Sunday, January 14, 2018

Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan's Gospel Years - What Really HappenedTrouble In Mind: Bob Dylan's Gospel Years - What Really Happened by Clinton Heylin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book at the same time as listening to the newly-released Trouble No More, Bootleg Series, Vol. 13. Great combination, detailing specifics of Dylan's turn to Christ and his "Gospel Albums" & tours between 1979 - 1981. When I first heard that Bob Dylan--the 60s revolutionary folkie & rock 'n roller--had come to Christ and was naming Jesus' name, it was hard to believe. I rushed out and bought "Slow Train Coming" and was blown away...and have been ever since with Dylan's work, both pre & post-conversion. It stands the test of time.


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The Fallow Season of Hugo HunterThe Fallow Season of Hugo Hunter by Craig Lancaster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved this spin-off from Lancaster's Edward series [600 Hours of Edward]. This book was a read-aloud by my own personal audible.com, my wife Chris. We had some driving time on our trip back to the US in Nov.


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The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist ThreatThe West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat by Roger Scruton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very insightful book on the whole issue of the "global terror threat," delving deep into the philosophical, religious, and political underpinnings of Western & Islamic civilizations. There are serious differences in how modern-day countries (and national political entities are a relatively new construct) have developed their governmental policies versus how traditional Islamic civilizations have evolved. Unfortunately, in recent years, as the author points out, there are many who have come from Muslim majority countries ("The Rest") to make their homes in Western countries--yet they have not become nationalized, but under their new political/religious freedoms have sought to take advantage of and to bring down countries/cultures which have Western political values ("The West").


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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Truly Madly GuiltyTruly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think this is my 4th Liane Moriarty book--but my first Audiobook version of one of her novels. It was thoroughly enjoyable--both the unfolding story & tension and hearing that peculiar Aussie accent. Even at 1-1/2 speed that accent was intriguing! And the narrator did a fantastic job with the various voices. Probably most intriguing was the voice for Vid--the Slovakian or Slovenian that he was. Moriarty is the master of the chronologically cut-up & from differing perspectives story. Bit by bit you get more & more revelation of what went on at a certain climax point--the build-up & characterizations to that point so key to a fuller understanding of all that took place at that particular moment in time. Each book of Moriarty's that I've read has been better than the last. Looking forward to another one soon!


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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Pride and PrejudicePride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Finally...had to read this book, as it's my wife's favorite-of-all-time book and DVD series. It was OK. Maybe I need to read it a few more times...


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The Unbearable Lightness of Scones (44 Scotland Street, #5)The Unbearable Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a totally delightful read, this! I think it might be one of my favorite McCall Smith books so far. This book--Vol. 5 from the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith--continues developing the intriguing characters connected to the apartment building located on 44 Scotland Street in historic Edinburgh, Scotland. Some great twists and stories as the characters interact and intersect with other unique Edinburgh personalities. McCall Smith has such an amazing way with words--so homespun, yet deeply intelligent and weighted with delightful sensibilities. Delightful, engaging, ruminating, refreshing, and thoughtful & realistic thoughts and conversations by some colorful characters. Grab a good cup of tea--or good coffee, like the kind served up at Big Lou's Cafe--and any of McCall Smith's wonderful novels, and you won't be sorry; no, you'll be delighted and will be smiling most of the way through an enjoyable read.


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Monday, October 09, 2017

The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House, My Journey Through a Turbulent WorldThe Envoy: From Kabul to the White House, My Journey Through a Turbulent World by Zalmay Khalilzad
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Khalilzad gives a great personal & close-up tour of some very significant times in modern history--especially with regards to America's post-9/11 involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Amazing that a man who grew up in Mazar-e-Sharif & Kabul found himself in the inner circle of leaders from the most powerful country of the world at such a critical time. Khalilzad made a difference in these engagements, though his counsel was not always listened to or acted on. Remarkable man with a deep grasp of geopolitics.


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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Rabbit, RunRabbit, Run by John Updike
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was my first John Updike novel, I believe, though I've read some of his short stories and used to teach them university students in China. This is the first of a series of books that Updike wrote about Harry Angstrom, whose nickname is Rabbit (from his fast-paced basketball days). This was not a bad read--I gave it a 3-1/2 stars in my Reading Log. Updike writes very dense sentences, with lots of similes and sometimes a stream-of-consciousness perspective. Story is pretty tragic overall; it involves a young married man dealing with the difficulties of marriage & fatherhood, as well with his questions of faith and inner purpose/meaning for his life. He's pretty confused overall--and consequently there is a lot of running and symbolism wrapped around his running. I am interested to sometime read about Rabbit's future days and how he & his family turn out.


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Sunday, September 24, 2017

In the Country of MenIn the Country of Men by Hisham Matar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Different, but very interesting, book about life in Libya in another time/age--when political repression was rife and those who spoke out in any way were harshly dealt with. From the perspective of a young kid whose father is caught up in the jaws of the harsh governmental powers.


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Twelve Baskets Full, Vol. 1Twelve Baskets Full, Vol. 1 by Watchman Nee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hadn't read any Watchman Nee for a long time and enjoyed these challenging & inspiring comments on what true life lived in Christ is all about.


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Hearts in AtlantisHearts in Atlantis by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Overall an interesting story--told in 5 separate sections that have some connection to each other. Not as good as one of King's other books I've read, like _The Green Mile_.


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The Gospel ReloadedThe Gospel Reloaded by Seay Garrett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some interesting points made from the "Matrix" triology with regards to faith and spiritual life and Christianity; quite a few symbols/images used in the "Matrix" come directly out of the Bible & Christianity.


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The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern IranThe Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran by Hooman Majd
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Liked this book and its insights into the modern paradox of Iran and your Iranian educated class who have been so disillusioned by the overall fraudulent Islamic Revolution of the ayatollahs. Iran has such a deep & rich history and such a vibrant culture; the book reminds us not to think all Iranians are radicals.


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Master and Commander (Aubrey/Maturin,  #1)Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I thought this was just so-so, just OK. It had some good parts that were more engaging, but I found a lot of it rather boring and it sometimes seemed to move at a snail's pace.


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The Place of the SkullThe Place of the Skull by Chingiz Aitmatov
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gave this a 3-1/2 rating. Written by the most famous Kyrgyz author. Very interesting themes and storyline.


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Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its BestRun with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best by Eugene H. Peterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was a wonderful look at the prophet Jeremiah and his life & message. Really powerful message and a faith-stimulator. Read it!


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Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and SurvivalModern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival by Amin Saikal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An amazing read that had so many good historical insights. The author did an excellent job of laying out the various historical stages in Afghanistan's modern history--and in looking at the underlying reasons why each of them failed to live up to expectations, or how they shot themselves in the foot. Very insightful read.


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Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist TeamVengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team by George Jonas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An amazing look at the post-1972 Olympics Israeli massacre and how the Israelis & Mossad handled sending a strong & in-your-face message to those responsible for that evil. The movie "Munich" was based on it and did an excellent job in bringing this book to life accurately.


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Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable...about Solving the Most Painful Problem in BusinessDeath by Meeting: A Leadership Fable...about Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business by Patrick Lencioni
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pretty good book--told in the usual Lencioni fable style--on how to make meetings count, by clearly delineating their specific purposes and frequencies.


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Mere ChristianityMere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hadn't read this book for some 25+ years. Really enjoyed it again and the magical way that Lewis tackles some serious and life-impacting issues head-on. No nonsense and great illustrations (word ones, that is).


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What the Dog Saw and Other AdventuresWhat the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have greatly enjoyed all Gladwell's books--and this was no exception, even though it was essays written for the "New Yorker." He has great insights and comes at things from the most interesting perspectives--and always has engaging little stories that carry you right through to the conclusion.


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The HobbitThe Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Read this probably 30 years ago and didn't remember much. Since I recently read the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, though, I wanted to go back and read this to refresh my memory on Bilbo and the hobbits. Enjoyed it much and am looking forward to the new movie coming out soon.


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The Russia HouseThe Russia House by John le Carré
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Enjoyed this book--my first one by le Carre. I enjoyed his style and characterizations; seemed realistic and well-grounded. Not an action-packed unrealistic story with people who can do it all, all the time, without breaking a sweat. Looking forward to reading more le Carre.


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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency  (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #1)The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My second McCall Smith book, first in the "Ladies' Detective Agency" series, but surely not the last! I loved this and love Smith's engaging writing & story-telling style. What a cast of interesting characters are so well portrayed!


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Down UnderDown Under by Bill Bryson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another brilliant Bryson read. So well-written and engaging--so humorous & informative too! OK--now I'm hankering to travel "Down Under" myself and to especially take the India-Pacific Railway across the bottom of this intriguing country & continent.


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Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the WestBlood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Heavy duty--wow--that's about all I can say about my first Cormac McCarthy read. Reminiscent of the dense, heavy, serious, epic writing of greats like Melville & Faulkner--where the land & environment take on characters of their own, fully developed & foreboding. The human personalities loom large & epic-like as they struggle in & against the landscape and those who are bound up with it as intricate, intertwining characters. The story is set in the Wild West along the Texas-Mexican border in the late 1800s. Not for the fainthearted, for sure--some grizzly details involving blood & redness...and the unfortunate cheapness of so many lives & peoples in a lawless border "nether" region. Writing that captivates and intrigues, that unfolds with biblical-like import, full of symbolism and similitude and seriousness...


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The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIAThe Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA by Joby Warrick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

That was a quick read...maybe we ought to lose power more often (from Hurricane Irene). This really was a well-written, fast-paced book, though, with a fascinating story of how a Jordanian doctor got caught up in a daring/brazen al-Qaeda/Taliban (while in the borderlands of Pakistan & Afghanistan on "assignment" for the Jordanian secret police) plan to hit back at the West. Some very difficult & costly lessons were hopefully learned by our intelligence services. Bottom-line: do NOT be in a rush, no matter how good things look. And do NOT trust without carefully verifying/checking. Period.


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Notes from a Small IslandNotes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another good Bryson travel read, though not as good as some of his others, like "A Walk in the Woods," which is a must-read classic. It gets better as it goes and has some real laugh-out-loud parts that might cause curious glances from others sitting near you at the time.


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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and RedemptionUnbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Read this book courtesy of a friend on his iPad. What an excellent read. Amazing to ponder all this man, Louie Zamperini--and the others who went through similar experiences with him--endured over the years under the cruelty of the WWII Japanese. But what a great, true, wrap up to the story--with the redemption of all that suffering, pain, and striping of all human dignity. You'll zip through this glued to your seat or wherever you carry your iPad or Kindle! Highly recommended.


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The Comfort of Saturdays (Sunday Philsophy Club, #5)The Comfort of Saturdays by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first Alexander McCall Smith read, I'm a little embarrassed to admit. I really enjoyed it--nothing earth-shattering, but a fun & witty read, with a thoroughly enjoyable main character who is an amateur philosopher on all kinds of subjects. Looking forward to reading another in this series, as well as some other McCall Smith books.


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The Glass CastleThe Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fascinating & captivating read. At times it makes you cringe, and at other times you are happy & encouraged about the perspective this family has on life. The parents are--at various times--both laudable and self-centered and irresponsible. Very insightful seeing that there are people who grow up with this kind of parental neglect, hardship, and abuse, who in the endure and rise up above it all.


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Apples Are from Kazakhstan: The Land That DisappearedApples Are from Kazakhstan: The Land That Disappeared by Christopher Robbins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great read on our former homeland--with some enlightening history/context. Engaging writer.


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Half Broke HorsesHalf Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a great read--again!--by Jeannette Walls. This is a "prequel" memoir that fills in good background on her more personal memoir--"The Glass Castle." This is the history of her maternal grandmother--Lily--who was quite a character. Walls does a superb job of giving Lily a voice from the grave, with all her quirks & uniqueness, through a first-person narration. She called the book a True-to-Life novel. Don't miss this gem about some amazingly tough people who lived through some hardscrabble days, only to emerge the better for them.


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The Sparrow (The Sparrow, #1)The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow!--hold onto your horses, as Mary Doria Russell unfolds an amazing out-of-this-world adventure, filled with interesting & complicated characters. A Jesuit mission to a planet in the Alpha Centauri system and all the complex issues that come wrapped up in making first contact and trying to understand a different sentient species.


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Dune Messiah (Dune Chronicles #2)Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very interesting book in the "Dune" series; enjoyed it thoroughly, and got into it easier than the first one.


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My Utmost for His HighestMy Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read through this excellent devotional book every few years, and each time, I find it to be engaging, stimulating, and stretching spiritually.


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The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In GodThe Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God by Dallas Willard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent read that gets into what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus--someone who follows Him & His example. Deep exposition of the Sermon on the Mount and its application to our daily lives.


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The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for? by Rick Warren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great uncomplicated, but real, book about growing in your faith and walk with God


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John AdamsJohn Adams by David McCullough
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the best books I've read in a long, long time. Excellent biography that deftly fills in the well-rounded character of one of the true Patriots and the 2nd President of the U.S.


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Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great read! A book to be re-read, for sure.


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Z: A Novel of Zelda FitzgeraldZ: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very well done book of historical fiction that "sees" things through the eyes of Zelda Fitzgerald. Thanks to Chris for being my audio reader in our car rides.


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Healing the Broken Family of Abraham: New Life for MuslimsHealing the Broken Family of Abraham: New Life for Muslims by Don McCurry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good overview and insights for a better understanding of Islam & our Muslim neighbors/friends. Good, practical discussion of what can be done in helping to bring true, new life to them. Bottom line: Jesus said: "I am the way, and the truth, & the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me." (Jn 14:6). I gave this a 3-1/2 on my own list.


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The Book of Strange New ThingsThe Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gave this book a 4-1/2 stars in my reading log. Really liked this interesting story, that had shades of another good book, "The Sparrow," and its sequel. Looking forward to reading more by this author.


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