Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reflections: Paradise Lost

Sarah J. Zern gives her opinion on John Milton's Paradise Lost:

"Paradise Lost was definitely a book that needs to be tackled.  I say tackled because it is definitely one that is steeped in poetic form and flowery writing.  There were pages where I would stop and think—“Wait, what did I just read?”—in which case I would have to go back and skim over what I had just read.  Even though this book was short at barely over one hundred pages, it definitely is not a quick read because of the language and symbolism Milton uses.

That being said, I really enjoyed reading this book.  I really liked the way Milton very creatively fleshed out the creation story—one that is very bare bones if you go at it from a strictly biblical perspective.  It was very interesting to see where he decided to take creative license.  He plays up the war in heaven quite a bit, and with some very interesting main characters—quite a few pagan deities, as well as Roman/Greek characters that I’m sure if referenced with the right background information would have made a deeper impression on me.  He also decides to allow Satan multiple physical appearances—a toad, a serpent, and an angel of light.  The very sexual way Adam and Eve’s relationship is given, even before the forbidden fruit is tasted, also puts a very new spin on an old tale.

From an LDS perspective, I find it very interesting that the distinction between man and angels is so incredibly separate.  When Adam was formed, his physical and spiritual body were created simultaneously in Milton’s (and many other Christians’) opinion.  To an LDS mind, that almost defeats the purpose of a premortal life where a war was fought—seeing as how we as human spirits had no real part in it.  The treatment of Eve as the beginning of all evil is also very different from an LDS perspective.  Mormons treat Eve with much veneration and respect, not as the vain, foolish woman portrayed in Milton’s story.

Overall, I feel like this is a must read.  Yes, it can be easy to get bogged down in the lingo, but it is well worth the perspective gained on such an oft-quoted work of literature."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reflections: The Things They Carried

Adam C. Zern offers his thoughts on The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien:

"I had a very unique reaction to The Things They Carried.  It's certainly one of the better written contemporary books I have read in some time.  However, my feelings toward it are somewhat ambivalent.  It almost feels like the book was written in such a way to make you feel that way.  There are moments in the book that the prose borders on the edge of poetry - simple and extremely effective.

At one point Tim O'Brien puts his characters in a flooded Vietnamese rice paddy that has essentially become a giant latrine.  Mortars pound the earth around the soldiers as they try to bury themselves in filth so as to not be buried by death.  Flares paint the Vietnamese sky as mortars fall from it.  All of this is juxtaposed with a character, chronologically later on, wading in a lake back home watching fourth of July fireworks.  It was one of those rare moments that reminded you how powerful and affecting stories can be.

On the other hand, the reader is reminded of the chaos of war and the tragedy that can be human nature.  The book moves from poetry and profound meaning to the mindless work of death that is war with little or no moral to be found.  It is, in a word, ambiguous."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Reflections: A Conflict of Visions

Adam C. Zern offers his thoughts on Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles:

"Quite honestly, this was the book I didn't know I was waiting for.  Thomas Sowell lucidly and convincingly makes the case that nearly all (with some caveats) political struggles come down to a basic conflict of the visions that is espoused by the participants.  He breaks them into two fundamental groups: the constrained and unconstrained visions.  In our modern vernacular, in which the ideological scale-left to right-is basically useless, Mr. Sowell presents the conflicts in a way that makes intuitive and intellectual sense.

For anyone that wants to begin to understand modern political struggles and the various parties that participate in them, this book is an excellent introduction and significant explanation of why the struggles even exist.  Mr. Sowell explains that one reason why parties and people conflict may simply be because the words they use to discuss and debate-equality, justice, freedom-may have completely different meanings.  In other words, many people don't realize they aren't even debating the same thing.

I would not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone willing and eager to expand their knowledge of ideology, the importance of ideas, or the political struggles found within any society.

Wonderful book."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Persuasive Plea: Why Baby-sitters’ Club Books Should Count

The following is a brief argument by Sarah J. Zern regarding why the Baby-sitters' Club Books should be included toward club members total book count without any qualifications:

"There is talk that Baby-sitter’s Club Books are not qualified to count in the Thousander Club.  I am completely opposed to these rumors.
                Without the Baby-sitter’s Club, I don’t think I would have survived middle school.  Between puberty, “popular” kids, algebra, and Chumbawumba, I didn’t think I wanted to live past fourteen, because it could only get worse.  Then I discovered the magical, moral world of Stoneybrook, Connecticut.  People living in Stoneybrook had children you would want to babysit.  The only thing having a boyfriend meant was that you would talk to him on the phone daily, and if things were really serious, you might get a kiss on special occasions.  No more, no less.  Boys didn’t care about your size or shape—they liked you for who you were inside.  All your friends lived within a few blocks of you, and sometimes your divorced parents fell in love with each other and got married.  Stoneybrook had so much to offer—so much an awkwardly pudgy, self conscious girl could not find in real life. 
                Sure, the stories are not life changing or extremely deep or existential—but they gave me a place to escape to when being thirteen was just too much to bear.  Could I tell you the plots of any of these books?  No.  Did I ever find a boyfriend as perfect and handsome as Mary Anne’s?  No.  Did I ever find kids I really enjoyed babysitting?  Heck no.  But, those books made me want to keep going.  I still believe Stoneybrook is out there, and when my girls are ready to look for it, I know where they can find it.
                If you don’t think these books should count, you must have had a fabulous adolescence that never made you want to crawl out of your own skin and be someone else.  I ask that you condescend to my level, put yourself in an awkward teenager’s shoes, and understand why “trivial” literature of this nature is so important to us little guys."
                Humbly Yours,
                                Sarah J. Zern

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reflections: Thank You For Smoking

Adam C. Zern offers his thoughts on Christopher Buckley's Thank You For Smoking:

"Christopher Buckley takes a really interesting and unique idea, a novel about a "merchant of death" or tobacco company spokesmen, and doesn't do much with it.  The first 100 pages of the book are worth reading, including a very funny and original twist in the story in which the main character, Nick Naylor, is kidnapped by supposed anti-tobacco fanatics.  Nick is nearly assassinated by having nicotine patches placed all over his body.  However, after that surprising and funny moment, the book just careens down a silly and uninteresting 'whodunit' type conspiracy story.  Not to mention Nick's depraved affairs with a newspaper woman, which serves almost no purpose whatsoever, and another affair with a co-worker that serves only to advance the plot but does very little if anything for the story or characters.  There is humor, sometimes funny and sometimes trite, throughout the story, but it's nothing that will leave you in stitches.

Overall, I felt the book was a disappointment.  It started off so strong with an engaging angle and a character who could have been very memorable.  Yet, it ended up being what a lot of contemporary novels become - mediocre."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Why I Read

Author Linda Zern gives a few words on how reading became and why reading is so important to her:

"In the beginning, I read because I had to figure out what those two crazy kids, Dick and Jane, were up to with their dog, named Spot. 

Then I read because the words were everywhere: cereal boxes, road signs, billboards, newspapers, and the instructions on the back of the Jiffy Pop popcorn. The words were everywhere. And I could READ them. It may have been the magic of ordinary things, but it was magic.

After that, I realized that the Reader’s Digest people had filled our house with edited, condensed volumes of . . . well, everything else from Michener to Buck. Those books were condensed—like soup—just add reading, so I did.

For a long time, I read to escape. Enough said.

For an even longer time after that, I kept right on reading because 1) it was one of the things I could do when I breastfed 2) it was cheaper than jet skiing 3) and it kept my mind from atrophying into tapioca.

In the time that followed, reading became a habit that enlarged my soul, filled my mind, dazzled my dreams, and acquainted me with the world as it might be, could be, should be, would never be, but wouldn’t it be cool if it was—in a sparkle unicorn kind of way? I kept right on reading, until I ran out of the kind of books that I wanted to read.

Now I read to know what to write, always keeping in mind all the lonely little girls out in the dark places who turn to books for comfort and company and to figure out what Dick and Jane and that silly dog named Spot are up to."

You can visit Linda's website at:

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Reflections: A World Without Heroes: The Modern Tragedy

Adam C. Zern shares his thoughts regarding the book A World Without Heroes: The Modern Tragedy by George Roche:

"I learned of this book while listening to a speech by Dallin H. Oaks.  He referenced a particular quote from the book and I became interested.  George Roche, the author, was president of Hillsdale college at one time.

The subject matter of the book deals with what the author considers very counter-productive and even destructive modern philosophies, which he labels "anti-hero."  Most of his commentaries, for that is what the book mainly is, are lucid and his arguments are strong.  The book wanders a little and some of what he says feels redundant but I enjoyed the book overall.  His commentary on the modern outlook of science and what he calls "scientism" is especially interesting and accurate.  I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading social/academic commentaries.

A World Without Heroes: The Modern Tragedy is probably the closest to a type of book that I would be most likely to write in the future."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Reflections: Pillars of the Earth

Lauren Pacheco shares her thoughts on Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet:

"I love epic tales, similar to Les Miserables. Good Versus Evil, crazy European architectural history. Love affairs, disappointment, joy, birth and rebirth. Pillars of the Earth made me want to go on a tour of England's castles and study the history behind them. I also have a love of the study of religion and in both of these stories the Catholic church has played a large part in being both a life saving entity and also bring corruption and murder to the extreme depths of evilness.

I see Prior Phillip and Jean Val Jean as the redeeming hope the good can and will occasionally conquer evil and I love seeing how their characters evolve and the temptation to turn to the dark side occasionally wins and I see the villains, the bishop and Javier and being more then just evil characters trying to kill the good guys, but they are much more complex. The bishop in Pillars punishes himself by whipping himself and Javier from Les Mis actually kills himself when he realizes the man he has been hunting for decades is really the good guy and realizes that he, himself, is actually the bad guy!

Put it to music and I'm in love with Les Miserables. Maybe they will make a musical of Pillars of the Earth. LOL!!! Hey, someone probably laughed at Les Miserable, the musical too!"

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Best Book I Read During 2010

The book I was most impressed with and which left the most profound impact was Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden.  It was at times brutal to read.  It was also extremely readable, exciting, and emotional.  There are very few books that demanded my attention more than Black Hawk Down.  If one can stomach some intense battle scenes, along with all their realities, then reading this book will be well worth the effort.  It absolutely deserves a spot on my Thousander list.

What is your best book of 2010?


These guidelines are subject to change as the needs and wants of the members of the Thousander Club change.

There are four different levels of membership achievement.  They are as follows:
250 Books: Literate
500 Books: Studious
750 Books: Erudite
1000 Books: Scholar/Thousander

1.) Members will not count more than 75 books written below an eighth grade level toward the final goal of 1000.
2.) A book read multiple times only counts once toward the final goal.
3.) Members are encouraged to read multiple books in various genres and categories.
4.) Members are encouraged to share each book they complete along with their feelings regarding it with the rest of the club.
5.) Members should record each book that they read.