Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Essential Calvin And Hobbes by Bill Watterson (highly recommended)

I just finished the Essential Calvin And Hobbes by Bill Watterson.  This is a collection of Calvin And Hobbes comics.  There are both whole page Sunday color stories and 4-panel shorts (from weekday newspaper comics).  I would highly recommend this to anyone.  It was a joy to read.

Calvin is a 6 year old boy.  Hobbes is a stuffed tiger.  From Calvin's perspective, the tiger is a real tiger who can walk and talk but from any non-calvin perspective, Hobbes is just a stuff animal.  We never really know if Hobbes is real or not but I guess that just adds to the mystery.

Calvin is interesting.  He is both rude and selfish and a nightmare to his parents but at the same time, he is charismatic, charming and naive.  But somehow, he always comes across to the reader as cordial and our hearts are endeared towards him.

Calvin doesn't understanding the world that he lives in.  (OR he understands it very plainly and it is us who are blinded by the culture that we live in.)  My times, Calvin asks candid question about his observations of the world that are quite provocative.  Watterson never gives an answer though but the questions themselves, especially since Calvin asks encourages us to consider the question again, maybe through the eyes of a 6 year old.

Calvin is named after the theologian John Calvin and Hobbes is named after the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes.  The characters really have nothing to do with the people that they are named after.

Something that I really like about Calvin and Hobbes is their friendship.  Regardless of what Hobbes or Calvin says to each other, they are loyal.  They are friends through thick and thin.  Many times in my life, I wish I had a Hobbes.  A more serious example of this kind of friendship is Jonathan and King David from the Bible.  Their friendship is truly beautiful.  I think that Calvin and Hobbes, in its own way reflects strong friendships like Jonathan and David and I think, especially in our culture, that loyal and devoted friends are few and far between and innately, internally, we long for those kinds of friendships.

...or maybe I am reading too much into Calvin and Hobbes.

Anyways, some of the comics were okay, some were tender, and show were laugh out loud funny.

Overall, this comic collection was excellent, I laughed and smiled a lot throughout the book.  I would highly recommend this to anyone and at age at anytime during any season.  Outstanding.  I may put another Calvin and Hobbes Collection in my summer reading queue this very night.  Until the next time...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mythology by Edith Hamilton (recommended)

I just finished Mythology by Edith Hamilton. The book gives a reader's digest version of each story from Greek/Roman mythology. It also has a few pages on Norse Mythology. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in these classic stories.

This is one of those books that a lot of high school students have read. I have not read it. One of the reasons is that I didn't read much of anything that was assigned to me in high school. I didn't even bother reading the Cliff's Notes; that is how lazy I was.

Anyway, Mythology by Edith Hamilton was good. I liked it. It was a bit dry but aside from that, I thought that old stories were engaging and interesting.

I think that everyone should know these stories to some extent because the stories are reference frequently in modern literature and even in everyday conversation (at times). This book is a great way to get familiar with the stories without having to spend too much time reading the old classics like the Iliad (which I remember to be a pretty difficult read). Even the plays of Sophocles are summarized in this book.

The writing was dry but I think that was her goal, to write an academic version of these stories. I feel like she achieved her goal. The stories are academic and also accessible.

Overall, I think that we should all know these stories to some extent, stories about Hercules (was he really a hero?), Theseus, Odysessus, etc., mostly because the stories are frequently referenced in many contexts and perhaps, make up a great deal of western culture and the western psyche. This book is a great place to become familiar with the stories without having to spend too much time reading the difficult original versions of these stories. So I recommend this to...everyone. The only reason I don't highly recommend it was the stories were written a little too dryly for my tastes. But with a little bit of patience, the dryness of the text can be easily overcome.

Until the next time...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rescuing Ambition by Dave Harvey (highly recommended)

I just finished Rescuing Ambition by Dave Harvey. Rescuing Ambition is about godly ambition (and what godly ambition is not). This book has greatly served and edified me. I highly recommend this book to...everyone. :)

Most christian books can be placed on a gradient: conversational books on one end and purely academic theology books on the other end. I would place this book somewhere in between, with a slight lean towards conversational. Rescuing Ambition is essentially a book on the theology of ambition with anecdotes. I've heard Dave Harvey speak many times and the writing is consistent with his preaching. The conversational style is very accessible and easy to read.

This book is essentially a book about the gospel of Jesus Christ through the lens of ambition. It provides a clear view of ambition and provides real-life examples of godly ambition.

This book is special to me because, during the time that I was reading this book, I was struggling with a particular thing in my life. This book has made me realize that my paradigm of Christian living has drifted and it helped get me back on the right course. It has also renewed my zeal for the Church. I still struggle (with the thing mentioned beforehand) but at least now, I know that I am facing the right direction.

If I may be so bold, I believe that ambition in general and especially godly ambition is sadly lacking in our culture. People are more concerned about their own comfort than for greatness. Even Christians. (This is just a gross generalization of course but it seems that way to me in my limited experience). I thank God for Dave Harvey and his book. Hopefully, this book with inspire people to have ambition for the glory of God so that the church will not miss any good thing that God has for us, for his Church.

Overall, Rescuing Ambition is about the gospel through the lens of ambition. It is a book that is needed to help people understand godly ambition, something that has been poorly understood in recent times. It is an easy read and very accessible. I would highly recommend this book to any Christian; I believe ambition is important for all Christians to understand and study (even if it is not through Dave Harvey's book) if we are going to avoid insipidness and homogeneous Christian living. Good times. :) Well, until the next time...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King (Uneven, some good/some not-so-good)

I recently finished Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King. It is a collection of twenty four short stories and novellas. Some are horror. Some are suspense/pulp. One is an essay on little league baseball. And one is a poem. As is common in most collections, the book as a whole was uneven. Some of the stories were very good and some were not so good. I would actually skip this one if you want to read a book cover to cover.

These are the stories that I liked (there were a lot of them and I read this book over several months so my memory is shaky):

  • Dolan's Cadillac is about an ordinary man seeking to avenge his murdered wife against a powerful mob boss. I really liked this one. It was probably the best in the lot.
  • The End of the Whole Mess is about a drug that people create to enhance humans but in the end, it ends up destroying them. This one was pretty good.
  • Suffer the Little Children is about a school teacher that is convinced her students are aliens.
  • Popsy is about a child-kidnapper that takes the wrong kid.
  • Chattery Teeth is about a toy set of metal teeth that saves the main character's life.
  • The Moving Finger is about a finger that comes out of the toilet.
  • You Know They Got A Hell Of A Band is about a couple that find a town with a surprise.
  • Rainy Season is about a couple that arrives at a small town during the rainy season to find that water is not what falls from the sky.
  • The Ten O'Clock People is about a group of people that are trying to quit smoking. But the specific amount of nicotine in their bodies allow them to see what others cannot, people in powerful positions are actually monsters.
  • The House on Maple Street is about an abusive step-dad and the transformation of a house.
  • Umney's Last Case is about an author entering the book world trying to take over one of his character's lives.
  • Head Down is an essay on little league baseball. This essay was fantastic!

If I were only to read three, it would probably be Dolan's Cadillac (Suspense), Umney's Last Case (Fantasy/Pulp) and Head Down (Essay).

There is a lot of content in Stephen King's writing so if content affects you, please skip this book.

Overall, the writing is pretty good but King tends to be a wordy (but I kind of like that about him). About half of the stories were good, the other half were okay. The pacing is different with each story; some are fast paced and other took their time. I would recommend with reservation Nightmares and Dreamscapes, mostly because of the unevenness of the collection of stories. Until next time...