Monthly Archives: August 2010

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Mark’s #28 – Night by Elie Wiesel (120 pages)

I’ll never forget the cold winter day I stood in a museum walking past rooms with piles of hair, shoes, and bifocals, each reaching the ceiling. The human hair, shoes, and bifocals all once belonged to Jews who had long since been murdered in giant gas chambers.  It was 1997 and I was at the very location many people think of when they think of the epitome of evil on earth – Auschwitz concentration camp.   Since that day, I continue to educate myself in regards to the horrors of the WWII holocaust.

Having now read several books on the events surrounding the Nazi’s ‘final solution’ for the Jews, I can confidently say that if a person is going to only read one account of the tragedy, they should read Elie Wiesel’s first hand account entitled Night.

Wiesel retells the story of him and his family being taken from their home in Hungary to the concentration camp in Poland.  Like most in his community, Elie was a devout Jew… While in Auschwitz however, Elie abandoned his faith in a God that would let such atrocities happen.

These words are perhaps some of the most poignant words ever written regarding the holocaust:

“Never shall I forget that night, that first night in the camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the faces of the children, whose bodies I  saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.

Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of  the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget those things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”

As I read this book, I kept thinking to myself, if I did not believe in a bloody cross in history, in which God’s own son suffered the greatest injustice at the hands of man the world has ever seen, to take on himself the justified wrath of God that I deserve, I too would have to come to the same conclusions about God as Elie did.

PS – I mistakenly purchased this book twice, so if anyone would like my other copy, let me know.

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Mark’s #27 – Simple Genius by David Baldacci (420 Pages)

Recently, my wife picked up a couple free copies of David Baldacci books.  I noticed on the inside cover of this book that is was signed by the author.  I wondered why someone would give away autographed copy of a book – I now know the reason; this was not a very good book.

Normally I like David Badacci’s creative thriller novels… I did not like this one…  The storyline seemed too contrived and convoluted.  There were too many themes that were poorly and vaguely developed. With 200 pages left to go in the story, I was wishing I could give up – but I needed the book for my52books.com!

Joe

Joe’s #12-Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow (Book 1) by David Gemmell

This is one of the finest books I have ever had the pleasure to read.  Indeed, I loved the entire series.  For people who are hung up on the story as it has been passed down this book will not suffice, but for anyone who is interested in a vast, and sweeping story that sucks the reader in from word one this is the book.

The characters are deep and you can feel what they are feelings. They are complicated and live in the grey messiness that is our world between the black and the white that we would like for it to be.

The story is well crafted and the plot is compelling.  Gemmell shows you what is happening to the point where you feel as if you are standing on the ship with the characters. When they are crying, you are feeling their pain. You can see the sun reflecting off the golden rooftops of Troy. The heroes are normal, flawed people. They make good choices and bad choices.

This book is well worth your time and money. Be warned, you will want to buy the rest of the trilogy immediately.

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Mark’s #26 – Travels by Michael Crichton (400 pages)

Recently I read a blog about how to become a better writer.  The one point I remember from the blog was that a good writer needed to have some good life experiences in order to have some material to work with.  As Travels demonstrates, it’s clear that Michael Crichton has had plenty of experiences from which to draw from.

I think Michael Crichton is a great writer – perhaps my favorite fiction author.  I have read almost all of Crichton’s books (including Pirates Latitudes earlier this year).   I was looking forward to reading this semi-autobiography.

The book started out great. In the first 100 pages, Crichton shares stories from his days as a medical student at Harvard.  From these experiences, it’s obvious where he is able to draw on his scientific/medical background to write science fiction thrillers.  After graduating Harvard, he quit medicine to become a full time writer and director.

The rest of the book was supposed to be short accounts of his adventures around the world.  In short, the stories reveal a man on a desperate search for meaning and purpose in his life.  Here is a man who made millions as an author and director.  A man who had all the time and resources to go on any adventure he desired – which he did.  Along the way, however, he continued to burn through relationships and marriages.  He acheived the world’s definition of success, but I did not get the sense that he was happy with his life.

As the world tour adventures began to lose their appeal, Crichton turned his attention increasingly to the world of psychics, mediums, and New-Age gurus. Crichton obviously had a different worldview than mine (he died a couple years ago from cancer), and so it was interesting at first to hear about these forays into this realm.   But again, it seemed like he went from one metaphysical experience to another without finding what he was looking for.  Towards the end of the book, the chapters increasingly dealt with these topics – such as the time he spent a couple weeks in the desert of Arizona at some kind of New-Age retreat talking to a cactus for guidance… or the time he went to a spoon-bending party… or the time he went to the ‘Astral Plane’ and talked with his dead father…

Frankly, I got bored with all this… When I saw the last 25 pages were dealing with more of this stuff, rather than climbing a mountain or scuba-diving,  I gave up… I put the book down and thought – “That was kind of sad.”

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Marks #25 – 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson (304 pages)

I read this story to my daughters.

100 cupboards is the story of twelve-year-old Henry York.  Henry has been shipped off from New York to the middle of Henry, Kansas to live with his Aunt, Uncle, and three girl cousins. One night, while sleeping in his room (which is the attic), Henry discovers a series of 99 cupboards – which, as it turns out, each lead to another world.

I was intrigued by the premise of this book and wanted to read it to my daughters because they love the Narnia tales of traveling to other worlds.  The story is well written with an unraveling mystery and many strange twists and adventures.  My daughters all loved the book and are eager for me to purchase the next book in the series.

Since N.D. Wilson is a Christian, I thought this book would have more of a clear theological connection like the Narnia books… I couldn’t find it though.  I also must warn the parents out there that much of the book seems dark and a bit too creepy.  At times I had to change the story a bit as well as the dialogue as to not freak out my daughters too much (I was freaked out though)

The series is recommended for older kids, and I think I would agree… but I’ll have a hard time convincing my five-year-old that she can’t listen to the next book.

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