Bayard's cute title shouldn't prevent anyone who is interested in discussions about reading and the dissemination of ideas from reading this book. He...moreBayard's cute title shouldn't prevent anyone who is interested in discussions about reading and the dissemination of ideas from reading this book. He walks through many examples from literature to illustrate that a written text is not a sacred, static object. Once a book is written, it may become part of the "collective library" of a culture. Whether or not someone has read it, it influences her or him, directly or indirectly. If discussed directly, it becomes part of the constantly shifting shared "virtual library" of the participants in the discussion. Even if someone has not read the book, or if s/he has read and forgotten most of it, s/he can say something about its place in the collective library -- how it relates to other books and ideas.
Each person is shaped by her or his "inner library". This library is made of those books and ideas that are most important to the person and might even be said to define who s/he is. Any time someone interacts with a book, s/he is evaluating it in light of her or his inner library. The book that s/he is discussing will never be the same book that participants in the discussion are thinking about. This is because one reader remembers certain parts and has colored them according to her or his inner library. A second reader is focusing on other parts, emphasized in different ways. For this reason, someone who has not read the book at all may have points about it that are just as valid or more so than the those of the readers.
Bayard's book is creative, thought provoking, and fun to read.(less)
In this half-memoir/half-critique, Schaeffer argues that religious fundamentalists share some basic attitudes with some current atheist writers, the "...moreIn this half-memoir/half-critique, Schaeffer argues that religious fundamentalists share some basic attitudes with some current atheist writers, the "new atheists". Throughout the text, he presents some of his personal background, which includes having grown up in a famous "evangelical/fundamentalist" family. He knows many of the recent and current Evangelical Christian leaders, and is able to give some personal anecdotes, as well as responses to what they've written or stated publicly.
The main parallel that he draws between "evangelical/fundamentalists" (he contrasts this group with some evangelical Christians who he does not think fit into this category) and "new atheists" is their lack of humility in their approach to questions that cannot possibly be definitively answered by a human today. He believes that the only honest and healthy approach to questions about the universe and man's "spiritual" nature is to acknowledge both what is overwhelmingly demonstrable as true (e.g., the scientific support for evolution; Schaeffer doesn't really argue for or against it in this book but accepts it as a default, received truth, and a jumping point for follow-up arguments) and what is clearly wrong (e.g., the "inerrancy" of "the bible"; this he points out with a few examples of basic contradictions in the text, as well as ethically insulting stories).
Schaeffer's argument is effective because it is based on what appears to be a sincere attempt in his life to listen to others. He lists good arguments of those whose main points he disagrees with, though he shows little patience for those whose tone doesn't ask for it. He essentially argues that people would be much better off and happier if we would listen to each other and realize that we are evolving in our understanding of our place in the universe. One weakness of the book is an inconsistent voice in the text, which sometimes becomes too informal (e.g., sometimes it seems as if Schaeffer is throwing in gratuitous sexual descriptions or crude language that don't seem to fit in with the general approach of the book).
Overall, this book is a great choice for a reader who does not fit into either end of the spectrum that Schaeffer is describing because it serves as a warning against hubris and offers many thoughtful points for consideration. Fundamentalist might not have the patience to try to understand his approach.(less)
Author Juliet Ashton makes friends by mail with some residents of an island in the English Channel. Set in post-World-War-II England, this novel is ar...moreAuthor Juliet Ashton makes friends by mail with some residents of an island in the English Channel. Set in post-World-War-II England, this novel is arranged almost entirely in correspondence. The reader is invited to follow the plot through the letters of the different characters. Shaffer and Barrows do a great job of maintaining different voices for the different participants in the plot, while still providing readers with enough information to follow the story. (less)
This is a fun first book in a series. It has the familiar feel of stories like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, in which children discover that they ha...moreThis is a fun first book in a series. It has the familiar feel of stories like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, in which children discover that they have supernatural powers and are therefore sent off to a special school. Some of the scenarios and characters are so familiar, they sometimes almost seem like copies of the formulas those books are written in. The writing and editing are not as careful as Rowling, but it is still engaging. (less)
This is a light-hearted book that deals with the meaning of friendship as two quite different boys become involved in each others' lives. One is a nat...moreThis is a light-hearted book that deals with the meaning of friendship as two quite different boys become involved in each others' lives. One is a natural athlete who is popular with everyone. The other is often refered to as "The Brain" because of his love for learning. Each learns to help his friend by giving from his strengths.
There is some description of football that could keep the attention of readers attracted by the cover and title, but most of the story focuses on issues related to growing up, such as friendship, dealing with bullies, and self-image.(less)
Susanna Clarke's first book will be hard to follow. Images and ideas from this story will likely return to the reader for years to come. Many passages...moreSusanna Clarke's first book will be hard to follow. Images and ideas from this story will likely return to the reader for years to come. Many passages could be carefully read and re-read because of the wonderful ways the words have been put together and the pictures that they create in the mind. . . if one could turn away from the involved, clever plot long enough to do so.
The story is mostly set in nineteenth century England, and incorporates many historical elements as it weaves in an alternative magical history. "Practical magic" has been absent from England for hundreds of years, but two men hope to bring it back. The detailed descriptions of the lives of people from different classes are interspersed with humor, politics, romance, and though-provoking turns of events that might make a reflective reader turn from the wonderful escape of the book to consider parallels in his or her own world. (less)
This beautiful book by school librarian Laura Amy Schlitz deserves its Newbery. Robert Byrd's illustrations complement Schlitz's creative writing well...moreThis beautiful book by school librarian Laura Amy Schlitz deserves its Newbery. Robert Byrd's illustrations complement Schlitz's creative writing well. Schlitz wrote this book to help her students better understand medieval times. It is divided into nineteen monologues and two dialogues, each telling the story of a different person living in an English manor in 1255. All of the speakers are children.
The writing is elegant, most of it written in verse, with humor and appropriate voice. Footnotes in the margins explain the vocabulary and customs. Short background descriptions are also placed throughout the book. A thorough bibliography is also included.
The creativity of this project, the excellent writing by Schlitz, and the wonderful illustrations and layout of the book make this an immediate classic.(less)
This book is a quick read. Anyone who is not interested in religion would probably find it very slow. Because its main aim is to be didactic, other fe...moreThis book is a quick read. Anyone who is not interested in religion would probably find it very slow. Because its main aim is to be didactic, other features of the book (e.g, plot, language, character development) sometimes seem to suffer. For example, the dialog is often very stilted and unbelievable because one character is simply being used to set up another character's sermon.
The story follows the spiritual revolution encountered by the main character, successful investor Jack Stanton, during his trip to Israel to visit a former college roommate. The discovery of some ancient scrolls leads to questions about his and his friend's traditional Catholic views.(less)
Salman Rushdie creates a world that spans centuries, continents, and cultures, fiction and "reality." Every word is so carefully selected and placed i...moreSalman Rushdie creates a world that spans centuries, continents, and cultures, fiction and "reality." Every word is so carefully selected and placed in this work, that the reader can get distracted by the poetry of the language and miss part of the "story." This would not necessarily be a tragedy because all that is to be gained from this book will not be achieved in one reading, anyway.
Though there are the seemingly requisite crude parts that current literature almost invariably contains, Rushdie even (generally) makes these parts beautiful. His characters are reflective, as is the narration, with metalanguage and self-effacement that allow readers to keep up with his genius.
Though the plot is carefully thought out and full of intriguing historical references (with a thorough accompanying bibliography to help satiate the reader's interest), the magical realism and the elegance of the writing keep the story from being the primary gift taken from this book.(less)
This first book in the Unlikely Exploits series will appeal to readers who enjoy silly, but clever works. Ardagh manages to create a book that is full...moreThis first book in the Unlikely Exploits series will appeal to readers who enjoy silly, but clever works. Ardagh manages to create a book that is full of dark humor, but is still serious and sad. In this work, four McNally siblings are introduced: Jackie, the oldest; "almost twin brothers" Joshua and Albie; Le Fay; and Fergal. The story begins with Fergal falling to his death from a window. The rest of the story is a series of flashbacks and jumps forward, full of the author's metalanguage and comments on himself as the narrator. The main storyline centers on Le Fay's entry in a national typing competition. Other parts of this book that remain unexplained in the end include huge holes in the ground that keep appearing out of nowhere and the ability of one of the main characters to change into an animal. Overall, this is a very unique book that will make readers want to continue in the series. (less)
Hanging on the side of a cliff, literally, eleven-year-old Allie hears a voice in her mind telling her to let go. She trusts the voice and does so. Th...moreHanging on the side of a cliff, literally, eleven-year-old Allie hears a voice in her mind telling her to let go. She trusts the voice and does so. This starts a series of similar paranormal events which lead Allie to believe that she's communicating with the ghost of a girl who disappeared four years earlier in her small town.
In the context of mystery and ghost story, the reader learns along with Allie what it means to be a friend.(less)
Cynthia Rylant turns her childhood memories of a story of a train that would bring Christmas presents to children every year in the Appalachians into...moreCynthia Rylant turns her childhood memories of a story of a train that would bring Christmas presents to children every year in the Appalachians into a simple story. Frankie wishes year after year for his gift to be a doctor kit. When he returns to his boyhood town as an adult, we see that his wish has become a driving force in his life.(less)