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Best Books of 2015

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This is a list of the best books that I read this year in no particular order. There are some links to full reviews or a podcast so be sure to check those out as well. Comment and let me know what you read so I can add to my list for 2016.


the-sun-and-other-stars-9781451667127_hr

The Sun and Other Stars

I feel in love with this book and it’s simple story of a small Italian town that is turned upside down when a famous European football star escapes to a villa just outside the city. Pasulka makes you feel as if you are in the seaside village of San Benedetto, as Italy comes alive around you. This is the perfect book for any time of the year when you wish to escape on an exotic vacation.

91PrwyEfcwLAstoria

Six years after the success of the Lewis & Clark expedition, John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson dreamed of a Northwest empire along the Pacific coast. This is the true story of the three year journey that would end without an empire but inadvertently blazing the Oregon Trail. It’s a harrowing story of the wild frontier, survival and shattered dreams. Fascinating from start to finish.

star-wars-dark-discipleDark Disciple 

I cannot add anything to my original review, “Christie Golden has written the finest book in the new canon with Dark Disciple. The book immediately feels like an arc of The Clone Wars. In many ways it is a stinging reminder of just how much life was left in this show and the power it had to tell amazing stories. My sincere thanks to Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo for continuing to find opportunities to get The Clone Wars content to fans any way they can. Dark Disciple is now my gold standard for what this new line of canon books can and should be. This book is rated a perfect 10.” Be sure to check out The 602 Club review and interview with author Christie Golden.

81Yengb18CLBecoming Worldly Saints 

Maybe the hardest thing to do as a follower of Christ is to live in the world but not of it. With so many books swirling around the Evangelical world, many with opposing views on how to live as Christ has called, Wittmer wisely and carefully shows that enjoying the life we’ve been given and radically following Jesus are not at odds. “Careful Christian thinking holds these two truths in paradox, never allowing one truth to drown out the other, never allowing the extreme position of one side to lead us to the other. To miss one side of this paradox or the other is to distort the beauty of Christianity.” Excerpt From: Michael E. Wittmer. “Becoming Worldly Saints.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/fBev1.l

Lost-Stars-CoverStar Wars: Lost Stars

This may have been the biggest surprise of the year. Lost Stars was released on Force Friday this year and aimed at the young adult market. In the shadow of the much touted Aftermath, Lost Stars flew under the radar with no expectations and with that eclipsed Aftermath in both quality and praise. Gray weaves an expansive story that moves from before A New Hope to after Return of the Jedi all from the point of view of the Empire’s finest recruits. Next to Dark Disciple, this is the finest example of how to add to the Star Wars canon. Be sure to check out The 602 Club review.

Epitaph hc cEpitaph

Mary Doria Russell has long been a favorite author of mine and this year’s Epitaph was another feather in her cap. A work of historical fiction about the man behind the legend, Wyatt Earp. Russell has dug deep to research this book, giving it an authenticity and reality that will blow you away. This may be the closest you will ever come to reading the true story of the O.K. Corral and the people behind the famous shootout.

book-bag-the-wright-brothersThe Wright Brothers

David McCullough is back as he chronicles the Wright brothers determination to see a man fly. The ingenuity these men had as self-made inventors is astonishing. The “can do” spirit has never been stronger as they take advantage of every benefit American freedom offers to create the first piloted aircraft and make sure their names would be long remembered.  Inspirational to the last.

20150326140533US_cover_of_Go_Set_a_WatchmanGo Set a Watchman

I cannot add anything to my original review, “Go Set a Watchman set the world afire when it was announced. After years of rumors that Harper Lee had written another book and questions about if it would be published, the book’s final discovery continues to be followed by controversy surrounding whether or not Lee had been taken advantage of by her publisher. Regardless, the book is out and with society in upheaval again, it just may be the perfect book at the perfect time. In the story, Jean Louise (Scout) is home visiting from New York and what follows are vignettes on a theme. Each vignette builds to a crescendo as Jean Louise breaks the shackles of childhood to become her own person…Go Set a Watchman is a visionary book about the past yet it is just as relevant today. It’s an important read and well worth your time. I encourage everyone to wrestle with the themes because you just might find yourself changed in the end.”

fellowshipThe Fellowship

The Inklings are the stuff of legend in the literary world and with giants like Lewis and Tolkien in their midst the other members are often overlooked. In The Fellowship, Philip and Carol Zaleski look at the lives of the four main members J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams. They never shy away from the imperfections of each, giving a well rounded look at each man’s strengths and weaknesses and just what made this group so special. It’s a long read that is worth the investment. 

Honorable Mentions:

For the Star Wars Fan: Weapon of the Jedi, Smuggler’s Run, Moving Target, Before the Awakening, Shattered Empire, Lords of the Sith and The Star Wars Heresies.

The History Fan: Dead Wake.

The Mystery Fan: Career of Evil.

For the Star Trek Fan: Sight Unseen and Atonement.

The Young Adult Fan: The Sword of Summer.

The Non-Fiction Fan: Into Thin Air.

abortion · Book Reviews · Books · Carly Fiorina · Creation · Culture · Faith · Film · Media · Movies

Owl Post 8-11-15

Owl Post: 2-3-2012

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The Coddling of the American Mind:

image6087947xSomething strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Educationdescribing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.

From Gamergate to Cecil the lion: internet mob justice is out of control:

In this animated image created by Matt Groening and released by Twentieth Century Fox, the entire town of Springfield is transformed into an angry mob, in a scene from When an American dentist named Walter Palmer killed a beloved lion named Cecil, the social media platforms that allowed outraged web users to spread the story also enabled them to do more than just fume. It gave them the power to act on their anger, to reach into Palmer’s life and punish him for what he’d done, without having to wait for the wheels of more formal justice to turn. Web users uncovered Palmer’s personal information, including about his family, and published it online. They went after his business, a private dental practice, posting thousands of negative reviews on Yelp and other sites. The practice has since shut down. Users also went after professional websites that host his profile, leading the sites to remove his information. On Twitter and on his practice’s public Facebook page, people made threats of physical violence.

Go Set a Watchman: Why Harper Lee’s new book is so controversial:

20150326140533US_cover_of_Go_Set_a_WatchmanTo Kill a Mockingbird is one of the best-known books in America. It’s an inspiring story about standing up to injustice even if doing so is difficult and unpopular; an accessible coming-of-age tale; and a convenient way to teach high school English students about the Jim Crow South. It’s also the only novel that its author, Harper Lee, had ever published — until a sudden announcement in February 2015 heralded the publication of Go Set a Watchman, a new Lee work featuring the same characters as To Kill a Mockingbird.

A lot of people are suspicious about the discovery of the new manuscript. There are questions about whether Lee actually wanted it to be published, or whether she even wrote it at all — and if so, when. These questions have only become more urgent since the book’s release on July 14, due to its “reveal” that Atticus Finch, the anti-racist hero of To Kill a Mockingbird, is a virulent racist in Watchman.

How Kerry Conran saw Hollywood’s future – then got left behind:

skyangelina-xlargeShortly after completing their first movie, in 2004, Kerry and Kevin Conran received an invitation from George Lucas. The Star Wars mastermind would be hosting a summit at Skywalker Ranch, his production facility-cum-small town in San Francisco, gathering some of the most forward-thinking people in the movie business to discuss the future of film.

James Cameron was there, as were Robert Zemeckis and Brad Bird. The brothers were newcomers, but that day they were treated as peers; each of their fellow directors told the Conrans how impressed they were with what they’d accomplished. Their work, they were told, was way ahead of its time.

Planned Parenthood: 4 Ways to Respond:

PlannedParenthoodsignWe have come to a singularly important moment in the battle against abortion (which is to say, the battle for life). The stunning undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress have taken us right to the heart of the abortion industry. They have shown that Planned Parenthood is enriching themselves with the bodies of murdered babies. Not only that, but Planned Parenthood is willingly increasing the risk to the women they serve in order to enrich themselves—altering the abortion procedures to deliver intact bodies. Planned Parenthood is a business, a government-supported business, that buys and sells death.

Carly Fiorina at the Reagan Library:

How Culture Disciples Us:

i-mass-media-inducono-alla-violenza-L-kysDzCWe hold a misconception about discipleship: that it’s a merely Christian idea, only taking place at weekend worship services, on weeknights in groups and in the mornings or evenings when we “spend time with the Lord.” On the contrary, discipleship is taking place all around us and in us every day. Whether we realize it or not, we are being shaped and formed by the movies and TV shows we watch, the music, podcasts and radio stations we listen to, the books and magazines that we read, the social media feeds that we skim, and the trips we take to the mall. Our cultural practices and habits are discipling us either for good or for ill.

Book Reviews · Books · Faith · Go Set a Watchman · Harper Lee · Uncategorized

Go Set a Watchman – Review

20150326140533US_cover_of_Go_Set_a_Watchman

Go Set a Watchman set the world afire when it was announced. After years of rumors that Harper Lee had written another book and questions about if it would be published, the book’s final discovery continues to be followed by controversy surrounding whether or not Lee had been taken advantage of by her publisher. Regardless, the book is out and with society in upheaval again, it just may be the perfect book at the perfect time. In the story, Jean Louise (Scout) is home visiting from New York and what follows are vignettes on a theme. Each vignette builds to a crescendo as Jean Louise breaks the shackles of childhood to become her own person.

Breaking the Icons

Thomas Wolfe famously wrote that you can’t go home again and for Jean Louise the statement  is true. When she arrives she finds a world in chaos. As the South reels from the recent Supreme Court decision, presumably Brown v. Board of Education,  the battle lines have been drawn and Scout finds that her father and boyfriend might be on the opposite side as she is.

Atticus allows his daughter to tear him down verbally as she works out her own beliefs about the world. He gives her the opportunity to stop using him as a crutch and instead stand firm in what she thinks, moving through the process of metamorphosis from child to adult. Scout is able to crush the idol she has made of her father and see him as simply human. It’s a beautiful picture of fatherly love as Atticus helps his daughter to make her own way.

There is little that is as painful in this world as having a hero in your life suddenly become nothing more than human. Yet it is one of life’s most important lessons, finding that the thing you’ve placed on a pedestal is not worthy of such admiration. What we put our faith and hope in must be able to sustain the weight of such things,and the weight of such glory is heavy indeed. False idols must be brought down if true clarity is ever to be found.

Stranger in a Strange Land 

Scout finds herself irrevocably changed by the end of the story and her question becomes how to live in a place where she does not agree with those around her. The answer her uncle offers is poignant, “…the time your friends need you is when they are wrong, Jean Louise. They don’t need you when they’re right -.”

Standing up for what you believe is the most difficult when the world and worldview of those around you is diametrically opposed to your own. Our response should not be to run and isolate ourselves with likeminded people. It is at those times that we must stand up and lovingly engage. Edmond Burke said, The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Scout’s uncle continues with the good advice about how to engage such a culture when he says,

     “I mean it takes a certain kind of maturity to live in the South these days. You don’t have it yet, but you have a shadow of the beginnings of it. you haven’t the humbleness of mind-”

“I thought the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom.”

“It’s the same thing. Humility”

To influence and impact the people and the world around us any action we take must be done with humility and love. If we want to change the world around us it must be through honest and open interaction. We must stand for something and not be afraid to share those convictions with others. We cannot do nothing. Jesus clearly reminds of us this in Matthew 5,

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Conclusion 

Go Set a Watchman is a visionary book about the past yet it is just as relevant today. It’s an important read and well worth your time. I encourage everyone to wrestle with the themes because you just might find yourself changed in the end.