I am still in a bit of a reading slump; I haven’t been able to read much besides light or funny books. (I’ve started about three or four books and I won’t say abandoned them yet because my bookmarks are still there – I’ll get back to them eventually…maybe.) I enjoy the comedian Jim Gaffigan and we already owned his book, Dad Is Fat, so I figured I’d give it a go. This is a collection of essays from Gaffigan about his life as a father of five covering a range of topics including children’s books, birthday parties, sleeping arrangements of a family of seven in a two bedroom apartment, and people’s reactions to the number of your offspring. It has a lot of his material found in his album Mr. Universe, though the book material is further expanded. The book is humorous though it tends toward the snarky and cynical side, with a little heart here and there. I know Gaffigan is offering a commentary on our perceptions of parenthood and having children, but I would’ve enjoyed it more if he’d had more insights past these common perceptions instead of just talking about them. But his observations of some of the ridiculousness of having children were funny, and I found the glimpse into a different life interesting.
I’m a fan of all the Star Trek movies, and I have always found Leonard Nimoy an intriguing person. I Am Spock by Nimoy is a memoir about the creation of Spock and covers the formation and progression of Star Trek from the original series in the 1960s to 1995 when the memoir was published. It is essentially a biography of the character Spock; Nimoy expresses that he immersed himself in the character so much and so long that he is a permanent part of the actor. Celebrity memoirs can be trashy and full of gossip, but this one is very dignified and enjoyable. Nimoy portrays his co-workers with great respect and admiration. He offers very interesting behind-the-scenes glimpses in the evolution of the Star Trek franchise and the character of Spock. Nimoy was a passionate man (that did other things beside Star Trek – did you know he directed Three Men and a Baby? New to me!) that was intent on perfecting his craft as well as guarding the character that had become so much a part of him. It’s an easy read and very informative about the entertainment industry and the evolution of the Star Trek franchise specifically. I enjoyed this book, and only wish that it was updated with his reflections on reprising his character in the new Star Trek franchise.
I was talking wth a friend the other day and the book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne came up. I asked her how it was and next thing I knew she was putting it in my hands. Though I have been on an easy reading kick, I figured I’d give this one a try because, though it’s much heavier content, it’s short. The story follows Bruno, a nine-year-old German boy, who is suddenly taken from his home in Berlin to a new home somewhere far away. From his bedroom window, Bruno can see a tall fence topped with barbed wire and hundreds of people dressed in striped pajamas on the other side. One day, while exploring along the edge of the fence, he meets a boy in striped pajamas named Shmuel. They strike up a friendship and daily spend time discussing their lives, each from their own side of the fence. Boyne, who calls this novel a fable, has crafted a very unique look at the Holocaust and its devastating effects, while also asking the reader to consider the fences that still exist in the world today. Though a quick read, it’s quite thought-provoking and poignant, worth the read.
The Lost Compass by Joel Ross is the sequel to The Fog Diver and picks up immediately where the first book leaves off. In this story, Chess and his crew must find the legendary Compass that supposedly can lower the fog, making the earth livable again. They receive help along the way from the wise scientists that have studied the fog, but must find the Compass before the evil ruler of the Rooftop, Lord Kodoc, does. This novel is just as fun and surprising as the first, and a great wrap up of Chess’ adventure.
I’ve been really enjoying reading middle grade books. They’re creative and intriguing stories and, though they can deal with serious content, they’re not depressing and heavy. In this dreary winter, I just need something lighter. Also, there’s no graphic content I have to worry about – not even romance plots (which I just don’t care for). To continue my reading streak of this genre, I picked up The Fog Diver by Joel Ross. This novel is about a post-apocalyptic world where a deadly fog has covered the earth and the surviving humans live on the highest mountains and travel the skies on floating airships. Chess is a fog diver: he dives into the fog to salvage items to sell so he and his crew can eat, pay rent for their wobbly little shack at the base of the Rooftop mountain, and, most importantly, get help for their guardian, Mrs. E, who’s gotten fogsickness. Most fog divers don’t last past a couple years because of exposure to the fog, but Chess was born in the fog and part of it lives within him. Because of his special resistance to the fog, the evil lord of the Rooftop is hunting him. In order to protect Mrs. E and Chess, their crew is planning an escape to another mountain and face all kind of dangers to get there. This novel is incredibly imaginative and entertaining, full of wonderfully unique characters and amazing worldbuilding. The story was unpredictable and kept me guessing until the end which is always fun. It’s an engaging adventure novel and I’ll definitely read the sequel to see how the story wraps up.
The first thing that drew me to this book was the beautiful dust jacket (even the cover is beautiful too!). And the story lived up to that first impression. Pax by Sara Pennypacker is the middle grade story of a boy and his fox and it is a tearjerker from page one. Peter’s dad enlists in the military to partake in the impending war and forces Peter to abandon Pax, the fox he’s raised from a kit, in the woods. From there, both the boy and his fox embark on adventures that help them discover who they truly are. This book is a prime example of why I love children’s books. The writing is beautiful and, though written for children, is in no way dumbed down. Pennypacker explores themes of family dysfunction, love, grief and loss, and the costs of war. Her writing is beautiful and evocative, drawing you inside the bond between Peter and Pax. It’s also a quick and easy read – though almost 300 pages, I finished it in just a couple of days.
I rarely don’t finish books. Mainly because I buy most of the books I read and if I’ve put money into it, I’m going to at least power through it. I enjoyed Andy Weir’s first novel, The Martian, and figured I’d enjoy his next. So, without waiting for reviews, I bought his second novel, Artemis, right after it came out. This book is awful. And I don’t mean it’s just not my taste or it’s not for my current mood. This novel is objectively terrible. The main character is a woman, though you’d never be able to tell that from how she’s written. She is some literary incarnation of a stereotypical man’s fantasy – brash, sex-crazed, unemotional, masculine. She’s one of the worst written characters I’ve ever read, and absolutely the worst female character. Besides the horrendous protagonist, it’s full of flat secondary characters and mediocre writing – even the plot wasn’t exciting enough to keep me going. I gave this book about 100 pages and just couldn’t waste any more of my time. This is my first book to abandon this year. I just want to know how I can get my money back.
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp is a solidly biblical book on parenting that has been around for a couple decades. Tripp, a pastor and counselor, delves into the scriptures to draw out the principles God provides for training up children to know and honor Him. He takes his focus of the book from Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” He shows how the actions of a child arise out of the attitude of their heart, and you cannot address the heart by addressing actions only. The focus of parenting must be getting to the heart of the child and helping them understand themselves through the grid of the Bible: that we are all sinners in need of a Savior, and God has given us Jesus. The primary goal cannot be behavior modification, social adeptness, stellar academics, or any other number of good pursuits. The primary goal of parents is to teach children that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Tripp walks through this biblical approach to parenting, as well as the problems with non-biblical approaches. The second portion of the book provides practical objectives and methods for different stages of childhood (infancy, school age, teenagers). He also addresses parents that may want to use these methods but their children are already in the second or third phase and how they can begin to incorporate these principles. As one on the cusp of parenthood feeling like I have no idea what I’m doing, this book was very helpful in providing a solid, biblical foundation as we move forward. Tripp gives no false promises of “follow these ten steps for the perfect child,” he has no misconceptions that any parent can follow these ideas perfectly, and many times he discusses the difficulty and toil of pursuing biblical methods of childrearing, though it is worth the work to obey God. It is a down-to-earth, realistic book that focuses on our need of the Gospel – in the child’s life as they grow and discover themselves and the world around them, and in the parents’ lives as they shepherd their children.
I’m still in a bit of a slump so I kept going in The Narnian Chronicles with the next book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This is probably the most well-known book of the series and was the first Lewis published. This book tells the story of four siblings, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, who are sent to the English countryside during World War II. They end up staying with an eccentric professor in a huge house. One day, while exploring, Lucy stumbles upon a magical wardrobe that serves as a doorway to a new country – Narnia. Eventually, all the siblings make it to this new country and there they become part of Aslan’s greater plan to undo the evil done in The Magician’s Nephew. Rich with beautiful allegory and wonderful quotes, it’s no wonder this story is so beloved.
I started All Things for Good by Thomas Watson several weeks ago and have slowly been working my way through it. This short little book by the Puritan minister is an in-depth exposition of Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” Though it may sound intimidating, Watson’s writing is easy to understand and is so methodically organized it’s easy to follow his train of thought. He breaks down this one verse, expounding on each phrase with Scripture and applying it to our lives. It is a very rich, devotional book, full of Scriptural wisdom. After being introduced to Watson’s writings in Voices from the Past, it was nice to delve deeper into his writings. I look forward to reading more from him and other Puritans in the future.