What's next?

First of all I want to say thanks for reading. The accountability of knowing people were looking at this really gave me the necessary motivation to finish. As I have been thinking through this last year I decided that I wanted to have a task to accomplish so I thought about some areas that I felt like pursuing. Any of you that know me know that I am not exactly what most people would describe as a "patriot." Please hear me say, I don't hate America (aka the United States of America) I just wasn't raised to have a great appreciation the basic elements of our culture. I suppose that most of this was my doing, but I always had far more interest in the cultures of "exotic" locales. As I have grown older I have started to see the value of this Nation, but I feel like I still lack a base understanding of how we got to where we are, and why that matters. So. in 2010 I am going to attempt to discover an America that I can appreciate (while staying true to my beliefs) and hopefully learn to love. I am going to read American classics, listen to American masterworks, study the works of the great American artists, look at the inventions and contributions of some of our noteworthy citizens, and lastly analyze the ideas of our greatest thinkers. I am very excited to conquer this and if you would like to follow along you can view my thoughts at http://iheartamerica.wordpress.com hope to hear from you soon.

p.s. the blog is set up but posting will not begin until January 1st

FIFTY! and done!

Well, I did it with a couple weeks to spare. I figured I would finish my quest with a book about another man's quest. I'll be honest, mine was a little less ambitious. This book is a "classic," at least according to some people. I have seen the film version of this book so I wasn't really biting on all of the twists and turns that Verne threw at me, but it was still entertaining.
To be honest after 50 books I'm tired of writing reviews so I am going to finish by saying this. I love epic adventure stories, and this was no disappointment on that front. It did, however, drip with closet racism, justification for imperialism, and general Caucasian bias. So, I won't be reading this to my kids. Not to mention that Verne generally takes a pot shot at most cultures as well as the Hindu and Mormon faith. I'm all for freedom of speech but I guess I trust my authors to keep it classy. Anyway, I guess the politician thing to say now is that these were different times, but that's non-sense so instead I'll say, this is a good story told through a very narrow worldview.


quarantanove e soltanto uno da andare!

There is a series of books with non-descript covers called the culture shock series. I have personally read Culture Shock: China, and Culture Shock: Hong Kong. I found the books fascinating as well as ultimately useful in each of those cultures. You see the thing about people is we form cultures around ourselves, and to those indoctrinated in the culture it makes complete sense. But to those unaccustomed to the mores of a particular country or part of a country these traditions, laws, unwritten rules, and fanatical devotions can seem like complete non-sense.
Ciao America! by Beppe Severgnini is sort of a Culture Shock: United States of America for Italians. The thing about it is the author comments on things that seem incredibly common place to most "Americans." As I was reading, however, I started to realize the insanity of this country. From American football to Black Friday to the sheer quantity of goods available to consume, the witty observations of Severgnini begin to make sense when you step back to view them.
Cultures are crazy, and I am starting to believe that all people are a little bit nuts, so it makes sense that cultures would be so unique as you travel the globe. It was actually refreshing to hear an outsider both give a glowing description of my nation as well as an honest critique on a few of our shortcomings. The book was written in the mid nineties so many of the topics have already become outdated, but the general perceptions hold true. After all we are talking about ideas and pattens that are ingrained in our nations DNA. Technology, media, art, and social tolerances may change but we will always be a nation of self-reliance, interstates, barbecue, and "American football." But I haven't heard people petitioning for change.


If I was a trappist monk, I would definitely read more than 50 books in a year

So I heard about this Thomas Merton guy a few years ago, and at first he sounded like a nut case. He may very well be a nut case, but he has some good things to say. Granted, I do question anyone that can live extended amounts of time without human interaction, but that doesn't take away from his thoughts. I'm not going to get into the details of Merton's philosophies but this is an excellent overview of the many branches of Cistercian monks. There are as many types of monks as there are denominations in the protestant Church, and many of the differences are just as trivial. I'm not going to lie to you, this isn't a pleasure read for most people, but if you've ever wondered what a vow of silence would be like, this is a pretty inside look. Thomas Merton has some very different, and often controversial, viewpoints but if you can weed through those there is some very significant content to contemplate.


47! And a series complete

Well...I promised a full review when I completed the 5 books in the Percy Jackson series. I don't want to give too much away, but as adults with any semblance of knowledge of Greek mythology it isn't too difficult to pick up on foreshadowing and thematic devices in these books, so here it goes.

Percy Jackson is 12 years old when we meet him, he quickly discovers through a series of monster related adventures that he is a half-blood. That is to say half mortal and half deity. In Percy Jackson's world the deities of Greek mythology have continued to exist and they just move around wherever Western civilization is centered. With this knowledge Percy is invited to attend a camp for half bloods with others from around the world along with centaurs, satyrs, naiads, dryads, harpies, and myriad other beasts that I previously had little knowledge of.
Needless to say, the demon side of mythology has persisted as well, and these creatures soon begin to unleash there fury. Over 5 books Percy himself deals with most of Hades' worst minions in the city, below ground, under water, and in the sky. Percy relies on the help of his friends as well as the Gods themselves, most of them make appearances, but you may be surprised how, and when.
Overall I highly recommend these books. If your child may not be able to understand this is mythology then you may want to wait, but for any mature kid these are great epic adventures. They are tales of good versus evil, and wonderful stories where good decisions ultimately lead to success. Percy Jackson was just something I started as a distraction from my quest, but like Percy I was sucked into a journey I was unable to say no too. I normally say I don't enjoy fiction but Percy has caused me to reconsider that stance.

46, but this should have counted as a couple of books

So I guess I never figured I'd read a Jonathan Edwards book, let alone a book written by John Piper commenting on a book by Jonathan Edwards, which by the way, included the entire Edwards book as well. But, I did, and it was tough. I am decently familiar with Piper so I actually thought the Piper portion of the book was pretty straight-forward. Don't get me wrong, I learned an immense amount of information, but as far as difficulty of comprehension I was pleasantly surprised that I felt like I was in-taking what Piper was attempting to convey. That all ceased when Edward's original writings took over. I need to say that if it were not for the Piper thoughts to lead the book, I don't feel I could have gotten through the remainder of the writings. The text that Edwards wrote was entitled The End for Which God Created the World it is a fairly well known piece of Christian literature, but I found it very hard to track with. This was not beacuse of the content or necessarily even the level of theological understanding. It had much more to do with the changes in the English language over the last 250ish years. Jonathan Edwards was a contemporary of the founding fathers and his writing reads as such. To my "post0modern" sensibilities the words of Edwards came across much like contemporary legal documents. This is not to say that it was intentionally confusing, in fact I often found that Edward's made his point more thoroughly than necessary, the writing just piled up at great lengths causing me to often get tangled up in his ideas, and proof texts. Having said all of these things I felt this was an incredibly valuable read. I was stretched in my understandings of God, and was challenged as a reader. It was fascinating to see that many of the struggles in the modern American Church are similar to those of Edwards day, even though the language of his time is as foreign to me as Greek or Hebrew.


5 to go!

Assasination Vacation is not a murder novel. It is however a ridiculously fascinating story. I feel it is important to note that I grew up in a home that would make most presidential libraries jealous, so I am probably prone to information on our presidents, especially the ones killed in office. In this book Sarah Vowell takes to the road unearthing the minutiae surrounding the first 3 Presidential assassinations. Those 3 assassinations were Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, and William McKinley. The first of these is pretty well known and as a native son of "the land of Lincoln," I had the tale pounded into my head each year along with the stirring exploits of Kazimir Polaski (look it up). Any way, the Lincoln assassination is indeed fascinating, and full of intrigue but so are the lesser known of the presidential assassinations. If I didn't trust the sources of the information I would have a hard time believing that many of the plot lines didn't come from telenovelas. These stories are rife with espionage, conspiracy, bribary, bizarre sexual exploits, teapot manufacturing, And strangely enough Robert Todd Lincoln comes to play in all three stories. Reading this book inspired me to visit Washington D.C. as soon as possible and explore the historical sites that are off of the normal tourists radar, as well as visit the Truman presidential library in Kansas City when I go home for Christmas. He wasn't assassinated, but a couple of people tried. Maybe there is a good story behind that as well.