Tag Archive | Book Reviews

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

Source: purchased from Barnes & Noble

“Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands-literally thousands- of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.  The unhappiest people I know, romantically speaking, are the ones who like pop music the most; and i don’t know whether pop music has caused this unhappiness, but I do know they’ve been listening to the sad songs longer than they’ve been living the unhappy lives.”
– page 25, Riverhead Books, 1995

My lovely flagged copy of High Fidelity

What if everything was beyond your control?  What if everything was done to you, not by you, with you, or for you?  What if you lived as a slave to circumstances?  Would you have hopes and dreams? Would you be happy, or would you be miserable?  If you are Rob, the narrator and main character in High Fidelity then no, you do not have hopes and dreams, you are miserable, and you are also discontent and oftentimes a jerk.

It takes losing his girlfriend for Rob to come to this conclusion, and it takes the entire novel for him to sort out his feelings about this realization.  Many who read this book (and who see the American film version) think of this as a story about music, and sex, relationships, and manliness.  And it is these things.  But thankfully, it is not only these things.  In that case, it would only appeal to one audience (men) and that would hardly make it a good novel.

Among many references to pop music, all-time top five lists, and in-his-head narrations and obsessions about situations in Rob’s life (past and present), he takes the reader on an emotional journey of finding who he is, why he really is that way, and who he wants to be.  If we are honest readers, I think there is at least a smidgen (more or less for some) of Rob in all of us, regardless of gender.  Aside from being clever and funny, this book can give anyone a little thought-check, an assessment of the head space, and bring about an evaluation of how one chooses to react to the circumstances of life.

** I read and reviewed this novel by my own choice and was not asked to do so by the authors or publisher.


Three Challenges to Ethics Environmentalism, Feminism, and Multiculturalism by James P. Sterba

Source: Purchased from a used book sale

Although published 11 years ago, this book touches on three issues that are very much relevant today.  I would recommend this book to anyone interested in philosophy, or in any of the three topics presented in this book.  Our society is still struggling with environmentalism, feminism, and multiculturalism in the social and political, and even educational spheres.  This very fact is what makes the implications of these topics on ethics so vital.  In his book Three Challenges to Ethics, James P. Sterba outlines the challenges these topics present to traditional ethics, and his suggestions for addressing these challenges.

This is my first experience reading anything about ethics, and going into this adventure I was a little worried about the accessibility of the text to someone inexperienced with the topic.  There was little to worry about, however.  The introduction was a little difficult, since the author is setting up his reasoning for leaning toward a Kantian ethics.  I had to look up a few terms to see what they meant in the field of ethics (question-begging for example) but a few simple web searches answered any questions I had.  Once into the actual subject matter of the book, Sterba covers the topic in an easy to understand style and does an adequate job explaining his reasons for his stance.

From a personal standpoint, I agree with his stance on all three topics, but some of the ways he proposes to meet these challenges (especially in the feminism chapter) seem a little far-fetched to me.  I would be interested to see if his ideas have adapted over the past decade, or if they remain the same.  I especially liked the conclusion, where he talks about how the field of ethics as a whole meets challenges, and his idea that instead of a war-like confrontation and win/loose scenario, society and the professional/academic arena of ethics should adopt a more peaceful way of “doing philosophy.”  He outlines how the same, or possibly better results can be achieved with this new method, and how it would benefit the field (and in my opinion that benefit would probably filter down to society) as a whole.  Assuming that this is his personal way of approaching situations, I’m sure the past decade of politics and social unrest surrounding these three challenges to ethics would bring about some new ideas and possibly revisions to old ideas for this author.

The book covers the topics of environmentalism, feminism, and multiculturalism from a Kantian perspective and Sterba offers his own revisions to the traditional Kantian ethics on these challenges.  Even if you do not subscribe to Kantian ethics, it could still be worthwhile to read this book, even if only to see the ideas he proposes with these three challenges in order to begin to address them within the views of your own ethical standpoint.  After reading this book, I would most certainly be interested to read other works by philosophers who subscribe to a different ethics (besides Kantian) to see if and how they address these three challenges in comparison to Sterba’s work.

** I read and reviewed this novel by my own choice and was not asked to do so by the authors or publisher.

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak

Source: Purchased as a nookbook from Barnes and Noble

In The Book Thief, the reader is not taken to a historical setting of the holocaust in terms of widespread horror and tragedy, but instead to the small microcosm of Liesel Meminger’s life on Himmel Street. A microcosm filled with all the same horror and tragedy, but also with love and beauty and words.  This is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany during WWII.  After moving in with a foster family, she suffers with the loss of her mother and brother.  She also suffers humiliation at school for being behind in her education.  As a way to ease her mind, she begins to learn to read with the help of her papa, some paint, and her first stolen book.  As the years go on, and her life becomes more complicated, Liesel’s eyes begin to be opened to the nightmare going on all around her.  But through her friends and her stolen books she learns of the beauty that exists alongside it.

This book literally “tackles” the ideas of love and beauty, tragedy and evil, victory and defeat.  It covers how humans are the workers that bring all of all of these things to reality, and how a person is affected by them.  This can be a tough topic to handle without becoming sappy and cliché, but this book is neither of those.  The reason it is so grounded and believable is because it is the story of a little girl, and her child-like acceptance of the reality around her.  She sees the lack of adequate food, and the Jews marching to Dachau through the same eyes that she sees the beauty of the clouds in the sky.

Zusak masterfully brings his characters to life in this novel.  You will love Liesel and you will love the people Liesel loves.  You will feel like you have walked down her street day after day and met her neighbors.  The feelings that these characters evoke in the reader are the pathways of an emotional journey that will stay with you forever.  Every part of this book, from the author’s choice of Death as narrator, to the way Death is portrayed, to the way Zusak brings his characters to life and makes you love them, to the actual style of the words on the page, is not merely written, but crafted.  You will love this book not just for the story, not just for the characters, but for the beauty of the use of the words themselves.  I highly recommend this book to not only young adult readers but also to adult readers.  This book will certainly open the minds and hearts of anyone who reads it, and will stick with you long after you finish.

** I read and reviewed this book by my own choice and was not asked to do so by the author or publisher.

Spook Country by William Gibson

Source: purchased from Borders

Spook Country is a novel that blends every day technology with a cutting edge use into an underworld lurking just beyond the surface of everyday life.  I think Gibson’s aim in this novel is to show the reader a new world, a spook country, that exists in and interacts in the everyday world, but which most people are completely unaware of. The world this story is set in is our world, but it isn’t at the same time. It is the seedy, steamy side that we don’t see in our every day lives. A world that probably doesn’t exist in real life the same way it manifests in fiction and movies, yet we are all addicted to this high-energy, exciting world of crime and mystery. Gibson is a master at weaving technology into this setting, making it a vital part of it, and he does it without alienating the non-techy reader, yet without boring the technically savvy. Into this setting Gibson pulls Hollis Henry, an ex-rock star turned freelance journalist to whom this world is as strange as it is to the reader. Hollis finds herself employed by a magazine called Node which may or may not actually exist, on assignment to write about an emerging new art form called locative art. She is charged with finding a pioneer in the “production” of this art form, Bobby Chombo. Parallel to Hollis’ story is the story of Milgrim, a junkie (and translator of rare Russian dialects) held captive by Brown, some sort of intelligence agent, who is chasing an information smuggler named Tito who is part of a Chinese-Cuban crime family operating out of New York.

I think Gibson does an excellent job creating spook country, and bringing it to life. I don’t think the story line was the main point of this novel, I think the point is to illustrate the [possible] existence of spook country, and it’s relationship to everyday life through the cutting edge use of everyday technologies like GPS. In this respect, this novel was amazingly well done.

I found myself page-turning from the very beginning, maybe as much to find out how the multiple story lines could possibly be connected as to find out where it was all going. Gibson has a way of drawing the reader into the story while hardly giving any facts about what is going on until the very end. I page turned until the last few pages, and this is where the problem comes in. After I first finished reading, I felt the ending to be a bit weak, which was very disappointing to me. I felt there were a lot of loose ends not tied up, and a general lack of resolution and explanation of the main story line. It felt to me as if Gibson was rushed to end an otherwise fantastic tale. And as a reader I felt like I invested a lot of time into something that just dropped off the edge of a cliff. Yet I still can’t say that I wouldn’t recommend this novel, because I feel like the ending, or rather the lack thereof, was meant to facilitate the knowledge that “real” life goes on, right next to life in spook country, and all the action, and all the grit doesn’t even cause a ripple on the surface of what most of us perceive in our surroundings. And that, is what the author was after in the first place, isn’t it?

** I read and reviewed this book by my own choice and was not asked to do so by the author or publisher.

End The Fed by Ron Paul


General Subject Matter: Economic Policy

Theme: The effects of central banking on an economy

Thesis: Because central banking destroys the value of currency, and eventually leads to nationalization and loss of individual liberties, the federal reserve should be abolished.

Source: purchased from www.amazon.com

End the Fed is written by eleven term congressman and 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul, whom many consider to be the leader of today’s Libertarian/Austrian Economic movement. Congressman Paul is a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus, and various economic, financial, and foreign affairs committees and sub-committees. Congressman Paul is also a physician who served as an Air Force flight surgeon and had his own practice before entering congress.

In this book, Congressman Paul tackles the daunting task of explaining why he feels the Federal Reserve should be abolished. Many who are not familiar with the Liberty and Austrian Economic movements would think this idea is preposterous. Without the Federal Reserve, how would our economy function? End the Fed is Ron Paul’s answer to this question.

The book starts out with an explanation of why the reader should be concerned about the federal reserve, and then moves into a more detailed description of this shadowy entity that holds so much power. Congressman Paul then goes on to introduce those people and experiences in his life that helped shape his economic ideas. This is really great for people who are interested in Liberty and Austrian Economics, and want to do more research. It really gives the reader an idea of where to begin looking. After this, the topic of central banking and the damage the federal reserve causes to the US economy are fleshed out through Congressman Paul’s accounts of recent history, personal interviews with fed chairmen, and congressional experiences. Finally, the book transitions to explaining the philosophical, constitutional, economic, and libertarian arguments for ending the fed, and explores what we as American citizens need to do in order to return our country to sound money and economic stability.

Congressman Paul uses a laid back and conversational tone in his writing that is inviting and relaxing. Those who don’t usually read non-fiction because it is “too dense” will find the informal tone of this book easy to read. It is more like listening to Ron Paul tell a story than reading an informational book, although the reader will gather a lot of information from this reading. I think this approach is also less intimidating for those who are new to the topic of economics.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the ideas behind Austrian Economics, or anyone who wants to learn more about Ron Paul’s political ideas.  It is a great starting point for readers who are new to the idea of economics and central banking because it presents the ideas in an easy to read, easy to understand format, and offers many ideas on where to gather more information either via the footnotes, or Dr. Paul’s “name dropping” within the chapters, or from the suggested reading section in the back of the book (broken down into beginner, intermediate, advanced, and bonus reading subsections). Furthermore, those who are already well versed in Austrian Economics and Libertarian ideas will still benefit from reading this book, because it will help them to develop a less academic, more down to earth way of discussing this topic with others.

If you are not interested in Austrian Economics or Ron Paul, I would only recommend this book if you are writing a persuasive piece and are looking for a source to help you understand the other side of the argument (in order to be more persuasive against it of course).  This would be a great starting point for you.

** I read and reviewed this book by my own choice and was not asked to do so by the author or publisher.

Remember by Karen Kingsbury and Gary Smalley

Source: loan from public library

In their novel Remember, authors Karen Kingsbury and Gary Smalley seek to explore the question of how God uses memories (both the good and the bad) to restore broken relationships with God and with other loved ones. To bring this topic to life, Kingsbury tells the story of Ashley Baxter, a young single mother who has alienated herself from her family, friends, and God because of a life changing experience she had in Paris. A tragic accident forces her to think about her feelings for a man who has always loved her, but who she always rejected because he was “too safe.” A new job at a nursing home for alzheimers patients brings to the surface feelings of loneliness and fear of becoming old with no family or friends to support her. Will Ashley be able to face her memories of Paris and open her heart to embrace new relationships and re-kindle old ones?

I think Kingsbury and Smalley did and excellent job tackling this tough topic. Kingsbury uses her skills to build dynamic characters with experiences that are real and easy to relate to. The reader is drawn into the story from the very beginning, and remains intrigued until the end. Within her story she creates the perfect setting to incorporate Smalley’s expertise in counseling and relationships, without it appearing intrusive. The reader walks away with an enjoyable reading experience that is fun, and also has application to his/her own life experiences.

This book is part of a series written about the Baxter family, and the main characters from the previous novel do play a large part in Ashely’s story. However, it is not necessary to have read the first book (Redemption) to enjoy or understand Remember. Kingsbury does a great job introducing characters from Redemption without being vague, but also without being boring for those who did read it. Also, due to the series nature of this novel, the ending of Ashley’s story is not fully wrapped up. However, Kingsbury does not leave the reader frustrated in this regard. One is left satisfied with the development of Ashely’s life, and excited to see how the rest of her story will unfold within the tapestry of the Baxter family experience.

**I read and reviewed this novel by my own choice and was not asked to do so by the authors or publisher.



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