Monthly Archives: January 2010

Buddy

Buddy’s #5 Pursuit of Honor by Vince Flynn

Vince Flynn is an excellent author who never fails to draw me into his writing.  In Pursuit of Honor the action picks up just a few days after his ending to Extreme Measures.  If you haven’t read that book you probably should read that one first.   After a few pages I am like sailor unable to escape the sirens call.

Flynn writes from a conservative view point of less government and less government oversight of the military.  Too bad he can’t author the political landscape of our country. :-)   I have always wondered why the country and our politicians should attempt to know everything that the government is doing around the world.  My thought is the less we know about those things the better off the people in those communities are and probably us as well.

I highly recommend it as an entertaining read.  It is Fun, Fast & Furious, as well as Entertaining, Enjoyable and Exciting.  There is something in me that says novels should not get 5 stars but Pursuit of Honor deserves everyone of them.

*****

mark

Mark’s #6 – The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis (211 pages)

“All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Greatest Story which no one on earth has read:  which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Tonight I concluded The Chronicles of Narnia as I finished reading The Last Battle to my daughters before bed time.

I love how C.S. Lewis pictures the last battle, death, and eternity.   He once again reminded me of my short little life on planet earth, and how I am to live for a much bigger story than these ‘shadowlands’

My girls squealed with delight each time a character from the past books was brought back into the last book.   I love how my daughters’ faces light up each time Aslan comes on the scene.  I love how C.S. Lewis writes each chapter with a cliff-hanger which always prompts my daughters to plead, “please just read a little bit more! Please, please, please!”

However, if there is one book in the series that I had sharp theological disagreements with Lewis, it was this one.  In this book you see a kind of universalism that is espoused by him.  You see a devout follower of the false god Tash given entrance to Aslan’s country simply for his sincere devotion to Tash – and then he’s told that whatever good he did for Tash was really for Aslan, and whatever bad was done was really for Tash.

This creates so many theological problems and biblical contradictions, that I hardly have time here to confront.   Simply put, the Bible repeatedly calls people of all times, in all places, to repent and turn from their idolatry, and to turn to the truth found in Jesus Christ…  I could go one at length, but instead I will simply quote two passages from Scripture:

Acts 4:12Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Romans 10:13for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Apart from this theological misstep, the rest of the book was great…. But for me, I am soured by the error.

3 stars.

mark

Mark’s #5 – Pirates: Latitudes by Michael Crichton (312 pages)

In November 2009, I was shocked and saddened when I heard the news that Michael Crichton had died.  For a long time now, Crichton has been one of my favorite authors.  I have enjoyed almost all of his books.  He does a great job of research before writing any book, which pays of in drawing the reader into the story.   Though most of his works deal with science fiction (Jurassic Park, Timeline, Sphere, Prey, State of Fear, etc.), occasionally Crichton wrote historical fiction (such as The Great Train Robbery, Pirates).

After his death, two complete novels were discovered on his computer. When I found out this out, I immediately purchased the first one: Pirates.

I was not disappointed.  As always, Crichton does a masterful job of developing interesting characters, with an even more interesting story line filled with twists and turns, and suspense lasting until the last page.   This was a fun story set in the Caribbean world of 1665.

The downside of the book was the high level of gore and violence along with occasional sexual references (not gratuitous descriptions) – Which I suppose I should have expected given that it was a story about pirates!

Though not my favorite Crichton book (that would be State of Fear or perhaps Timeline), I enjoyed the day and a half it took me to read this one.

4 stars

mark

Mark’s #4 – Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson (448 pages)

“The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history – the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth.”

I picked up this book when I saw that it was on the top-ten list of books read in 2009 by several other bloggers I follow.  This book on history reads like a fast paced novel.  Swanson does a great job of showing so many of the fascinating details surrounding the events leading up to Lincoln’s assasination, his final hours of life, and the flight southward by John Wilkes Booth.  I had no idea that Booth had been on the run at all, let alone 12 days.  I was also shocked at the lack of security for the President, especially during a time of war.

I think most people would find this book very engaging and worthwhile – I did.

4.5 Stars.

ron

Ron’s #5: Never Work Harder Than Your Students by Robyn R. Jackson (239 pages)

I’ll be honest here–I am not a good teacher.

The longer I teach, the more that I think this is true. It’s not that I don’t try or don’t care. Instead, I think that I am not effective. Entertaining, perhaps, but not effective. Every once in a while, I’ll read a book on how to be a better English teacher, and these books make me feel worse about my chosen career. Teaching books work opposite as teaching movies do. After I watch Dead Poets Society or Freedom Writers, I feel invigorated to go back into the classroom to kick some pedagogical booty. Reading teaching books by those who are master teachers makes me feel like I am pedagogical booty. See the difference?

Knowing that most of you reading this are not teachers, I won’t bore you with Robyn Jackson’s methods in detail. Her main thrust is that becoming a master teacher is something that can be attained with seven principals (“Use Effective Feedback” and “Start Where Your Students Are” are two of the seven). Jackson takes teachers through the changing of a teaching mindset, rather than merely adding activities or procedures to our already overflowing toolbox. Her focus is pairing down our classrooms and activities to only essential ones and do those well. I liked this idea, and it can help me. I have noticed that at times, I’m seeking ways to fill a class with interesting activities, but they may not go where I want them to in meeting core objectives in reading and writing. I have already started to think more about why I do the things I do in class, and I have contemplated places to trim the fat.

Jackson also encourages ways to support students, and I need improvement in this area. I liked her idea of not letting kids off the hook by simply giving them a zero for a missing assignment. Instead, make them come in to do it, either after school or at lunch. If I planned a valuable activity or lesson, then it should be completed. After I trim down to the essentials, why let a student off easy by not having him complete it? As I read, I found my brain quickly jumping to objections, “How can that work?” “What if they don’t come?” I need to put those aside, and figure out what I can do, rather than what will not work.

My criticisms are few, and I’ll only share one here. Jackson does the one thing that annoys me most about listening to teachers tell stories about their classrooms and interactions in children. When relating a story of a lesson, teachers will often tell how the class objects to something the teacher says by using the teacher’s name in unison. It would be like me telling you about class today, and the students said, “But Mr. Coia, how does the conflict/resolution work in movies?” It rings so false when I hear teachers recounting the events like that; students do not object in one voice! Next time you are listening to a teacher talk about his day, please listen and tell me how correct I am. I say all this because Robyn Jackson loves this storytelling feature, except with the added bonus of the kids protesting, “Dr. Jackson…” By page four, I was reminded a few times that Ms. Jackson earned a Doctorate. While mildly annoying, it did not impede my enjoyment of this book.

During the time I read this last week, I really did feel low about my teaching performance compared with the teachers outlined and highlighted in this book. But I now liken it to the way one feels after reading Paul’s letter to the Romans. This Biblical book makes us feel low, sinful, and ashamed because we do not measure up to the ultimate Master Teacher, while, at the same offering a great hope because it shows a way to bridge the chasm of imperfection. The New Testament often shows our distance from God and our ability to enter into His presence. We are both saint and sinner at the same time. We see our sin and also the way to our rescue from it.

On a much smaller and less significant scale, Never Work Harder than Your Students showed me my problem and offered solutions to help me to cross that gap.

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