Tag: Books

All Good Things Come in Threes: Khamsa of Nizami British Library, Or. 12208


Khamsa of Nizami British Library, Or. 12208 is not a very interesting sounding document. Indeed, to most Westerners, Khamsa of Nizami means nothing at all. But this illustrated manuscript, which now resides at the British Library in London, tells three extraordinary tales: the poems of Nizami, the profound (and unappreciated) bond between art and the written world in the early modern Islamic world, and the relationship between two great empires. Let’s start from the last. 

Parenting Postscript: Our Best and Worst Decisions


In 1994, my dad introduced me to a friend of his and mentioned that I was engaged. My dad’s friend, with humor and kindness, told me, “Ah, yes. Marriage.  There’s nothing like marriage to show you who you really are.  Smokes you right out.”  All these years, I’ve  retained the image of a small frenzied mammal running back and forth in his tunnel until he finally pops out of his back door–heaving, exposed, and vulnerable–to gulp the fresh air.  Except in my case, it was not marriage, but parenthood that really smoked me out.

Christian blogger and author Tim Challies expressed it best when he described some challenges of being a parent as “muddling through.”  Yes–we can read all the books, survey parents we admire, attend Love and Logic conferences, determine to be kinder and gentler, ask for help on Facebook.  Yet, few children arrive as a neat, predictable package.  Each comes as a unique little creature, a complete person, yet pre-loaded with potential to be nurtured and developed over years.

My Out-of-Control Reading Queue


It’s been a while since I wrote, and I was going to post this to a group, but then things got long and I decided I’m sharing this with everyone. So there. Anyhow, because I can’t just read one thing at a time, like a sane person, I’ve a rather long list of “currently reading” items which I’ll list here (with at least one “just finished”). There are actually several categories and reasons why they appear concurrently in my reading list. If you’re interested in just how distracted my reading mind gets, feel free to read on!

“Peace Talks” by Jim Butcher — The not quite latest in the Dresden saga. Once again, Dresden is in hot water even during Peace Talks amongst the various powers in the magical world. Which makes sense. Nothing is simple for him. The Jim Butcher Exponent of Action remains true in this book — as a Jim Butcher book continues, the action increases exponentially, and thus the longer his books go, the more we approach Infinite Action!

“Galen’s Way” by Richard Paolinelli — An independently published eBook, this falls in the genre of Space Opera, when men are real men, women are real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri are real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. So to speak. This takes place in another galaxy centuries after humanity fled some strange entity’s assault on the Milky Way. There’s action, political skullduggery, and fun stuff like that.

On this episode of “The Federalist Radio Hour,” President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center Ryan T. Anderson joins Culture Editor Emily Jashinsky to discuss Amazon’s recent attempt to deplatform his book “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.”

Reviewing Seawriter’s Book: Vanished Houston Landmarks


This post turns the tables on Ricochet’s intrepid book reviewer, @seawriter, who is known to the outside world as Mark Lardas. He wrote an engaging, enjoyable book called “Vanished Houston Landmarks“, available for the Kindle, and it’s a skillful job that deserves your attention.

When I grew up, people didn’t hate Californians (yet). New Yorkers and Texans regularly topped polls of who our fellow Americans found most annoying, and despite vast differences between Gothamites and Texians, we have this in common: we are apt to boast a great deal. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve only passed through Texas and I ought to know more about its history, but I can understand the boasting: it really is a remarkable place with wonderful people.

A Multi-Level Treasure Hunt


In 1764 Tsarina Catherine the Great of Russia started a major war in Europe. It was a culture war. She collected fine art as aggressively as she fought on the battlefield. It spurred Europe’s crowned heads, especially Louis XVI of France and Frederick the Great of Prussia, to compete at obtaining and displaying art, especially fine paintings.

“The Tsarina’s Lost Treasure: Catherine the Great, a Golden Age Masterpiece, and a Legendary Shipwreck,” by Gerald Easter and Mara Vorhees, records a casualty of that culture war Dutch Master paintings purchased at auction for Catherine the Great were sent from Holland to St Petersburg aboard the Dutch merchantman Vrouw Maria. Caught in a storm, the ship sank off the Finnish coast.

The book uses the shipwreck, to frame the story. Among the paintings lost was Gerrit Dou’s triptych The Nursery. Largely forgotten today, Dou was then the most admired Golden Age Dutch Master. (One of Dou’s paintings hung in the Louvre next to the Mona Lisa.) The Nursery was considered Dou’s finest work.

‘A Gift to Humanity’


If we are to be unified, then we must be able and willing to share life. Bill Whittle and company offer a timely reminder of the tremendous good that social media can achieve when people are free to associate across boundaries and to enjoy life together as fellows.

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I’m finishing (8% to go Kindle app says) The Last Lion: Volume 1 by William Manchester and before moving on to Volume 2 I’d like to read more into WWI. Does anyone have any recommendations for a quality WWI book that stops at least before 1932? If your read all 3 volumes of Manchester your input […]

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Book Review: Thinking Orthodox


“What truly makes Orthodox Christianity different? Is it simply that we do not have a pope? That we preserve ancient liturgical forms and rituals? That married men can be priests?
The question does not lend itself to a simple answer because the reality is complex. In fact, the essence of Orthodox uniqueness lies far beyond these fundamentals… It is hidden, subtle, deeper than the outward forms, customs, or specific theological beliefs that manifest the divergence. The Orthodox phronema (“mentality,” “stance,” or “approach”) is the foundation of Orthodox Christianity. It is usually unexpressed and unexamined, and rarely discussed, but it affects not simply what we believe and why but — above all else — how we think.”⁠1

It needs to be said at the outset that Thinking Orthodox: Understanding and Acquiring the Orthodox Christian Mind, by Dr. Eugenia Constantinou, is not exactly a book of Orthodox theology (though it contains much). It might be described as a book about Orthodox theology. But it is better described as a book about how to begin to think and understand like an Orthodox Christian, and so to understand Orthodox theology, while avoiding traps, heresies, and dangers along the way.  

The book is guide to understanding how the very culture we live in is imbued with a mindset (a phronema, to use the Greek idiom the author introduces) and spirit that is very often hostile to, or at least at odds with Orthodox Christianity. Even Western Christianity, in both its Catholic and Protestent forms, has a very different mindset. In this the book is a valuable guide for converts, inquirers, and even cradle-Orthodox who may not be aware how different that understanding is. But the book is of great value even for non-Orthodox Christians, for much of it is a guide for our times, where Christianity is in retreat, and where the internet can deceive us all into thinking ourselves experts after half an hour on Wikipedia, or lure us towards extremists and zealots who seek division. Much of Dr. Constantinou’s book should indeed be read by all Christians who could find themselves arguing theology with strangers through a keyboard.

Quote of the Day: You Don’t Have to Burn Books


“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” —Ray Bradbury

For as long as I can remember, books were my closest companions. They took me to exotic countries and taught me about the cultures and the people who lived there. They invited me to go on mysterious investigations and introduced me to bizarre and silly creatures from another world and time. They became friends who let me tag along with them, play with them, and explore new ideas with them. In their presence, life would suddenly become intriguing and fun. There was always something new to learn.

Life would have been empty and lonely without them.

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A Poem to CongressWritten by Poet Laureate Howard Nemerov, and read by him to the United States Congress on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Congress, March 2, 1989: To the Congress of the United States Entering Its Third Century, with Preface. Preview Open

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In 1913, aviation was ten years old. Yet flying caught the imagination of Eric Ellington of the US Naval Academy. Graduating third in the Class of 1909, he resigned his naval commission in 1911 to pursue flying. Accepting a second lieutenant’s commission in the United States Army in 1911, in 1912 he transferred to the […]

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I Read All 24 Jack Reacher Books This Year


In 2019 I read 40 books, pretty evenly split between biographies/history books and non-fiction. Largely because of our tinpot dictator governors shutting down so much other activity this year (sporting events, concerts, restaurants, dances, etc.), I’ve been reading a lot more, and have gone through 56 books in less than eight months, including all 24 of Lee Childs’ Jack Reacher series.

Several months ago, there was a Ricochet post about favorite books and someone mentioned the Jack Reacher series, none of which had I ever bothered to try. I downloaded one from our library (not the first of the series, it had a bunch of people waiting) and whipped through it in about a day and a half. After that I was hooked; most of them took me no more than two days. I wasn’t able to read them in any particular order because of library availability, but I just finished the last one, which ironically is the first in the series, Killing Floor. It has an interesting prologue from the author outlining how he became a writer and his basis for the character.

Jack Reacher is a retired Army military police major and son of a Marine sergeant, and his adventures often involve military or national security themes. He has no fixed address and roams the country by hitchhiking or riding buses while trying to get a feel for the country and its people that he didn’t get to experience as a kid in his Dad’s overseas Marine postings or his own MP activities. The usual theme is Jack minding his own business on a cross-country bus, eating in a diner, walking through New York City or some podunk town in Nebraska or Maine, and lo and behold, crime and adventure find him. It usually involves him going toe-to-toe with a crew of nasty, evil villains while helping out someone who needs to be rescued from the bad guys. Jack is pretty smart, is a numbers freak, and his background in MP investigations serves him well, but at 6-feet-5 and 250 pounds, when the rubber meets the road he has to use brute strength to get him through the tough spots.

NaNoWriMo Victory: I Published a Book!


There has been a lot of sadness and negativity in our world so far this year, but I want to share something good with you all: during the stay-at-home months of March and April, I was able to accomplish a goal that I have had for as long as I can remember. All gratitude and praise to Jesus, I have published my first book!

Even before I could read, myself, I was “writing” books. My mom would fold and staple paper into a “book” for me, and then I would draw the pictures and “read” my book aloud. Once I learned how to actually read and write, I didn’t slow down. In fact, my main issue has always been actually finishing something before I move onto another idea. Being a published author is what I have always wanted to do with my life, but I lacked discipline growing up, and then college and working distracted me from my goal.

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Leaving aside economic policy, one frustration of our public health response to the COVID-19 outbreak (and coverage of it) is the focus on epidemiology to the exclusion of all other fields. Epidemiologists are obviously experts in precisely the challenges posed by a global pandemic. But if we dismiss contributions from others as “non-experts,” we may […]

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Overlooked Series for TV or Movie Adaptation


The Game of Thrones book series is nihilistic nonsensical bilge.  But it makes for “good” television because that sort of mess seems to be popular in today’s culture, what with all the sex, sorcery, and savagery.  As an actual story though?  It’s terrible.  Which is probably why George R.R. Martin could never finish it – it had no real logical “out”, no escape from its cycles of violence and revenge, save what the HBO writers could force together.  Until HBO picked it up, though, it was unlikely fare for Hollywood treatment – Hollywood typically shies away from overly long fantasy cycles simply because such things are very expensive to cast and produce well, to say nothing of finding good writers to translate novels into scripts you can actually film.  For all the awfulness of its story, I do give full credit to HBO for the solid work they put into the project over nearly a decade – one can deplore the story but still admire the brilliant and extremely skilled craftwork involved in telling it, and (more importantly) sticking with it at that high level for so long.  Would that The Hobbit had been given that same dedication.

And now it seems we are to receive another attempt at telling the story of Dune.  I am not excited at the prospect.  The David Lynch film of the 80s was terrible.  The SciFi Channel’s miniseries of 20 years ago was much better.  But why Dune?  Why yet another attempt?  If Hollywood is looking for that next “big epic”, surely there are other and better stories to tell?  Dune, the first book, is interesting, but has its weaknesses, while the rest of the series gets rather strange.  Haven’t other authors written better and more compelling fantasy or science-fiction epics?  Or must we continually return to just a few “classics”, like Amazon is trying to do with its pending Tolkien series?  I would like to propose a few other authors and series that Hollywood should consider instead, and would invite you to make your own suggestions as well.

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Once upon a time, I had two books that I never finished reading. They were two halves of the same novel, published in separate volumes and numbered so that the second took up, page number wise, just where the first ended. And then I lost them. So, as I have spent the last four years […]

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