Monday, December 25, 2006

Pat Yourselves on the Back

Here is the list of all the books we read during 2006.

Assuming, of course, that we read them all. At least we can say they've all been read if not, perhaps, by everyone. =) At any rate, I would love to thank everyone for their suggestions and contributions in 2006. I eagerly look forward to (a less demanding reading list for the next year) 2007!

1. The Iliad, by Homer;
2. Murder Must Advertise, by Dorothy Sayers;
3. Asterix the Gaul, by Goschinny & Uderzo;
4. The Collected Works of Flannery O'Conner;
5. What a Girl Wants, by Kristin Billerbeck;
6. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck;
7. The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien;
8. Deadline, by Randy Alcorn;
9. Mythology, by Edith Hamilton;
10. End of the Spear, by Steve Saint;
11. At the Back of the North Wind, by George Macdonald;
12. The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie King;
13. The Quiet American, by Graham Greene;
14. A Chance to Die, by Elizabeth Elliott;
15. Eragon, by Christopher Paolini;
16. A Toast to Tomorrow, by Manning Coles;
17. Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke;
18. 'Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis;
19. The Man Who Knew Too Much, by G.K. Chesterton;
20. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, by Dorothy Gilman;
21. The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown;
22. The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery;
23. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, by Mark Twain;
24. Beau Geste, by P.C. Wren;
25. Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson;
26. The Grasshopper Trap, by Patrick McManus;
27. The Peterkin Papers, by Lucretia Hale;
28. Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky;
29. Utah Blaine, by Louis Lamour;
30. Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller;
31. Revelations of a Single Woman, by Connelly Gilliam;
32. Beauty, by Robin McKinley;
33. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens;
34. The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare;
35. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas;
36. Piccadilly Jim, by P.G. Wodehouse;
37. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman;
38. At Home in Mitford, by Jan Karon;
39. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee;
40. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
41. Foundation, by Isaac Asimov;
42. Absolution by Murder, by Peter Tremayne;
43. A Morbid Taste for Bones, by Ellis Peters;
44. Hank the Cowdog, by John R. Erickson;
45. The Family Nobody Wanted, by Helen Doss;
46. My Friend Flicka, by Mary O'Hara;
47. Innside Nantucket, by Frank Gilbreth; and
48. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Family Nobody Wanted, by Helen Doss

This book automatically caught my attention as J and I have plans of adopting some of our own children in the future. After researching options at home and abroad, we've settled on the idea of adopting from overseas. While there are still requirements that must be met, they aren't nearly as stringent and oppressive as the ones are here in our own country. (While I certainly understand the reasoning behind various laws related to domestic adoptions -- there is FAR too much red tape.) Since we are planning on having a "multicultural family" this book was intriguing.

This book is written by Helen Doss who, with her husband Carl, adopted 12 children of various races and nationalities. In it she tells how they came to adopt all 12. She relates various tales from their growing up years in order to show that, although these children came from different backgrounds, they enjoyed and loved one another. Carl Doss was a Methodist minister and their family lived on a minuscule budget. By 1950 standards, they really did not have enough to live off. Yet they longed to offer a home to these kids. They wanted to show them the love of Christ. They wanted other people to see that there is not one race that is "less human" than any other. Doss dwells on the topic of racism and they dealt with it as a family. Typically (and truthfully) I think things like race are an issue when you decide you are going to make them one. I know there are many different feelings/views/opinions on the issue of race. I was raised not to note the difference between people so for ME it's NOT an issue. I must admit though - race is still an issue for today's society. Sadly, this definitely effects which countries J and I are willing to adopt from. (It has nothing to do with how we feel, personally, but how much we are willing to take on with society at large.) There are some battles we do not feel equipped to fight. But the Doss family did and they fought these battles during a time when it was much MORE of an issue than it is even today. I think they handled things very well, assuring each child that they were made in the image of God and that God loved them and accepted them for who they were. They taught them how to relate to other people who might take issue with their nationality. They certainly were an inspiration to many people who, at the time, took issue with their choices.

There was one thing that REALLY bothered me about this book and the Dosses marriage. Basically they went down the road of adoption because they were unable to have children of their own. Helen really wanted children -- more so than Carl. Carl was in seminary and they barely had two pennies to rub together. Carl kept telling Helen that they could not afford a child....a second child...a third....a seventh....a ninth...and so on and so forth. She never once listened to him. He argued that they had a responsibility to the 9 that they already had when she was arguing back that they should be able to take in the last three (all at the same time)! Helen simply would not listen. She even quotes him as saying, "It's as if I'm talking for the mere exercise of it."

Now, back then, there being an enormous LACK of red tape in the adoption process, they were able to send off letters to agencies and (from the way she wrote it) have children dropped in their laps. Even when she knew Carl would not be willing to take in a child if she asked him outright, she would send off letters requesting children. When she received an affirmative response from anyone, then she would approach Carl with an agency's letter and haggle him into it.

I cannot FATHOM doing this to J. In fact, I finished the book yesterday and told J about it when he came home. Before I could complete the question, "Can you imagine if I did that to..." he cut me off with a resounding, "NO!" HA! To state it simply. Only once did Carl ask for a particular child to be added to the family. The other 11 times it was a game, of sorts, for Helen to see how many or WHO she could sneak in.

Now, I am NOT saying that I'm sorry they had all twelve. And in the end, btw, Carl was incredibly happy with his brood and referred to them as a "full quiver." They were a happy family. But the way that they put themselves together was more sneaky on Helen's part than anything else, I felt. I don't want to build a family based on Harassment of the Husband. Parenting is a team effort. I cannot imagine having a bunch of kids that just I wanted. That would be a horrible process -- even if J WAS happy with the result in the end.

There is a lack of respect towards the head of the house that I felt was displayed in this book. That's a rather sad fact, in my opinion. Mutual respect was lacking. I have a hard time enjoying a story when I see one partner or the other being disrespected in making family related decisions (or ANY decision, really). Marriage is about partnership: love and respect. But I suppose this wasn't a book on marriage as it was about adoption. Yet it was such a distracting issue that it made my continued enjoyment of the book next to impossible.

I AM glad books like this are out there. They are necessary (still) as to their ability to sway the public that these situations can work and can work well. The great thing about this book is that the Helen & Carl Doss were Christians and raised their family to be Christians also. That much is evident in her writings. And I truly believe that the only way to make such a situation work is to cover it in prayer and bathe it in the love of Christ. Without that - NOTHING works, really. Christ is the only one who can bind hearts together in this fashion. Because of Him, the Doss situation worked. Without Him, I'm not so sure. (Not discounting non-Christian families who adopt and make these situations work. I know there are some. I'm just saying its almost surely effective WITH Christ, rather than without - but that's another argument and the purpose of this book review isn't to argue THAT.)

All in all, I would heartily recommend this book with the notation that this is also a book about a wife who took herself outside of her husband's authority to do what it is that she wanted done. The end of the story is happy though and Helen Doss did a great job making certain points that need(ed) to be made. For that reason, as one who is interested in forming the same type of family (with fewer in number, btw), I would pass along this book.

Thanks, Rose, for recommending it to us!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Foundation, by Isaac Asimov

I first read this probably about ten years ago (and I confess, I didn't get a chance to read it for November, so I'm working from memory of the last time I read through it), and that was my first introduction to the writings of Asimov. In my opinion, the Foundation Trilogy is about his best work, although many of his short stories and the robot series are quite good as well. I have not read nearly all his novels, though, so I can't give a comprehensive defense of that opinion!

Asimov was a great scientist and a staunch humanist, which shows up more in some of his writings than others. Foundation is an easy book to read because it has the scientific know-how in the background, but it doesn't necessarily sound as if it were written by a scientist - I was surprised at how witty and clever Asimov's writing was. The universe in Foundation isn't very religious, but at least Asimov doesn't overtly mock religion as he does in some of his writing. His attitude toward the sacred reminds me a bit of Mark Twain's, actually, in his humourous, cynical, somewhat irreverent references to Providence and the like.

The story doesn't really read like science fiction, aside from the fact that it happens in a galaxy in outer space, uses space travel, and contains all sorts of futuristic gadgets. Asimov really was the precursor to modern science fiction, and like many founders of a genre, touched off a long line of cheap spin-offs. I don't particularly care for science fiction as a genre, so I was able to enjoy the book as the good story it was.

The plot is fascinating and involved. I love the idea of psycho-numerics, the theory of predicting events through known crowd patterns. I love how each new step in the saga reveals a different piece of information about what Seldon's Plan really was about. A plot that unravels slowly enough to be surprising and yet not grow tedious in the telling is a very delicate thing to manage. The characters are funny and interesting, by degrees; some of them are a bit cardboard-ish but the dialogue is witty enough to keep things going.

Foundation is a great read, but the whole Foundation Trilogy really should be read at once to get the full impact of the story. There's so much more to the galaxy and so many more loose ends to wrap up.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo

When I suggested this book I received a violent outburst from Lisa suggesting that we NOT read this book. But as I had never read Les Mis or this one, and this book was cheaper by comparison, I picked this one. (Thus you are made aware of my reasoning.)

As to style of writing, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Hugo had humor. Or, at least the type I appreciate. He has little quips and phrases that struck my funny bone. It was almost Frasier-esqe at times being subtle and refined. He threw a reference or two to the Iliad which I found hilarious. It was an unexpected surprise.

As to the story, I also enjoyed it (until the end, but I'll discuss that momentarily). I enjoyed the characters and instantly cared about what would happen to them. The hardest thing to get through was the description of the way people treated Quasimodo, our deformed hero. I suspected that that was the reason Lisa would have hated this book. It's hard to read about how cruel one person can be to another with little to no cause. Hugo was quite descriptive in his writing which made Quasimodo's situation painfully clear. He was hated because he was feared for being as ugly and deformed as he was.

Despite the title of the book, it isn't actually very much about Quasimodo, but more about Esmerelda, the gypsy girl. Her 16 year old beauty seems to be the center subject of the book by which all the other (male) characters revolve around in various forms and fashions. She acted 16 in several respects, reminding me once again why I am incredibly thankful to have a son and not a daughter. (With all due respect to mothers of daughters.) There just seems to be more to keep track of with girls, as this story can attest to. For the record, I did NOT appreciate how descriptive Hugo was with the interactions between Esmeralda and his other characters (i.e., the Priest and Phoebus). But if you skim over the sum total of about 3 paragraphs you can get around the vivid picture and get the gist of what's happening.

I will not spoil the end by telling anyone who hasn't read it what happens. Let's just say I came to realize why Lisa would hate the book so much. I'm not sure I share the dislike with the same fiery passion as Lisa displayed for us. However, I can't say I'm overly fond of the way Hugo chose to wrap things up. It's a Beauty-and-the-Beast-gone-bad sort of tale. I'm incredibly curious to see what Disney did with this story. I can bet their take was something more....lighthearted in nature. And although they may have Disneyfied it to make it more palitable for younger audiences, I'm quite certain that they missed Hugo's wit which I'm very thankful to have been exposed to. On to Les Mis (when the price becomes right)!

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Here is the confirmed list for 2007:

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield (Karen)
To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis (Erika)

Peter Pan in Scarlett, by Geraldine McCaughrean (Carrie)
Enchantment, by Orson Scott Card (Rose)

The Constant Gardener, by John le Carre (Bonnie)
The Little Princess (Sky)

How People Grow by Drs Henry Cloud and John Townsend (Janice)
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived teh Great American Dust Bowl (Amy)

Lost Horizon, by James Hilton (Rose)
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Alaina)

The Book of the Dun Cow, by Walter M. Wangerin, Jr. (Karen)
The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie (Anneke)

Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science, and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe, by Thomas Cahill (Bonnie)
Psmith in the City, by P.G. Wodehouse (Lisa)

The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins (Carrie)
Wicked, by Gregory Maguire (Katie)

Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carrol (Sky)
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (Alaina)

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L-Engle (Erika)
Birds of a Feather, by Jacqueline Winspear (Anneke)

When I Don't Desire God by John Piper (Janice)
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin (Katie)

God's Smuggler, by Brother Andrew (Lisa)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Amy)