I actually read Three Men on the Bummel before this book, unlike most. I enjoyed Bummel more -- it was hilarious almost throughout, while this was fun...moreI actually read Three Men on the Bummel before this book, unlike most. I enjoyed Bummel more -- it was hilarious almost throughout, while this was funny most of the time.
There were some quite beautiful descriptions of the river scene.
I also love the way Jerome describes a battle between a dog and a teakettle, ascribing emotions and desires to both.
A fun read, and I think I'm becoming something of a Jerome fan now.(less)
An interesting read. I followed most of his reasoning. I found the section attempting to disprove miracles to have weak reasoning, even though I mostl...moreAn interesting read. I followed most of his reasoning. I found the section attempting to disprove miracles to have weak reasoning, even though I mostly agree with his ultimate conclusion that religion is not testable by science. It was refreshing to see an Enlightenment thinker rebelling against the literalization of religion that was happening then, something that we are just now managing to escape from.
[ I read the Jonathan Bennett edition from earlymoderntexts.com :](less)
There are a lot of issues raised by this short work, and it's hard to write a summary of it.
One theme is the notion of questioning our beliefs, whatev...moreThere are a lot of issues raised by this short work, and it's hard to write a summary of it.
One theme is the notion of questioning our beliefs, whatever they may pertain to: civil society, democracy, government, patriotism, family, religion, ethics, even death.
Socrates, through his questioning, often seems to burst the bubble of long-held beliefs in the people he talks with. He seems to be inviting us to ask of ourselves: "Am I really sure about that? On what grounds?" He also would approve of us relentlessly asking that of others. Let's understand why we believe something, not just believe it blindly. His contemporaries appeal to religion frequently, but appear to rarely question WHY they appeal to religion or if their understanding of religion is correct.
As with Plato's Euthyphro, this seems to speak well to contemporary life. We have a lot of debates today where people on all sides fail to step back and question themselves, fail to seriously consider the arguments of others, and display merely an unshakable self-confidence in their own beliefs that frankly I can't understand.
Another thing that rings through to today is that Aristotle thought he was doing people (or, at the very least, society) a favor by pointing out flaws in people's thinking. Those people's egos were wounded, and lashed out in anger. A lot of people today are incredibly defensive if fundamental assumptions are questioned.
Socrates also claimed that he was the wisest man alive because he knew that he had no knowledge of any significance, while everyone around him thought themselves well-versed in some topic or another.
Ironically, Socrates displayed remarkable confidence in the Oracle's response, and in his philosophy of death; neither of which are entirely clear-cut questions.
I read Euthyphro (though not this edition) for a philosophy class recently. I probably wouldn't have otherwise, but I'm glad I did.
This is one of thos...moreI read Euthyphro (though not this edition) for a philosophy class recently. I probably wouldn't have otherwise, but I'm glad I did.
This is one of those works where you can read it quickly in just a few minutes, and not get much out of it. Pay closer attention, think about it for awhile, and you'll realize the issues it raises.
I found particularly the arguments against appealing to religion while devising policy that restricts others' rights. It had echoes all the way to the gay marriage debate happening today. Interesting that ancient Athens struggled with some of the same issues that we do today.(less)
This was a fun read. It got a bit slow in the middle, but kept me reading. I didn't find it as hilarious as some did -- though the beginning and end b...moreThis was a fun read. It got a bit slow in the middle, but kept me reading. I didn't find it as hilarious as some did -- though the beginning and end both were. I think many, myself included, benefit from the gentle, humorous reminder that we can't control all of life, and trying to do so makes us less happy.
The first-person perspective was handled very well, and I had to remind myself that this wasn't necessarily autobiographical. That well.(less)
I guess I'm in a bit of a habit of reading a Dickens "holiday" story at Christmas time; I read A Christmas Carol last year. This one was enjoyable, bu...moreI guess I'm in a bit of a habit of reading a Dickens "holiday" story at Christmas time; I read A Christmas Carol last year. This one was enjoyable, but not as much as A Christmas Carol.
Some complain about how sentimental this one is; I didn't find that problematic or distracting, except perhaps for the very last paragraph or two. Other than that, a nice piece of classic Dickens. Some things were anthropomorphized, which I found funny and interesting rather than eye-rolling(less)
Uncubicled starts out with one of the best beginnings of any book I've read. It's hilarious, totally predictable in places, and completely UNpredictab...moreUncubicled starts out with one of the best beginnings of any book I've read. It's hilarious, totally predictable in places, and completely UNpredictable in others, and the mystery starts from the very beginning.
The book is thoroughly gripping, and usually hard to put down. Plot twists and turns abound, and a fair number of jarring revelations occur. There is humor, too, especially in the first third of the book.
The book has a nonlinear timeline. At times, this is made somewhat explicit: "Monday 5PM" might occur earlier in the book than "Monday 2:13PM". At times, it is less explicit. It's an interesting device, but overused. I found myself almost wanting to take notes sometimes: I'd pick up the book, see a chapter number and a random time staring at me, and have to flip back to prior chapters to compare timestamps to see where this fit in to the chronology.
As the book progresses, these jumps in place and time are often used to introduce the backstory of a character. At first, that was interesting and sometimes even heightened the suspense. But by the time we shifted from a gripping scene to suddenly a farm in Indiana some hours earlier, it has passed from interesting, through annoying, all the way to downright frustrating. I usually took my cue to stop reading Uncubicled at those points, instead of staying up later into the night to find out what happens as I would have otherwise. It was too annoying to be ripped out of an engaging plot for awhile, frustrating at having to keep the chronology straight in my mind. Though I can't deny it was an effective and interesting device at times, it was just overused.
I found the ending a real letdown. I'm not one of those people that tends to enjoy a book where you think everything has been resolved, and then on the last page or two suddenly realize that it hasn't. I would have been happier if it ended before the epilogue. As it is, I feel like I'm being suckered into reading the sequel. Which I will probably do anyway, though with less enthusiasm than if I hadn't been suckered into it. And I say that even though a sequel doesn't exist yet. It feels THAT strongly.
In all, it feels like one of the recent James Bond movies: so action-packed, time- and place-shifting, that it holds your attention, but never lets you really figure out what the story even is until later. I'm not sure I really like that.
But, I've got to say this: the author strikes me as a really interesting guy. Josh has some novel ways of promoting the book and making his entrance into the world of publishing. I hope he continues writing, continues working in unconventional ways. Although I'm not giving this an entirely glowing review, I think it *is* a promising first novel for Josh. I hope he keeps at it, and I look forward to reading his future work.
As to the rating: at the beginning of the book, I thought I'd be giving it 5 stars. By the time I got to the end, it was a debate between three or four.
One other comment: the Kindle version had somewhat odd formatting. There was no indication of a new paragraph: no indentation, no line breaks. It made it hard to read at first, though I adjusted by the end. Still, that ought to be fixed.
Highly recommended to anyone. I'm glad I read it. (less)
Yet another great book in the Wheel of Time series. I don't have time for a thorough review here, but I really enjoyed this one. Although smaller in p...moreYet another great book in the Wheel of Time series. I don't have time for a thorough review here, but I really enjoyed this one. Although smaller in page count than the first two, it seemed to cover an even more expansive story. Lots of uncertainty, especially with the Aes Sedai, some of it not resolved.(less)
This was my first Robert Jordan book, and I really enjoyed it. It kept my attention all the way through, and the characters were well-developed. The p...moreThis was my first Robert Jordan book, and I really enjoyed it. It kept my attention all the way through, and the characters were well-developed. The plot was great, and left me wanting to start the next book.
As the book got towards the end, I found myself laughing, grinning, and really enjoying the finale, though I note that some threads were not wrapped up.
I would have given it 5 stars, if not for a few flaws. First, it was over-long in places. Sometimes the beautiful imagery was great; other times, I felt my eye skimming down the page because I was bored. This was especially the cases in suspenseful scenes, though that may just be a compliment as much as a complaint because of the intensity of those places.
Secondly, there was an awful lot of intricate politics, history, and the like. I suspect that after I've read the rest of the series, I may appreciate it more. But as it is, I spent a fair bit of this book feeling lost. I get the feeling that Jordan meant that many times, to show how the three men from the Two Rivers were feeling. At the same time, I think it was over-heavy on the lore and politics.
I look forward to reading the next book in the series, especially hoping that it ties up some of the loose threads from this one. That doesn't mean, though, that the conclusion in this one was unsatisfying.(less)
Here, therefore, huge and mighty warrior though you be, here shall you die.
- Homer (The Iliad)
And with that formidable quote, I begin my review of The...more
Here, therefore, huge and mighty warrior though you be, here shall you die.
- Homer (The Iliad)
And with that formidable quote, I begin my review of The Iliad. I shall not exhaust you with a rehashing of the plot; that you can find on Wikipedia. Nor shall I be spending page upon page of analyzing the beautiful imagery, the implications of our understanding of fate and destiny, or all the other things that compel English majors to write page after page on the topic. Nor even shall I try to decipher whether it is a piece of history or a piece of legend.
Rather, I intend to talk about why I read it: it's a really good story.
Sing to me, O goddess Muse, the wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus, which brought countless ills upon the Acheans.
As I'd be reading it, I'd think to myself: "Ah ha! Now here we finally have a section of the story that doesn't speak to modern life." Perhaps it was a section the fear of being enslaved or butchered by conquerors, or about pride leading both sides to fight a war they need not have, or a graphic description of a spear going clear through someone's head or neck.
And then, I'd have to sit and think. Are we really so far removed from that? Here we are, in a supposedly civilized world. We use remotely-operated drones to drop bombs on people, and think it naught but regrettable "collateral damage" when the brains and intestines of dozens of innocent victims are scattered about, killing them, all for the chance of killing one enemy. But we aren't the only ones to blame; we live in a world in which killing the innocent is often the goal. People fly airplanes into skyscrapers, drop atomic weapons to flatten entire cities, and kill noncombatants in terrible numbers. And for what? A little power, some prestige, some riches, some vengeance, some wounded pride?
Slavery is not dead, either. We that can happily afford Internet access most likely abhor the thought. What, though, can we make of the fact that people are starving in this world in record numbers? That our actions may literally wipe some nations off the map? Are those people as free as we are? Do our actions repress them?
I suspect you can't read the Iliad without being at least a bit introspective.
Fear, O Achilles, the wrath of heaven; think on your own father and have compassion upon me, who am the more pitiable
One of the great things about reading the Iliad is that I can learn about the culture of the ancient civilizations. Now, of course, one can read about this in history books and Wikipedia. But reading some dry sentence is different from reading a powerful story written by and for them. I know that the Iliad isn't exactly a work of history, but it sure shows what made people tick: their religion, their morals, their behavior, and what they valued. I feel that I finally have some sort of insight into their society, and I am glad of it.
The day that robs a child of his parents severs him from his own kind; his head is bowed, his cheeks are wet with tears, and he will go about destitute among the friends of his father, plucking one by the cloak and another by the shirt. Some one or other of these may so far pity him as to hold the cup for a moment towards him and let him moisten his lips, but he must not drink enough to wet the roof of his mouth; then one whose parents are alive will drive him from the table with blows and angry words.
There are gory battle scenes in the Iliad, but then there are also heart-wrenching tender moments: when Hector leaves his wife to go fight, for instance, and worries about the future of his child if he should die.
That's not to say I found the entire story riveting. I would have liked it to be 1/3 shorter. The battle just dragged on and on. And yet, I will grant that there was some purpose served by that: it fatigued me as a reader, which perhaps gave me a small sense of the fatigue felt by the participants in the story.
Why, pray, must the Argives needs fight the Trojans? What made the son of Atreus gather the host and bring them?
A question that was never answered, for either side: why are we so foolish that we must go to war? One tragedy among many is that neither side got smart about it until way too late, if ever they did at all.
I read The Illiad in the Butler translation, which overall I liked. Some of these quotes, however, use the Lattimore one. This completes the first item on my 2010 reading list.
I leave you with this powerful hope for the future, written almost three thousand years ago. Despite my criticisms above, we have made a lot of progress, haven't we? What a beautiful ideal it is, and what a long ways we have yet to walk.
I wish that strife would vanish away from among gods and mortals, and gall, which makes a man grow angry for all his great mind, that gall of anger that swarms like smoke inside of a man's heart and becomes a thing sweeter to him by far than the dripping of honey.
Sing to me, O goddess, the anger of Achilles, that one day his story may speak less to our hearts, for then will we have outgrown it.
As a fan of Sherlock Holmes for quite some years, I had read this book before, but it was good to read it again. All the introductory material about W...moreAs a fan of Sherlock Holmes for quite some years, I had read this book before, but it was good to read it again. All the introductory material about Watson meeting Holmes was a particularly fun read.
Part II, though, which takes place in the Western USA, seemed to move rather slowly. It was an interesting narrative, but I wished it would just get on with it a bit faster. Still, I'm not sure of what exactly I'd cut.(less)
I bought this book after reading Huston Smith's Why Religion Matters.
I was less impressed by this book than than Why Religion Matters, but that may ha...moreI bought this book after reading Huston Smith's Why Religion Matters.
I was less impressed by this book than than Why Religion Matters, but that may have just been because I read it first and it was just so spectacularly amazing.
This was a more dense read. I had to read slowly, especially in part 1; parts 2 and 3 lightened up considerably.
I have learned quite a bit about Christianity from this book. It is a good, level-headed report that doesn't shrink from controversy, but rather reports it even-handedly where it matters and ignores it where it doesn't.
I heartily endorse it.
It is Mere Christianity for the 21st century, I'd say.(less)
I've long been a Sherlock Holmes fan, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before checked out another famoue detective. I come at it after having...moreI've long been a Sherlock Holmes fan, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before checked out another famoue detective. I come at it after having watched a handful of Poirot episodes starring David Suchet.
The book was interesting, and held my attention. I would have to say, though, that it was somewhat over-complicated. The plot reminded me quite a bit of that in Hercule Poirot's Christmas; I had just watched the Suchet version of that story. I must say that in the book, Poirot comes off as more of an inconsiderate ego-centric man than in the TV series, though of course he sometimes appears that way there too.
I'm sure I'll read more of the Poirot books in the future.(less)
It somehow feels a bit dodgy giving just three or four stars to something that has been considered a classic by so many, but here I go doing it anyhow...moreIt somehow feels a bit dodgy giving just three or four stars to something that has been considered a classic by so many, but here I go doing it anyhow.
The good parts of the book were the setting and something of the insight into the thought processes of the imperial powers of the day. The vivid descriptions of the heat of India, the businesses of the day, were fun to read -- even though I resorted to Wikipedia afterwards to learn more about the exceedingly complex way that India was governed back in the day.
The bad part of it was that once you're about half way through, you know how it will end; the only question is exactly how you get there. Some people like this book because it is some sort of moral lesson; I think it is exceedingly lengthy for a moral lesson that could be communicated in a sentence or two.
I had given this book three stars, but decided to bump it to four upon reflection. It did keep my attention, wanting to find out how it ended up. But it was really quite a jarring read for a modern reader, and somewhat difficult to pick up as a result. I had thought that was a downside, but as I look back on it, I think it's a good thing.(less)