If You Like Reading, You Need To Read This Book

“Excuse me if I enjoy myself rather obviously!” he said to Gregory, smiling. “I don’t often have the luck to have a dream like this. It is new to me for a nightmare to lead to a lobster. It is commonly the other way.”

A couple of weekends ago I had the absolute pleasure of reading a real button clicker (I was reading the book on my kindle). One of my closest friends who is an avid non fiction reader told me to check out a crime/suspense novel written by one of my favorite authors: G.K. Chesterton. (For a brief intro on Chesterton, the only thing that needs to be said is that C.S. Lewis considered him to be one of his greatest influences). Even though it was a book written over a hundred years ago, I ordered it (for free) on my kindle. I was taking a relaxing weekend away in Austin with my wife while sitting in a delightful, rustic coffee shop completely unaware of how much the book would blow me away.

‘The Man who was Thursday’ is a difficult book to write a review for, because it is packed with twists and turns from the get go, and to be perfectly honest I just don’t want to give anything away (this is assuming of course that those of you who have been reading my reviews are accepting every post as gold, and laboriously following through with my supreme recommendations). The book opens with a debate between two philosophers: Syme, and Gregory, who both have remarkable secrets that are revealed quickly. The rest of the novel is the unraveling of the secrets, and one man’s adventure to bring a secret society of anarchists to justice. It is a remarkable page turner that explores the motifs of loneliness, friendship, and individuality, but keep in mind that the novel is written by a DEEP Catholic thinker, and will inevitably turn towards a resolution that magnifies the Father that Chesterton devoutly worshiped. The tale of secret societies will have you shouting, nail biting, page turning, along with sleep-losing.

I am very hesitant to give books such a high praise, but this one was instantly a favorite. Chesterton’s enchanting writing will leave you spellbound, and with a goofy grin on your face, as he is no stranger to sarcasm, wit, and satire. The stunning conclusion will leave you in a state of raw contemplation, and perhaps even confusion (unless you are of the higher echelons of society with a powerful intellect… if you’re reading my reviews, don’t worry,  you most likely fall into such a category).  But great novels, in my opinion, always do this. If you’re looking for sheer entertainment, this book is for you. But if that is ALL you’re looking for, steer clear of this psychological thriller.

5 of 5… easily.

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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.

Switched

‘Switched’ by Amanda Hocking caught my eye due to its high position on Amazon Kindle’s bestsellers and it’s awesome price of 99 cents. Without knowing a thing about the book other than the brief synopsis I read before I downloaded the story, and the overwhelming number of positive reviews, I figured it would be an awesome quick read.

‘Switched’ is about Wendy Everly, a girl who lives with her aunt and brother in an attempt to control the chaos of her life. Her mother, Kim, tried to kill her on her 6th birthday, and since then her life has been a downward spiral of changing homes and failed friendships. Within this backdrop we discover that Wendy has some peculiar abilities, and is given an opportunity by a mysterious boy, Finn, to move once again to a new place where she can finally fit in. However, if she decides to make the move she will have to leave behind her brother and aunt, the only two people who have ever cared about her.

I’ve only revealed the first 20 pages or so and it sounds like a decent story line right? However, once the story begins to progress you discover that it doesn’t go anywhere. The plot never advances, the characters are underdeveloped, the conversation is so far away from colloquial it seems as if the ‘speaker’ is rummaging through a thesaurus before deciding on each word choice, and the romantic elements in the story make you cringe with the overwhelming amount of cheesiness. I suppose if you’re into the new ‘supernatural teen romance’ genre that is emerging, this book could be for you. But for anyone that is not familiar with this genre, stay clear of this book. Wendy experiences ‘0’ change throughout the book and the story ends literally and figuratively exactly where it began.

I was astonished to see how many positive reviews this book received, and I understand that Hocking is not attempting to write a literary masterpiece that is applauded by college English professors, but to me, the story was barely enjoyable. My 99 cents would have been better spent on the ‘Fruit Ninja” app for my iPhone.

On a bookshelf with 5 shelves… shelf 5 being the highest and best, it doesn’t even make it to the shelf.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

While I was reading Stieg Larsson’s ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,’ I found myself constantly in a position of setting the book down and saying to myself: “Eww.” This book is not for the faint of heart. There are repulsive graphic scenes the make you cover your eyes (but then you realize your reading a book and not watching a movie, and that the story doesn’t go on unless you keep looking). Larsson attempts to draw our attention towards the horrific occurrences of sexual abuse and violence towards women, and masterfully accomplishes his task by making you feel weak in the knees and warping your mind into thinking you need a bath regardless of your cleanliness.

That being said, Larsson weaves a story with painstaking detail to food, technology, cars and coffee, and cannot be read unless you have a family tree of the characters at your fingertips. But even though the protagonists are not the most likable people to support and cheer for, the addicting mystery will have you turning page after page, even if your stomach squirms with each graphic scene.

On a 5 level book shelf, 5 being the best/highest it goes on shelf number 2.