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The End of Many Books

Made to Stick

by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

A friend recommended this to me while he was waiting in the Emergency Room (for what turned out to be a brain bleed that kept him in the hospital for a week). I figured I should at least read his final recommendation (!), which, praise the Lord, he is recovering and it can just be a plain ol’ recommendation.

I really enjoyed it. It’s about ideas, and what makes some ideas not only better than others but also more transferable. The book provides a framework (and examples and exercises) in order to communicate well. Idea templates can be be more freeing than frustrating for creative persuasion.

The authors didn’t use the word, but it’s very much about Rhetoric, which I’m teaching as a class for the first time this year at our school. There’s a high likelihood that I make this part of my curriculum in future years.

4 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

That Hideous Strength (take five)

by C. S. Lewis

It’s only been two years since I last read THS, and it was, perhaps, even better on my fifth time through? Our 7th annual fiction festival is coming up in March, and the theme is “Why Christians Shouldn’t Be NICE.” So it will have a Ransom trilogy focus, with special attention on the third of the three. I wanted a running start, so I started a plod read with Out of the Silent Planet last summer, got through Perelandra, and just finished THS. I had forgotten how (bloody) bloody the damage is at the end, and of course it couldn’t have happened to NICEr guys. THS couldn’t get any higher on my list of favorite fiction books, though it did root its position more securely.

still 10 out of 5 stars

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A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle In Time audiobook

by Madeleine L’Engle

I didn’t read A Wrinkle when I was 12-16 years-old, which is apparently the intended target age, but my wife said I she thought I’d probably really like books two and three in the series, and so I figured I should read the first. I listened, and I LIKED it!

I cared about Meg and Charles Wallace, and I have a son named Calvin. I’m curious about dystopian stories, and why not check out a dystopian narrative for teens in particular? The various supernatural powers and astronomy were bonus. So even though I’m not a free will guy, it still worked for my edification, and I’ll get on to A Wind in the Door.

4 of 5 stars

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Essentialism

by Greg McKeown

I’ve read a lot of books in this genre, so many, in fact, that I committed to not ready any new (to me) books about GTD/productivity in 2022. Instead I chose my top twelve to review, one for each month, which I did, more or less.

The one exception was Essentialism which I started on December 29 of 2021; I made allowance to finish it. Which I did in January, and which I decided would be my book to review in December. Here’s my actual review.

McKeown gives good reminders. Though by a different guy, it relates to this tweet:

It also really relates to The ONE Thing, which I had just finished reading before McKeown’s book. It is sort of KonMari for your calendar not just your closet.

What is required is courage for decisions about what is important. “[T]he deeper I have looked at the subject of Essentialism the more clearly I have seen courage as key to the process of elimination” (Loc. 1659, emphasis mine). And I didn’t know this, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. “The Latin root of the word decision—cis or cid—literally means ‘to cut’ or ‘to kill.’…You can seen this in words like scissors, homicide, or fratricide” (Loc. 2036). So when we decide, we are deciding what to cut. There must be cuts. Something(s) will be cut. Will we cut what is not essential?

We need to eliminate multiple meaningless activities and replace them with one very meaningful activity. (Loc. 2058)

You probably don’t need to read the whole book, but we all need to decide what to do with our four thousand weeks. It turns out that I chose as my theme for 2023: BUDGET, applied not only to money but also to minutes (and meals and Mo), and it’s impossible to avoid decisions. So GET WISDOM (Proverbs 4:5, 7). And GET CUTTING.

3/5 stars

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The End of Many Books

The Problem of Pain

by C. S. Lewis

Work with me here for just a second. I like the Burger King Whopper with cheese. I order it as is. Before I eat it, I wipe off almost all of the toppings: tomato and onions and pickles and lettuce and condiments. I carefully choose a couple pieces of the more greenish-looking lettuce to replace on the burger, and then dig in. I like the overall flavor, but still have some texture issues.

This book is way more filling if you can scrape off the parts about theistic evolution and man’s free will. This book is worth the work to do so, I’m just warning before you take a big bite.

Lewis identifies the “problem”:

‘If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.’ This is the problem of pain, in its simplest form.

He answers the question pretty well, not only in terms of what our sin deserves, but especially in terms of how God uses suffering/pain/troubles to not let us be satisfied with anything less than Himself. So:

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

This is not from a detached position. There’s no Lewisian Stoicism.

When I think of pain—of anxiety that gnaws like fire and loneliness that spreads out like a desert, and the heartbreaking routine of monotonous misery, or again of dull aches that blacken our whole landscape or sudden nauseating pains that knock a man’s heart out at one blow, of pains that seem already intolerable and then are suddenly increased, of infuriating scorpion-stinging pains that startle into maniacal movement a man who seemed half dead with his previous tortures—it ‘quite o’ercrows my spirit’.

Lewis has chapters on Hell and Heaven which are also connected and good, and overall he accomplishes his goal to provide “a little courage” and “the least tincture of the love of God.”

4 of 5 stars

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Gashmu Saith It

by Douglas Wilson

Fun title, provoked by Nehemiah 6:6 (though the ESV spells it Geshem). The book is brief (100 pages in my print edition), but a straightforward dose of encouragement for culture/community building as Christians.

As it turns out, if you read this blog post to the end, you’ll see that the Kindle copy of Gashmu Saith It is free to all this week!

If none of that interests you, here’s probably my favorite 2-minutes of non-family video on the internet. The book isn’t about higher education, but this captures a lot of the idea.

3 of 5 stars (which means I liked it)

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The Everlasting Man

by G. K. Chesterton

It seems like there are more and more resources coming out that show how where we are today is completely unexplainable apart from the incarnation of God’s Son followed by His death, resurrection, and commission of disciples. Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World (written by a professing non-Christian), The Air We Breathe: How We All Came to Believe in Freedom, Kindness, Progress, and Equality, The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, and How to Be an Atheist: Why Many Skeptics Aren’t Skeptical Enough. The Everlasting Man may be one of the first to pay tribute to the beauty of the true myth and the boring, repetitive strains of so many mystics and moderns. If we were just given eyes to see the glory of the miraculous, including that for all His miraculous powers Jesus didn’t use His miracle-working powers like the “gods” of men, then we might have more wonder toward and grasp of truth about reality.

Chesterton is sometimes a little too clever with his topsyturvy turns of compound sentences, and he wanders around a lot, though not in circles, and not because he’s lost. I think he’d be fine with that observation; part of his observation is that History is less linear and more of a networked-web. I’m glad I read this, and can see myself referencing it again and again due to his unrelenting joy in how Christ has made and changed the world everlastingly.

Here’s a thread of other things I took away from this book.

4 of 5 stars

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Perelandra

by C. S. Lewis

I have grown older since the last time I read Perelandra, and reading it again has made me older still.

Of course I’m riffing off the Green Lady’s testimony; growing older is how she describes her learning, so does the King, as well as Piebald. We learn more and it makes us less young. Solomon once wrote that in much wisdom and knowledge there is much grief and sorrow. And there is much to maturing that is misery. It is a fight to keep the joy.

Ransom’s fight on Venus is a good fight.

I reread this second part of the Ransom trilogy because our next Fiction Festival is at least about That Hideous Strength and I wanted a fresh meditation through the whole series for sake of my preparation. I’m adding the fifth star to my previous four in 2014.

Blessed be He!

5 of 5 stars

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Winning

by Tim Grover

I read Grover’s previous book, Relentless, before “The Last Dance” documentary came out during the lockdown months of ’20. I rooted for the 90’s Bulls, and for Michael Jordan in particular since I watched the 1982 NCAA championship when he played at UNC. That’s the first basketball game I remember watching on TV, and I’m wearing a UNC sweatshirt as I type this.

Anyway, Relentless had a number of stories about MJ, and Grover is interviewed a couple times in the “Dance” episodes. This new book, Winning, references more of those stories and adds much more about the mindset and commitments of the late Kobe Bryant.

I don’t remember where I heard about Winning, and I wouldn’t put this in my top ten list of necessary reads, and yet we were having some conversations at home about competition and not holding back and doing the things other people aren’t willing to do. Winning fits.

If you’re looking for a little competitive boost via basketball stories (and don’t mind some language) then this book is a win.

3 of 5 stars

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Battle for the American Mind

by Pete Hegseth and David Goodwin

If you can read then this book would benefit you. It’s about education and schools, about the trajectory of teachers’ unions for a century, about what chaos happens in classrooms across the country. But it’s more than that. It’s about civilization and culture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The key term in the book is paideia. Its from a Greek word referring to the culture of a society, how a people understand the “good life,” and how they share it with their kids and equip their kids to live and love according to what is really good.

There are three paideias distinguished in the book: 1) the Western Christian Paideia (WCP), 2) the American Progressive Paideia (APP), and 3) the Cultural Marxist Paideia (CMP). The WCP was predominant in the West until about a century ago, the APP took over, and the CMP started to displace and destroy the remnants of real objective virtue just after the year 2000.

The Christian and classical model is what makes our school tick, and David Goodwin is the President of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools (ACCS) of which our school is a member. The Battle isn’t new, but it will hopefully reach a new audience and convict Christian parents that something is better than government mis-education.

If you care about helping students be less stupid so that they will be less stupid citizens and neighbors, buy and read and share this resource.

4 of 5 stars