Years ago I loaned this book to one of my sons and just got it back the other day. I see that I added it to GoodReads back in March 2008 and gave it 4...moreYears ago I loaned this book to one of my sons and just got it back the other day. I see that I added it to GoodReads back in March 2008 and gave it 4 stars. Since this was just days after I joined GoodReads, I assume I first read this book before 2008. That I'd read it at all was not surprising to me since it is my book, and I consider it unlikely that I would have loaned it before I read it. What is surprising is that while reading it this time, I remembered nothing about it. Nothing. Since I'm 72 years old it doesn't disturb me too much when I find I've forgotten some things. But it does disturb me that I forgot everything about Old Men at Midnight, even with the second reading to jog my memory. Ah, well, things are what they are.
I love Chaim Potok's books. I have read all his novels and one of his non-fiction books, The Gates of November. I tried Wanderings, his other non-fiction book about the history of the Jews, and found it a bit too heavy for me. But that was a long time ago. Perhaps I'll try it again soon. I don't quite understand why Potok's prose is so appealing to me. His books seem to send out tendrils that wrap about me like bindweed in a flower bed. I was reading Old Men at Midnight during lunch today. After I finished the last page, I emerged from the story to see it was 4:30 p.m. and all my lunch had been eaten, by me I suppose.
Chaim Potok died July 23, 2002. I am struggling to forgive him for dying before writing the final book in what would have been an Asher Lev trilogy.(less)
I am exceedingly glad I only paid $1 for this book at a library book sale. It may be worth that much, but no more. Red Rabbit reads as though Tom Clan...moreI am exceedingly glad I only paid $1 for this book at a library book sale. It may be worth that much, but no more. Red Rabbit reads as though Tom Clancy needed to write 618 pages in a hurry because he needed the money. It's full of cliches and boringly repetitious with the characters' introspection. Clancy tells us many times how the food is different in England than it is in America, how it's different in Italy than in America, how it's different in Bulgaria than in America...boring after a while. Clancy has become too comfortable with his writing and, in this book at least, writes like a formalistic hack. There were some interesting tidbits scattered here and there, but not enough to make it better than just OK. If you read and liked Hunt for Red October or Patriot Games or other of his earlier novels, you might want to skip this one if you wish to continue holding Clancy in good repute. (less)
This is an overall delightful book with a couple of wrinkles. If you plan to read this book, know that Cleo the cat is certainly an important characte...moreThis is an overall delightful book with a couple of wrinkles. If you plan to read this book, know that Cleo the cat is certainly an important character but not really the main character. The main character is the author, Helen Brown, and I've got to give her credit for candor. Or perhaps I shouldn't say "credit" but rather "blame" for a little too much candor. The chapter titled "Openness" is, for my 70-year-old brain, a little too open. About 3 pages into that chapter I threw the book down and said to my wife something to the effect of "stupid book" and "why am I reading this?" and "don't give this book to Sharon (a cat-loving friend of ours) to read." She looked surprised and, after I explained the source of my irritation, suggested I just read on and see how things turned out. So I did, and it turned out OK. As her life story continued to unfold, I mellowed out and decided the "Openness" chapter wasn't sufficient to cast the whole book on the rubble heap, not by a long shot. The role of Cleo in Helen's family's life is lovingly and touchingly told and is a treasure to behold. I'm glad I read it.(less)
I received this book as a Father's Day gift and was delighted to have it. I'd heard of Lonesome Dove but didn't know much more about it than it had be...moreI received this book as a Father's Day gift and was delighted to have it. I'd heard of Lonesome Dove but didn't know much more about it than it had been made into a movie. I was surprised to learn that Lonesome Dove is a small town in Texas that doesn't really play much of a part in the novel except for a little while at the beginning and a brief touch at the end.
I thought the novel's start was a little slow, but once the main characters were introduced and fleshed out a bit, things moved right along. I like to read during breakfast and lunch and it got so my breakfast and lunch times were getting longer and longer because I hated to put this book down.
I don't have any personal experience with the wild west back during the time period of this novel (mid-1870's), but McMurtry's description of that period seems authentic. It was a rough, semi-lawless time and McMurtry dishes it out raw. Fortunately he doesn't give a lot of detail for cheap thrills. Instead, McMurtry carries this fascinating story on the shoulders of his excellent writing. This is what makes Lonesome Dove a particularly exceptional work.(less)
This book has an unusual format and a very unusual narrator. This put me off at first and I wondered why my son, who highly recommended this book to m...moreThis book has an unusual format and a very unusual narrator. This put me off at first and I wondered why my son, who highly recommended this book to me, thought The Book Thief was so wonderful. I don't wonder that any more. It's hard for me to pin down how or even why an author can grip me with his or her prose. I feel this effect from the simple, yet elegant, novels of Willa Cather through the complex and vocabulary-building writing of Victor Hugo and on to the wonderful history writings of David McCullough and the biographies of Walter Isaacson. I don't know how they do it, but somehow they write words that surround and capture me. Markus Zusak is such an author. The book thief is Liesel Meminger, a young girl immersed in the tragedy of Germany during the Second World War. Her life encompasses a full range of great sorrow through wonderful love. While this is fiction, Zusak makes it all very real. As a reader, I rejoiced in the great joy of human goodness that Liesel experienced and expressed and also wept (literally) at the human depravity and physical horror she had to endure. If you are up to that kind of experience, you've got to read this book. (less)
I found this book inspirational on a number of levels. First, it shows what a mother can do to inspire her children when she refuses to give up on her...moreI found this book inspirational on a number of levels. First, it shows what a mother can do to inspire her children when she refuses to give up on herself or on them. Second, it illustrates the power of the attitude that a person is responsible for his own fate. Third, it illustrates the value of allowing a firm belief in God to help direct your life and the value of being part of a religious organization composed of people who do their best to practice good Christian virtues. Forth, it gives numerous examples of how the first three, acting in Ben Carson's life, led to his tremendous success.
Unfortunately it harbors the same flaw that most books of this type have. Namely that the life of the main character was one happy success after another. To be sure, he does chronicle some setbacks, but even these are mainly backdrops to more success. Even the chapter titled "Heartbreak" is filled mostly with successes. As I read this chapter I kept expecting something awful to happen, but as nothing did I began to wonder why it was called "Heartbreak". Finally at the end of the chapter the heartbreak was revealed.
Motivational material is, of course, meant to be motivational so little is said of failures. But, alas, life is filled with failures as well as successes. So if someone trying to live Ben Carson's advice experiences those failures before any significant success, it would be easy to draw the conclusion, "Somethings wrong with me" or "Carson's advice may be fine for him, but it doesn't work for me."
But, as I said, most books of this type tell mostly just the good stuff, so let's set that aside. Overall I was very uplifted by reading Ben Carson's story. He sets a great example of what can be done when one accepts responsibility for his actions, refuses to be a victim, looks for the good in others and tries to see their point of view, recognizes the hand of God in his life, and strives always to do the best he can. We could do with more like him.(less)
Lots of really interesting things in this book. I didn't realize physics had progressed so far in finding a unification theory.
What I found most inter...moreLots of really interesting things in this book. I didn't realize physics had progressed so far in finding a unification theory.
What I found most interesting would probably horrify the author because, while he didn't say so in so many words, he apparently really believes that physics is, or can be, the answer to everything. I, on the other hand, believe there is a God, the Christian God, who has a hand in our existence.
I have always thought it curious that descriptions of God or angels appearing to people seem to be accompanied by bright light and that the supernatural being just appears out of nowhere. Upon reflection this seemed to me very much like them coming out of another dimension. So, what to my surprise, some of the current notions coming out of physics is that reality consists of more dimensions than we currently are able to experience. Score one for angels appearing out of nowhere because they can move from another dimension into our 3-dimensional existence.
Then there's the issue of God being omniscient, i.e. knowing everything, past, present, and future. OK, He's God, so I suppose he can know all that, but it seems kind of difficult to figure how He can know the future when it hasn't happened yet. So, what to my surprise again, I learn that physics suggests that space and time are not independent but should be considered spacetime. And (from page 452) "that moments--the events making up the spacetime loaf--just are. They are timeless. Each moment--each event or happening--exists, just as each point in space exists." So it appears that someone, God, for instance, who has extent in another dimension outside our spacetime, could presumably see all of our spacetime, past, present, and future. Wow!
Now what about free will or agency? Christians believe that people can choose to do good or do evil and are therefore responsible for the consequences. On the other hand (from page 455), "The laws of classical physics are deterministic. ...if you were to know precisely how things are now (the position and velocity of every particle in the universe), the laws of classical physics would tell you exactly how things were are would be at any other moment you specified. The equations are indifferent to the supposed freedom of human will." So, according to classical physics, there is no such thing as agency or free will. But then along comes quantum theory and one view is (from page 456), "...if the passage from probabilities to definite outcomes requires something beyond the standard quantum framework--it's at least possible that free will might find a concrete realization within physical law. We might one day find, as some physicists has speculated, that the act of conscious observation is an integral element of quantum mechanics, being the catalyst that coaxes one outcome from the quantum haze to be realized." Greene goes on to say, "Personally, I find this extremely unlikely, but I know of no way to rule it out." He doesn't like it, but he has the honesty to admit that it's a possibility.
Those who have faith that God exists don't, or shouldn't, need science to back Him up. But I've got to admit that it is nice when it does. Of course, as Greene points out, much of what physics proposes is theory that has not been experimentally verified. Some of the above may be supplanted in the future by other theories, but for the time being it is interesting that science seems to verify some of the attributes of God as understood by Christians.(less)
I lived through this period of US history, so Woodward's take on the events was particularly interesting to me. His inside contacts filled in a lot of...moreI lived through this period of US history, so Woodward's take on the events was particularly interesting to me. His inside contacts filled in a lot of things that most of us would never otherwise know. I thought it interesting that Woodward needed more pages to cover all Clinton's scandals than for the other four presidents combined. During the time he was president, I thought Clinton was an embarrassment to our country. Then we got President Bush, the supposed conservative. President Bush made me nostalgic for President Clinton. Now we have President Obama who makes me nostalgic for any other president during my lifetime.(less)