Tag: Book Reviews

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. They Write Reviews, So You Don’t Have to Suffer

 

Thank you, Douglas A. Jeffery for your article in the Claremont Review of Books. I read it earlier this week and rolled my eyes so hard, they still hurt a little. Good grief! It’s amazing the incredible vitriol that some so-called “educated” people maintain for Pres. Trump.

“One sure sign,” Frum writes, “is when the president tries to bypass the executive branch that exists to serve him.” This is a Catch-22 worthy of the British sitcom Yes Minister: an elected leader trying to bypass the bureaucrats thwarting him is proof he needs thwarting.

Member Post

 

So, our friend Mark Regnerus has a new book out. You can find reviews of it here and even purchase it: https://www.amazon.com/Future-Christian-Marriage-Mark-Regnerus-ebook/product-reviews/B08DYCPLQK/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_show_all_btm?ie=UTF8&reviewerType=all_reviews Other friends of ours have asked for support in the form of reading reviews by Chris, AEH and Joel and marking them as helpful. Mark is a frequent target of the totalitarian left, […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Book Review: Big in Heaven

 

“Don’t worry, my friend, for Raskova,” she whispered to me. “I clean baby [crap]. It small thing. You sit. Read.” She said, “I am here,” tapping the pages with socket-wrench fingers. “At Dachau too, my job, priest say, sew sheets for vestment, is very small, he tell me, but big in heaven.” (p. 13)

Big in Heaven is a book of short stories, by Fr. Stephen Siniari, centered in and around the people of the fictional Saint Alexander the Whirling Dervish* parish, an ethnically Albanian church in a Fishtown neighborhood. The stories mostly follow the parish priest, Father Naum, through a variety of times, places, and narrators (some more reliable than others). The stories are not sequential. In some we find Naum young and impatient, in others, we find Naum near retirement, wiser, but bearing the scars of many years. In all of the tales, we bear witness to how the parishioners and their friends and neighbors are simply living their lives as well as they know how saints and sinners alike.

Each of the tales is a brief glimpse into the lives of the people of the parish. Through the changing voices of the narrator we learn, sometimes, of backstories and histories of the people, but not always. Sometimes the backstories are unnecessary or merely inferred. Not all of the people belong to the parish – Father Naum is friends with an Evangelical pastor, and regularly has tea with the rabbi of the synagogue across the street. The author studiously avoids common ecumenical stereotypes, however, in these interactions, and each person has his or her own voice and motivations.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Book Review: ‘Strange Rites – New Religions for a Godless World’

 

Poll after poll demonstrates declines in religious observance in the United States today, especially in the Millennial age cohort. Some faiths and denominations are declining more quickly than others, with a few holding steady. Are people ceasing to believe any higher powers, or is something else at work? Tara Isabella Burton examines this issue in her new book, Strange Rites – New Religions for a Godless World, just out within the last week. Ms. Burton makes the argument that while adherence to traditionally recognized faiths (particularly Christianity) has declined precipitously, human beings still have a need to believe that the world is “enchanted” and human beings still need the community that shared rituals can offer. So even as adherence to particular faiths is declining, new religions are emerging to fill spiritual longings. Ms. Burton terms this the “Fourth Great Awakening.”

However, these new spiritual practices are at once radically different from anything that gone before, and yet radically American in their forms and ethos. They are also radically self-centered. Her basic thesis is this: the internet provides access to information on practically anything imaginable, and quickly connects like-minded people over any niche interest, allowing us to pick and choose our friends beyond the limited physical circles we have been limited to in the past, but this also allows us to concentrate ourselves, our interests, and our desires, creating a world of information and practice uniquely tuned to ourselves. In short, we can each pick and choose our own practices, rituals, and relationships, creating “remixed” faiths, and it is the “Remixed” whose worlds Ms. Burton illuminates.

This book is, in large part, about charlatans. It’s about capitalism and corporations and the new cutthroat Silicon Valley of spirituality. It’s about people who want to sell us meaning, brand our purpose, custom-product community, tailor-make rituals, and commodify our very humanity. It’s about how the Internet and consumer capitalism alike have produced experientially satiating substitutes – many, though not all of them, poor – for well-developed ethical, moral, and metaphysical systems. It’s about the denatured selfishness of self-care, and the way in which “call-out-culture,” at its worst, serves as the psychic methadone, providing us with a brief and illusory hit of moral belonging…

Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Superego: Fathom – Book Review

 

Superego: Fathom by Frank J. Fleming is the sequel to his 2015 novel Superego, where Fleming tells the story of Rico, the top hitman for one of the biggest intergalactic crime syndicates. Rico is a psychopath – a man with no conscience or ability to empathize with other people. It’s a big part of what makes him so successful in his line of work. He’s never found a problem he can’t shoot his way out of, until he’s forced to pretend to be the good guy and find himself feeling emotions he never knew existed. Like love.

This review will contain spoilers for Superego, so if you haven’t read it yet you should stop now and go buy it. There’s also a short story that’s a prequel to the series – Superego: Personality Test – that you can read for free on Fleming’s website.

Superego: Fathom picks up two months after the end of the first book with Rico waking up from a coma. It (and Rico) hits the ground running and doesn’t stop. It turns out that exposing the corruption in the existing government by wiping out the corrupt politicians and leaders of multiple criminal syndicates on a live galaxy-wide broadcast has some consequences. To make matters worse, his father still is out there with plans in motion, plans that involve Rico. His body is constantly dealing with the poison his father used at the end of the first book and the Fazium that is (painfully) repairing him from the inside out. Plus there’s Diane. Rico has to decide what it means to be a hero and if he can live up to it.

Member Post

 

Spin the big Kindle library wheel for a bargain book review and see if you’ve landed a nod, a dud, or a blank. This is a low-stakes game that might yield some good leads or fun screeds. It won’t hurt your wallet or leave you with life regrets. Here is how to play: 1.) LOOK: […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Member Post

 

The coronavirus crisis has led to much discussion of modeling. One of the largest modeling projects in human history was the Soviet Union’s attempt to manage its entire economy on a top-down basis, including the use of sophisticated and then-state-of-the-art mathematical tools. Red Plenty…part novel, part nonfiction…is about the Soviet Union’s economic planning efforts as […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Member Post

 

SF authors are generally viewed as being mainly concerned with the future, but Connie Willis is more interested in the past…and, particularly, the way in which the past lives in the present. Her novels and short stories explore this connection using various hypothetical forms of time displacement. In Lincoln’s Dreams, a young woman starts having […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Member Post

 

In 2015, I reviewed Hans Fallada’s great novel of the late Weimar era, Little Man, What Now? Today’s review is of another Fallada novel, this one set earlier in Weimar, during the time of the great–insane–inflation. Wolf Among Wolves tells the story of a collapsing society through the intertwined lives of many characters, who include: […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Book Review: Memories of His Mercy

 

The name Peter Gilquist is incredibly well known in the Orthodox churches of America today. Father Gilquist, along with several other pastors, led a mass conversion of Evangelical churches into the Antiochian Orthodox Church in 1987, after nearly 15 years of searching for the historical Christian church as described in the book of Acts, and in the epistles of the New Testament. That quest is told in his more famous work, Becoming Orthodox, and in related works by others from that movement (I reviewed one such memoir, Surprised by Christ, late last year), but towards the end of his life, Reverend Gilquist wrote a different sort of work – personal memoirs of many of the key seminal moments in his life, ministries, and faith. Those memoirs were compiled and published several years after his death in the book Memories of His Mercy: Recollections of the Grace and Providence of God.  

In Memories of His Mercy, Fr. Gilquist tells stories of his upbringing within a devout Christian home, the men and women who mentored him in his family and beyond, and the courtship of the woman he would later marry. He later moves through some of his fondest memories, particularly of people whose lives touched his. His aim is not to write an overarching narrative, but a much humbler one of attempting to convey how faith, charity and empathy for others, and a strong work ethic tempered by consistent honesty can allow one, with the grace of God, to both be a blessing to others, and be blessed in turn.  

The various tales are also quite simply experiences that he genuinely enjoyed and wanted to share (such as when he helped ghost-write Johnny Cash’s autobiography in the 1970s), or of which he was particularly and personally proud (such as his involvement in the creation of the Orthodox Study Bible). His greatest personal joys were, of course, in his wife and family, and so their lives feature prominently in the stories too. Through it all he talks about how he saw every interaction with other people as an opportunity to evangelize and make friends.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

I signed up for a service called Book Bub to alert me to all the books for sale on Kindle. These are often $1.99, but many of these bargains are high quality work, worth your time. Sales are short-term, but often if a book has been for sale, it will be featured at that price […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Member Post

 

Release Date: January 29, 2019Minotaur Books Evan Smoak is the Nowhere Man. A man who moves in the shadows and helps people. He is also the former assassin Orphan X. In Out of the Dark he is back and ready for his most difficult and dangerous assignment yet. He is going to kill the President of the […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Book Review: Surprised by Christ

 

How does a Hasidic Jew, the son, and grandson of rabbis, become an Orthodox Christian? The journey is a fascinating one, as A. James Bernstein relates in a book that is one part personal autobiography, and the other part his spiritual journey from the Judaism of his youth through what he describes as the return to the fulfillment of Judaism’s promise in the Orthodox Church. In his tale, Father Bernstein takes readers from his initial discovery of Christianity as a young man, through his years as an Evangelical street preacher in Berkley, and back to Israel both past and present as he seeks to re-find the ancient Jewish connection to Christianity.

Bernstein begins with a vivid recollection of when a drunk anti-semite threw a brick through his father’s storefront in the middle of the night in Queens, NY. Though James was born in the US during World War II, his parents had wed in the early 1930s, and had fled Jerusalem (where his father was from) for the US (his mother was from Pittsburgh) out of fear that the Muslim Mufti of the region would ally with the Nazis. The horrors of the war and the revelations of the Holocaust broke much of his father’s faith, and though trained as a Rabbi in his youth, in America he instead chose to run a candy store.

Bernstein describes much of growing up in New York City in the 1950s and ’60s as nearly idyllic, the brick-throwing aside, but he had a hunger for spiritual knowledge that led him into conversations with many of the other ethnic groups around him, and those conversations led him to read (in secret) the Christian Bible. What he found, and moreover whom he found he compared in detail to everything he had learned as a Jew, and in time, and at the cost of his relationship with his parents, he converted to Christianity. But of what sort?

Member Post

 

Popular histories of the fall of the Roman Republic are not in short supply. There are excellent entries in this crowded field. One can look to Tom Holland’s Rubicon or the recent New York Times bestseller The Storm Before the Storm by popular podcaster Mike Duncan. Into this crowded field we have Mortal Republic by Edward J. Watts. Dr. Watts is […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Member Post

 

Greetings Fellow Ricochet members. After a few years away I have relaunched my book review blog. I will be running the reviews here as well. I read in a lot of fields. I don’t actually remember learning how to read, but family lore says I was two years old. Here you will see both fiction […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” – Mark Twain Yesterday someone asked me about the books I review, how I decide to pick them, and how I got into reviewing books. I read. Boy, do I read. I have always been a voracious reader – even in first […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Member Post

 

I am currently reading Jonah Goldberg’s “Suicide of the West” and Patrick Deneen’s “Why Liberalism Failed” for a doctoral class. Finding myself about halfway through the former I had the following review retweeted into my timeline this morning and it held exactly the critique of Goldberg’s thesis that was digging at me. I want to […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. ‘Suicide of the West’ Review

 

I just finished Jonah Goldberg’s Suicide of the West last night. Overall, I think it’s a very good book and one that people on both the Left and Right will benefit from reading. The book is not full of pop-culture references and humorous or snarky asides, which may disappoint regular readers of his G-File newsletter. It’s definitely a serious book, more in the style of his first title, Liberal Fascism, than his second, The Tyranny of Cliches. While I generally agree with the overall premise and conclusions, I do have a few quibbles about some of his writing decisions. Before I get into those, here’s a quick summary.

The basic premise is that we have reached a pinnacle when it comes to finding a way for humanity to prosper, and that if we aren’t careful we will throw it all away. He starts by observing that for most of human existence, life has been pretty miserable. We first appeared about 250,000 years ago, and for 99 percent of that time nothing changed. He points to about 300 years ago, when what he refers to as “the Miracle” happened, that life really started to improve drastically. The values of the Enlightenment combined with the economic benefits of capitalism combined in a place where they were allowed to develop (England) and then were given a true home here in America where they have flourished and changed the world. But the “Miracle” goes against human nature. We didn’t evolve in such a way to ensure the “Miracle” happened and if we let human nature take its course, we’ll lose what we have gained.

In fact, Goldberg makes a good case that we’ve already dropped below the pinnacle. The progressive movement of the early 20th century damaged the balanced structure that the Founders designed by letting an administrative state transform into a shadow government unchecked by the formal system defined in our Constitution. In that sense, I found the book to be kind of depressing. At this point, it would take a new revolution to free ourselves from the bureaucracy that we’ve allowed to take over so much of our formal government, and there’s no sign that people have the slightest interest in doing anything of the sort. Unfulfillable promises to “drain the swamp” aside, the administrative state is here to stay.

Member Post

 

(In the light of the Cambridge Analytica revelations. I thought this 2014 post from Chicago Boyz might be of interest here) There has been much discussion recently of Catalist, a database system being used by the Democratic Party to optimally target their electioneering efforts…see Jonathan’s post here. I’m reminded of Eugene Burdick’s 1964 novel, The 480. The book’s […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Dreamland – A Review

 

Billed as “the true tale of America’s Opiate epidemic,” Sam Quinones’s Dreamland is a pretty quick read considering it’s about 350 pages. The blurbs on the back promise “expert storytelling,” and I suppose it is. The storytelling is good enough to make me wonder how heavily Quinones selected for stuff that would make a good story, while other stuff, equally true and relevant, but less dramatic, got discarded along the way. Quinones focuses on the marketing of OxyContin as a safe prescription drug, its subsequent abuse, the spread of a new means of dealing black tar heroin, and the connection between these, telling the tale of several colorful characters along the way.

To Quinones, the spread of opiate use to white America – not just to impoverished “rust belt” regions, but also to the offspring of the wealthy, managerial class – is fraught with moral meaning, though perhaps contradictory moral meaning. Heroin tempts us when we’re too wealthy, when we’re too poor, because we feel entitled to pain relief, because we don’t feel entitled to stop when it hurts but instead succumb to pressure to tough it out by any means necessary; it tempts us when we’re underwhelmed by life, it tempts us when we’re overwhelmed… Opiates are both the new party drug and the new drug of social isolation… Addiction is simultaneously a moral indictment of American consumerist excess during the pre-crash boom, a testament to post-crash misery, and an illness which deserves less moral stigma than it gets. Forgive me for suspecting at times that, to Quinones, opiates serve mostly as a random moral generator.

Which isn’t to say Dreamland is a bad book. There seems to be plenty of impressive journalism in here, crime journalism especially, although the science journalism falls rather short: there are multiple errors in describing how drugs are metabolized; in describing the drugs derived from the opium poppy (in particular, using “the morphine molecule” as shorthand for all of them); and sometimes there’s just illiterate wording, like calling what’s not statistical mechanics “statistical mechanics” or calling a lumbar sprain “a sprained lumbar” (a sprained lumbar… what?). Still, for someone like me – someone who uses opioids conservatively as part of a pain-management regimen, considering them a not-very-fun occasional treatment reserved for pain that inhibits productivity even more than being doped up would – Dreamland is a tour of a world Quinones, if his story is to be believed, claims I could easily have become a part of, yet haven’t.