Saturday, April 28, 2012

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal FarmAnimal Farm by George Orwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I read this for school, I was exceptionally young. Sometime in middle school for sure. I barely knew anything about communist and socialist revolutions around the world, and wouldn't for many years. (We didn't even make it to the Kennedy years in History Class, possibly something to do with the years the AP exam focused on.) Years after reading the book, I recalled its contents and just sort of assumed it was anti-communist.

But I reread it recently and it's not that simple. The previous system, where the animals are slaves under the farmer, is only better in terms of animal feed and a lack of hypocrisy about the evils being committed. The ruling elite are pigs either way- whether they are the humans or the literal pigs.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

The Celestine Prophecy (Celestine Prophecy, #1)The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This combines self-help-style nonfiction with a bare bones fiction adventure plot. While the self-help portion has some thoughts, the fiction is poor.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

Civil DisobedienceCivil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thoreau condemns slavery and the Mexican–American War in Civil Disobedience. He advocates breaking the law where the law advocates you being an agent of evil. He advocates abolitionists not paying their taxes. His premise is that you best express your love for your country, its government, and the law by refusing to participate in its injustice and its violence. So far, so good.

He seems to prefer not paying your taxes over using your vote for the "available" subpar candidate or petitioning the state. While perhaps this was an option in the 1800s, it appears the US government has gained a lot of power over its citizens in the last 160 years, because that's no longer an option unless you want to just rot in jail. Obviously, people were jailed even for "petitioning the government" during the Civil Rights Movement, but Thoreau seems to have avoided jail (except for one night) while not paying his taxes. Citizens appear to have gained more freedom to protest and lost the freedom to refuse to pay their taxes (unless you happen to be super rich and can just claim losses while living the good life).

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

How I Got This Way by Regis Philbin

How I Got This WayHow I Got This Way by Regis Philbin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I borrowed Grandma Ruth's copy while visiting. It's a very untraditional memoir. Each chapter is basically an essay about meeting a famous person and the relationship that Regis developed from them and what lesson he learned from that person. Some were boring to me because I didn't know the famous person (who is maybe not so famous anymore). Some were personalities I did know but his analysis of the person lacked any real interest or bite (especially when the person he was writing about is still alive).

People he discussed that I actually know of include: Ronald Reagan, Bill Cosby, Dean Martin, Kathie Lee Gifford, Kelly Ripa, Donald Trump, Joe DiMaggio, Jerry Seinfeld, Steven Spielberg, George Clooney, Jack Nicholson, Howard Stern, David Letterman, and his wife Joy Philbin. Notice how many of the people on this list are more "notorious" rather than famous? And yet he had very few negative things to say about any.

Of the people I didn't know about I found Don Rickles to be the most interesting and I'm glad I looked him up further online. He seems really funny.

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Left Behind by Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins

Left Behind (Left Behind, #1)Left Behind by Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Clearly, this isn't literary fiction, so I wasn't judging it based on great writing. It's all plot plot plot, but I thought it was off to a good start with an exciting start right at the beginning of the apocalypse with the rapture. I love the television adaptation of Tom Perrota's The Leftovers (though I haven't read that book yet) and the beginning of this book had a lot of similarities so I was psyched.

However, about halfway through the book, the author gave up on any attempt at character development or even-handed consideration of people that don't share his religious views. One of the main characters, now a convert, constantly berates himself for "thinking he was so smart" and missing the message of Christianity. Besides being needlessly offensive to nonbelievers, he misses the point of his own plot. If the rapture happened, then there would be some evidence of the truth of Christianity- perhaps not logically definitive evidence- but certainly enough that many nonbelievers could take the leap. Yes, they might berate themselves for not having taken a leap of faith sooner, but I doubt they would take on such embarrassing views against intellectualism if they didn't already hold such views.

Here's another example. The brief discussion of abortion is deeply unthoughtful. Even if, hypothetically, abortion providers were motivated by money instead of the right of women to bodily autonomy and medical treatment (the premise of the conversation in the book), that wouldn't explain all the non-abortion provider pro-choice people. The suggestion that being pro-choice somehow makes you desire great quantities of abortions is not thoughtful or empathetic to people who don't share the author's views, and that makes the characters poorly developed. Most pro-choice people I know would support policies that would keep women from wanting or needing abortions but are opposed to policies that restrict medical decisions and ultimately put women, including some who are already mothers, in jail. This part really ruins the book for me even more than all the other bad writing.

Also, the whole UN plan is nonsense. I guess that we've all learned the hard way that if a personality is sufficiently charismatic to some that person can push through nonsense policies but this has never been successful on a worldwide basis to date.

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Monday, April 9, 2012

A House Like a Lotus by Madeleine L'Engle

A House Like a Lotus (O'Keefe Family, #3)A House Like a Lotus by Madeleine L'Engle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some light spoilers ahead, but I tried to refrain from really telling anything.

First, this book is not for kids unless you're prepared to discuss sex, consent, and people taking advantage of teens.

As background, Calvin and Meg are 41 years old now, and move back to the US for Calvin's job. They settle on another island, this time in South Carolina. Their 7 children are a little older now: Polly (16 years old), Charles (14), Sandy "Zan" (12?), Den (10?), Peggy (8), Johnny (6), and Rosie (4).

While the whole family is mentioned, this story is mostly about Polly's "coming of age." She makes friends with a bunch of much older people in South Carolina: Maxine and Ursula who are in their 50s, and a medical intern Renny that she's dating. He's the absolute worst person in this book in my opinion, but Polly doesn't seem to notice. Max encourages her to take a trip to Athens, where she meets a total creeper guy Zachary in his 20s. He's the second or third worst person in this book. Again Polly doesn't seem to notice. Instead she focuses on being mad at Max for basically no reason at all. The story flashes back and forth between her town in South Carolina and Athens.

There are a lot of issues with this book, the biggest is that it is SO MELODRAMATIC. Maybe that's perfect for teenage girls? Another problem is the super high number of creepy characters willing to hit on 16-year-old Polly. Polly is tall, but she makes it clear that she does not look like an adult, so it's not an innocent mistake. Given that this was written in the 1980s we can't blame culture for this disaster. Another issue is that a whole bunch of new characters are introduced about 70% of the way through the book. Nope, sorry, I can't care about new people this late in the game.

Nonetheless, if I grade it on a curve, it's the best in O'Keefe series, and maybe one of the better in the bigger Kairos series (which is the 8 books in the Time quintet + O'Keefe series). There are references to great books, and there are a few deep thoughts.

More of a spoiler: Netson's Disease is fictional but I'm not sure why, as there are plenty of parasites that injure the heart.

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