“Freedom of choice is more to be treasured than any possession earth can give. It is inherent in the spirit of man. It is a divine gift…everyone has this most precious of all life’s endowments—the gift of free agency; man’s inherited and inalienable right.”

--David O. McKay

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The One with Trickle Down Theory and Tax Cuts for the Rich

322. Title & Author: “Trickle Down” Theory and “Tax Cuts for the Rich” by Thomas Sowell (13 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—Economics
Completed: 14 May 2015

Summary & Review:
Economist Thomas Sowell examines the oft-ridiculed (by the left) "Trickle Down" theory of economics along with the tax cuts that supposedly are justified by such a theory. As Sowell succinctly explains, no free-market economist has ever advocated a “trickle down” model nor have they used such logic to justify tax cuts. Rather, tax cuts have been shown—repeatedly—to result in increased tax revenues while simultaneously spurring economic growth.

Sowell has a talent for simplifying arguments so that laymen like me can understand them. However, he doesn’t dumb it down or condescend to his audience. Rather, he explains things clearly as only someone who truly understands his subject can. As a Millennial, I’ve had numerous arguments with classmates, colleagues, and friends about “trickle down economics.” It is amazing how pervasive that myth has become. I think I’ll just buy thirty copies of this little book and pass them out to people as the subject comes up. 1,000 words by Tom Sowell are worth about 100,000 of my words.

Rating: 8.0

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The One with Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

321. Title & Author: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander by J.K. Rowling (88 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Fantasy
Completed: 10 May 2014

Summary & Review:
The oft mentioned and cited book from the Harry Potter Series is finally available for the Muggle world. Now in its fifty-second edition, Newt Scamander’s classic text details all the magical creatures from Acromantula to Yeti.

Like Quidditch Through the Ages (#314), this book is included in a nice boxed set that J.K Rowling wrote for charity. It was another short volume but had some entertaining bits. However, Quidditch Through the Ages was a more enjoyable read.

Rating: 4.5

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The One with Keukenhof Holland Park Guide

320. Title & Author: Keukenhof Holland Park Guide 2015 by Bart Siemerink (75 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—Travel
Completed: 14 April 2015

Summary & Review:
The spring gardens at Keukenhof, Holland, have been called the most beautiful gardens in the world. This guide for the 2015 season, a season running only eight weeks, explains the history of the park as well as the techniques the gardeners employ to ensure maximum flowering. This year the theme was a tribute to Van Gogh.

We had the chance to visit here this spring and it was gorgeous. While only about 30% of the tulips in the huge fields were blooming, around the gardens themselves there were tons of flowers. This guide was short and not as in depth as I would have hoped. But, it did include some cool details such as the “lasagna” method they use to plant the bulbs so that the gardens are in bloom for as long as possible.

Rating: 5.0

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The One with Big Little Lies

319. Title & Author: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (460 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Black Comedy
Completed: 31 March 2015

Summary & Review:
Jane and her son Ziggy move to the idyllic Piriwee Peninsula for a fresh start. After years of closing herself off due to the sexual assault that resulted in her son’s conception, Jane is slowly beginning to live again—finding new friends, moving to a new location, and maybe even encountering a new romantic interest. Her friends Madeline and Celeste take her under her wing and welcome her to the town. However, after Ziggy is accused of bullying a classmate at the local school, tensions run high among the parents and when everything finally comes to a head at the alcohol fueled parents' night fund-raiser, secrets are exposed, fights are had, and someone winds up dead.

Paige read this book as part of her online book club that she and a friend host. She really enjoyed it and flew through the pages. That was good enough recommendation for me, so I picked it up. This is definitely a woman’s book, but, it was a really enjoyable woman’s book. It was filled with the drama and fashion and relationships and squabbles that seem to appeal to modern women, but it was interesting enough to hold my attention. The writing was light and brisk, taking a very lighthearted hand at some serious subjects, such as domestic abuse and sexual assault. That was a nice way to address those issues without coming off sanctimonious or just plain boring the reader. It was good enough that I wouldn’t mind reading something else by the author.

Rating: 8.0

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The One with Shadow of the Giant

318. Title & Author: Shadow of the Giant by Orson Scott Card (371 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Science Fiction
Completed: 20 March 2015

Summary & Review:
With the threat of Achilles neutralized, the new powers of the Earth begin to tear the world apart. The united Muslim empire under Caliph Alai holds onto a rebellious India being led by Virlomi, while a rejuvenated Chinese empire led by Hot Soup looks to make its mark. More than ever, the need for a united world under the leadership of Peter Wiggin as Hegemon is apparent. Thankfully, he has the brightest mind in the world at his side: Bean. But, the genetic manipulation that has given Bean his superhuman intelligence is also his death-sentence, leaving him with only a few years to live. Will there be time for Bean to help Peter achieve the dream Ender fought for: A peaceful, united Earth?

This is the fourth book in the Shadow Series and I think, overall, this is a stronger group of books than the original Ender Quartet. That is probably due to the more cohesive nature of the storylines. Each book in the series flows naturally from the previous one, unlike in the Ender Quarter where there is a three-freaking-thousand-year-gap(!) between books 1 and 2.

Bean is an excellent character. I liked him in Ender’s Game and loved Ender’s Shadow. It has been very worthwhile for Card to explore and develop this fascinating character.

Rating: 8.0

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The One with American Exceptionalism

317. Title & Author: American Exceptionalism: An Experiment in History by Charles Murray (59 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—History & Politics
Completed: 1 March 2015

Summary & Review:
Libertarian scholar Charles Murray examines the concept of American Exceptionalism: What is it? Has it ever existed? Does it still exist? Is it a good thing or not? In Murray's estimation, yes, American Exceptionalism did exist and it was based on four main components. One, an exceptional setting, i.e. a country separated from the political storms of Europe and Asia with friendly neighbors to the north and south. Not only that, but a large, lightly populated country with incredible natural resources. Two, an exceptional ideology that was based on the famous words Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence wherein all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights. Three, the exceptional traits found in the citizenry that included industriousness, religiosity, a highly level of civic engagement, and a nineteenth century egalitarianism. Four, exceptional politics that were free from the snares that trapped many European nations. On these four principles, American Exceptionalism amazed the world from the time of our founding through the first half of the twentieth century. Murray then examines whether or not those traits are still present in modern America, i.e. is America still exceptional? His conclusion? Yes, but not as much as it once was because we have left behind so many of the virtues that once distinguished us.

Murray is an sound scholar and an excellent writer. While this was a very short volume, his arguments were persuasively presented. It almost hurt to read this book though. As he presented evidence of what once made America exceptional, it just highlighted how much we’ve lost. I think a large part of it is due to the change in national immigration policy that occurred in 1965. Since then, basically unchecked legal immigration and the swell of illegal immigration have completely transformed our nation. This process has almost obliterated any sort of cohesive American culture or set of values. My dream would be a moratorium on all immigration for a period. We need time to assimilate who has come and then relearn what it means to be an American.

Rating: 7.0

I have also read and reviewed Murray's Coming Apart and What it Means to be a Libertarian

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The One with The Rosie Effect

316. Title & Author: The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (344 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Romantic Comedy
Completed: 18 February 2015

Summary & Review:
In the sequel to the outstanding The Rosie Project (#293), socially awkward scientist Don Tillman and his wife Rosie are enjoying their first year of marriage when something happens that is definitely not in Don’s meticulous plans: Rosie becomes pregnant. With the shock of this development sending him reeling, Don must figure out how to save his relationship and learn how to be a father.

Last year Paige read The Rosie Project and loved it so she recommended I read it as well. Much to my surprise, I loved it, too. It was hilarious and entertaining and engaging. So, when we heard there was going to be a sequel, we were extremely excited. Paige read it first and was, well, disappointed. Thus, I headed into this with tempered expectations. I actually liked the book quite a bit—much more than Paige did. The beginning was funny in the same quirky way the original was, but then the plot became more serious and even sad and distressing at times. I think Paige really wanted another light hearted, fun novel and that is not what this book was. But, like I said, I enjoyed it and would recommend it to those who read The Rosie Project—just be prepared for a more serious book.

Rating: 7.5