The author made a much better case than I thought he would. Even after all the books and stories I've read about Lincoln, a few points were made and s...moreThe author made a much better case than I thought he would. Even after all the books and stories I've read about Lincoln, a few points were made and stories brought out that made me think about him in a new light. Ballard's work as a "modern day abolitionist" was heartbreaking to read about, but it also did put some things about Lincoln into perspective. I wondered at times why he had to put in the chapter defending Lincoln from people who think he was a bad president and took away liberties. Are you serious? It's amazing that there are still people out there who think that way.
Regardless of whether Ballard's hypothesis is right, I have to agree with his final statement that it was a book worth writing and a book worth reading.(less)
**spoiler alert** I was weirded out by this one. Whenever it talked about the witch (and sometimes her kids, like when they lure the unicorn with the...more**spoiler alert** I was weirded out by this one. Whenever it talked about the witch (and sometimes her kids, like when they lure the unicorn with the virgin and slaughter it), it's totally creepy, like eewwww creepy. At other times it acts like a children's book with Arthur continuing to learn "growing up" lessons like in the Sword and the Stone. Still other parts were mind-numbingly boring for me, like all the dialogue between King Pelenor and the other knights, though I'm sure the author must have been going for Monte Python or something (before Monte Python was born). The end was far and away the ickiest part...lets just say it was like in Star Wars if Luke and Laya had gotten married and went on the honeymoon before they realized . . . and if Laya was a witch and Luke was under her spell. Yeah, ick. I know this is a very old, old story, so the author didn't have much license to change it, but seriously! (less)
It was just so-so, mostly because there was no real plot until the end, just little "episodes" of what he learned when he was this animal and that ani...moreIt was just so-so, mostly because there was no real plot until the end, just little "episodes" of what he learned when he was this animal and that animal. The end was good.(less)
This book reminded me of high school, not because I could relate at all with the fancy high school or fancy high school students in the book, but beca...moreThis book reminded me of high school, not because I could relate at all with the fancy high school or fancy high school students in the book, but because the book reminded me of all the lame books I had to read in high school. The edition I read was even "Perma-Bound" and had numbers written across the top edge, so definitely a retired high school reading list book. It had all the trappings of a high school book--a disturbing main character, boring stretches where nothing happens, a fancy character everybody likes who falls out of a tree . . . you know. As far as story goes, only three or four things happen during the whole book, but it kept my attention because of numerous clues scattered throughout like a kind of analytical scavenger hunt. "I'm going to write my paper about this part . . ." I thought over and over again, like how Finny and the narrator are extensions of each other and what that means about the Poe-esque crazy moment in the tree and how the truth can be worse than a lie and a million other things that don't make any sense in real life, but spawn scores of academically intriguing thoughts. Then I remember I'm not in high school anymore, and I feel a strange sense of regret. That would have been a good paper.(less)
This book helped me come closer to grasping how truly stupid I am. Every time the actual science came up, and the author (who later wrote Steve Jobs b...moreThis book helped me come closer to grasping how truly stupid I am. Every time the actual science came up, and the author (who later wrote Steve Jobs bio) tries to explain concepts like relativity theory using trampolines and bowling balls, I felt my brain flexing in wonder. Then I would feel some muscle pull and the next thing I knew I was drooling and staring catatonically off into the distance, wondering what had happened during the last half hour. I really enjoyed what I did understand, and the biography part was great. I never knew he was so active politically. It was interesting to see his perspective on McCarthyism, for instance, after experiencing Nazi fascism and without understanding the continuing pattern of excess and correction that is somewhat unique to American life and democracy. I also thought it was amazing that he came up with his breakthroughs by imagining pictures rather than by actual experimentation (which he left to others) and how important his lack of respect for authority was in that process. One of the themes, like in the Steve Jobs book, was what happened once he became one of those authority figures he had ridiculed. Another theme was common sense vs. logic, and how some scientists would get so logical that they defied common sense, and sometimes common sense was right and over-thinking was absurd, but sometimes overthinking was right and common sense was wrong.
The epilogue about what happened to Einstein's brain after he died might be the craziest part of the book. Watch out for rogue pathologists!(less)
When my conservative dad recommended this book, I could hardly believe it. From what I knew about Lyndon Johnson (mostly Vietnam and corruption), he w...moreWhen my conservative dad recommended this book, I could hardly believe it. From what I knew about Lyndon Johnson (mostly Vietnam and corruption), he was one of the worst presidents ever. But dad couldn't stop talking about it, so I read it, and wow, it was amazing. At various times during this huge bio that only covers about 4 or 5 years (it is the fourth in a series and I haven't read the others), I detested Johnson, I felt sorry for him, and I even admired him. I think that's the mark of a good biography...not type-casting people but showing them with all their complex virtues and vices together. He treated staffers and others like dogs, manipulated everyone, enriched himself with graft and tried to hold onto Senatorial power as Vice President that would have wreaked havoc on Constitutional Separation of Powers. He was in most ways the epitome of what we hate in Washington politics. And yet he put all of these vices on hold and held together a nation after Kennedy died in a way that was masterful and moving, and during the height of the Cold War when one small miscalculation could have meant catastrophe. It seems like divine providence that the transition went so well and that he was able to make so much of Kennedy's murder as a means to pass Civil Rights legislation and tax cuts within months of it happening. And yet the timing of the assassination, literally during a secret Senate investigation into Johnson's finances--and after the humiliation the Kennedy people heaped on him--makes you wonder . . . . It's the story of having enormous power, having no power, and then having almost unlimited power. I can't wait to read the others in the series.
Miller is kind of like C.S. Lewis for modern Christian Liberals--a different perspective for sure. I didn't like it as we'll as A Million Miles, but i...moreMiller is kind of like C.S. Lewis for modern Christian Liberals--a different perspective for sure. I didn't like it as we'll as A Million Miles, but it was interesting to compare the two books and to see how far he's come.
The part about using war metaphors with cancer and economic metaphors for relationships struck home--Jesus taught us to love everyone, even people we strongly disagree with, even if they despitefully use us and persecute us, but the us vs. them mentality can creep into church too and make us lose sight of that. We should never use love as a commodity, as something we withhold from those we disapprove of. We have to love everyone--not loving them only drives them further away. Great insight.(less)