Currently Reading

  • 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
  • Patience & Fortitude by Nicholas A Basbanes
  • Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Lyman Bushman
  • a People's History of the United States: 1492-Present by Howard Zinn

Monday, June 30, 2008

[TSS] its an Odd World

I haven't been keeping up with most of my meme stuff lately, I know, but life gets in the way sometimes, and, well, things get pushed to the side. However, I went to visit my girlfriend this past weekend, which meant a six or seven hour train ride, round trip. This, of course, meant plenty of good old fashioned reading time. Add to that about an hour of reading when I woke up ~half an hour earlier than my GF and her parents Saturday morning, and I'm making some serious headway on Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. As I may or may not have said before, Odd Thomas is the first novel by Koontz I've ever read (this seems to be a summer for first reads, what with reading my first Stephen King novel at the same time). I'm really enjoying it too. The book reminds me a little of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. It reminds me a bit of TDF, and yet, Koontz, and his hero have a voice all their own. Both Odd Thomas and Harry Dresden are fans of the King, for example, however, I doubt Harry would have reacted quite the same as Odd does when Elvis appears in his car.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mindfulness and the Art of Choice

I was honestly underwhelmed by doctor Sherman's book. When I originally requested it from the Early Reviewer program on LibraryThing, I was hoping at the very least, for a Buddhist influenced self-help book. What I got was barely that. It starts out with an allusion to the movie Donnie Darko like self help, before moving into a mix of "the Power of Now" and a variety of relaxation, visualization, and other exercises. There is a one or two paragraph discussion of mindfulness, but hardly enough to warrant a mention in the title. Overall, I'd recommend reading "the Power of Now" instead.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Endless War

Title: the Forever War
Author: Joe W. Haldeman

Haldeman, a veteran of Vietnam, wrote the Forever War about Vietnam. However, it could just as easily be about any war in the history of mankind, and is really about the damage that war does, and its futility. The book won a Hugo and Nebula, and deserves both.

The Forever War chronicles the military career of William Mandella, the son of 1970's hippies who is drafted into the military in the mid 90's to fight a war against an unknown alien race. Because of the effects of space travel, and dumb luck, he ends up surviving the whole ~1100 year war, even though he only ages a couple years of subjective time.

I won't give away the ending, except to say that the effects of space travel, and changes in society over the eyars create much the same effect for Mandella that most soldiers report experiencing during most wars, of being disconnected with the world they've returned to. The world has changed so much by the time that the war ends, that, were I in Mandella's shoes, and the war ended slightly differently, I probably would have committed suicide.

Overall however, this is an amazing book, one that even people who don't like sci-fi that much should find something of interest in. the Forever War should be available at most bookstores, just make sure you get the author's preffered edition, which contains the original manuscript.

Monday, June 16, 2008

the Pocket Guide

Title: the Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide
by: William G. Sinkford

The Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide, known as the "Pocket Guide" among UUs, is probably the book people are looking for when they pick up "a Chosen Faith," and it does its job of introducing UUism much better than that volume. Where Chosen Faith is essentially an introduction to the philosophy of Unitarian Universalism, the Pocket Guide is an introduction to the beliefs and practices, such as they are, of Unitarian Universalism.

Opening with the UU Principles, the closest thing the religion has to a creed while remaining a non-creedal faith (there is no belief of any kind a person must subscribe to to be a UU. A Christian could be a UU just as easily as a Hindu or Buddhist, and continue practicing their faith). With the little exposure I've had to UUism, it seems like the Principles need to be a bit more central, not just "follow them if you want" as they seem to be now. However, thats a different issue entirely.

The rest of the book contains chapters on "our worship" explaining the dynamics of a UU service, "Our Religious Education" about UU religious education, and numerous other subjects someone new to the faith would undoubtedly want to know about. These include a chapter on ministry, explaining what exactly a UU minister does. For a non-creedal faith, UU ministers are a lot busier, and a lot less stereotypical than one might think. Each chapter is written by a contributing author, which acts as a nice little reminder of how individual UU faith really is.

Overall, this is an excellent introduction to Unitarian Universalism. I think "a Chosen Faith" would be an excellent compliment to read at the same time, however, it really isn't required to get something out of the book.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Went to church today, and they've got a church bookstore as well as a library, and you all know what that means MORE BOOKS. The damage wasn't too bad this morning.

the Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide by William G. Sinkford

Earth Bound: Daily Meditations for all Seasons by Brian Nelson


the Larger Faith: a Short History of American Universalism by Charles A. Howe

I was only planning on getting the pocket guide, but the other two just jumped right off the shelf into my hot little hands. I haven't used a daily devotional for any serious length of time before, so this'll be a new experience for me.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I was at Half-Price Books yesterday to turn in my application (been looking for a summer job, hope they hire me. I've got my fingers crossed.) and of course I ended up taking a look around, as I've got this weird disease that just won't let me leave a bookstore without a book in my possession. I came away with the following gems:

the Battle for God by Karen Armstrong


Dancing with Shiva by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Chosen Faith

Title: A Chosen Faith: an Introduction to Unitarian Universalism
Authors: John A. Buehrens and Forrest Church

This book is considered the official introduction to Unitarian Universalism, but personally, being new to UUism myself, I found it a poor introduction. Its based around the six principles of UUism, with a section for each, which opens with the principle, followed by two chapters, one written by each author. These chapters read like sermons, and don't really do a very good job of introducing the UU faith. I think this book is best considered an introduction to the philosophy of the faith for those already familiar with it. From what I've seen of it, the "Pocket Guide" looks like a much better intro to UUism for those who know nothing about the religion.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wednesday Thingers

Once again, I let time get away from me, and I'm posting this a day late. A well, not like a day changes anything.

Today's question is about tags- do you tag? How do you tag? How do you feel about tagging- do you think it would be better to have standardized tags, like libraries have standardized subject headings, or do you like the individualized nature of tagging? What are your top 5 tags and what do they say about your collection or your reading habits?

I definitely use tags, quite a few in most cases. There are a few books that I only have three or four tags for, but I'm pretty sure I've got at least one tag for every book. I tag for paperback or hardback, non-fiction/fiction, and a variety of other things. I've got two tags, as far as I know that are unique to my collection. The first is "Religion & Spirituality Library." I'm a Comparative Religion major in college, and this is my attempt to gather as much material, including sacred texts, theology, etc, as I can. The other is "philosophy library," which is just what it sounds like, a collection of philosophy books.

With all the tags I use, I'm not sure what my top five are. I'm still trying to get rid of all the ones that are the same except for typos, etc. However, the top tag in my collection, with 165 books tagged, is "Religion & Sprituality Library." Seeing as I'm planning to go into the ministry, I guess this makes sense.

Monday, June 9, 2008

[TSS]: Mormon Fundamentalism and Vietnam in Space!

I've been reading a rather amusing duo of books lately. Under the Banner of Heaven was written by Jon Krakauer in the mid '90's. Its about Mormon Fundamentalism, and a rather brutal murder of a mother and her infant daughter by two brothers who were Mormons, and believed that God had told them to kill this woman and her innocent infant. Its a pretty chilling look into faith gone wrong, and the horrible things people do to each other in the name of religion.

The other is a book titled the Forever War. Take the Vietnam war, and combine it with Starship Troopers (the book, not the movie), throw in some relativity theory, and you've got the Forever War. Its about a war between humans and a race of aliens from a far off galaxy, but thats really oversimplifying it. The book won the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel of the year when it was published, and from what I've read so far, it deserves both. I'm reading the author's preffered edition, whihc I'm not sure about the availability of, as it was a gift from a friend, but I suggest you buy it if you can locate a copy, as the other two editions apparently contain major deviations from the original (the author's preffered edition).


I attended my aunt's Unitarian Universalist church for the first time yesterday (Sunday) and they had a bookstore, so of course I couldn't leave without buying some books. Here's the damage:

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (been wanting to read this for a while, finally found a copy I like)

A Chosen Faith (from the little I saw today having not actually been to a service yet, I'm seriously considering joining the UU church, and this is the most widely recommended intro to UUism)

the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (this just looked interesting, and for 50 cents I couldn't really pass it up.)

Q Thomas Reader (My Comparative Religion major busted out when I saw this, and I just had to have it.)

My TBR pile seems to be growing faster than I can ever hope to put a dent in it. You know what though? I don't really care. I love reading and collecting books, and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Title: the Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Mormonism
by: Drew Williams

Written by a practicing member of the LDS church (they don't like to be called Mormons, as Mr Williams explains early on), this is an excellent introduction to the LDS Church for outsiders. With sections on theology, history of the church, and the scriptures. The Old and New Testaments are discussed, as well as the Book of Mormon, but I would have liked to see a bit more about the Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Just about any question you could possibly have about the church is at least mentioned in this book. Overall, from the bit I knew about the church before reading it, I can confidently recommend the Idiot's Guide to Understanding Mormonism as a basic introduction to the LDS faith.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

BTT: Trends in Reading

Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?

When I first started reading, it was mostly novels, adventure stories, Louis Satcher, Wayside, stuff like that. As I've gotten older, my taste in novels has advanced appropriately, I'm reading more "adult" authors, but I've also started reading more non-fiction than fiction. I'm more likely to pick up a Krakauer, than a Kostova, Zinn than Koontz. However, I do still read a number of novels. Comics are another thing. All through elementary school and highschool I read a bunch of Foxtrot and Calvin & Hobbes, and once I got into highschool, I started reading manga. I still read the funnies, and I'll read some manga on occasion, but it just doesn't hold my interest anymore. I should note that I started reading quite early. I was, I think, six or seven when I cracked my first book, a Berenstein Bears book, but give me a break, its still reading.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

REVIEW: the 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Title: the 19th Wife
by: David Ebershoff
release date: 8/5/08

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff came to me through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. After my first experience with the program, I was a little hesitant, but what with Mormonism so much in the news these days, I’ve been trying to find out as much about the religion as I can.

This isn’t Ebershoff’s first book, he’s written three before this, two novels and a collection of short stories. He’s won awards for his work, and is a graduate writing professor at Columbia University. However, I found this all out after reading the book, and after seeing on the back cover that he is an editor-at-large at Random House. This was nestled into all the other stuff about being a professor and getting awards, and it honestly made me a little uncomfortable, especially after seeing how much promotion the book was getting. Was this 579 page brick really that good? Or was Random House just making a huge deal because someone that worked for the company wrote it?

In short, my discomfort was misplaced. This 579 page brick was more than worth reading. It was one of the better novels I’ve read in a while. The book has two plots. One, set in modern day (no specific year is ever given that I remember, but I imagined it as the early years of the 21st century) BeckyLyn Scott, a member of the Firsts, a fundamentalist Polygamous sect of the LDS church, is arrested for the murder of her husband. Her son Jordan, a gay lost boy who was kicked out at 14 for holding a girl’s hand, reads about the murder, and sets out to find the truth. The other is set in the mid-1800’s and chronicles the life of Ann Eliza Young, 19th wife of Brigham Young, starting with her mother’s meeting with Joseph Smith, the first Prophet of the LDS church, leading up to her marriage to and eventual divorce from Brigham Young, followed by her work to end Polygamy. You find all this out in the first 50 pages or so, so don’t worry; I haven’t just ruined the end of the book for you.

What’s interesting about the historical plotline is how it’s told. Ebershoff uses a fictional autobiography of Ann Eliza, based on her actual autobiography, and numerous fictional documents, from a master’s thesis, to letters and journals of historical figures, even a Wikipedia article, to tell the story of the early Mormons, and Ann Eliza’s life. Ebershoff uses all these to masterfully interweave fiction with fact, to the point where you aren’t sure what’s been fabricated and what actually happened.

Jorsdan is extremely well crafted in my opinion. This is not your stereotypical fashion designer with a lisp gay dude. We see him argue with his mom when he visits her in prison, and he is constantly conflicted about whether he should stay, or go back to California where he’s managed to get an on again off again job as a contract carpenter. He openly admits to living out of a van for the past couple years, and his fear of the outside world upon leaving the Firsts. The Prophet, as the leader of the Firsts is called, is a true cult leader in every sense of the term. He has everyone terrified of the outside world. At one point Jordan tells a story of how the Prophet told of a world war that wiped Europe off the face of the Earth, so you can imagine Jordan’s surprise when he meets a Frenchman in Las Vegas, only to find out that France is very much still around and prospering.

In the end, you are brought so completely into the worlds of both Ann Eliza Young, and Jordan Scott, that they could easily survive and be enjoyable as two separate books. Yet how they come together to form a more complete picture of how people’s actions can effect others, even across vast spans of time, make this a truly engaging book. To explain, I'd have to ruin the ending, which I'll refrain from, but I will say that the book is probably the quickest 600 pages I've read in a long time. It comes out on 8/5/08, and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday Thingers!

Why LT?

Why did you choose to open and maintain an LT account? Do you/did you use other online cataloging/social networking sites, like GoodReads or Shelfari? Do you use more than one? Are they different or do they serve different purposes?

I pretty much stumbled on LT one day, and thinking, "This looks awesome" immediately signed up and started cataloguing my library. I hadn't heard of cataloguing sites before LT, and, from what I've seen of some of the others, I seem to have stumbled on the best one. GoodReads, which seems to be the next best thing to LT, also looks like a blatant copy. Although I'm on facebook, LT is the only book cataloguing/social networking site I use. I just never saw the need to use more than one site that did the same thing, which I guess is why I only use facebook, even though I also have a myspace account.


Went on a walk today, and ended up wandering into a local Half-Price Books. Came out about two hours later with the following:

Book of Mormon|Doctrine and Covenants|Pearl of Great Price

the Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Mormonism


By the Hand of Mormon: the American Scripture the Launched a New World Religion

After reading the 19th Wife (a review of which will appear here soon) and with the FLDS in the news so much lately, I've been wanting to read up on the LDS church and try to tackle their scriptures a ?third? time, and these just hopped into my hot little hand.