Saturday Review of Books: March 28, 2015

“I really demand a lot; sometimes, I think, too much. But I don’t want to waste time on a bad book. A bad book is any book you don’t like. A good book is any book you like.” ~Nancy Pearl

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Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

Happy Birthday Mr. Houseman and Mr. Frost

I am taking a blog break for Lent, but I thought I’d share some of my old posts from years gone by. I’ve been blogging at Semicolon since October, 2003, more than eleven years. This post is copied and edited from March 26, 2010.

A.E. Houseman, b.1859.
Loveliest of trees, the cherry

Robert Frost, b.1874.
The Door in the Dark
Fire and Ice
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
A Time to Talk
A Prayer in Spring

Saturday Review of Books: March 21, 2015

“I need to read more. There are so many good books I want to read and so little time. If I added up the few minutes here and there that I spent checking Facebook this past week it wouldn’t be an insignificant amount of time. I’d rather give that time to reading.” ~Joshua Harris

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

Events and Inventions: 1944

January 27, 1944. The Red Army (Russian) relieves the German siege of Leningrad, pushing the Germans back beyond artillery range. Leningrad has been under German guns for 900 days, and over one million people have died of hunger, cold, starvation, disease or from direct warfare.

January 22, 1944. Allied troops land on the beaches of Anzio in southern Italy.

March 18, 1944. Mt. Vesuvius erupts for last time in modern times.

June 4, 1944. The U.S. Fifth Army under the command of General Mark Clark enters Rome, freeing the city from German occupation.

June 6, 1944. Allied troops storm Normandy in northern France. Operation Overlord brings over 100,000 U.S., British, and Canadian troops to the beaches of Normandy under the orders of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of Allied troops in Europe. See the movie, The Longest Day, for a dramatization of the invasion of Normandy.

June 13, 1944. Hitler unleashes Germany’s flying bomb, the V-1, on southern England. The deadly V-1’s are launched from catapult ramps at Pas de Calais in northern France, and they have already made direct hits on several buildings, including a convent, and hospital, and a church.

June 20, 1944. An attempt by German army officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler fails. See the movie, Valkyrie, for a dramatization of this event, with Tom Cruise playing Colonel von Stauffenberg, the main conspirator and assassin. Hitler takes his survival as a sign that fate has intervened to preserve his life for the further glory of the German people.

August 25, 1944. Paris is liberated by Allied troops, led by the Free French. General de Gaulle marches in triumph through the crowds down the Champs Elysees.

October 26, 1944. General Douglas MacArthur and the American Navy return to the Philippines after the Japanese are defeated in a three-day battle off the coast of the island of Leyte.

December, 1944. Civil war breaks out in Greece in the aftermath of the country’s liberation from Nazi occupation. British troops fire on a demonstration organized by the EAM, made up of Communists and other leftists. The People’s Liberation Army (Communist) seizes part of Athens, but they are defeated and dispersed for now.

Quiet, A Servant in the Discernment of Truth

“I have naturally formed the habit of restraining my thoughts. A thoughtless word hardly ever escaped my tongue or pen. Experience has taught me that silence is part of the spiritual discipline of a votary of truth. We find so many people impatient to talk. All this talking can hardly be said to be of any benefit to the world. It is so much waste of time. My shyness has been in reality my shield and buckler. It has allowed me to grow. It has helped me in my discernment of truth.”

~Mahatma Gandhi, from Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

Saturday Review of Books: March 14, 2015

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island…and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.” ~Walt Disney

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

The Abolition of Man, ch. 1, Men Without Chests

C.S> Lewis begins this essay with his thoughts about a textbook that he has received for review and that he thinks is pernicious in its influence and teaching. He calls the textboook’s authors by the pseudonyms Gaius and Titius.

“The very power of Gaius and Titius depends on the fact that they are dealing with a boy: a boy who thinks he is ‘doing’ his ‘English prep’ and has no notion that ethics, theology, and politics are all at stake. It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all.”

Yes, indeed, schoolboys and girls are unaware of the subtext and foundational assumptions of their textbooks and their literature assignments—even when I try to make them aware. I find it harder to put assumptions into children’s minds, however, than Lewis assumes it is. Most of the books I use, at the younger levels at least, have “good assumptions”; however, I have found that the students are not thinking about the assignments at all unless I deliberately provoke them to thought, again and again. They are not taking in the assumptions in school assignments, good or bad.

Now the assumptions and implicit messages in song lyrics and television shows and movies are a very different matter. The students I know share many of the assumptions that Hollywood and the music industry are selling:

Sex is the most important part of a romantic relationship. No one waits until after the wedding to have a sexual relationship.

You should always follow your dreams, and ignore or demolish anyone or anything that prevents you from doing what you really want to do.

Marriage is confining and generally unhappy.

The universe exists to make me happy.

My conclusion is that bad assumptions that appeal to our sin nature are easier to sell and implant than good assumptions that make us into people of good impulses and decisions.

Exploring the World in Books

I am taking a blog break for Lent, but I thought I’d share some of my old posts from years gone by. I’ve been blogging at Semicolon since October, 2003, more than eleven years. This post is copied and edited from February 28, 2005:

Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And hope without an object cannot live.
–Coleridge

I read Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya and thought it gave a beautiful, but very sad, picture of life in India for many people. It’s the story of a poor family, a fourth daughter who, because she has no dowry, cannot marry well but must settle for marriage to a landless tenant farmer who brings her home to a mud hut he built himself. Fortunately for the girl, Rukmani, her husband Nathan is “poor in everything but in love and care for me, his wife, whom he took at the age of twelve.”
Rukmani narrates the story in first person, telling of the birth of her daughter, the long wait during which the couple think they will have no more children, and then the birth of her five sons. The village where the family lives is on the edge of poverty and starvation; a bad year with too much rain or too little rain will push Rukmani’s family over the edge. Change and new economic oportunities come to the village; however, these new ideas and possibilities are full of danger too, for peasants who have nothing in reserve and are unable or unwilling to move with the times.
I wrote about a month ago about some of my favorite fantasy worlds. These fantasy worlds were first encountered on the pages of books. Then, there are historical and sociological worlds that I visit mostly in books, too. Finally, there is the actual world. I’ve never been to India or China or South America, but I have a picture of what life in those lands is (or was) like–again, from books. I think that Nectar in a Sieve, first published in 1954, will become a large part of my picture of India, along with missionary stories, the young man I met a few years ago at Baptist World Alliance Youth Conference, and other sources, such as the women I see at the grocery store here in Clear Lake dressed in saris.
Warning: The book has a bittersweet ending, but it’s realistic without being hopeless and depressing. Excellent.
These are some of my favorite books that have given me vivid pictures of the world. Most of them are fiction.
Around the world in books:
South Africa: Cry, the Beloved Country and Too Late the Phalarope both by Alan Paton
India: Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan, The Christ of the Indian Road by E. Stanley Jones, Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth.
China: Imperial Woman by Pearl S.Buck, The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang, Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin, other books by Pearl Buck
Antarctica: Troubling a Star by Madeleine L’Engle,
The Netherlands: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
England (Yorkshire): All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot and all the many, many books I’ve read that take place in England.
Russia: The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig (And, of course, Tolstoy and Dostoyevski, although they’re more historical)
Israel: Exodus by Leon Uris
Hawaii: Hawaii by James Michener

Can you suggest any books that capture the culture and living conditions of a country in either fiction or biography? I do prefer and learn more from stories.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Grahame and Thank You

Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows, b. 1859. And isn’t it appropriate that Grahame’s birthday falls at the beginning of March? The Wind in the Willows is definitely a spring sort of story, even though its scenes take the reader through the year from its beginning with spring-cleaning to a summer paddling boats on the river into fall and then winter in the Wild Wood.

“The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring cleaning his little home. First he swept; next he dusted. Then it was up on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash. Finally he had dust in his
throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above him, reaching even into his dark little underground house. Small wonder, then, that he suddenly threw his brush down on the floor, said “Bother!” and “Oh dash it!” and also “Hang spring-cleaning!” and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat.”

A.A. Milne on Grahame’s book:

One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows. The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and, if she does not like it, asks her to return his letters. The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly. The book is a test of character. We can’t criticize it, because it is criticizing us. But I must give you one word of warning. When you sit down to it, don’t be so ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgment on my taste, or on the art of Kenneth Grahame. You are merely sitting in judgment on yourself. You may be worthy: I don’t know, But it is you who are on trial.”

Willows links:

Inspiraculum: “I’ve just read ‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame for about the fourth time.”

Ahab’s Quest: The Wind in the Willows is Charming.Willows is a sensuous experience because Grahame so deliberately takes the reader through the small, pleasant things that fill our days. Every meal is described in detail, such that one tastes the picnic along with Mole and Rat.”

Beyond the Wild Wood by Alan Jacobs: “Best of all were those winter evenings when I crawled into bed and grinned a big grin as I picked up our lovely hardcover edition of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, with illustrations by Michael Hague. Before I cracked it open I knew I would like it, but I really never expected to be transported, as, evening by evening, I was. After the first night (I read only one chapter at a stretch), I wanted the experience to last as long as I could possibly drag it out. It was with a sigh compounded of pleasure and regret and satisfaction in Toad’s successful homecoming that I closed the book. I knew I would read The Wind in the Willows many times, but I could never again read it for the first time.”

The Wind in the Willows at 100 by Gary Kamiya (Salon magazine): “It is apples and oranges to compare Grahame and the two other masters of genre-blurring imaginative prose, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Grahame cannot rival Tolkien’s epic grandeur, nor does he possess Lewis’ double ability to create completely different imaginary worlds and weave vivid and intricate stories. But neither of those geniuses handle English the way he does. Tolkien knows only the high style, and Lewis’ solid prose never soars. Grahame is the inheritor of the stately style of Thomas Browne and the lyrical effusions of Wordsworth, with a little Dickens and P.G. Wodehouse thrown in as ballast.”

Saturday Review of Books: March 7, 2015

“To read a book for the first time is to make an acquaintance with a new friend; to read it for a second time is to meet an old one.” ~Chinese proverb

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.