Book Links for February 24, 2017

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  • Finally, here is a great blog I just discovered called Why to Read that you should check out.

Happy reading!

Roald Dahl on Television

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The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set —
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink —
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

The Sea-Wolf by Jack London

Stack Of BooksFor week 8 of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge I read The Sea-Wolf by Jack London.

Literary critic and gentleman, Humphrey van Weyden, is one of the sole survivors of a crash between two vessels at sea and is picked up by the seal hunting ship Ghost, captained by Wolf Larsen. Van Weyden, or “Hump” as he would soon come to be known, is pressed into service by the powerful and animal-like Larsen;  man who is both hated and feared by everyone who knows him and for good reason.

Larsen is basically a sociopath. He is massively strong, cunning, fiercely intelligent–though self-educated–and entirely without empathy.

He does whatever suits him and his needs–even his whims–and he does not hesitate or feel any sense of guilt afterward. This makes him incredibly dangerous, and in his way of thinking, superior to a man like Hump who is shackled by morality and the social and cultural mores he has been raised under.

In my mind, Wolf Larsen is one of the greatest literary villains ever conceived. He is a force of nature, much like the very sea he travels on. His vicious nature is overwhelming and yet his intelligence and ability to articulate his thoughts are admirable. One moment you hate him and the next you cannot help but admire the sheer power of him. London  was displaying a special brand of brilliance when he invented this man.

The story that follows the pairing of Humphrey and Wolf is well-told. There are parts of it that are thrilling to the point that you cannot turn the pages fast enough and then there are some conversations between the two of them that will have you closing the book to ponder their implications.

The book is loaded with nautical terms that I did not understand having no experience on a sailing vessel myself, but they did not interfere with the story. Since the protagonist is also a completely inexperienced person, some of the terms are explained as you go along but not laboriously so. The result is that despite the terminology, the novel carries along at an excellent pace.

This story is the battle of Hump to retain his humanity and not descend into the moral oblivion that is so comfortable for the Wolf. It is also the story of how Hump becomes more of a man than he was when he first set foot on the Ghost.

My only issue with the book was the introduction of a female character–Maud Brewster–who becomes a love interest for van Weyden. The character herself is well-written and interesting, but the love story that unfolds between her and van Weyden is filled with absurd and unrealistic propriety. I suppose, in a way, the idea here again is that these two civilized people among the beasts of the sea, maintain their civilized ways, but the story takes a sharp turn when she comes aboard the Ghost, and as she comes to the forefront, London’s greatest invention–Larsen–is lost. That is a pity.

Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and recommend it.

The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson

Stack Of BooksFor Week 7 of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge I finished The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson, which is one of the Puritan Paperbacks.

I read this book on the advice of my son. I had just finished John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin and my son told me that this book by Watson was an excellent companion for Owen’s book. He was right. In fact, I would recommend reading Watson’s book first because it is an excellent foundation for Owen’s.

The Doctrine of Repentance is exactly what its title suggests; a rational, and yet passionate, exposition of the Biblical doctrine of repentance written in true Puritan style.

The Puritans have a poor reputation in today’s culture. They are viewed as emotionless, Vulcan-like people whose only pleasure in life was ruining everyone’s else’s fun.

Reading the Puritans let’s you see the truth; they were some of the most passionate, emotional and joy-filled people you could want to meet. The difference is where those emotions were directed and where the source of their passion and joy was located.

Watson’s book is a passionate appeal for people to repent and to repent in a right way. He doesn’t want his readers deluding themselves into thinking they are truly repenting of sin when in fact they are doing nothing more than putting on a show for God in an attempt to assuage their feelings of guilt.

True repentance brings a changed life, argues Watson, and he spends the whole of the volume helping his readers see the difference between what is true and false repentance and why the latter is so dangerous and the former so glorious.

I don’t think I can say that I “enjoyed” this book. It’s not a pleasure read. It’s challenging and convicting and motivating. It changed my thinking on a lot. It also scared me a little. By the end, I loved God more and wanted to honor Him more. For that reason alone, it is definitely worth reading.

Grow useful from books

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Find out what books your friend reads and you’ll know what manner of man or woman you have for a friend. Books contain the wisdom–as well as the foolishness of the ages. The greatest thoughts, the deepest experiences, the results of the most profound and prolonged experiments, are all embalmed in books.

Grow useful from books.

The character of a man is show by the books he selects. The character of a nation is largely determined by the books its men and women read. The wealth of the world is in its books, not in its gold and silver and precious stones and structures and lands.’

Grow useful from books.

Good books are real. They are cross sections of life. They tell the truth and conceal nothing. You take or leave what such a book teaches. You know, without asking, its true value. You think, act, walk, work–live with it. For the time you are of it–a part. You live over the thought that the writer lived. Though long years in his grave–again he breathes, and warmth is in his blood again. How marvelous is a book!

Grow useful from books.

Good books make sympathy a world trait. Progress is but the accumulation of Book power. With books gone the world would rot away. Good Books will put Poetry and Music into your smallest efforts.

Grow useful from books.

The world’s greatest doers have been the world’s greatest readers. ‘Read again’ said Napoleon to an officer on board the ship that was taking him into exile forever, ‘read again the poets; devour Ossian. Poet’s lift up the soul, and give to man his colossal greatness.’

Grow useful from books.

Read Good Books regularly and systematically. Learn Books. Love Books. LIVE Books.

 

– George Matthews Adams; You Can; pages 82-83 (emphasis and capitalization is the author’s)