Next

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Next was written by Michael Crichton and was published by Harper Collins Publishers in 2006. The book is 431 pages long including the notes section. At the end, there is a short section with the author’s final thoughts on the subject.

Next is about genetic research. Mr. Crichton explores many possible outcomes of genetic manipulation gone wrong. In the story, we have three transgenic characters; a talking, polyglot, foul-mouth orangutan, a talking, loyal and lovable chimp, and a wise-ass talking African grey parrot. Around them revolves a storm of human greed.

This book is really scary. It is full of what-ifs. What if you donate sperm and 25 years later you are sued for giving your offspring bad genes? What if a company patents your genes and then, by legal gymnastics, they own your body? What if your ex-spouse takes your children away based on the results of genetic testing that suggests you may become an alcoholic or develop a debilitating disease? There are many other situations in the book like these.

I am glad I read this novel. I need to read more books by Michael Crichton.

The Isaiah Effect

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The Isaiah Effect was written by Gregg Braden in 2000. It was published by the Three Rivers Press and it is 276 pages long. including the index and the notes section.

The Isaiah Effect is about how the future is only a possibility that can be changed by the actions we take today. The book takes its name from one of the scrolls found in the desert of Palestine as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The author explores how prayer is the instrument to change the future. On the way, we are taken to places like Tibet, where Mr. Braden consults with an abbot at a Tibetan monastery and modern Egypt where the author experiences a miracle regarding time as well as the American South West, where we meet a man who ‘prays rain’. In the latter parts of the book, Mr Braden goes more in depth into what he calls ‘the science of prayer’.

I must admit that I used to be a sucker for New Age literature. I have grown out of it somehow. Calling things like prayer science is one of the many reasons why I stopped reading New Age books. Other things about this book that turn me off a bit are the references to Edgar Cayce, Mayan prophesies and such. It’s not that I hate Mr. Casey or that I have a thing against Mayan spirituality; it is that these things are referenced in a very superficial way and that the are often lumped together as if they are the same thing. Still, this book touches on the subject of prayer, which still interests me. I like that the author talks about prayer in a more universal way than say, just Christian prayer.

I read this book because I had bought it a long time ago and never got beyond the first chapter. This time I finished it and now I can move on.

Zealot

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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. This book was written by Reza Aslan and published in 2013 by Random House. This book is 296 pages long including the index and a huge notes section, befitting a book such as this.

I expect to read controversial books. In fact, the more controversial a book becomes, the more I want to know why. I hate hearing people tell me why I shouldn’t read a book. I rather like to read the book and make up my own mind.

Zealot is a very interesting book that puts the life of Jesus in its proper historical context. One is so very rarely told about the cauldron of human extremes that was Palestine at the time of Jesus. The main thesis of the book is that the historical Jesus was a decisively different person than the Prince of Peace I grew up with. Mr. Aslan suspects that the real Jesus was a man who was looking to establish a real, physical kingdom in Palestine and that it was only later, much later, that his disciples built him up to be a supernatural being who spoke not of a kingdom in this earth, but a kingdom of heaven. As for me, I have always been mystified by many many things about the story of Jesus and this book sheds lights on some of them.

For example, since I was a child, I couldn’t understand the story about the woman who touched Jesus’ robe and was healed. The thing about the story that gave me fits was the fact that Jesus felt the power drain from him, like a battery! The implication for me was that if Jesus felt the power drain from him, then he could build it back up. More to the point, for me anyway, was that there may be a procedure, a method, by which I could attain power such as this. Where was this procedure in the bible? And if this procedure existed, how many other things Jesus knew that were not told in the bible?
Well, the book doesn’t answer this question but, Mr. Aslan did go on to say that stories like this one in the bible, have given biblical scholars fits as well.

A long time ago, I found Joseph Campbell. It was Mr. Campbell who set me straight about being ok with the spiritual Jesus and the historical Jesus. Zealot cements that quite firmly for me. The book is filled with analysis and the notes section should be enough for anyone wanting to know how the author reaches his conclusions. This book is a keeper for me. I surely will re-read it and I will save it for anyone who wants to borrow it.

As a Christian, I am secure enough in my faith to enjoy this book. If anything, I feel much better about my beliefs after reading it.

Cooked

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Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation is a terrific book which everyone who is even remotely interested in cooking should read. Even if you are not interested in cooking, you should still read it.

Cooked was written by Michael Pollan. The book was published by The Penguin Press in 2013. The book is 486 pages long, including the appendix (four great recipes) and the index.

The book is divided in four parts: Fire, Water, Air, and Earth.
Fire concerns itself with the cooking of barbecue –whole hog cooking. When I started the book I was sure this would be my favorite part. Mr. Pollan visits several pit masters to learn the business of cooking a whole pig. The men he talks about in this part of the book are like rock stars. In the process, we learn about the differences between commodity pork vs. more traditional kinds of pork. We learn things like cooking the wood before cooking the pig and the fact that cooking with fire is a communal affair. In all the parts, Mr. Pollan goes into exquisite detail as to what happens during the cooking process.
Water has to do with cooking inside; in the kitchen, with pots and water. We follow Mr. Pollan as he visits cooks and learns how to cook with water. This section is also terrific. It is almost as if you are reading four different books. In this section, we learn about vegetables and how aromatic plants give cooking with water its own magic.
Next comes Air. This section is about baking bread. Again, Mr. Pollan finds an artisanal baker to learn from and we are treated to graphic descriptions of bread making.
The final part of the book is Earth. This section was very interesting to me as I had very little knowledge (almost none) of the process of fermentation. In this section we learn the important part bacteria and yeast play in human health as we read about making cheese, sauerkraut, and beer.

This is a great read as Mr. Pollan is an excellent writer and it is also a reference book of sorts. The appendix contains four different recipes to try. Pick up a copy if you can.

The Fred Factor

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The Fred Factor is a non-fiction, motivational book by motivational speaker Mark Sanborn. The book was published in 2004 by Currency Doubleday.

This book was inspired by mail carrier Fred Shea, whom the author met when he moved to a new house. Fred went above and beyond his duties and this attention to superior service gave Mr. Sanborn the idea for the book. In a nutshell, the book is about delivering excellent service.

The book is organized in 4 major parts:
What is a Fred?
Becoming a Fred.
Developing Other Freds.
For The Love Of Fred.

To me, the section of the book I was more interested in was part two: Becoming a Fred.
In this section there are four subsections that delineate the steps to become a Fred:
Everyone Makes A Difference.
Success is Built On Relationships.
Continually Create Value For Others.
Reinvent Yourself Regularly.

I found the book to be simple yet I thought it accomplished the goal of inspiring me. I believe that the book inspires because of its simplicity. I can get behind clear and concise instructions. The book is also peppered with stories and anecdotes the author uses to illustrate how one can deliver superior service in all walks of life.

Finally, although the book is very short, –108 pages not counting the Appendix, and you can easily read it in one hour, you can get most of its value in even a shorter time by simply reading the last section of the book; For The Love Of Fred.
This last section is where the actual Fred Shea tells the author the reasons why he does what he does.

As far as I know, at the time of this post (Dec 23, 2014) Fred Shea is still alive although I believe he is now retired.

House Rules

I just finished House Rules by Jodi Picoult. I like books like these, where I get to learn about a subject besides being told a story

Jacob Hunt, an 18 year old boy diagnosed with Asperger’s is fascinated with Criminal Scientific Investigation – CSI. Emma, his mother, has sacrificed her life to tend to him, at the expense of her marriage and her younger son, Theo, who by appearances, is a normal teenager. After the death of Jacob’s tutor, Jess, Jacob is charged with murder. To their aid comes a new lawyer, Oliver who, in spite of being 13 years younger than Emma, immediately falls in love with her.

This is no romance novel. Not even close. This book is an awesome crime novel that will have you thinking about whether or not you are  neurotypical (a.k.a ‘normal’) or if you, like our protagonist, fall somewhere in the spectrum.

I like Jodi’s writing style. Although I like clever writing and word-smithing as much as the next guy, I like it when the writer is more interested in telling me a story than impressing me with language gymnastics.

Like I said, to me this book was a great crime novel. Was it a crime of passion? Was it a crime of brotherly-love? Or was it something totally different? You will have to read the book to find out!

Thank you for stopping by!

A Wrinkle In Time

I had heard about this book for a long time. Now and again, it shows up on lists about the books one has to read in a lifetime. The book was first published in 1962 and it was written by Madeleine L’Engle.

I finally read it. The book is about three special children; Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin, who venture out to save Meg’s and Charles’ father who, as a part of a group of scientists, traveled to another world using a tesserac. Aided by Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which they become involved in a war against IT.

The book is classified as Science Fantasy. The repeated use of religious concepts and symbology reminds me of works by C.S. Lewis.

I was expecting to like this book more than I did. Maybe it had been built up too much or maybe it is because it was written for children and I read it for the first time as an adult.

Regardless, my next book is House Rules by Jodi Picoult. House Rules has been sitting on my co-worker’s desk for a year now and she said I could borrow it.

The Lace Reader

This novel by Brunonia Barry was frustrating for me at first. I thought that the author was taking too long to begin the story. Little did I know that the story had already began! From the very beginning in fact. I was just too dense to see it.

Towner (real name Sophya) comes from a family of interesting women, who read the future on Ipswich lace, which they make. Into this family marries a monster; Cal. The story is narrated by Towner. The end is so cool that I will not describe it here so as to not spoil it for anyone else. The story is set on Salem, MA, around the late 1990’s. The characters are all very interesting. May, Towner’s mother, Eva, her grandmother, Emma, her aunt, Ann, the town’s uber witch. There is also Jack, Rafferty, the local cop, and Beezer, Towner’s brother.

I’m not going to spell out the story. If I forget it, I will enjoy the book again. Heck, I will enjoy any other book Brunonia writes.

The next level of incompetency

I have figured out that acquiring the ability to speed read is no different than any other endevour of personal improvement.

Just like a person needs to push past their level of comfort when trying to get faster or stronger, in speed reading, one needs to push oneself to the next level of incompetency and stay there until mastery is achieved.

Here’s to incompetence yielding to mastery!

The Tiger Warrior

I just finished The Tiger Warrior by David Gibbins. I bought this book five years ago and I just now read it. I tried reading it in the past but I could never get past the first chapter, where the Roman soldiers capture a guy carrying the jewel of immortality. The story is about how Jack, an archaeologist, follows clues around the world in an effort to find this jewel. Jack is given some of the clues to this adventure by his great-great-grandfather, via notes scribbled on old books. His great-great-grandfather was an officer in the British army and was named Howard. Jack has a partner by the name of Costas and like Jack, his British ancestor had a partner named Wauchope. The drama in this adventure is provided by an ancient Chinese secret sect sworn to protect the jewel and the tomb of the first emperor of China. To do so, they will kill anyone attempting to find the jewel.
This book explores real and imagined ancient connections between cultures. The Romans in the Middle East, the Chinese in Afghanistan, the Romans again, this time in Southern India, the Romans yet again in Egypt, the Romans (they got around) in China. The book also presents the plight of the jungle people in India. I have to admit that when I thought of jungle people I always thought of the Amazon jungle, maybe African jungle; never did I think that India had jungle people.
I hate to spoil the ending but the jewel is never found, at least not in this book.

I am very happy I finally read the book because this book seems to have been tailor-written (if tailors could write) for me. It has everything I have been fascinated by all my life: lost treasure, improbable historical connections, and secret societies. David Gibbins has other books in the same vein: Atlantis, Crusader Gold, The Lost Tomb, and The Mask of Troy. I am certain I will read those as well.

Thank you for stopping by!