This book was literally shoved into my hands by my fiance with an exhortation of “You have to read this!” After reading, I have to say, he did me a fa...moreThis book was literally shoved into my hands by my fiance with an exhortation of “You have to read this!” After reading, I have to say, he did me a favor! It takes place on Majipoor, a large planet that was long ago colonized by Earth and races of other planets. Much of the technology has been lost, and Majipoor is at a feudal, agricultural level of development and something of a galactic backwater. But overall, it is a peaceful and prosperous world.
Here we find Valentine, a young man who has forgotten his past. He joins a troupe of traveling jugglers, and immerses himself in the art and the carefree life of an entertainer. But Valentine is not who he seems, and when he discovers his true identity, he faces a great challenge, and a journey across much of Majipoor.
Silverberg has created a fascinating world, filled with many colorful characters of various species. The significance of dreams, and their interpretation, figures prominently in Majipooran culture- even in the social order. The Lady of Sleep guides the people with prophetic dreams, while the King of Dreams punishes wrongdoers with nightmares. It was an exciting and suspenseful adventure. I look forward to the next book in the series, Lord Valentine Pontifex and the continuing political intrigue it will reveal. (less)
Captain Will Laurence doesn’t realize what he’s getting into when he and his crew come across a dragon’s egg on a captured French ship. But before he...moreCaptain Will Laurence doesn’t realize what he’s getting into when he and his crew come across a dragon’s egg on a captured French ship. But before he knows it, he becomes the master (or partner?) of Temeraire, a charming and inquisitive dragon. In his world, dragons and their riders serve in the Aerial Corps, battling other nations’ reptilian forces.
The first third or so of the book is concerned with the training of Temeraire and Laurence, so it takes a while to get into the action. I found the training to be interesting, however as it further explains the logistics of draconian battle and Laurence, a proper British gentleman finds himself rather shocked by the social mores of the dragon riders. So military history buffs, be patient and you’ll see our heroes match their wits and strength with the wiles of Napoleon’s cronies.(less)
Just Ella isn’t really a retelling of Cinderella, rather it is a sequel of sorts- Haddix imagines what might have happened after the supposed “happily...moreJust Ella isn’t really a retelling of Cinderella, rather it is a sequel of sorts- Haddix imagines what might have happened after the supposed “happily ever after”. As she awaits her wedding day, Ella wonders if her life in the castle, filled with elaborate rules of decorum and the instructors that teach them, is really that of her dreams. And is Prince Charming, handsome though he may be, really the man she loves?
This book is a great antidote to the cloyingly romantic stories that fill the shelves of the fantasy genre. As much as the rags-to-riches motif is a favorite, we often overlook the culture shock that accompanies it. Haddix insightfully imagines what it really might be like to change social stations so dramatically, and beckons the reader to wonder if being a princess is really so grand after all. Just Ella entertains while provoking thought. It’s really not so much a fantasy as a story based on a fairy-tale, set in an alternate world- with a many resemblances to our own complicated times.(less)
Perhaps this book is preaching to the choir when I picked it up- I am pretty knowledgeable about various religions, though there’s always more I could...morePerhaps this book is preaching to the choir when I picked it up- I am pretty knowledgeable about various religions, though there’s always more I could learn. But I’m well aware that my knowledge and literacy is above average- I just didn’t realize how much! Stephen Prothero, a professor of religious studies realized the extent of this ignorance when he encountered college freshmen who didn’t know things he thought of as common knowledge, like the story of Noah & the ark, Moses, and the Sermon on the Mount, let alone basics of world religions like the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. (This reminds me a bit of Prof. Alfred Kinsey who realized his students didn’t know very basic info about sex!)
It wasn’t always like this- Prothero details the United States’ robust history of religious learning, how the early schools were all sectarian. Even when public schools were started the textbooks were filled with Biblical references and theological lessons. Colleges and universities were founded primarily as places to educate future clergy, and all students were instructed in theology. But as the country become more religiously diverse, it became more difficult to have religious themed curricula. Since denominations couldn’t agree on theology, ethics was emphasized more, in fact religion was boiled down to just ethics. In higher education religion came into conflict with the growth of science, and it was seen as enemy to intellectual freedom and inquiry. Finally as more concern over church & state separation arose, religion was pushed even further out.
Prothero doesn’t want us to go back to the days of singing hymns in classrooms, or leading students in prayer. But by neglecting the teaching of such an integral part of American and global culture, language, music, history and politics we ill-prepare students to deal with the world as it really is. High school and college students should all take a course on world religions-Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism and another on Christianity and the Bible. He supports this with Supreme Court decisions that have determined that teaching about religion is constitutional- as opposed to making judgments about which religion is right (or if all of them are wrong) I definitely agree these things ought to be taught. He makes the point that giving all religions equal time as some liberals argue makes no sense, students need to know more about larger religions they’re more likely to run into, like Christianity.
I learned a lot from this book about the history of religious literacy and it made me realize how secular my upbringing was, despite being brought up going to church/Sunday school. Growing up I took it for granted that discussion of religion was taboo in school. But as a student at a Lutheran-affiliated college I was required to take classes in religion. No one told me what I had to believe, but I found it was a great opportunity to learn more.
To put on my Pagan hat, I realize that Prothero is talking about “world religions”- not New Religious Movements (NRMs) that Paganism would be classified under. But at the same time, I’m rather miffed that his Glossary of Religious Concepts all Americans Should Know included Scientology (a pyramid scheme that somehow managed to get status as a church) but not modern Paganism, which a lot more people follow, and gets more press.(less)
The American gospel of individualism and the free market seems to preach that the more choices we have the better. But Barry Schwartz argues that as o...moreThe American gospel of individualism and the free market seems to preach that the more choices we have the better. But Barry Schwartz argues that as our options increase, the worse we tend to be at making choices. And the less we enjoy the choices we make. He starts by discussing this in shopping- all the different types of bread, or jeans we can buy. Then he goes on to show all the phone & communication options, entertainment, choices over how we pursue relationships, careers, religion. He supports his claims with many psychological studies.
Schwartz explains that people respond to this smörgåsbord of choices by being “choosers” who think about the importance of the decision and “pickers” who passively pick from whatever is available. Maximizers try to get the best, but while looking everywhere for it and finally making a decision, they wonder if it was really the best. Satisficers settle for what is good enough. Maybe sometimes they don’t get something as good as the maximizers, but they don’t stress out about it as much, and they don’t spend all that time needed to find the “perfect sweater”.
I have often felt overwhelmed by decision-making, and while others chided me for being indecisive, I thought there was something wrong with me. So reading this book was very reassuring, that yes, there is something psychologically overwhelming about all the choices we have. At the end of the book he gives a list of practical suggestions on how to make choices easier to deal with. One is to be more grateful for what you have, so that you will be more satisfied. Don’t compare yourself to others- figure out what is meaningful to you, and what makes you happy. This is something I really needed to hear- lately I’ve been very hard on myself for not being “good enough” compared to how I saw others around me. Accept some constraints on your choices. I would recommend this book to anyone in a modern industrial society, but especially people struggling with stress and depression. Folks with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), ADD, and autism often have trouble making choices and so I’d suggest it to them too.(less)
Do you have many interests and can’t decide what to pursue? Never finish a project, because your attention all too quickly drifts to the next idea? Th...moreDo you have many interests and can’t decide what to pursue? Never finish a project, because your attention all too quickly drifts to the next idea? Then perhaps you’re a Scanner, suggests author & life-coach Barbara Sher. Throughout much of history, generalists- “Renaissance” people were admired. She traces the fall of generalists and the rise of specialists to the Cold War, in which science and math were emphasized in order to compete with the U.S.S.R. Later in the book Sher divides Scanners up into different types based on their behavior and tendencies. She suggests career strategies for each of them.
I’ve always had many different interests- over the years some fell by the wayside while others remained, and new interests emerged. But unlike some of Sher’s clients, I’ve never felt there was anything wrong with this, or felt pressure to choose one as a career. I don’t know if it’s a generational thing, the way I was raised or what. But I did find the ideas in her book useful in giving me more focus in my various pursuits. One idea she discusses throughout the book is that of a “Scanner Daybook” a journal/sketchbook for jotting down ideas and exploring them. Another idea I found helpful is to try organizing my hobbies into a sort of “class schedule” spending an hour or so on each at different times. Refuse to Choose is an amazing guidebook of tools and strategies for “Scanners” draw upon to use their many skills and interests to their advantage both in their professional and personal lives. I recommend it to anyone who struggles with choosing between different passions.(less)
There are some books I have a hard time reviewing, because they have so many ideas in them that no one thing sticks out, and I have trouble rememberin...moreThere are some books I have a hard time reviewing, because they have so many ideas in them that no one thing sticks out, and I have trouble remembering what struck me, positively or negatively about the book- this is such a book. Mendelsohn covers a lot- the history of Unitarians & Universalists, their relation to Christianity, the religious education of children, the nature and existence of God, ethics and social justice
His reactions to traditional Christian doctrine in his youth that he recounts was something I really identified with- I had many of the same responses- rejecting original sin, hell, needing someone to “die for our sins”. I questioned the Trinity, parts of the Bible and communion.
Despite the diversity of views in the UUA, I suspect some of his beliefs are pretty typical of many UUs: a belief in a very transcendent, Deist-like God, doubt about the afterlife, an emphasis on living a good life and use of reason in religion as with other areas of life. Reading about his theological views helped me clarify my own beliefs. I don’t really see the point of believing in such a distant God- if that was the only conclusion I could come to I would probably just be an agnostic or atheist. In the end of the book he discusses prayer- why bother praying to a “God” who is more like the force of gravity than a conscious being with willpower? He gives examples of petitionary prayer that are rather absurd and extreme- but I don’t think asking the Divine for help in some way is necessarily like that
If that is the philosophy that makes sense and works best, more power to him. But I do think the UUs who essentially worship logic are missing out on something. (less)
The Career Transitions group at my church was working with this book and I found it very helpful. Bridges distinguishes between changes- a shift in on...moreThe Career Transitions group at my church was working with this book and I found it very helpful. Bridges distinguishes between changes- a shift in one's situation- moving, new job, marriage, divorce, death of family member etc. and transition- the psychological reactions one goes through as a result of the change. He studied how various traditional cultures structure rites of passage to help people move through transitions, and notes that they are often much better at dealing with these things than our seemingly advanced modern culture. He explains how we go through a 3 stage of transition process- Ending, Neutral Zone in which you are in neither one stage or another and feeling lost, and Beginning. This book is relevant to people in many different life situations and so you can return to it again when going through another transition for more insight. It really helped me make sense of many of my experiences and feel less lost and confused.(less)
I hadn't gotten to reading this before seeing the movie, but after we saw it together, my friend lent me the book.
I liked some aspects of Twilight, li...moreI hadn't gotten to reading this before seeing the movie, but after we saw it together, my friend lent me the book.
I liked some aspects of Twilight, like the vivid descriptions that I found quite poetic. I thought how she tied a Native American legend into it was unique and interesting. (I wonder if it is a real legend- I looked it up and did find that it is a real tribe that lives in Washington). I sort of like Bella, as I tend to identify with underdog, nerdy characters but think she needs to be a stronger character. Edward I suppose has a certain appeal, but there's something about him that's creepy. He seems to be written to fulfill the fantasy of an old-fashioned chivalrous guy that protects you. Is there is a message being sent about how girls should play a passive role- or are human-vampire romances just inherently unequal? Maybe I'm over-analyzing...I really like Alice and some of the other Cullens and would like to see more of their stories.
I am still going to read the next book in hopes that Bella develops more as a character, and her relationship with Edward matures. Plus I'm just plain curious to see what happens and it will be more fun since I won't already know the plot from the film. (less)
Nice basic introduction to Unitarian Universalism. A good thing to hand to friends/family members who are baffled as to this obscure church you've joi...moreNice basic introduction to Unitarian Universalism. A good thing to hand to friends/family members who are baffled as to this obscure church you've joined. (less)