Tag Archives: book

Review: The Walking Dead, Book Two

The Walking Dead, Book TwoThe Walking Dead, Book Two by Robert Kirkman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m really enjoying this series, although I know it’s still early. You should be forewarned that there is foul language and adult situations, but it’s probably to be expected in a post-apocalyptic zombie-filled world.

Book Two continues the Sheriff Rick Grimes story. It continues to delve into questions about what it means to be human in a world where the institutions of humanity have ceased to exist. Will the gang become more like their zombie counterparts, or will they grow further apart and more human themselves? These are the kinds of questions this book (and the television series) seeks to answer.

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Review: The Walking Dead, Book Three

The Walking Dead, Book ThreeThe Walking Dead, Book Three by Robert Kirkman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not much to say about the series so far that I haven’t already said in the previous two reviews. I do think the characters, especially Rick Grimes, are types of the ideal man in the same way that Achilles or Odysseus or Hamlet or Dante are. There’s something to Rick’s character that should draw us further in to the story. How is he behaving in a way that we should imitate? How is he behaving in a way that we should eschew? What would be the proper way to behave in such situations? If we can learn to live rightly, via our imagination, in a post-apocalyptic world, then certainly we can learn to live rightly in our own world.

I’m drawn to this series, and I’m surprised by that in light of this being a graphic novel.

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Review: Brisingr

BrisingrBrisingr by Christopher Paolini

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not sure how to rate this book or any of the books in this series, to be honest. I really do enjoy the story, and I appreciate the homage to so many archetypes and ideas from the stories I love.

I do, however, find the books difficult to get through. Paolini over describes just about everything. It feels like he doesn’t trust the imaginations or the intellects of his readers. He seems bent on connecting every dot for his readers, and the lack of subtlety is frustrating.

That said, the story is a good one, and I enjoy being able to discuss the story with both of my boys who have read and enjoyed them.

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Review: A Little History of the World

A Little History of the WorldA Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great book. This is how history should be told. The history of the world, from Creation to World War II, is told a series of stories. The author doesn’t shy away from telling history as he understands it. This is especially true when he gets to the history he lived through. Yet, in the final chapter of the book, he goes back and corrects things that he later felt like he misunderstood at the time of living through it.

The book is written for younger children, maybe 9-11, but I read it aloud to my older children (13 and 16) and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

If you have younger children, this is a great book to read to them each morning as part of your homeschool. The chapters are brief, and there are only forty of them, so you can get through the whole thing in about two months’ time. It is actually a part of a larger series of books, the “A Little History…” series, so you can move on from this one to the one on science or art. That is what I am planning to do with my children.

Although…honestly…my kids are just an excuse for me to read these books.

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Review: Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education

Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of EducationPoetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education by James S. Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me describe first what this book is about. The title can be distracting if we aren’t used to certain philosophical terms. This is not a book about poetry, although it is. It is not about knowledge, although it is. Poetic knowledge describes a certain kind of knowledge distinct from scientific knowledge. Scientific knowledge is what we are most familiar with: an analytical study of a subject, a rational knowledge about a subject. It is knowing a horse because you’ve memorized information and facts about it.

Poetic knowledge is much different. It is the knowledge you have of a thing vicariously, sympathetically, through experience, relation, and love. It is knowing a horse because you’ve lived among them, having experienced horses and their lives and can love and sympathize with them. Poetic knowledge is a passive learning, that you receive through the senses and understand with the emotions, memory, and imagination. But these emotions (namely, wonder) “is no sugary sentimentality, but, rather, a mighty passion, a species of fear, an awful confrontation of the mystery of things,” as Taylor quotes on page 159. Fear, of course, and especially the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

In this book, James Taylor takes us through the history of poetic knowledge from the Greeks with Homer through Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and on to Christian thinkers with Augustine, Aquinas, Maritain. He walks through a validation of poetic knowledge as a means of knowing and educating, to its historical roots, to a deeper understanding of what it is. Then, he changes gears and walks us through the legacy of Descartes and the destructive forces he and Dewey brought upon poetic learning in education. After a discussion of its demise, he reintroduces the reader to men who have practiced and implemented poetic learning in schools after Descartes and Dewey. Specifically, he takes us to a short-lived school in France in the 20th Century and another short-lived program at the University of Kansas, also in the 20th Century. He concludes with ideas on how to recover poetic education today and some images and descriptions of what it might look like in a school today.

I must admit this book has had a huge impact on me. I am thoroughly persuaded by Taylor’s presentation and arguments. I also find that I am wanting to read more along these lines. This book is the cause of my reading Josef Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture, and is now the reason I am turning to Dicken’s Hard Times. It is also the reason I will be buying poetry collections of Wordsworth.

If you are involved in education in any way, this book is a must read.

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Review: Hard to Be a God

Hard to Be a GodHard to Be a God by Arkady Strugatsky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a difficult book for me to review. First, it was originally written in Russian, during the Soviet Union regime. It has been translated into English before, but from the German, so the English translation had lots of errors. This particular translation is a new one, directly from the Russian. This creates problems for me, because there are aspects of the book, linguistically, that I did not like. I do not know, however, whether to attribute that to the original authors or to the translators. It could be better, but it’s not bad.

Second is the story itself. It is the story of a futuristic society in which communism has reigned supreme, and the government has sent “historians” to live among the peoples of other planets further back in history than they. The main character, Don Rumato, is a “historian” living among the Arkanarians, whose society is still in a kind of feudal period of history, and he is to simply observe the culture without interfering in the direction of its politics or revolutions. To live among these people, with the knowledge and technology he has available to him, is to live as a god, but it is hard to be a god. It is hard because he has to refrain from interfering, but it is also hard because he has to refrain from devolving to their level. There are several interesting philosophical insights made throughout the book, and I enjoyed finding what the authors would relate to such a situation. The story itself is an intriguing one.

Third is the development of the story. It started out really choppy and clunky. If I had not read descriptions of the book, descriptions that gave me the overall premise of the story, I’m not sure I would have finished the book. The clunkiness for the first third of the book was bad enough that I couldn’t grasp what in the world was going on. The description I’d read kept me going through the book, but once I made it beyond that first third, I felt like it was worth reading.

It is probably more of a three star book, but the premise of the story itself forces me to push it to a fourth star, even if it wasn’t written at a four star level. I’ll attribute that to the problems of translation, rather than the authors themselves.

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