    The only criticism I've heard from associates who have read it is that only Christian scholars are interviewed when discussing the evidences.  Some thought it would perhaps be more convincing if the claims in the book were presented with opposing viewpoints.  Given the perspective of the book, I would have to say that I still regard it as an excellent source of apologetic material.

    The documentary evidence really stood out for me as well as a discussion of non-biblical corroboration on the darkness that fell over the earth during the Crucifixion.

    In the section entitled "A Mountain of Manuscripts" we find these excerpts.
    ..."Next to the New Testament, the greatest amount of manuscript testimony is of Homer's Iliad, which was the bible of the ancient Greeks.  There are fewer than 650 Greek manuscripts of it today.  Some are quite fragmentary.  They come down to us from the second and third century A.D. and following.  When you consider that Homer composed his epic about 800 B.C., you can see there's a very length gap."
    . . .
    I asked, "how many New Testament Greek manuscripts are in existence today?"
    . . .
    Metzger's eyes got wide.  "More than five thousand have been cataloged," he said with enthusiasm, his voice going up an octave.
    That raises the question of what is the earliest portion of the New Testament in our possesion today?  In the section entitled "The Scrap That Changed History" we find out.
    "That would be a fragment of the gospel of John, containing material from chapter eighteen.  It has five verses--three on one side, two on the other--and it measures about two and a half by three and a half inches," he said.
    . . .
    "He [C. H. Roberts] concluded it originated between A.D. 100 to 150.  Lots of other prominent paleographers, like Sir Frederic Kenyon, Sir Harold Bell, Adolf Deissmann, W. H. P. Hatch, Ulrich Wilcken, and others have agreed with his assessment.  Deissmann was convinced that it goes back at least to the reign of Emperor Hadrian, which was A.D. 117-138, or even Emperor Trajan, which was A.D. 98-117."
    The author mentions how one of the most problematic references in the New Testament for him is where the gospel writers claim that the earth went dark during part of the time that Jesus hung on the cross.  One of the scholars he interviewed pointed out that Julius Africanus refutes Thallus' assertion that the darkness was an eclipse.  Thallus' work has been lost but the fact that Africanus mentions it in 221 A.D. is remarkable.  If you get the book, see the section entitled "The Day the Earth Went Dark for more details on this.

  • How the Irish Saved Civilization  The Untold Story of Irelands's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe by Thomas Cahill (11/03/01)
    Excellent book!  I mentioned how Bill Buckley's book was hard to read and this one was a pleasure to read.  The author brought to life for me some of what motivated St. Augustine and especially St. Patrick.  The book was basically about history but it was a story most people haven't heard.  I had heard about the book a few years ago because I knew that Joseph Michael Straczynski had read it and he even had an episode on his television show Babylon 5 reflect some of the concepts of this book.

    On a more relevant level, this book contrasted the Christianity of the Irish with that of Rome.  In some ways it reminded me of the struggle I find in the church today.  For instance, my home church is moving towards placing women in leadership positions and this is what the Irish did which drew scorn from the Romanized Christians from the continent.  Another point was made by a personal admonition from the author in the final paragraphs.  He believes that Western civilization had better reach out to the rest of the world rather than hug to tightly to it's ordered and highly prosperous society just as the Irish monks did.  He finishes the book with these words, "The twenty-first century, prophesied Malraux, will be spritual or it will not be.  If our civilization is to be saved—forget about our civilization, which, as Patrick would say, may pass 'in a moment like a cloud or smoke that is scattered by the wind'—if we are to be saved, it will not be by Romans but by saints".

  • Nearer My God by William F. Buckley Jr. (10/01)
    This was a good book but it wasn't easy finishing it.  Bill Buckley's writing style doesn't lend itself to fast absorption... at least not by me.  I started this book over a year ago and only finished now.

    It was very interesting getting an understanding of his faith and how he views some of the more difficult positions of the Roman Catholic Church.  I very much respect his adherence to it and I found myself inspired by his perseverance in the faith, even though I am not a Roman Catholic.

    Here are a couple of notable excerpts: excerpt #1:
    He [Chuck Colson] reminded me, in his moving novel Kingdoms in Conflict, that John Adams had written that the United States Constitution "was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other."  It was good, even if sad, to be reminded of the words of Lord Melbourne during the great debate in the 1830s on slavery.  "Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade public life," was how his lordship proposed to handle the argument of William Wilberforce that, God having made men equal, slavery should be forbidden.
    excerpt #2
    What has happened, in two generations, is the substantial alienation of the secular culture from the biblical culture, Irving Kristol has written that the most important political development of the nineteenth century was the wholesale loss of religious faith.  What happens is that man's natural idealism, struggling to assert itself and finding no congenital satisfaction in religious commandments about personal behavior, turns to utopianism which inevitably—whenever formally actualized—brings on the death of liberty.  Enter the twentieth century.  The impoverishment of religious sanctions imposes on the other sanctions a heavier weight than they are designed to handle.  When that happens and society gets serious about something (e.g., drugs), government has recourse only to force.  Governor Nelson Rockefeller's solution to the drug problem was to apprehend the drug user, put him in jail, and throw away the keys.  At this writing, the popular penological slogan is "three strikes and you're out"—three felonies, jail for life.  The great totalitarian triumvirate (Hitler, Stalin, Mao) took the legal sanction further than Cotton Mather took hellfire: or, put another way, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao brought us Hell on earth.  They had a vision.

  • The O'Reilly Factor by Bill O'"Reilly (1/01)

    I found this book refreshing because it is written by one of the most aggressive television personalities on the air today, Bill O'Reilly.  I consider anyone that has enough nerve to ask difficult questions of guests and not allow them to avoid answering directly to be refreshing.  Bill makes it his primary concern to press his guests on the issues rather than garnering their friendship.  This is precisely what I want from a journalist.

    But I'm talking about his show when I should be writing a book review.  Well, it should not surprise you that the book is direct, pragmatic, and entertaining.  Bill hits all the major issues that concern our country today from class to religion and from child rearing to how to succeed in the workplace.

    I recommend this book to anyone who doesn't require sugar coating on the information they consume.  We need more Bill O'Reilly's in the news business and far less of the sycophants!

    Before I conclude I must quote two of my favorite passages:

    Quote #1

    What keeps people from identifying their talents and using them?  Laziness, insecurity, and lack of discipline.  The cure for laziness is work.  The cure for insecurity is light-years more complicated, but it should not hold you back.  The cure for lack of discipline is to learn to make yourself do what you do not want to do, and do it on time.

    This is not always easy. But it's worth doing, if you want to live comfortably and feel proud of yourself.

    And you have to develop strong habits: Get punctual, bring energy and creativity to your work, and stay with a project until it's completed (and then double-check the results).  These habits will make you indispensable.

    Quote #2

    For some reason, I was inspired to ask my father about marriage a few days after he and my mother celebrated their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary.
    "So, uh, Dad.  What's marriage really like?"
    "You have no idea."
    "Uh, I know.  That's why I'm asking."
    "You'll see."
    Pause.  These answers did not. as you see, carry the conversation forward, but I was persistent.
    "But...I'd like to prepare a little."
    "Can't prepare."
    "Why not?"
    He looked at me without any expression.
    "You have no idea."

    Read the book.

  • A Torrent of Faces by James Blish and Norman L. Knight (12/29/00)
    This was an interesting story mainly speculating about the population explosion and issues related.  But it really covered a lot of ground all the way from colossal megapoli, genetically altered humans that live in the oceans, to global disasters like the Earth being struck by an asteroid named after an astronomer's wife.  I must admit, I wasn't inspired much by this book.  I kept reading all the time waiting for the "something more".  Not bad, but not a must read either.

  • They Walked Like Men by Clifford D. Simak (12/99)
    I read this one sometime last year.  It was a while ago and that's why I don't remember the exact date I finished it.  This was a pretty cool story.  It was your typical aliens taking over the world plot but it was just strange enough to keep my attention.  The aliens rolled around like bowling balls and the way they were finally defeated was just too nuts not to love.

  • Escape from Reason by Francis A. Schaeffer (12/7/98)
    Dr. Schaeffer traces the major trends in Western thought from Thomas Aquinas to the present.  In the first chapter he writes, "In Aquinas' view the will of man was fallen, but the intellect was not.  From this incomplete view of the biblical Fall flowed all the subsequent difficulties.  Man's intellect became autonomous."  Dr. Schaeffer challenges one of my main presuppositions about life in that I agree with Aquinas on this issue.  You know you've read a good book if it causes you to rethink assumptions.

    One of the other main points of the book is that modern Christians must understand modern thinking if they are going to have any chance of engaging in clear dialogue with those who are thinking it.  Actually, he wrote the book in 1968 when I was barely sentient and he speaks of parents losing touch with their children because the parents were not thinking along the same lines as the kids.  What interests me is that I am one of the children of whom he wrote and perhaps that partly explains why I am disagreeing with some of his analysis.

    He made another main point in the book which is that if one accepts the modern assertion that nature is all there is, then the only rational conclusion is that man is dead, God is dead, and anything higher is simply a pipe dream.  Because humans naturally resist this conclusion the only escape is an ascent (descent?) to the non-rational manifested by many in existentialism, drugs, entertainment, pornography, and even madness.  He and I are definitely on the same page on this one.  This point has come up several times during discussions I have had with atheist friends of mine.

  • Orphans of the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein (12/6/97)
    I remember my dad mentioning this book to me when I was very little.  I finally got around to it and am glad of it.

    Everyone knows that only religious fanatics read the Law of Gravitation literally.  It should be clear that the old ones used this poetic and allegorical language to describe the emotion of love.  The bodies referred to are human bodies and mass is their capacity to love.  Young people have a greater capacity for love than the elderly and when they are thrown together they fall in love, yet when they are separated they soon get over it.

  • Newt! by Dick Williams (12/4/97)
    ISBN: 1-56352-226-8
    I started taking Speaker Newt seriously sometime around 1991 when I heard one of his speeches on CSPAN.  My mom had always told me that republicans hated the poor and only loved getting rich.  Well, here was a republican who had better ideas about helping the poor than I had ever heard from anyone in the democratic party of which I was a proud member.  I mean providing opportunity for people instead of a government check?  What a concept!

    Newt is an exceptional man possessing extraordinary drive in a direction that is truer than most.  Here are a few highlights for me:
    1. Newt says he had read 500 books by the age of 10.  (I'll be happy if I get that many in before I take the Trip)
    2. In high school he was a voracious reader.  A friend recalls that "He had shoe boxes filled with reference notes...He must have had 50 boxes of them, and he used them in class and politics."
    3. After the first 100 days of the 104th Congress, all 10 items on the Contract had been voted on as promised.  Nine were passed and sent to the Senate.
    4. The following is a quote from his Renewing American Civilization lectures, Reinhardt College, Waleska, Georgia, 1995.  "If it turns out that faith is central to an ability to have personal strength and that faith gives you the ability to think beyond your immediate selfishness and therefore helps you leave the culture of poverty and move into a culture of opportunity based on a longer time horizon, and if that's an objective fact, then there is a whole question about how do you reshape public policy."

  • Halloween, Is It for Real? by Harold Lawrence Myra, Jane Kurisu (Illustrator) (10/97)
    ISBN: 0849914949
    Halloween is a confusing holiday for Christians because many of its elements can be traced to pagan practices and beliefs.  This book makes the case for enjoying Halloween and using this holiday to celebrate God's victory over evil.  This book is a children's book but the message is a hefty one all the same.

  • Halloween and Satanism by Phil Philips and Joan Hake Robie (10/97)
    ISBN: 091498411X
    To the book's credit, it contained a fair amount of information about the history of Halloween and many of the symbols associated with it.  However, I disagreed with the authors' approach to the occult and how it should be dealt with by Christendom.  The book contains several graphic descriptions of cruel rituals conducted by pagans as well as of the torture of "suspected" witches by local authorities during the Middle Ages.  An example is given where a "suspected" witch is tortured severely in order to gain a confession.  It is clear from the example that even if you were innocent the torture would continue until you confessed.  To my horror, the authors of this book followed this example with these words, "Lest the above-quoted author's explicit description of the terrible torture put upon witch 'suspects' cause you to become sympathetic toward witches, bear in mind the author's obvious liberal position concerning witchcraft and God's commandment toward those who practice it...death. Exodus 22:18 says Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." I hope to write an essay that explores more fully my reservations with the views expressed in this book.  Keep an eye on the Views section of this web site.

  • Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts, The Story of Halloween Symbols
    by Edna Barth (10/97)
    ISBN: 0395288479
    This book is in a children's book format but it is 96 pages of very well presented information on all the major aspects of Halloween.  It starts with the earliest known origins of the holiday and takes you through history to our present day practices.  It also describes each of the symbols most commonly associated with Halloween as well as some I had never even heard of.  One of the things that impresses me most about Halloween is its diverse origins and its diverse modern manifestations.  I recommend this book for anyone wanting a concise overview of Halloween past and present.

  • Slouching Towards Gomorrah by Robert Bourke (9/17/97)
    Robert Bourke says things in this book that all rational and intelligent people need to hear.  Whether or not you agree with him is irrelevant.  The trends toward moral and social decline in America are undeniable.  This book explores the reasons for this decline and the reasons for its acceleration and possible remedies for its reversal.  Two of the highlights for me were the chapters on censorship and religion.

  • God and the Astronomers by Robert Jastrow (5/27/97)
    Have you noticed a curious tendency of many in the scientific community to have a bias against belief in God and religion in general?  Hear what a prominent astrophysicist and agnostic has to say about it.

  • The Shadow Within (Babylon 5, Book 7) by Jeanne Cavelos (4/97)
    Whatever happened to Anna Sheridan on the Icarus?  What was Mr. Morden like before he became an agent of the Shadows?  Find out!

  • The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck (3/30/97)

  • The Rock Cried Out by Ray Bradbury (1/5/97)

  • Playground by Ray Bradbury (1/5/97) this one.

  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (12/28/96)
    Now that you know about this page you may need to call the fire department.

  • Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms by Ed Rollins (12/21/96)
    Politics is dirty business.  I enjoyed this book but it was messy.  Who was it that said that democracy is the worst form of government, but it's the best we've got? Churchill, I think.

  • Not Out of Africa by Mary Lefkowitz (8/18/96)
    Mary Lefkowitz teaches at Wellesley and has challenged the curriculum known as Afrocentrism.  She does not attack it because it is associated with Blacks but because much of it is simply false.  In this book, she gives several examples of Afrocentric claims that don't have any basis in history.  Some of the claims are that Cleopatra and Socrates were black and that all Greek philosophy was stolen from the Egyptians.  The most tragic aspect about this book is that Professor Lefkowitz has been accused of racism for nothing more than examining Afrocentric teachings in the light of reason and logic and making her conclusions known.  I recommend this book highly for anyone interested in the state of our universities and race relations today.

  • Reason Enough "A Case for the Christian Faith" by Clark H. Pinnock (8/3/96)
    Clark Pinnock takes five approaches in establishing a basis for Christian faith: the pragmatic, the experiential, the cosmic, the historical, and the community basis.  To you non-Christians, I recommend you give it a read with and open mind.  To you Christians it will make a great addition to your apologetics arsenal.

  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (7/16/96)
    I attended military school from kindergarten to ninth grade and I would really like to know what kind of school this author attended.  For much of the book I thought I was reliving those times.  I've also got to hand it to this guy for he sure had me fooled right to the near end.  Bugs!  Bugs!  Buggers everywhere, hey, I resemble that remark!

  • Mephisto in Onyx by Harlan Ellison (6/29/96)
    It is no accident that Harlan Ellison has received countless awards for writing!  This was an excellent short story that literally sent shivers up my spine at the climax.

  • Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny

    • Nine Princes in Amber (3/27/96)
    • The Guns of Avalon (3/29/96)
    • Sign of the Unicorn (4/96)
    • The Hand of Oberon (4/96)
    • The Courts of Chaos (4/96)

  • Think a Second Time by Dennis Prager (3/20/96)

  • Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (3/2/96)
    I've always loved science fiction. I've watched much more than I've read. So far this book retains it's status as a quiet favorite that I look forward to re-reading soon.  It does something special for me because of how it blends the Hindu pantheon, sci-fi, fantasy, and a surprise cameo from Christendom into one sublime package.  I believe this remained one of Roger's favorite books even though it was one of his first.

  • The Galileo Connection by Charles E. Hummel (6/4/95)

  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (6/22/92 9:58PM)
    Do you like Blade Runner? Read this and find out why it inspired one of the best science fiction movies ever.

  • I. Robot by Isaac Asimov (5/10/92 12:24AM)

  • The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

    • Foundation (2/26/91)
    • Foundation and Empire (4/6/91)
    • Second Foundation (5/7/91 12AM exactly)