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.

Watership Down

When I had a trusted friend tell me that he had a riveting, suspenseful book for me to read I was excited. When he told me that the book was about bunnies, I thought of ‘Thumper’ from Bambi, in some sort of Schwarzenegger movie with grenades and machine guns. However, the trust I have in my friend outweighed the ridiculous images I had in my mind of the Easter bunny as a pirate, or Bugs Bunny driving the van in a heist.

All that being said, ‘Watership Down’ by Richard Adams is an extremely suspenseful book that makes your heart-rate skyrocket while you bite your nails, and pull your hair in anticipation of the unfolding, brilliant plot. The tale is about a group of rabbits, primarily Fiver, a peculiar runt that has prophetic abilities, and Hazel, a good hearted rabbit thrust into a position of leadership. The two decide to leave their warren with a few others due to the odd supernatural feelings Fiver receives concerning the future of their home.

Their departure results

in a compelling page turner that effortlessly engages the reader. At face value, the story really only has events that you would imagine occur in the dull life of rabbits: finding food, mates, and shelter. But Adams has a keen ability to create a sense of desperation within the reader for the rabbits to accomplish this task and does so through his masterful character development. Each rabbit has their own distinct characteristics: some are eerie, some likable, some hysterical, and some downright frightening. The quirks, speech, and other unique qualities drove me to caring deeply for the outcome of Hazel, Fiver, and all of their peers.

There are also segments blended within the ‘Watership Down’ of the rabbit’s mythology and folklore that read as entertaining children’s stories. These elements mixed with the ‘Lapine’ glossary in the back of the book to help you decipher rabbit words for things like: tractors, badgers, and droppings, envelop the reader in a fantasy world that is actually a beautiful depiction of a real place seen through the eyes of wonderfully crafted rabbit characters.

Watership Down is a must read that I will proudly place on bookshelf number 4 of 5.

The Weight of Glory

C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Weight of Glory’ is another piece by a brilliant thinker that challenges the reader to examine their own beliefs and practices in light of Lewis’ strikingly clear logic. It is difficult to pen point an overall feel for the book, as it is 9 independent essays compiled into one work. Lewis is mentioned in the same breath as several classical theologians and philosophers, but his true gift lies not in his ability of understanding the divine, but in having a remarkable grasp on what makes us human. The tendencies and compulsions we have as a fallen race are thrown into the concepts of war, pacifis

m, relationships with peers, theology, tensions between the spirit and physical realm, forgiveness, and more in ‘The Weight of Glory.’

If you decide to read this book (as you should) you will find yourself moved to pause after Lewis’ breathtaking prose, and if you’re like me,

stirring your almost sleeping wife to read her a quote or two that resonates in your spirit while simultaneously challenging you.

Lewis’ ‘The Weight of Glory’ is spectacular not necessarily because it introduces new truths, or that his practical applications seem sim

ple, but because Lewis had a gift unlike any other to assign feeling, passion, and purpose to a concept that you have probably always believed in while exercising his power to do so frequently in this masterpiece.

This one should be proudly displayed at the top of your bookshelf along with the other works thatgive you warm feelings merely by looking at them and remembering the volumes they spoke in their limited number of pages.