Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Thanksgiving Themed Freebie

Ten Books I am Thankful I Read 

10.  Don Quixote - Cervantes
This book kicked off my quest to conquer my fear of reading great books.

9.  Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
I am grateful to have read this beautifully written story about young women, daughters, mothers, sisters, and friends.

8.  The Four Voyages - Christopher Columbus
So many people hate this man; but I wonder how many can form their own opinion about him?  I am grateful to have read this book because it has taught me how important it is to research history before you jump on a ban wagon in ignorance.  Here's my two cents.

7.  Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe
I am grateful Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote this story about slavery.  What a courageous woman!

6.  The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank
I am grateful God preserved Anne Frank's story.

5.  A History of the American People - Paul Johnson
Love this book with all my heart.  It makes me feel a kin to England, and I'm not even British!

4.  A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
This story makes me love Charles Dickens.

3.  The (entire) Little House series - Laura Ingalls Wilder
These stories make me love life.

2.  The Well-Educated Mind - Susan Wise Bauer
Because of this book, I am on my reading journey.

1. My Bible
Truly, the most important book ever written.
(This is not my actual Bible.)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Little House Read-Along 2016

It's starting again: reading challenges for 2016!!!!  I told myself I was going to keep it to a bare minimum, but the first thing I see is this reading challenge hosted by Bex @ An Armchair By The Sea  and Lynn @ Smoke & Mirrors.  It's the Little House Read-Along.  And if you know me, The Little House stories are essential reading.

Well, The Little House series is not just reading; it is more like therapy.  It takes me to a simpler time, closer to nature, and back into girlhood, when life is supposed to be pure and good and safe, and the future is nothing but bright and promising.  The stories are so true, good, and significant.

I just finished reading the series this last summer, but they are so truly important to me, I hoped to find time to read them every few years.  Well, it must be fate.  So here I go . . .

Reading Schedule: (see either Bex's or Lynn's blog for more info.)

January: Little House in the Big Woods
February: Little House on the Prairie
March: Farmer Boy
April:  On the Banks of Plum Creek
May: By the Shores of Silver Lake
June: The Long Winter
July: Little Town on the Prairie
August: These Happy Golden Years
September: The First Four Years
October: On the Way Home
November: West From Home
December: A Wilder Rose (by Susan Witting Albert) or Pioneer Girl (by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pamela Smith Hill)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Gandhi: The Story of My Experiments with Truth

Title:  Gandhi: An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth 
Author:  Mahatma Gandhi
Published:  1927
Challenge:  The Well-Educated Mind Reading Challenge (biographies)

When I began the next book on The Well-Educated Mind autobiography list, I predicted it would take three months to read due to the chunkiness of the book and the magnitude of its author.  But Gandhi's Autobiography was pleasantly simple and strangely captivating that I breezed right through it in a month.  I like when a book beckons me to read it. 

A young Gandhi

Gandhi's Autobiography covers about thirty years of his life, from his youth in the late 1800's to the early 1920s.  In his introduction, he said his objective for writing an autobiography was to "tell a story of [his] numerous experiments with truth."   Truth was the "eternal," “sovereign" standard. His goal was to "achieve...self-realization, to see God face to face..." He said, "I worship God as Truth only.  I have not yet found Him, but I am seeking after Him."

Gandhi's Success

Early in life, Gandhi recognized his passion for truth.  He sought it in every aspect of his work and personal life.  It was the ultimate ideal worth fighting for.  He said, "But one thing took deep root in me - the conviction that morality is the basis of things, and that truth is the substance of all morality.  Truth became my sole objective."  

He never set out to become the Mahatmas Gandhi, as the world knows him today, but in his quest for truth, he was moved or called to defend it wherever there was injustice.  As people tend to respect and love those who speak for truth and justice, Gandhi drew much attention to himself; but what really made him different was his approach to achieving truth and justice, using what he called Satyagraha, which means "clinging to truth."  It became a philosophy or practice that involved non-violent force or resistance. Returning good for evil became his guiding concept.  

 In his travels between Britain, India, and South Africa, he experienced and witnessed many injustices that he wanted to change.  For a man who understood truth as the only way of life, he was astonished that people were treated unfairly based on the color of their skin or their socio or economic status.  Equally, he was incensed that victims accepted the mistreatment and did not know any better because of their ignorance.  Gandhi set out to change both.  

As a lawyer, he had knowledge of the law and access to the courts; and when the legal system did not work, he used other methods.  Not only did he get arrested a few times and spent time in jail, but he eventually caused laws to be changed; and most importantly, he taught victims to recognize prejudice and how to press for equal treatment. Gandhi demonstrated how to campaign by leading the way and setting an example.  He lived what he preached, and he made a difference.  

Gandhi's Struggles

But like all men, Gandhi had his burdens: he struggled with developing a perfect diet, eliminating lust from his marriage, creating a model utopian community to work and live, sifting through world religions and philosophies, and finding and knowing the True God.  I believe he struggled with self-realization, the concept that one may reach ultimate perfection if he strives for his full potential, physically and intellectually. To reach this full potential, Gandhi denied himself all pleasure of food, sex, comfort, convenience, and even efficiency.  

One night I went to dinner with my husband.  While I was enjoying my favorite pizza at Oggi's, I was thinking about how Gandhi refused himself delicious food when God gave us yummy food to eat and enjoy.  No way!  I am grateful for my taste buds.  

And when Gandhi struggled with his natural feelings of physical attraction toward his own wife, I knew he did not understand God's essential gift to married couples.  In fact, Scripture tells us that since it is more difficult for man to remain celibate and single: GET MARRIED!  

In the ashram community Gandhi created, he expected the lowest level of efficiency in tools, machinery, and work to be used because the harder the struggle, the better the outcome. Those are my words, but the idea was plain: if workers used a more efficient tool or machine, they were not working hard enough; they were not struggling; therefore, they may not perceive truth at its purest.

Also, I wonder if Gandhi ever found God, the One True God, before his assassination in 1948.  In his autobiography, he saw all religions as a way to the same God, just with varying practices.  He sought a perfect religion in order to reach God, but none of them satisfied him.  He personally rejected Islam, Christianity, and parts of Hinduism, but he used his Hindu customs, like Ahimsa (non-violence), to lay the foundation of Satyagraha. Gandhi struggled like so many other people do to create their own God in their own image or in an image that they are comfortable with.  He thought he could be equal with God by achieving the perfect way to live in peace and harmony with the world.  So while God offers peace through the sacrifice of His Son, Gandhi sought to find peace in the way he lived through his own means.  

Final Rant

Because I thoroughly enjoy reading about other people's life stories, Gandhi's Autobiography was a great read.  While I disagree with some of his personal ideas about God and truth, and how he treated his wife (though she consented to his lifestyle and followed him willingly), I still think the world could use more Gandhis.  

Injustice will always exist, and we need courageous leaders who will stand for righteousness. Gandhi confronted real racism, true oppression, and genuine prejudice; yet, he never resorted to violence, encouraged the destruction of private and public property, or overthrew the government.

Compare that to America today where protests amount to TEMPER TANTRUMS over opposing opinions, ideologies, and FEELINGS, in the form of vile threats and fear, mob rule, violence, stopping traffic and business, destruction of other people's property, burning police vehicles, ambushing law enforcement, and murdering unrelated individuals, in order to meet irrelevant demands.

Gandhi focused his grievances with those responsible for the offense, and he wanted that particular offense righted, and nothing more. He utilized the law first, but if that did not work, he tried other non-violent tactics.  Today's activism is only hot, retaliatory emotion designed to cause chaos and fear, which only leads to more anger and hatred. BULLIES are what they are!  

Gandhi was not a bully.  He would be shocked if he knew what people considered injustice (in America) today, how it invokes anger and violent protest, and the thuggery used to demand outrageous change.  I'm so sick of it that if people actually used Gandhi's tactics for REAL grievances, it would be a welcome sight of change, for once.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Back to the Classics Final Wrap-Up Post, 2015

This is my official wrap-up post for Back-to-the-Classics Reading Challenge, hosted by Karen @ Books and Chocolate.  I planned to read one book for each category, but I picked the wrong book for classic non-fiction.  An easy, favorite genre of mine, classic non-fiction should have been a no-brainer; but Twain's Life on the Mississippi was like mental torture to me.  Hence, I only completed eleven of the twelve categories.

I love to plan new books for reading challenges, and I was excited about all of these choices.  My absolute favorites were: Robinson Crusoe, Lord of the Flies, Wind in the Willows, and my reread of Persuasion. With exception of The Grapes of Wrath, which I did not like (but finished it so I could rant about it), the others were good, too, and I enjoyed them as well, for various reasons.

Thank you, Karen, for hosting! 

Following is a recap (with links) of my completed (and one incomplete) posts for this year's challenge:

1.  A 19th Century Classic Dracula (1897), by Bram Stoker

2.  A 20th Century Classic - The Grapes of Wrath (1939), by John Steinbeck

3.  A Classic by a Woman Author - Persuasion (1927), by Jane Austen

4.  A Classic in Translation - La Fortune des Rougon (1871), by Émile Zola 

5.  A Very Long Classic Novel East of Eden (1952), by John Steinbeck

6.  A Classic Novella -- Metamorphosis (1915), by Frank Kafka

7.  A Classic with a Person's Name in the Title - Robinson Crusoe (1719), by Daniel Defoe

8.  A Humorous or Satirical Classic - Lord of the Flies (1954), by William Golding

9.  A Forgotten Classic - A Journal of the Plague Year (1722), by Daniel Defoe

10.  A Nonfiction Classic - Life on the Mississippi (1883), by Mark Twain  Could not finish

11.  A Classic Children's Book - Wind in the Willows (1908), by Kenneth Grahame

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween themed freebie Oct 27

Halloween themed freebie:

 top ten reads that gave me the chills,

 even just a little

10. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë

9. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

8. "The Tell-Tale Heart" - Edgar Allan Poe

7. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky


6. Lord of the Flies - William Golding

5. Beowulf

4. 1984 - George Orwell

3. The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka

2. Frankenstein - Mark Shelley

1. Dracula - Bram Stoker

Sunday, October 18, 2015

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Title: All Quiet on the Western Front
Author:  Erich Maria Remarque
Published:  1928
Challenges:  Literary Movement Reading Challenge (Modernism); Manly Reading Challenge

"I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow."

The top of my book cover claims All Quiet on the Western Front the greatest war novel of all time, which is a mighty declaration; however, while I have not read all war novels, of those I have, this one is gut wrenchingly effective and overwhelmingly poignant.    

All Quiet on the Western Front is set during WWI, and the main character, Paul, is a young German soldier enticed by the promise of nationalism and heroism. Paul and other young soldiers like him grow up quickly, while they regretfully realize they were misled. They become no more than unthinking, unfeeling animals, forced to use animalistic instincts for survival, while making war on unknown enemies.  Paul recognizes that their enemies are no different than them - young men ordered to fight someone else's battle.  

Paul is a good young man, genuine and sensitive.  He is truly lovable, which is rather odd to admit in the middle of a war novel; but it is true.  He is a good son, a good brother, and a good friend.  He is loyal and caring.  In fact, many of the soldiers are portrayed as innocent and good, and this is what makes it difficult to imagine good characters in the center of such hardships and burdens.  

All Quiet on the Western Front leaves nothing to the imagination.  It is definitely a modern work of literature, with not much symbolism.  It is well rooted in reality, as the author shares the ugly pictures of war, destruction, carnage, dying, and death.  This may offend some readers.  I totally understand.  Altogether, this war novel is a journey of a soldier during war and the effects the war has on his life.  

Something unexpected happens at the end of the novel, which I will leave out for those who want to read this book.  I did not know the true ending until I turned the page a day later and saw the final paragraph.  So if you have my copy (as pictured above), make sure you turn to the back of the final page to get the true ending.  It changes everything.  
"It is very queer that the unhappiness of the world is so often brought on by small men."
Young German Soldier, 1918
"We want to live at any price; so we cannot burden ourselves with feelings which...would be out of place here."
War novels are not easy reads for me because the realities of war are uncomfortable. Why give up one's mental comforts and luxuries to have to imagine filthy, perilous, vulnerable conditions, unsettling hunger, all while facing death continuously?  Why give yourself a stomachache?  Why be confronted with the idea of loss?  Why bother?  

Well, surely you can skip war novels, if you please; read only happy, joyous stories, and sleep contentedly at night.  You can.  But I know why I read war novels every so often; I read them because they speak truthfully about life, man, and human nature in ways that we often times do not like to think about.  War novels make me think of war differently. It certainly is easy to hate war, but that is not enough.  They force me to remember soldiers, who normally are out of sight, out of mind.  And they also cause me to think about the aftermath of war on the well being of a soldier.  These are all complicated and delicate issues that war novels lay on my heart.  And with a story like All Quiet on the Western Front, it is as if the author is asking us to think about war through the eyes, ears, and heart of a soldier.  One may never look at a soldier the same again.  I know I cannot.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

I Finished My Classics Club Challenge

In March 2012, I joined The Classics Club and pledged to read 50 books in five years.  At the time, I had just started blogging (in January) and was following The Well-Educated Mind reading list.  All of the books on the novel list were considered classics, and that was all I was reading.  Later I joined other challenges, too, and started reading three or four books at a time.  It was obvious that I would reach my goal in plenty of time; so I added twenty-five more books to my challenge.  Now I'm done!

Basically, I finished about 18 months sooner, and I could have kept going if I wanted to add another twenty-five books; but I think I am done.  Yay!

I'm glad I participated, and I had a lot of fun when I was more involved.  The best part was connecting with other book bloggers who were also reading the classics.  The Classics Club is a great challenge for people who usually do not read the classics, but would like to be encouraged to read more.

Here is a review of my list:

Titles with * are rereads.

1.   Don Quixote - Miguel De Cervantes   Completed 3/24/12
2.  The Pilgrim's Progress * John Bunyan  Completed 4/11/12
3.  Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift  Completed 4/28/12
4.  Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen  Completed 5/11/12
5.  Oliver Twist Charles Dickens  Completed 5/31/12
6.  Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë  Completed 6/12/12
7.  The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne  Completed 6/29/12
8.  Moby-Dick - Herman Melville  Completed 7/18/12
9.  Uncle Tom's Cabin * Harriet Beecher Stowe  Completed 7/31/12
10Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert  Completed 8/10/12
11Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky  Completed 9/9/12
12Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy  Completed 11/9/12
13The Return of the Native - Thomas Hardy  Completed 12/18/12
14The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James  Completed 1/27/13
15The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain  Completed 2/10/13
16The Red Badge of Courage Stephen Crane  Completed 3/25/13
17Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad  Completed 4/13/13
18The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton  Completed 5/11/13
19The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald  Completed 5/30/13
20. Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf  Completed 6/27/13
21The Trial - Franz Kafka Completed 7/18/13
22Native Son - Richard Wright Completed 8/19/13
23The Stranger - Albert Camus  Completed 9/6/13
241984 * - George Orwell  Completed 9/26/13
25Invisible Man Ralph Ellison  Completed 11/10/13
26Seize the Day - Saul Bellow  Completed 11/20/13
27One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez Completed 1/20/14
28If on a winter's night a traveler - Italo Calvino  Completed 2/15/14
29White Noise - Don DeLillo  Completed 3/26/14
30Possession - A.S. Byatt  Completed 5/31/14

1.  The Confessions - Augustine  Completed 6/30/14
2.  The Book of Margery Kempe - Margery Kempe  Completed 7/20/14
3.  Essays - Michel De Montaigne  Completed 9/30/14
4.  The Life of Saint Teresa of Ávila by Herself - Teresa of Ávila  Completed 11/25/14
5.  Meditations - René Descartes  Completed 12/20/14
6.  Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners - John Bunyan  Completed 2/6/15
7.  The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration Mary Rowlandson  Completed 2/18/15
8.  Confessions - Jean-Jacques Rousseau  Completed 3/23/15
9.  The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - Benjamin Franklin  Completed 4/10/15
10. Walden * - Henry David Thoreau  Completed 5/18/15

SUPLEMENTAL LIST: These are classics that are not on the Well Educated Mind list, but I have read them in between WEM titles.  They are from my TBR list.

1.  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain Completed 3/1/13
2.  The Crucible Arthur Miller  Completed 3/7/13
3.  The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien  Completed 4/2/13
4.  O Pioneers! - Willa Cather Completed 8/1/2013
5.  The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde Completed 8/25/13
6.  Persuasion*Jane Austen Completed 2/20/15
7.  Frankenstein - Mary Shelley  Completed 10/28/13
8.  A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens  Completed 12/15/13
9.  Gone With the Wind Margaret Mitchell Completed 1/28/14
10A Christmas Carol *- Charles Dickens Completed 12/20/13
11Great Expectations  - Charles Dickens (2014)  Completed 2/16/14
12Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll  Completed 2/24/14
13Candide - Voltaire  Completed 3/29/14
14. Germinal - Émile Zola  Completed 4/13/14
15. Arthurian Romances - Chrétien de Troyes  Completed 3/28/14
16. Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton  Completed 5/15/14
17The Story of Sir Lancelot and His Champions - Howard Pyle  Completed 5/18/14
18The Old Man and the Sea *Ernest Hemingway  Completed 7/22/14
19. The Catcher in the Rye - J. D. Salinger Completed 8/3/14
20. Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  Completed 9/23/14
21The Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur - Howard Pyle  Completed 10/28/14
22. The History of the Kings of Britain - Geoffrey of Monmouth Completed 9/29/14
23. Little Woman - Louisa May Alcott  Completed 10/31/14
24. The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck  Completed 8/5/15
25. My Ántonia - Willa Cather  Completed 12/12/14
26. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy  Completed 12/28/14
27. The Fortune of the Rougons - Émile Zola  Completed 4/23/15
28. Lord of the Flies - William Golding  Completed 7/21/15
29. Beowulf - unknown/translated by J.R.R. Tolkien  Completed 1/4/15
30. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe  Completed 1/18/15
31. Dracula Bram Stoker  Completed 10/1/15
32. East of Eden - John Steinbeck  Completed 2/23/15
33. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson Completed 6/7/15
34. The Voyage Out - Virginia Woolf  Completed 4/10/15
35. The Kill Émile Zola  Completed 8/19/15