Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chester Alan Arthur

by Zachary Karabell

This one's a small biography about a small president. Chester Alan Arthur was a man of little ambition who happened to be an able lieutenant in the Republican political machine of the 1870s. Through no fault of his own, he was given the Republican Vice-Presidential nomination in 1880. He was elected with James Garfield and when the latter was assassinated months later, he found himself President of the United States. To hear Mr. Karabell tell it, Arthur was "neither great, nor terrible, nor remarkable" as president. He simply did the job as best he could in a time of relative social "calm and prosperity". As biographies go, this book is a bit lighter than I prefer to read, but it was the best complete biography the local libraries had to offer. While I didn't get a good picture of the times Chester Arthur lived through, I did get a competent picture of the man himself and his term in the White House.

Check it out.
LibraryThing link

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

by Cory Doctorow

You have a lot of people saying this is a great book. I do agree that you should check it out, but I wasn't quite blown away by it. I was impressed how Mr. Doctorow extrapolated from current technology--the internet and its subculture--and built a whole new milieu where people have direct interface to the web and death has been circumvented by the ability to restore a person to their most recent back-up. The story itself, however, wasn't quite as fascinating. Perhaps I'm a bit handicapped by the fact that I've never been to any of the Disneylands. I don't know.

LibraryThing link


Friday, July 22, 2011

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower

by C.S. Forester

I once read an article that compared Captain James T. Kirk, of Star Trek to Captain Horatio Hornblower. In fact, if I recall correctly, the article even said that Hornblower was one of the inspirations for Captain Kirk. I resolved then and there to read some of those Hornblower novels, as they were undoubtedly good stuff. So now it's thirty or so years later and I've read my first one. Don't let anyone, not even my wife--especially not my wife--tell you that I never get around to reading the books on my reading list.

Um, where was I? Ah, yes. Horatio Hornblower. This is not the first Hornblower novel ever written, but it is the first in the series chronology. It tells the tale of Horatio Hornblower's first voyages in the 1790's as a midshipman in His Majesty's Navy. Actually, I should say "tales", as the book is more like a collection of short stories rather than a single narrative. While he doesn't quite explore strange, new worlds, Hornblower does have some interesting adventures as he faces the dangers--of both man and nature--on land and sea. It's definitely a keeper.

On my shelf, it is!
LibraryThing link

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Great Divorce

by C. S. Lewis

I confess that I've come to love C.S. Lewis. He's got a way of fleshing out Christian teachings that not only touches the heart, but also helps me understand them better. In the Great Divorce, he looks at the nature of our sinfulness by recounting a visit of the outskirts of Heaven by citizens of Hell. In it we can see where our petty (but deadly) foibles will lead us and how God endeavors to save us from ourselves. The ending, I must also confess, is rather weak. But it's still worth checking out.

LibraryThing link


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Shadow #13

by Maxwell Grant

Back before network television, there were the pulps! Hack fiction meant to excite the spirit while letting the intellect slumber. This book reprints two stories from The Shadow magazine--one from 1933 and one from 1943. Then it fills it out with a couple of articles about The Shadow. 'Twas a fun read.

waiting room material
LibraryThing link


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Not for Sale

by David Batstone

I didn't exactly pick this book up on a whim, yet it wasn't all that premeditated, either. Human trafficking is a hot topic in church circles these days, so when I read a review of this book, I was inclined to pick it up. This is a book on human trafficking, or, to quote the subtitle, "The Return of the Global Slave Trade--and How We Can Fight It." Mr. Batstone tells the tales of modern slavery; not only of those forced to labor but also those forced to be soldiers or prostitutes. It was, of course, a disturbing read. It's a bit easier reading about historical injustice. Despite the pain and suffering, the writer usually comes up with some sort of happy ending. (The wars end, the afflicted are liberated, the bad guys killed or imprisoned) The injustice, the evil, has passed. I don't need to worry about it. The evil in this book, however, is current. The ending, happy or otherwise, has yet to be written. I felt helpless as I read, yearning for one of those storybook endings.

Still, the book is hardly one of despair. As he tells the story of the slaves, Mr. Batstone also weaves in the tales of the abolitionists--those who are the front lines of the struggle against this evil in our midst. At the end, the focus is entirely on the abolitionists and how a typical person can help them. Not quite the happy ending I wanted, but it was realistic. There is hope, but it's a hell of a challenge.

You really should check it out.
LibraryThing link


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