Reviews for this tab section now posted on Fridays
Dr. Lucy Kalanithi and Dr. Paul Kalanithi with their daughter, Elizabeth Acadia. Courtesy of Lucy Kalanithi
Bill Gates, who had this book on his recommended list, titled his review "This Book Left Me in Tears". Good title but it is a real look at real people and it really can bring you to tears.
The book is about Paul Kalanithi who received a masters degree in literature and was planning on a PHD at Stanford but he had been obsessed with the question of "what makes life worth living in the face of death? His father had been a doctor. He wanted to know “where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” He set aside his plans for literature and writing and went to medical school. He wanted to have relationships with the suffering, and felt that he could learn more about what makes human life meaningful. He
When Paul was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2013, he was a 36-year-old on the verge of making big contributions to the world with his mind and hands. He was a gifted doctor—a chief resident in neurosurgery at Stanford just months away from completing the most grueling training of any clinical field. He was also a brilliant scientist. His postdoctoral research on gene therapy won him his field’s highest research award. He could have written a good book on any subject he chose".
As he was ending his residency he learned that he had stage 4 cancer and that he might have 5 to 10 years to live. He could return to neurosurgery or he could write? He did both. He and his wife then chose to have a baby that came eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis.
He said of his pending death that is was unsettling (a big understatement) but he added; “Yet there is no other way to live.”
Both this book and "The Heart" (see last review) are about death. This one is nonfiction, the other is a novel. Both are very well written and both have the potential to change your thinking. The beauty and wonder of the body is really revealed in these writings. Paul wanted to find what makes human life meaningful and I think the answer is in both of these books.
The French author, Maylis De Kerangal, wrote this novel about three 20 year old French men who go surfing in the middle of the night. On the way back they have a terrible accident and one man dies.
The book starts with the sentence: "The thing about Simon Limbres's heart, this human heart, is that from the moment of his birth, when its rhythm accelerated, as did the other hearts around it, in celebration of the event......................" . The sentence continues for more than a page. Many of sentences are long and often are as poetic as this first one. You find yourself seeing this human and his connection to his heart differently. The story really is about his heart, his death, and the care and grief that follow. It has a poetic feel to it because of the writers approach.
I liked Bill Gates review of this book. He called it "A poetic novel about grief". He felt that quality of the language used added the poetic flavor
Kirkus review said "Doctors and other medical experts hasten to prepare a young man’s organs for transplant and reckon with the need to be both compassionate and precise in a hurry." The book looks at matter of the heart from many sides and you feel and learn from the grief.
Lincoln's Greatest Speech, The Second Inaugural by Ronald C. White Jr. is a treasure.
The "Contents" page captures the unique approach that the author, Ronald C. White Jr., approached this book with. Each chapter is a focus on on of eight key area of the speech.
1. "Inauguration Day"
2. "At this second appearing.."
3. "And the war came".
4. "Somehow, the cause of the war..."
5. "Both read the same Bible & pray to the same God.."
6."The Almighty has His own purposes."
7. "Every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword".
8."With malice towards none; with charity for all..."
A favorite thought worth pondering is in the third verse of chapter 5. It says,
"Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God ; each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces: but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully".
"Wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces" reminds us of Genesis 3:19 where it says that "By the sweat of thy face you will eat bread". Addressing slavery in this way is brilliant.
Lincoln's surpassed any previous President with his use of the Bible in his speeches. This speech acknowledged the universal use of the Bible on both sides of the war and in doing so brings God's influence and leverage into the discussion.
The book helps understand the deep insights of the "The Second Inaugural, Lincoln's Greatest Speech. The best summary statement of this effort is from Lincoln:
"I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me".
Poem by Mark Massey
If I were an elephant I’d fly a kite.
I’d send it up high to capture the light
and hang in the air, oh what a sight…
but everyone knows they can’t fly a kite.
If I were an elephant I’d drive a car.
I’d fill it with gas and drive it afar.
People may say, “that’s very bizarre”,
‘cause everyone knows they can’t drive a car.
If I were an elephant I’d fly a plane...
the fun I would have I could never explain.
People may say, “that’s really insane”,
‘cause everyone knows they can’t fly a plane.
If I were an elephant I’d go into space...
oh, just imagine that wonderful place.
Imagine the smile it would put on my face...
everyone knows they can’t go into space.
So I'll go through life doing elephant good,
expressing my girth as all elephants should
and I'll live my life as an elephant would
but... I’d do all those things if an elephant could.
The "Blog" section of this site is mostly thoughts about books. A new Poetry Section of original poetry has just been added.
This poem and author were a surprise to find. The more you learn about Elephants the more you "feel" for their lives. "Gentle Giants" with feelings, families, and culture. The poem just jumped out at me asking to be posted.
I have another book overview I am working on and will post this week. The "What Matters" sections is another area of this blog and it needs updating. You don't really update "Core Values" but you find new ways to express or add to them.
I may redo the book section soon. If I do I will add a "complete" list of books read in the last 15 years rather than this shortened list now posted in the "Book Section".
Some folks come to this Blog from daily posts inviting on Twitter & Pinterest. (Thanks for coming) The Twitter account focuses on literature, writing and "things that matter". The Pinterest site is large and covers a lot of subjects of some interest.
I hear a lot "that blogs are not as popular now" and then everyone who tells me that gives me two or three blog addresses that they go to often.
I hope I can keep improving this one and make some more of those lists.
Thanks for reading.
Blog: Book Reviews, comments on Authors (last two were Kids Books) Pictures: Pictures I have taken or liked, not connected to other themes What Matters: Thoughts on Core Values
Thoughts on This Post: Most of what I have written about in this section is nor children book stories. That said think about this quote: "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."~ C.S. Lewis
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
The Cat in the Hat, by Theodor Geisel (Dr Seuss), was first published in 1957. It is a story about a tall human like cat who dresses in a red & white striped hat with a red bow tie.
With his companions, "Thing One & Thing Two" they try to entertain some neighbors and wind up wrecking the house. Finally the Cat uses a special tool to clean everything up. He then says his goodbyes and disappears just before the children's mother walks in.
The book offers lessons that need to be learned. For example The Cat in the Hat is about stranger danger. Although it may seem fun to let a big cat into your house, maybe think twice. That's just common sense for all ages.
This is the book that made Dr Suess famous. It kicked off an emphasis on beginning readers books. The focus on imagination for the characters and the ease of reading resulted in these books being read over and over again. Children learned to read from them.
Characters: The Cat in the Hat,Thing One,Thing Two, Sally, Sally's brother, Fish & Mother
"Don't Forget the Oatmeal" was published in 1980. Many think of it as one of their favorite books growing up.
Our family remembers it as one that was read to my oldest son very, very often.
The story is pretty simple. A list is worked on for the grocery store and several reminders to "not forget the oatmeal are given". Bert and Ernie go to the store but Cookie Monster somehow is there. Cookie Monsters efforts to find the cookies becomes a focus. Problems follow.
Please forgive me for letting some of the story leak out here. I know this is wrong (never do spoilers in important book reviews) but I am going to leak what happened.
"They forgot the oatmeal!"
Key Characters in this important stor are Bert, Ernie and Cookie Monster. Well worth re-reading. You can listen to it on youtube.
I read the book, The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard for the first time in 2001 and again in 2015. I just finished it again. (I mark the date inside the cover when I read a book because I often re read them)
This book is like a lot of books written by accomplished and skilled writers. The comments of the critics written on the back cover of the book reveal a common thread to these type of books. "A kind of spiritual....". "For non-writers, it is a glimpse into the trails and satisfactions.....". "Anyone hoping to see inside the process of literary artistry....", are some comments from "The Critics Praise".
Looking at how many of these books flow, it seems to me that they both pontificate and at the same time evangelize the life and thought processes of the writer.
The New York Times said "Annie Dillard is a wonderful writer and "The Writing Life" is full of joys." She is a great writer but the book doesn't push her joys as much as it suggests the struggle of writing.
It talks of laying out words. Words written and discarded and the long time it takes. Writing in an isolated place sometimes a cabin or special room. When it mentions things like cabins, rooms or typewriters it goes into great detail. Daily routine is always included and is explored in great detail. The routine seem to suggest that a process is like marks on a trail that have to be found to get to the destination,
After detailing out the processes and everything that has popped into their mind, these "Writing Life" authors seem to get to the same point. The plot and story just happens. The characters sort of tell the author what to write. Well learn that well defined characters can have thoughts of their own. Sometimes the words just pops into the writers mind. Creativity just happens when perhaps you are living the life?
Steven King's book, "On Writing" is similar in some ways. He has his routine and tool chapters, but the writing itself seems to demonstrate what great writing can be.
PS: New Post in What Matters Section...............The Picture section consists of pictures I took or like and have made me think.
Toni Morrison at age 33 (1964) was jobless, divorced, with one child and one on the way. She had returned to her parents home in Ohio.
Today she is one of the most respected American writers as well as an editor, teacher, and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. She is the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. She is known for her plays "Desdemona" and "Dreaming Emmett" and her movies, "A Moment in Time", "Conversations with Legendary Women", and "African American Women of Achievement".
She has written many books but three stood out for me. "Beloved", "The Bluest Eye", and "Song of Solomon". Beloved was a book that showed us how black Americans repress and deny the experience of slavery. It is considered her most difficult book and one that some critics said they felt they actually experienced slavery.
She said of her book that:
"In hindsight, I think what is important about it is the process by which we construct and deconstruct reality in order to be able to function in it".
This viewpoint of Morrison, intended for the book Beloved, has application for my own viewpoints. I have felt that we need to write our own life-stories and that by doing so we re-invent ourselves. Just telling your life story will cause you to connect events and suggest that one influenced another ones outcome. That is the reality changing and it will change who you think you are.
Thoughts on Other Items
Updates in the 'What Matters" section has been done.
The prior post, "In the Moment" has been updated.
The "Pictures" section is updated more frequently than the others. The pictures do not necessarily relate to the posts in the "Blog" or "What Matters" section. They are just pictures I took or found that have some artistic or personal interest for me.