The Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell

Marcus Luttrell and Navy SEAL Team 10 have been assigned on a mission, Operation Red WIngs, designed to kill or capture a high-ranking Taliban leader responsible for the deaths of several U.S. Troops. As their mission unfolds, the team of four SEALs finds themselves overlooking a small Afghan village staked out silently in nearby mountains to catch a glimpse of their target. The men have their sniper rifles focussed intently on the village patiently awaiting the arrival of the hunted terrorist when unexpectedly, three innocent sheep herders stumble upon the team’s hideout.

lone survivor

Instantaneously the SEAL team detains the herders and discuss their crippling dilemma: Do they let the innocent Afghanis live, or do they kill them? If they let them live, they face the very real possibility that the herders will return to the town and inform the Taliban of the team’s presence. If they kill them, they will be faced with criminal charges back in the United States, as well as living with the memory of killing innocent people who harbored no hostile intend towards Luttrell and his team.

After a great deal of arguing, SEAL Team 10 decides to release the herders. This becomes the crucial decision that defines operation Red Wings, and makes ‘The Lone Survivor’ a spectacular read.

The tale seems outrageous, unlikely, and downright impossible in many instances, but it is a true story of how Luttrell lives out the ramifications of the decision to let the herders go free. (The story follows a lengthy summary of Luttrell’s training as a SEAL which was intriguing and surprising to say the least) I felt like I was watching Black Hawk Down, Behind Enemy Lines, or some other gripping war movie – this inspiring true story will in the very least entertain you, and will most likely force you to reexamine your feelings on war, the news media, and current U.S. Rules of engagement.

The book is written by Luttrell with Patrick Robinson, and the SEAL’s voice rings through like a good ol’ Texas Boy – farm living, football loving, dog having, red meat eating, republican – the typical Texas stereotype. The voice is very refreshing to read in a way, it ignores any and every attempt to be politically correct, or even to empathize with those who think differently from Luttrell. What you see is what you get with this book. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this epic patriotic story that crescendo’s until the very last chapter in pulse pounding intensity.

I’m going to put this guy on the 4th shelf out of 5.

God of the Possible by Gregory Boyd

God of the Possible by Dr. Gregory Boyd was a difficult read for me. It is a theological book that challenges the traditional view of God (mostly my ideas) and argues for the ‘open view of the future.’  It was difficult for me, not because the writing was poor or that the logic was faulty, but the exact opposite. This was an easy-to-understand book that took me awhile because I had to put it down so frequently to think about the ideas that were being presented. (Mainly because he launched an arsenal of WMD’s on my theology).God of the Possible

Boyd received his Ph. D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, his M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, and taught theology for 16 years at Bethel University in Minnesota. He is undoubtedly a smart dude. If I was being gut-level-honest, prior to reading this book I would have just assumed you called it, ‘an introduction to what bad theologians think.’ Pretty arrogant huh? But, lately the idea of the ‘open view of God’ or the ‘open view of the future’ has gained some traction with close friends. I wanted to investigate for myself what the theology was all about, honestly expecting to better refute the ideas once I learned them.

In a nutshell, the open view argues that the future is partly open – that means it includes BOTH possibilities and certainties. An open theist, in their opinion, is NOT arguing against God’s omniscience (this was my primary misunderstanding). They instead will argue about the nature of reality and the future, which is why the theology is also called ‘the open view of the future.’ This view says that God knows ‘all things that can be known’ but the nature of reality prohibits God from knowing the future exhaustively.

I know what you’re thinking, and believe me, I’m thinking it too: But God knows ALL THINGS past, present, and future!

Gregory Boyd argues that the ideas of God knowing all things exhaustively, God functioning outside of time, and being COMPLETELY unchanging, are ideas that have transferred over from classical Greek philosophy, namely Plato. Boyd refutes classical theological notions of God foreknowing all things and predetermining every outcome by pointing to the overwhelming amount of times that God relents, repents, changes His mind, and reacts to human behavior. These examples in the classical/traditional motif are described as ‘anthropomorphisms’ or the attribution of human characteristics to God. And for some reason that explanation has never quite jived with me… maybe in a couple of examples I can understand – but dozens and dozens of times seem too much to write it off as a human way of understanding what God is doing.

I’m not at all saying I’m buying into these ideas but it has certainly launched a search for me to investigate why I believe what I believe… are my beliefs rooted in scripture, or are they derivatives of teachings and hand-me-down notions of God that have been around for hundreds of years? Our view of God should always be drawn from the conclusions that we extract from the Word of God, as opposed to blindly believing what is said by people we respect (that is not to say these traditions are wrong). My opinion of people who adhere to the Open View has dramatically changed… It is not a dumb theology that ignores logic and scripture, nor is it based solely on emotional arguments. It really does raise a great deal of questions for me that I need to answer. And if anything, it helped me to see again that our disagreements with our brothers & sisters over doctrines and dogmas do nothing to either of our positions in the body of Christ. We are still family.

God of the Possible is a great read that utilizes powerful rhetoric. And despite what conclusions I may come to, it made me think about the nature of God all week, and then some – something I believe a 5 point Calvinist or an intense Open Theist would agree is a good thing (I hope). And for that reason, I would put it on the 4th bookshelf out 5.

Vampire/Zombie things? Yes Please. The Passage by Justin Cronin

The Passage by Justin Cronin is like an adult alternative to one of Stephanie Meyer’s books . If the stomach churning genre of supernatural teen fiction repulses you at the very thought of werewolves making out with vampires, vampires making out with vampires, or anything not human making out, and you’re still really into monsters terrorizing humanity, then you’ve stumbled upon a winner with The Passage. It’s all the monsters and none of the teen drama. The language, intensity, and violence, however, should ward off a lot of Twilight fans, and for good reason. This book is NOT for younger readers. When you first pick it up, the 700+ pager just seems like a good item to use to flatten out the covers of your old paperbacks that have gotten bent out-of-shape, or perhaps a weighty weapon to throw at an assailant. (Hopefully, if you have good aim, your attacker will experience ‘The Passage’ into unconsciousness). But this refrigerator-sized epic is a gripping read that has the potential to be a multi-million dollar grossing summer blockbuster (as evidenced by the movie rights being sold for 3 million before the book was even published).

The story begins in 2018 and presents a terrifying picture of America that is constantly engaged in domestic and foreign warfare. The intensity of the worldwide climate has forced the American government to engage in a science experiment that engineers super-humans to battle our foes. I’m not talking about the army sending out thousands of ROBO-Cop like soldiers, or even the super suits that were in that embarrassment of

Scott taking out a viral

a G.I. Joe movie, but actually altering the human body itself.  I imagine you’ve already figured out that the experiment (like all government experiments in movies and books) goes tragically wrong and creates a viral outbreak of bloodthirsty vampire/zombie things that are as ruthless as they are terrifying. Did I mention that they wound up getting the superhuman abilities too? This isn’t your typical Draculaian-romancing vampire.

But, despite these outrageous elements, Cronin delivers powerful and often mysterious writing that freezes the reader in a state of confusion, driving you to turn the next page. Check out the first sentence:

“Before she became the Girl from Nowhere- the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years- she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy. Amy Harper Bellafonte.”

Hooked yet? I was. The Passage is dense with intriguing facets like e-mail correspondences, journal entries, maps, charts, and anything else Cronin could pull out of his bag of tricks to keep you hanging in there till the end. This blockbuster of a novel caused me to lose some sleep but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any flaws. Cronin has a very lyrical voice in his writing that, in some ways, enchants you into his dystopian story, but there are often descriptions and metaphors that drag on and seem to get a little stale. The book spends a great deal going into the psychology and thoughts of certain characters, but honestly I would have rather eliminated this part of the writing (in most cases), made some choice snippets to the work, and turned this bad boy into about a three to four hundred pager. But I don’t mind keeping it around to use as a free booster seat for future children.

The story is fun, scary, and intense enough that I will not recommend it to people with high blood pressure or pregnant mothers. If you can’t handle darker stories don’t even try it – the cover itself is packed with foreboding, and is only a fraction of how creepy The Passage really becomes.

All-in-all it was a great read that I really enjoyed. Put in on the third shelf out of five (If you can fit it).

 

 

Hungry for a Good Read? Check out ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins

“Taking the kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch – this is the Capitol’s way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy.”

One of the best ways to kill some time is to walk into a book store. This is undoubtedly one of my favorite past times. The book I pick up to read while I’m killing this ‘time’ is dependent on several variables: How much time do I have? How many books am I reading right now? (Are there so many that I’m starting to mix the plots in my mind… like wondering why that unicorn was in was in George Bush’s biography… etc.) What kind of mood am I in?… you get the idea.

MostHungry for a good read? of the time, I find myself in the position of needing to kill a ‘short’ amount of time, so as a result I’ll pick up a book that I can read a fair chunk of… which usually results in me browsing the ‘children’s/young adult literature’ (something that I proudly declare as NOT a guilty pleasure, but a great pleasure that I often indulge in). I picked up a copy of Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games.” I almost never wind up purchasing a book in situations like this, but I didn’t have a choice. It was a must buy.

“The Hunger Games” is another “children’s” book that drives its plot with dystopian themes and young people ‘sticking it to the man’ by rebelling against the corrupted government. The heroine, Katniss Everdeen, lives in district 12, one of the 12 fenced-in colonies in the post-apocalyptic North American Society. The duty of the 12 colonies is to serve the purposes of the elite caste that lives in ‘the capitol’ of this intriguing nation called Panem. The capitol is a brutal place that demands obedience from the untouchables in the colonies and reinforces the idea of the colonies’ inferiority by holding a lottery each year in each colony. The lottery determines the 2 children, one male, one female, who will be coerced to fight to the death in the annual hunger games.

The game itself is held in an enormous arena with unbelievable booby trap and mind-bending elements to lure the contestants into a compelling competition in front of the omnipresent cameras that broadcast every moment of the games to the world.

Through a jaw dropping series of events, Katniss finds herself competing in the games and can only become the winner by killing all of the other contestants. She is a hard but kind hearted 16-year-old who is equipped with remarkable skills, but her confrontations with paralyzing ethical dilemmas and the torturous environment of the games will put her character to the test.

This book really is as awesome as everyone says it is. If you start you will be done within a few days (max). Collins has wonderfully developed characters with layers of motives and feelings that all play effortlessly into her brilliant plot. Despite the book being for young adults, there is a great deal of violence, and yes, death. It is a fine line that Collins walks by masterfully condemning the acts of the capitol and the hunger games, and still inviting the reader to enjoy the intensity of the violence.

The Hunger Games stands out from other works of young adult literature because it is written powerfully, and written well. This book is truly one for all ages, and should only be read if you are willing to invest the $25 dollars in purchasing the 2nd and 3rd book in the trilogy (Collins is no stranger to the cliffhanger).

When you’re done reading it and loaning it to friends who are demanding to give it a go because of your bubbling enthusiasm, put this book on the 4th shelf (out of 5).

Boring Summer Reading as a kid, becomes a blast as an adult. ‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar

I think a great deal of us were assigned ‘Holes,’ by Louis Sachar to read it middle school, only to be drowned in good company in a sea of other great reads like ‘The Hobbit,’ ‘Ender’s Game,’ and ‘The Giver.’ But the obligatory nature of these book that, for me, just became homework, caused them to dissolve into the white noise of writings that didn’t matter. And while some of my friends really did enjoy the book back then, I was to busy reading ‘Hank the Cowdog,’ and pretending to understand the ridiculous plots in ‘Superman’ comic books. I didn’t give near enough attention to the awesome book by Sachar.

Scott YelnatsStanley Yelnats was given a choice. The judge said, “You may go to jail, or you may go to Camp Green Lake.” Stanley was from a poor family. He had never been to camp before.

’Holes’ is about a cursed kid named Stanley Yelnats; cursed because of the mistakes of his ‘no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.’ (his last name is his first name backwards… too cool… my name would be Scott Ttocs… which sounds eerily close to buttocks… what would your name be?) He is a boy who was wrongfully accused of stealing the shoes of a famous baseball player: Clyde “Sweetfeet” Livingston. When in reality, the shoes fell from the sky onto his head… a story the judge didn’t buy. As a result He finds himself at Camp Green Lake. A name that does nothing to describe the desert waste land where he is supposed to spend the next 18 months of his life. As punishment, he is to dig a whole 5 feet wide and deep everyday- including weekends. The duty is masked as a task that builds character, but something is not as it seems, it doesn’t take the hero long to see that the corrupt leadership of Camp Green Lake is not having Stanley and his peers dig holes for no reason. There is something more than character building happening at camp.

Holes is a spectacular book that went over my head in middle school because I didn’t take time to appreciate the foreshadowing, the allusions, and the heartwarming, and heartbreaking elements that Sachar so brilliantly uses to supplement the core storyline. Allusions to Stanley’s ancestors, camp green lake, sweet feet, and Kissin’ Kate Barlow are all used masterfully as clues to what is really happening in Stanley’s tale.

Killer Lizards, onion juice, Sploosh, gypsies, treasure, curses, and outlaws… Holes is a great book that was OK in adolescence, and wildly entertaining as an adult. It is a book about fate, justice, and the unraveling of an intriguing curse upon the descendent of that ‘no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.’  It goes on shelf 4 1/2 of 5. How do I put in there you ask? You’ll have to see my bookshelf.

 

Everybody owns it! Who has read it? ‘The Screwtape Letters’ by C.S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters is a unique book. I can think of no other work of literature that I have read or have heard of that is even remotely similar. Lewis’ writing assumes the voice of a demon, Screwtape, authoring instructional letters to his nephew, Wormwood, on how to effectively tempt the man he has been assigned to, in order to pull him away from ‘the Enemy’ (God). It is an unmatched work of Lewis’ grasp on human psychology seen through the lens of Christianity.

The plot of the book traces the practicing temptations of Wormwood upon his subject, and then follows the continuing cosmic battles of God and the demonic throughout the events of what is seemingly everyday

Demythologizing the demonichuman life. The ultimate aim of the book, I believe, is for Christians to understand how demons/tempters utilize the mundane occurrences of life to lure us away from God. It is a spectacularly revealing book that helped me to realize that wickedness is not the absolute aim of Satan, but to promote repeated actions and thoughts within us that keep us from approaching God.

I understand that the Screwtape Letters may seem cliche to many, because it sits atop every Christian’s bookshelf as one of the absolute must reads along with the books we know everyone has: ‘Mere Christianity,’ ‘Desiring God,’ ‘Narnia,’ etc. (I would like to note that the presence of these books doesn’t mean for a second that anyone has read them) It is like the Christian book equivalent of a star on your Christmas Tree- it just isn’t right until it’s there. But it really is a book that is more than worth its time to read. The Screwtape Letters will not only help you in more thoroughly thinking through your own faith, but also thinking through ‘the little foxes’ that seem to attack your system of belief. I think what amazes me most about the Screwtape Letters, is that while Lewis is a using a fictitious demon as his mouthpiece, there are wholly reverent, and worshipful ideas that are presented to the reader, despite the devout thoughts coming from a character that completely despises God. The Screwtape Letters will undoubtedly present to you ideas and theologies that help to foster a greater love and passion for the one in the book who is referred to as the ‘Great Enemy.’

I remember vividly when someone very close to me was hesitant about reading ‘The Screwtape Letters’ because the very idea of a demon being assigned to temp an individual was scary. I agree, the idea certainly isn’t one that makes you want to party like its 1999. However, it is a reality that our enemy Satan is seeking to destroy us, and having a better grasp on his battle plan is like knowing the formation and strategy of an attacking army- it’s going to help.

All that being said, in no way is this a scary book to read, nor will it promote thoughts about the demonic in an unhealthy way. Your child is not going to be a practicing warlock that attends Hogwarts after reading the book. At worst you will notice areas in your life that you have forfeited to temptation that you never noticed. At best (which is what occurred to me, and I think every other Tom, Dick, and Harry that has read the book) you will find yourself emotionally stirred, and have a greater love for God who readily thwarts the attacks of the demonic.

Put it on the top shelf, as cliche as it seem. It belongs there. Trust me.

C.S. Lewis ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’

“There was once a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. He didn’t call his Father and Mother “Father” and “Mother”, but Harold and Alberta. They [his family] were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and tee-totallers, and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on beds and the windows were always open.”

"Sailing to the Edge of the World"

-CS Lewis ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’

There are several people that are all too familiar with the Chronicles of Narnia, and hold each installment in the masterpiece as a work dear to their hearts. (This of course excludes the movies. No comment will be made about them) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is certainly no exception and is one of the greatest works of one of the greatest minds.

Lucy, Edmund, and their terrible cousin Eustace, are magically pulled into a painitng and into the seas of Narnia and are pulled aboard a beautiful ship to meet their old friends: Caspian, King of Narnia, and Reepicheep, a fearless warrior mouse. The tale is filled with encounters with evil slave traders, dragons, any mysterious spellbinding islands. Through his captivating prose, and lovable characters, Lewis educates us with profound spiritual truths while still keeping the reader enthralled in a playful, exciting state throughout the entire mystical adventure.

I read the chronicles of Narnia, before I was a Christian, and I enjoyed them thoroughly, but after becoming a follower of Christ, the pages came to life. They were more than just great storytelling. ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,’ more than any other book has the ability to beautifully blend the power of emotion with the truth of theology. So many Christian books seems stale to me today because they lack the feeling of Lewis’ writing; the ability to communicate more than just a truth in your mind, but to also solidify it within your heart.

This is another must read. Whether you enjoy adventures, Christian reading, or wi; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader will find itself on the top of your bookshelf.