Sunday, October 19, 2014

My top 25 books out of 250

Since May 2011, under three and a half years ago, I have read or listened to 250 different book titles. That means the count of 250 does not reflect a number of books which I listened to or read a second (or third) time. The full list follows:
Chronicles of narnia 1-7
Lord of the rings 1-4
Tennis shoes 1-11
hunger games 1-3
Lone survivor
escape from zarahemla
Children of the promise 1-5
Harry potter 1-7
Falling to heaven
Work and glory 1-9
Treasure island
Fahrenheit 451
Screwtape letters
Problem of pain
Til we have faces
Seventh son
Tom Sawyer and huck finn among the Indians
Red prophet
Prentice Alvin
Great expectations
Start ship troopers
The way of kings
Mist born trilogy
39 clues (1-11)
Robin hood
King Arthur
Scarlet letter
Scarlet pimpernel
City of Ember
People of Sparks
Diamond of Darkhold
hunchback of Notre Dame
Cahills vs vespers (1-5)
Wind in the willows
Phantom of the opera
Prophet of Yonwood
Call of the wild
20,000 leagues under the sea
Tale of Troy
tales from the Arabian nights
At the earths core
Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Prelude to foundation
Forward the foundation
Gulliver's travels
The secret adversary
Alice in wonderland
Through the looking glass
The wizard of oz
The cat who walks through walls
The vow
Legend of the guardians: the owls of ga'hoole
The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford
The black cauldron
Rocket Men
Brain wave
Pilgrim's regress
Out of the silent planet
Casebook of Sherlock Holmes 1
Flags of our fathers
Casebook of Sherlock Holmes 2
From the earth to the moon
Have a little faith
Count of Monte cristo
The elusive pimpernel
The great divorce and the abolition of man
Artemus Fowl
Grimm's fairy tales volume 2
The legend of sleepy hollow
War of the worlds
Tarzan of the apes
A princess of Mars
Anderson's fairy tales
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
2001: a space odyssey
Grimm's fairy tales
2061: third odyssey
3001: Final Odyssey
Paradise lost
the gods of mars
the arctic incident
warlord of mars
2010: odyssey two
childhood's end
the eternity code
Allan quartermaine
surprised by joy
the jungle book
The opal deception
Around the world in eighty days
The time machine
Thumblina and other fairy tales by hans Christian Anderson
A chance in the world
Journey to the center of the earth
Podkayne of mars
I, robot
The adventures of huckleberry finn
The lost colony
The story of Dr Doolittle
The voyages of Dr Doolittle
The help
The resident patient
War beneath the waves
The the three musketeers
Captain's courageous
The great gatsby
The time paradox
The last guardian
A blaze of glory
The lightning thief
The sea of monsters
The lost world
Thuvia, maid of Mars
The Atlantis complex
The titan's curse
The battle of the labyrinth
The chessmen of mars
A chain of thunder
The giver
A Connecticut Yankee in king Arthur's court
Bury my heart at wounded knee
New spring
The last Olympian
The eye of the world
Classic detective stories
Classic sci-fi stories
Words of radiance
The lost hero
The adventures of Gerard
The selfish giant and the happy prince
Short stories by Robert Louis Stevens
Black beauty
Steel and other stories
The red badge of courage
Robinson Crusoe
The book of three
The great hunt
Classic Irish tales book 1
The castle of Liyr
The dragon reborn
The shadow rising
The mark of Athena
The son of Neptune
The amulet of Samarkand
Taran wanderer
The prisoner of cell 25
Rise of the elgen
The battle of the Ampere
The golem's eye
Ptolomey's gate
The awakening
The high king
The house of Hades
The return of sherlock holmes
The fires of heaven
The path of daggers
The crown of swords
The lord of chaos
How to train your dragon
NUMA files: The devil's gate
Apollo 13
A wrinkle in time
How to be a Pirate
Artemis Fowl: o menino prodígio de crime
Nowhere to run
How to speak dragonese
The Runaway King
How to cheat a dragon's curse
How to twist a dragon's tale
A hero's guide to deadly dragons
The ring of Solomon
How to ride a dragon's storm (250)
My top 25 is a mix of individual books and whole series of books.  They are books which have inspired, uplifted, entertained and informed. They are books which demonstrate good writing and deep thought. These are books which have built imaginary worlds so alien, yet familiar enough to be real. After 3 years and 5 months of reading and listening, here are my top 25:

The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
One of Lewis's arguments against Christianity while he was an atheist is "why a loving, caring God would allow pain and suffering." He first received a witness of Christ, then found the reasoning and understanding behind pain. This is one I first listened to them received a physical copy of. When I pick up the book one again, I'm going to have a highlighter, a pen, a set of scriptures, and access to a few issues of General Conference available. It is a deep, albeit short, book which merits deeper study and contemplation.

Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites (series) by Chris Heimerdinger
I was almost 13 when I received the first book in the series.  The protagonist, Jim Hawkins, was a typical, rebellious, uninterested 13 year-old.  The book caught my attention and lured me into a story from scriptures with which I was unfamiliar.  Once finished, I took up my own copy of The Book of Mormon and began searching for the scriptural story which forms the basis for the first book.  The third and fourth books did it again.  By the time I picked up the fifth book I was already working my way through the scriptures because I wanted more and I wanted to know more.  Even as an adult, the books hold a particularly special place in my life.  They gave me a beginning.

Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
Admittedly I resisted these books at first, then I started, and finally I stopped and never read them again until I was married.  My reasoning was that witchcraft and magic were generally frowned upon in the scriptures to the point of condemnation.  I was hesitant, but open when I found a statement purported to be from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland who said that he loved the books for their stories of friendship, struggle, and good overcoming evil.  These are the books which introduced a new generation to the ideas of magic spells, flying brooms, and the final triumph of good over wickedness. Rowling created a believable world within our own world.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy
This is a classic book of adventure, romance, and daring courage with a dash of humor to keep the book enjoyable.  I caught on fairly early that Sir Percy was the leader of the Scarlet Pimpernel band so it was interesting, even scary to listen as his wife attempted to betray him (unknowingly) in order to saver her brother from the French People's Government.  Sir Percy aptly avoids the French agent while rescuing his wife and her brother and various others.  He risks his life and the lives of his devout friends in an effort to save those French who were condemned simply for having money and means.  Witty and entertaining while still being an inspiring story of risk and reward.

The Vow by Kim Carpenter
In February of 2012 (or thereabouts) a movies by the same title was released in theaters.  This book was the foundation for the movie, though I think producers drastically changed the story, keeping only the element of the couple's accident and her amnesia.  The movie really pulled at my emotions, but the book genuinely touched me while providing greater detail to the real story.  I guess I like "real stories" because there is a stronger sense of genuineness to them compared to the dramatization and hollywood-ification.  Their story is inspiring, real, touching and endearing.  It is heart-wrenching, but in the end heart-warming.  This book is definitely a must-read.  It might even find itself in our library someday.

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
I have a love-hate relationship with science fiction books.  All too often, besides a loosely-based-in-science story, there has to be a high level of violence or a graphic sex scene.  This book had neither.  It is about marines in space, their missions, successes and failures so there is a violent aspect to it, but Heinlein skimps on those details in this book. This is, as one reviewer put it, Heinlein at his finest, writing political philosophy.  The book outlines Heinlein's theory on politics, government, civil rights, etc. All this was propped-up with the backdrop of an exciting and interesting story of Johnny Rico and his personal development within the armed forces of Earth.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Hillenbrand doesn't take any cheap shots nor does she sugar-coat the experiences of Louis Zampernini growing up in Little Italy, becoming a running star (and eventual Olympic athlete), a prisoner of war in Japan, a post-war soldier and alcoholic, and a Christian.  Zampernini's life is written in a clear, informative and inspiring manner.  He survived several weeks on the Pacific Ocean and many long, soul-destroying months as a prisoner of war under the notoriously abusive Japanese officer known as "The Bird." His liberation, addiction to alcohol, marriage to a wonderful woman, an encounter with Billy Graham, and conversion to Christianity are all beautifully recorded to inspire future generations.

The Stormlight Archives (series) by Brandon Sanderson
My first experience with Sanderson was actually listening to his Mistborn trilogy.  It was enjoyable, but not among my favorites. The same friend who introduced me to Mistborn suggested that I try The Way of Kings, the first book in this series.  This book is thoroughly engrossing.  Sanderson has created a world similar in some ways to our own, yet so alien as to be new.  He delves into depression, sacrifice, politics, social constructs, and theology in both of the books currently published.  These massive tomes create a brand-new world with its own rich history which has been lost, forgotten and romanticized.  Sanderson's magic is a brand unto itself, introducing the idea that magic has a limit relative to something in the physical world.  I love the idea of people being able t absorb light and use it for various purposes.

The Prydain Chronicles by Alexander Lloyd
These little gems were a surprise to me. I had watched (and enjoyed) the Disney animation The Black Cauldron, but I had no idea the story was based on a book.  The books have an interesting and fun amalgamation of magic, courage, and friendship.  As with many fantasy stories, we find ourselves in the middle of a land with a rich history and the protagonist learning from the past, defending the present, envisioning a better future, and growing into shoes which initially seemed too large for him.  The adventures of Taran, Princess Arlanwye, Gurgy, and others is endearing and enchanting.

Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley
I wasn't sure what to expect with this book.  I had been enjoying various stories out of World War II, both fictitious and biographical, when I came upon this book. Bradley is the son of one of the six men who were among the soldiers storming Iwo Jima and then raised the flag once they had succeeded.  James himself knew of the story, but until after his father's death had no idea that his dad had been one of the six who raised the flag.  Bradley recounts the battle of Iwo Jima to us with first-hand stories from survivors.  He then takes the time to cover the story of each of the men in that small cluster as they returned home.  Little did any of them realize when they raised the flag on the end of a pipe that they would become participants in the most iconic photograph of the war and one of the most reproduced statues around the country.

2001: A Space Odysey by Arthur C. Clarke
This novel is a classic for fans of science fiction.  Few realize that Clarke was approached by Stan Kubrick while the book was still being written.  Kubrick wanted an exciting space story to produce into a movie and Clarke was still in the process of drafting this book.  Personally, I've always had a fascination with the gas giants of the outer solar system. A visit to them would be thrilling for me.  Clarke wrote a gripping and terrifying story of adventure near Saturn.  The movie doesn't do the book justice.

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Another science fiction classic.  Mars has held a fascination for mankind, especially after several successful visits by probes from Earth.  John Carter's adventures on Mars are interesting and well-written with a background of learning which makes sense.  I gobbled the series in a relatively short amount of time.  Burroughs does depict the Martian religions in a rather negative light.  Some sources indicate this isn't because Burroughs thought poorly of religion (he being a Christian), but because he worried what would happen if a religion had too much socio-political power.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Asimov is another classic science fiction writer.  In this book, he explores a world in which robots have a much closer, more personal relationship with humanity.  They don't just build cars for people, but they're also butlers, nursemaids, storytellers, even politicians.  He explores what kinds of robots those would have to be, what other purposes they would serve, and even delves into robots discovering and establishing their own religion on a satellite.  He also uses them in exploration and mining of other planets with humorous and terrifying results.  A good read with real-world implications.

War Beneath the Waves by Don Keith
This book chronicles Keith's experiences as a World War II submariner.  His story of riding in one of these cigar-shaped war machines in defense of the Allies is interesting and intriguing.  I was especially intrigued because we seem to hear so little of the use of submarines in WW II.  Generally we hear about the marines storming the beaches, the pilots flying over various Pacific Islands, the tanks rolling across Europe, but rarely are we given such an intimate view of the battle fought beneath the sea.  Worth the time to read.

Rocket Men by Craig Nelson
Another book about interplanetary space travel, the struggle to develop the technology to enable such a trip and the background of each traveler as well as their post-trip lives.  The best part of this book?  It's real.  This is the awesome story of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, Werner Von Braun and the crews at NASA to land two men on the moon.  I enjoyed both the science and the math involved, the risk Von Braun took to get the technology into American hands as the allies began occupying broken Germany, and the construction of the Saturn V rocket.

Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger
Yet again I delve into a notorious story from NASA's glory days.  This account is much different from the famed landing on the moon of Apollo 11.  This one is told by Jim Lovell and entails his experience as an air force test pilot, his initial rejection by NACA doctors for entry into the Gemini program, his flight around the moon in Apollo 8, and that fateful flight Apollo 13.  It is startling to realize just how much danger they faced and how they overcame the obstacles of preserving three lives in a space designed for two men to spend a handful of hours.  His chronicle of the events leading up to the near-disaster, and his last chance to go to the moon, remind me that even the smallest oversight or mistake can have major consequences.  I was inspired by their ingenuity and their ability to guide a broken ship with an extra and unplanned thruster.

The Stoneheart Trilogy (series) by Charlie Fletcher
Fletcher crafted a carefully planned trilogy which introduced magic to London in a different way: everyplace has layers.  Some people are gifted to see the various layers in which magic happens in odd ways.  We meet George, a young man being raised by his widowed mother in London who inadvertently reignites a fierce war.  This series tells of his struggles to right this wrong and bring about the end of the war.  These are great stories of personal responsibility, healing, sacrifice, and rising to the occasion. Better still is that all the landmarks and works of art mentioned are actual places to visit in London.  Some rate a tour of those sites to be better than the Harry Potter filming sites.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
This charming little book was also a surprise to me.  What begins as a quirky story about a young woman who wants to find her missing father quickly turns into a trip across space with intelligent alien-like beings.  It is a story of faith, hope, love and family with good overcoming evil in the end. It beautifully parallels real-life with its problems, temptations, and struggles interwoven with passages from the New Testament and the powerful beings admitting that even they worship God and Jesus.  A truly remarkable story even though it is so short.

Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
Clarke was known for writing both thrilling and odd science fiction stories.  This one happens to be more odd than thrilling, but it has its own elements of suspense.  This book even came with some high recommendations.  C.S. Lewis complimented it by saying it is a rare book that proposes their is a higher purpose to humanity.  Childhood's End is a book I began in high school, though I don't remember finishing it.  It is strange as it begins with the arrival of hundreds, if not thousands, of flying discs hovering over each city.  They pronounce that they are now the world government and they will appoint local officers and a human liaison, who will answer for the people of Earth .  People are free to practice their own religions so long as they do not seek to impose it by force nor do they commit murder. After some pestering and attempts to reveal what these secretive beings look like, the aliens relent and say they will reveal themselves to humanity in 50 years. What comes down is stranger than you might imagine.  Imaginative, odd, suspenseful, but also intriguing and enlightening.

Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom
The sports commentator Mitch Albom is called into the office of the Jewish Rabbi over the parish he which Albom attended as a child.  Albom has not since attended many religious services so he is surprised by the invitation.  The rabbi asks Albom to write his eulogy.  What follows is a beautiful bunch of interviews in which Albom reconnects with his childhood clergy and deepens his own faith.  One shared story I greatly appreciated.  The synagogue was situated next to a Catholic cathedral.  The two faiths were often wary, but civil with each other until the day a Jew parked their car at the cathedral and took the pastor's parking spot.  The rabbi beautifully handles the situation, but I'll let you read it to find out how.

A Chance in the World by Steve Pemberton
Steve is an orphan.  His mother died when he was young and he never knew his father.  His last name indicates that he has Scandinavian ancestry, but his skin is dark indicating he might have African heritage too.  He is tossed from one foster home to another until he gets to one where everything is perfect while the social worker is around.  Once the worker leaves, all bets are off as he is beaten, locked in a cellar and left with little food.  In high school Steve encounters Upward Bound which gets him excited about school, and particularly college.  His UB adviser knows that something is wrong, but that nothing can be done until Steve asks for help. I loved this book about his perseverance, his trust, and his overcoming.  I loved it because it involved Upward Bound, a program which I credit with some of my own advancements in life. It was my first book dealing so closely with abuse so that was a shocking side, but all in all it was enjoyable.

The Help by Katherine Stockett
This was another book which surprised me.  I had watched the movie and found it entertaining enough, but initially I wasn't excited about it.  Stockett does a great job describing conditions for African Americans in the 1960's.  She does a wonderful job building up the suspense regarding the release of the book written by the heroine.  A good read, worth reading at least once.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
This imaginative children's story delves into the world of a child living in a big, new place.  Coraline goes exploring only to find a parallel world where her parents are wonderful and give her attention.  They want her there.  The truth is much darker, but she invites the witch of this place to play a game to win not only her freedom, but also to liberate her parents and the captures souls of other lost children.  Fun, quick little read tied with a great reminder of the imagination of a child.

Artemis Fowl (series) by Eoin Colfer
This series takes another dive into magic, but magic of another sort.  And no, we're not trekking into London, again.  Artemis Fowl is an Irish criminal genius, shown the ropes of the business by his father, who may not actually realize how deeply into the trade his son is.  Artemis attempts to kidnap a fairy and ransom her for gold. The rest of the series involves some rather entertaining and intriguing logic and magic.  How much did I enjoy the series?  Enough that when we found the first book translated to Portuguese, we bought it.

Chronicles of Narnia (series) by C.S. Lewis
I believe that Lewis had a double purpose with these books.  The first was to bring others to an understanding of the various facets of Christ.  The second was to be lighthearted and take a break from the heavy theology which he often wrote.  All the books involve magic, many of them involve the Pevensie children or an associate.  All involve an encounter with the Lion, which is an allusion to both Genesis and Revelation from the Bible in which Jesus is named the lion of the tribe of Judah.  These books were fun, inspiring and entertaining.  They bring many harder theological ideas to the understanding of a child.  We own these books already and I enjoy them, every time.

Finally, here is the list of books which I have read more than once in the last 41 months:
Harry Potter (whole series twice)
The Scarlet Pimpernel (3 times)
The Way of Kings (3 times)
Words of Radiance (twice)
Artemis Fowl was technically read twice, although in different languages.

There are several books which I began, but did not finish for various reasons.  These are not counted in my list.  Most of them I did not finish because I did not find them to be in good taste.

All be told, it was difficult to fill the list with 25 books or series.  Initially I intended on picking 25 books.  Contemplating my list, I realized there were entire book series which I also enjoy and writing about each individual book would take up almost all of my space while leaving little room for the other books.  This hybrid is the final result;some series and some individual books.  I have enjoyed these books and I hope that you can pick up at least a few of them.  I look forward to the next 250.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Charity and love

I believe that when it comes to our relationships with others, love and charity are about more than "keeping score". We're no longer worried about who did the dishes last or who performed the last kind deed for the other. We do these things, and many more, because they need to be done and because of our love for that person.
I do not imply that this always applies. If you're in an abusive relationship for example, get out. If your spouse roots not return your love in some manner meaningful to you, it's time to reevaluate the relationship.

Monday, May 5, 2014


I miss the days when I blogged or wrote in my journal.  I feel like I was more aware of my emotions, that my thoughts were better organized, and that I had greater mastery of myself. Reflecting on that period, I seemed to have more emotional control, more focus on where I wanted to be, and I recovered from hard times more quickly. Now I feel like a messy ball of yarn, nearly spent with emotions ruling my actions and my words, my direction isn't so sure, and recovering from hard blows takes longer.
Is it really because of the writing, or lack thereof, that I sense this change? Or is the change because I'm finally settling into more adult responsibilities and roles? I am pursuing a college education. I own a car. I file taxes annually. There are bills in my name and debts which I owe. Is the change then because the blows are harder, more direct, yet subtle?
Did writing make a difference? Perhaps so, but perhaps only to the extent of helping me organize my thoughts and direct my counter-attack. The struggles I believe to be harder and to last longer and my counter, if any, is half-hearted because it is so ill-prepared.
Let this be a return, a return to writing. May my self-mastery return and my counterstrike be more swift and sure. May God bless my family through my efforts. He already gives us so much because of my wife's work.