The 40 book Challenge discussion

2015 Reads > Parker's List

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message 1: by Maria (new)

Maria Jernigan (mariajernigan) | 85 comments Mod
Post reflections here.

message 2: by Maria (new)

Maria Jernigan (mariajernigan) | 85 comments Mod
I just bought The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra to read with one of my book groups. Have you read it?

message 3: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
I have not read that one, but it sounds interesting. Russian history can be a little complicated to untangle.

message 4: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
I just finished Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson. Took me a while because I wanted to fully digest the material. It painted a vivid picture of a taciturn man, depicting the primacy of Jackson's faith in all aspects of his life. Additionally, it offered great insights into the battlefield decisions that were made (and sometimes not made) in the Civil War battles Jackson fought. I highly recommend this book as an extension read to a Civil War class or AP U.S. History.

message 5: by Kristin (new)

Kristin | 15 comments Parker wrote: "I just finished Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson. Took me a while because I wanted to fully digest the material. It painted a vivid picture of ..."

I'm ordering it for the library!

message 6: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
Knocked out The Fifth Gospel at the start of break. Intriguing read and meticulously researched. It's a murder mystery set in Vatican City that delves into the historical relationship between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches and how that affects the Church today. Similar to his previous work (The Rule of Four), the temptation is to compare it to Dan Brown's novels, but Ian Caldwell in a more cerebral version that still reads quickly. I became so immersed in the story that even a couple days after I finished the book, I feel like I have revisited Vatican City.

message 7: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
Paperboy was a great read. I'm afraid that my commentary on it will invariably sell it short, but here it goes.

The narrator is a 12 year old boy who spends the summer of 1959 covering a paper route for his friend in Memphis. He recounts his interactions with individuals he meets on the route, as well as with people he has known for sometime, including his family's hired help and a junkman with a past. It's a classic coming of age tale that is similar to To Kill a Mockingbird in the strength of the adolescent narrative voice. There are some memorable quotes and turns of phrase throughout the novel that would make ripe essay or discussion prompts.

This is debut novel from a Tennessee author. It would be a great addition to the classroom library for many reasons, but read it for yourself to get the full experience.

message 8: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
The Escape by David Baldacci is the newest installment of his John Puller series. Puller is an investigator in the Army's CID unit, but always seems to find himself wrapped up in larger situations that allow him to use all of his Ranger training to extricate himself from peril while getting the bad guys. In this story, he is called on to investigate his brother's escape for Leavenworth prison, which takes him on a crash course (literally) through the national intelligence community. Puller never knows who he can trust, but you can trust Baldacci to provide a fast-paced and entertaining beach read.

message 9: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
Tim Dekker's A.D. 30 is a pretty interesting story set in Biblical times with a tangental brush with Jesus thrown into the mix. I don't know why I picked it up at the bookstore, but once I starting reading it, I couldn't put it down.

message 10: by Connie (new)

Connie James | 1 comments I recently read The Escape also. I am a big Baldacci fan and thoroughly enjoyed this book. It definitely is one those stories that makes you think about our government and all the bureaucracy.

message 11: by Parker (last edited Mar 29, 2015 05:45PM) (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer was a New York Times bestseller, but I'm going out on a limb here and saying it was only because the author was an actor on the show Glee. The publisher says the book is for children ages 8 & up, but while the writing and storyline were, in fact, juvenile, there were situations, language, and innuendo that were highly suggestive and, in my opinion, inappropriate for 8 year olds.

The concept behind this book (and series) is rich with possibilities. The two protagonists fall into a book of fairy tales and enter that magical world (sound familiar Narnia fans?). The plot consists of the two young children going on a quest in order to find their way home. Along the way, they interact with and learn the backstories and second acts of many of the leading figures in the fairy tale genre.

I try to identify new series for my son and daughter to read. This one will not make the cut.

message 12: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
One series that I will recommend to my son is the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, the first of which is The Lightning Thief. If you've seen the movie, I'm sorry as the movie was an awful attempt at recreating the book.

This is a great introduction for younger readers to the world of Greek mythology, which is just cool to learn about and discuss.

message 13: by Maria (new)

Maria Jernigan (mariajernigan) | 85 comments Mod
Parker wrote: "Knocked out The Fifth Gospel at the start of break. Intriguing read and meticulously researched. It's a murder mystery set in Vatican City that delves into the historical relationsh..."

This book sounds fascinating. I have always wanted to structure a seminar like a Dan Brown novel.....wouldn't that be interesting?

message 14: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
I finished Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King last night. This is the third book by King that I've read in the past year (the other two were: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling and Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture. All three works were fascinating explorations of Renaissance Italy through the lens of an artist/architect and work of art. It's packed with details both about the work of art in question as well as the surrounding social, political, and economic climate in which the artist worked. It's probably not a beach read for most students (or teachers), but if you love art, history, TMNT, or Italy, put this one on your list.

message 15: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
If you can only read one book this summer, check out All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Immensely engaging with a treasure trove of imagery and quotations.

message 16: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
David Baldacci did it again with Memory Man. This looks to be the first in a new series with new recurring characters, but it is classic Baldacci and should be a beach read for you this summer.

message 17: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
Steve Berry's The Patriot Threat is another in a long line of summer beach reads.

message 18: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
If you enjoy exploration in the vein of Indiana Jones, you'll like The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann. This work traces the life and career of British explorer, Percy Fawcett, as he navigates the Amazon River basin in search of a mythical kingdom amidst the jungles, wildlife, and uncontacted civilizations...and his disappearance on his final expedition. The story is told through the eyes of the author, who decided to try and retrace Fawcett's steps in an attempt to discover what happened to the explorer nearly a hundred years ago.

message 19: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
Fans of The Princess Bride need to pick up a copy of As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes (The Man in Black/Westley). This behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the movie was a quick and entertaining read that will leave you yearning to watch the movie again.

message 20: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
Princeton professor James McPherson did it again! His Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era won the Pulitzer in 1988 and McPherson has followed it with a slew of titles dealing with various aspects of the Civil War. I just finished his account of Jefferson Davis (Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief) and I can't wait to read the companion biography he wrote of Lincoln's wartime leadership. As far as biographies go, this is not supposed to be a comprehensive analysis of Davis's life, but rather an exploration of his actions, motives, and thinking during the war years. This book helps the reader understand some of Davis's decision making and offers a nice comparison to Lincoln's time as commander in chief. History buffs should add this one to their collection.

message 21: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
Matthew Pearl's The Last Bookaneer is the latest installment in Pearl's string of historical fiction novels that revolve around a differing cast of characters and a famous author/work of fiction. This novel follows some "bookaneers" (literary pirates) to the South Seas and Robert Louis Stevenson's time on the islands of Samoa. The novel unfolds through the retelling of the adventure by one of the main characters to the narrator, a young train steward in NYC. This narration within a narration allows for some plot twists to occur towards the end of the book, but like the months-long voyage by sail from London to Samoa, Pearl takes his blessed time to get to the climax of the story. The resolution is far-fetched, but no more so that the entirety of the tale.

message 22: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
I read Scott Sauls' Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides in about a day. It's a quick read that gives some guidance on how we as a faith community can engage in cultural debates that have a history of dividing us. Well worth the afternoon to read for yourself.

message 23: by Parker (last edited Jul 04, 2015 06:15PM) (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
I rarely fail to finish a book, but after getting two-thirds of the way through Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, I made the decision to set it aside to get to the next book on my list. I struggled to get through that much of the book, because I wanted it to be better than it was as the concept had lots of promise. Greenblatt recounts the story of a papal secretary who traveled to remote monasteries in the early 1400s in search of lost Greco-Roman texts. His momentous find is a copy of Lucretius' "On the Nature of Things," which resurrected an Epicurean philosophy on the cusp of the Renaissance. Greenblatt dives into both the political and religious history of the 1400s, as well as the earlier time period of Lucretius (circa 40 B.C.). While it is fascinating material to work with, Greenblatt's writing is that of the Harvard professor that he is (dry and full of himself). This is the second book by Greenblatt that I have not finished (the first held the same initial promise--Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare). There will not be a third attempt.

message 24: by Maria (new)

Maria Jernigan (mariajernigan) | 85 comments Mod
Parker wrote: "If you enjoy exploration in the vein of Indiana Jones, you'll like The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann. This work traces the life and career o..."

Did you enjoy this book?

message 25: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
I found it entertaining, but I love historical narratives. :)
Maria wrote: "Parker wrote: "If you enjoy exploration in the vein of Indiana Jones, you'll like The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann. This work traces the li..."

message 26: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
After sinking my teeth into Stephen King with Under the Dome and 11/22/63, both of which were great reads, I decided to venture into yet another King novel, Mr. Mercedes, with some trepidation. It was a little darker than the other two King novels I've read, and at times I was uncomfortable with King's weirdness (sickness?). I wouldn't recommend it for high school students as I think there are other novels that would be a better use of their time. I just saw that it's the first of a trilogy with the key characters; I'm not sure I'll be reading books #2 and #3 unless I run out of other things to read.

message 27: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman brings the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird back to life about 20 years later. I've read that Lee actually wrote this book first, but her publisher told her to go back and write about when Scout was a young girl, which gave us To Kill a Mockingbird. This novel sat unpublished for over 60 years collecting dust and only now has been released to the public (with some controversy over whether this was Lee's desire to do so). I'm conflicted about how to review this work having just finished it. The first third of the book read like a first draft. I'd need to go back and reread it to determine if that is actually the case or if it was just me reading into it based on the controversy surrounding its publication (did Lee actually finish the book back in the 1950s? Did she return to it to polish up after the success of TKAM? Did another hand touch the pages to get it ready for print since Lee's faculties are now diminished?).
I found myself constantly comparing this narrative to TKAM. The publishers were correct back in the 1950s. If one were to read GSAW first, the reader would miss a lot by not having been exposed to the characters and events in TKAM. That being said, I also read it looking for a deeper commentary on race relations in the South or some grand battle that packed an emotional punch. Rather, GSAW focused on the jarring juxtaposition of Scout's return from her life in New York City to Maycomb, looking at how things had changed...and how they stayed the same. There are lots of flashbacks to her time growing up, both pre- and post-TKAM, that allow us to see the growth of some of the main characters in both novels. I'll need a few days to process the novel's implications on our present day social milieu.
All in all, fans of TKAM should read this one, if only to say that they did. If I were to compare it to TKAM as a sequel (even though it was written first), I'd say it was more Rocky II than Godfather II--entertaining, but not as good as the original.

message 28: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod

Best book I've read in 2015.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics was a phenomenal tale of a group of ordinary boys who did extraordinary things. Even knowing what the ending would be, tears still clouded my eyes in the final pages.

This would be a great book for high school boys to read.

message 29: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
If you like The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings, check out A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18 by Joseph Loconte. In this book, Loconte explores how the war experience during WWI reshaped European thought and culture, save for a few individuals like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Rather than become disillusioned by the attack on humanity from the rise of industrialization and the killing fields of Europe, Lewis and Tolkien used the experience to forge a friendship, deepen their Christian faith, and write some of the best-loved stories in the English language.

message 30: by Parker (last edited Nov 28, 2015 09:22AM) (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
Since school started, my reading pace has slowed. In the first quarter, I've been able to knock out the following:
The Demon Under the Microscope: From Battlefield Hospitals to Nazi Labs, One Doctor's Heroic Search for the World's First Miracle Drug by Thomas Hager
The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible by Simon Winchester
Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed by John F. Ross.

All three were good reads, rich in details and content (as can be seen in their extended titles). And they all intertwined biography of the people with the "biography" of inventions that shaped the modern world.

message 31: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
If you love Pixar movies, business, leadership, and/or creativity, check out Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, the founder of Pixar. The book centers on Catmull's vision to make a feature length computer animated movie, which started back before computers could display pictures. Catmull helped design the infrastructure and programming that would ultimately lead to the creation of Toy Story and beyond. He recounts the successes and failures that helped shape Pixar's culture of creativity. There are great takeaways for any organization that desires its employees to innovate without fear of failure.

message 32: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
With few exceptions, John Grisham's body of work has generally been on a downward trend from his first and best novel, A Time to Kill. Grisham's latest, Rogue Lawyer, reads like a compilation of cast-off plot lines jumbled together in an attempt to meet a yearly deadline from the publisher. It also lacks the philosophical or emotional conflict that made readers chew through his earlier works.

message 33: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
Ted Dekker followed up A.D. 30 with A.D. 33, which follows the same cast of characters through the Arabian desert, to Petra, to Jerusalem, and back. Interesting read that has the protagonist grapple with the teachings of Jesus, and what his crucifixion means to his followers.

message 34: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
As a fan of Braveheart the movie, I was intrigued by its screenwriter Randall Wallace's book Living the Braveheart Life: Finding the Courage to Follow Your Heart, which recounts his process of discovering the story of William Wallace and the making of the movie. He uses his life story to share the insights he's learned about how his faith guides his life. There are a lot of echoes to John Eldredge's Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul, though the writing is not as good.

message 35: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
The Guilty by David Baldacci was a great diversion during exam week. In this fourth installment of the Will Robie story, Baldacci has Robie, who is a trained assassin for the U.S. government, return home to Mississippi to deal with some daddy issues and find out that his father has been charged with murder. The story has some entertaining, if not predictable, plot twists, but all in all, it's classic Baldacci.

message 36: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
If you're a fan of U.S. History and the Revolutionary War period, Joseph J. Ellis adds to his collection of works that focus on the key founders with The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789. In this book, Ellis argues that the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation were but the first two acts in the American Revolution. The final act in making us a nation rather than a loose confederation of states was the drafting and ratification of the Constitution.

message 37: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
Erik Larson paints a detailed picture of the Lusitania and early submarine warfare in WWI in Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. For this history buff, I ate it up. This was my first Larson book, but I've moved his other works up on my to-read list.

message 38: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game holds up after all these years, if only as a homage to the weirdness of the late 1970s. I read it to see if it would be good for my 9 year old, but decided there are other books out there I'd rather him tackle first.

message 39: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
Evan Thomas's The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898 was a fun read. I love Teddy Roosevelt and Thomas captures the build up to the Spanish-American War in great detail. He weaves the thoughts and experiences of several major players during that time period (T.R., Sen. Lodge, and W.R. Hearst are the main ones) while also commenting on the larger national zeitgeist as the country shifted from isolationism to banging the war drums.

message 40: by Parker (new)

Parker Altman | 41 comments Mod
My off-the-wall read for January came in the form of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. This period piece set over 20-30 years in Civil War-torn Barcelona uses the story of one boy's maturation by way of an investigation in his favorite author's life and disappearance. There are some great one-liners sprinkled throughout the work and Zafón does a fine job of bringing his characters to life. Stephen King provides an endorsement on the cover that sums it up: "One gorgeous read."

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