Books: If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis

July 8, 2014

Last summer I read a biography of C. S. Lewis as part of the Tyndale Summer Reading program. When I saw that this summer’s list includes another book by Alister McGrath, If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of C. S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life, I was immediately intrigued and added it to my list of books to read.

The biography had certainly been interesting, but long and sometimes overly detailed. McGrath says in the preface to this new book that a lot of people want to learn from C. S. Lewis, more than to learn about him. That was definitely how I felt after slogging through the biography, and since McGrath had indicated in that book that he was planning to also write a book about the ideas of C. S. Lewis, I looked forward to reading it. I don’t know if this book is what he was talking about, but the idea of imagined lunches with Lewis seemed very attractive.

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Books: Captive in Iran

July 4, 2014

I vaguely remember having heard about Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh when they were in the news so much a few years ago. When I first saw a headline (on the internet) about two single women arrested for distributing Bibles in Iran, I first assumed they were missionaries from another country, perhaps from the U.S.

Then I learned that they were Iranian themselves, and that the charges against them were also about apostasy. It is not illegal in Iran to be a Christian, but it is a capital offense to convert from Islam to Christianity. I suppose I may have wondered how they came to faith in Christ. But I really don’t think I paid a lot of attention to their story at that time.

When I recently reviewed Tyndale Summer Reading Program book list for this year, I decided that Captive in Iran: A Remarkable True Story of Hope and Triumph amid the Horror of Tehran’s Brutal Evin Prison would be one of the first books I would read. I spend much of last week reading it, and I am still trying to sort out my reactions to it.

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Movies: Robot and Frank

June 22, 2014

I was waiting in line to check out books at the library when I noticed Robot and Frank on a nearby rack displaying a dozen or so DVDs. I’m not sure if their placement there means they’re popular, or recommended, or what. I often recognize the titles but rarely see any I want to watch.

As this was one I hadn’t heard of and it involved a robot, I was interested enough to pick up the box and read the description on the back. If it had been a book, that would have been enough for me to take it home to read. But since a movie would be for the whole family to watch, I first wanted to read some reviews.

The reviews were all positive, but the next time I went to the library it was checked out. I suppose it must be relatively popular, because it was weeks before I managed to find it again (back in the regular movie stacks but set apart on a display shelf).

It’s hard to sum up briefly, which is probably a large part of what I like about it. It doesn’t fit the usual categories of Hollywood movies (not surprising since it was an indie film, distributed by studios after it won a prize at the Sundance festival).

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Books: Sparrow Migrations

June 19, 2014

The premise of Sparrow Migrations intrigued me – “a 12-year-old boy with autism, witnesses the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ from a sightseeing ferry and becomes obsessed with the birds that caused the plane crash.” Other characters are on the ferry or the plane that landed in the Hudson, and while they seem to have nothing else in common with each other, their lives intersect over the course of the novel.

In an author Q&A, Cari Noga explains that she wanted to write about “ordinary people transformed by an extraordinary event –and by each other.” Furthermore, she wanted to make it a “braided narrative” – “multiple story lines that intertwine.” So once she had an initial idea for the novel, she had to find some other characters and conflicts to form the other strands of the braid.

I was not at all surprised to learn that the idea for the story started with Robby, the boy with autism. He is the most fully-developed character. The parts of the story dealing with him and his parents, and their struggles in parenting someone with autism, draw the reader into the characters’ minds and emotions in all their complexity as they deal with a variety of situations. Since the author and her husband have a boy with autism, it is hardly surprising that she can portray their experiences so well.

The other characters, in contrast, were add-ons created for the sake of the “braided narrative,” and their conflicts are those that the author thought would be interesting to deal with. Noga presumably does not have the same personal experiences to draw on with a couple dealing with infertility or a pastor’s wife dealing with homosexuality, and these characters do not come across with the same depth. Read the rest of this entry »


Books: Fall of Giants

June 12, 2014

Ken Follett’s books are all great stories, but especially his big historical novels. Pillars of the Earth is one of the best works of historical fiction I have read, and the only reason I haven’t yet read the sequel, World without End, is that it would take a considerable commitment of time. I spend a lot of time reading, but mostly novels of just a few hundred pages, where I can finish in less than a week without taking too much time away from other things that need to be done. Then I can get caught up on other stuff.

There are books that I read for a while, set aside to either do other things or read other books, and then get back to. But those are usually books I don’t much enjoy reading, and when I do get back to them I have to go back and reread some to reacquaint myself with the characters and what happened previously. With a book of over a thousand pages, that could be a lot of rereading. Or else leaving a lot of laundry unwashed, checkbooks unbalanced, and all the other things that require my time.

Books on CD are a great way to listen to books that I don’t have time to read – especially as the reason I have less time to read than I once had is because I spend over an hour and a half a day in the car driving to and from work. Even so, the fact that the audiobook version of World without End is so long that it requires two separate cases to hold all the CD’s made me wonder if I could finish it during the time period provided by the library.

Which is where Fall of Giants came in. It was not quite as long – at 24 CD’s, they all fit in one case, albeit a very large case. I do not generally have as much interest in reading early twentieth century history – or historical fiction based in that period – as in the medieval period. But it was by Ken Follett, which meant it would be an absorbing story. And I’d see how long it took me to listen to 24 CD’s.

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Movies: Odd Thomas

June 11, 2014

Dean Koontz is one of my favorite authors, and Odd Thomas is one of my favorite books by Koontz. I was surprised, however, to discover that it had been made into a movie. Part of what appeals to me so much about the character of Odd Thomas is his “voice” – the way he tells his story and how he talks about himself and about life. That didn’t seem like it would translate well onto the screen.

But it does, surprisingly well, because the movie allows Odd to narrate the story, rather than just trying to display it through images and action. It’s not the same as the book, of course – a movie adaptation always has to pick and choose and leave out a great deal. But on the whole I think it is very faithful to the book – and I ended up choked up at the end of the movie just as I did at the end of the book.

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Books: The Museum of Extraordinary Things

June 9, 2014

I chose this book from the “New Books” shelf at the library because I recognized the author. In our book club last year we read Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers, and I was interested in reading another book by her.

With a title like The Museum of Extraordinary Things, I had expected it to be about the sort of museums I have visited, filled with unusual and intriguing objects from natural or human history. The chief attractions of Professor Sardie’s exhibits, however, are not things but people with physical abnormalities.

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