I ordered "Against All Odds: My Story" on a whim and am I glad I did. I knew who Chuck Norris was and a little of his accomplishments as a martial artist so thought it would be a fun read. (I may have accidentally bumped into him a tournament a few years back, although not totally sure.)
"Against All Odds" is a relatively easy read and for the most part clearly lays out the life experiences that developed Mr. Norris' character. He shares many personal memories that are obviously important to him. Some of these stories may seem trifling but taken as a whole you can see the evolution of character and faith.
The book is liberally strewn with stories of Mr. Norris' personal interactions with many folks the rest of us have heard of - Bruce Lee, George Bush, Steve McQueen. Occasionally it feels like name dropping but from somebody whose entire professional life has been based on building relationships, it seems quite normal and acceptable.
He writes with clarity about martial arts competition, something that prior to reading the book I was concerned would be made overly complicated or drawn out. Discussing his faith in the early part of the book seems awkward, hesitant, and out of place. However, by the end, his beliefs are comfortably intertwined with his life experiences.
The essence of the book that I truly appreciated was its straight-forwardness. Some readers may consider it grandiose and bragging but when he achieved a major accomplishment he is not hesitant to claim quiet victory. And when he failed to meet a goal or reveals a character flaw, he does so with humility. Both time honored traits of a true martial artist and Christian.
The only issue I had with the book that I sometimes got lost in the time line of where I was in his experiences. The detours weren't long and I was quickly back on track.
Don't get your expectations to high! Overindulgent and struggling attempts at humor left me wondering why I was violating one of my personal reading rules, and continued to read "All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek" after I evaluated it as horrible. I guess I was looking for the way out of an impossible situation. I did manage to find one redeeming characteristic. The book was short and I only wasted a few total hours of my life to read. Star trek fans will be hard pressed to 'discover' anything within the pages - there is very little depth, especially from someone who supposedly lived and breathed Star Trek. If you're not a Star Trek fan, you will be left wondering what you just read.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading this book, but I found it refreshing, athough I must admit sometimes a little challenging to read. I haven't quite been able to put my figner on it, not sure if it is the lexicon or the syntax but there are many brief passages I found myself having to slow down and re-read thinking "what did he just say." Other than this occassional minor distraction, I enjoyed "Always Looking Up". Often witty, typically pragmatic, Michael J. Fox brings us up to speed on the last 10 years of his life dealing with Parkinson's Disease. The book serves as another great reminder that we can have everything we imagine and more, and realize we can discover more, be more after we think we've lost it (or are about to lose it) all.
Of the books that have had any impact on my life, "Anne Frank The Diary of a Young Girl" has had the deepest and most lasting. Written by 12-15 year old Jew-in-hiding Anne Frank during the German occupation of Holland during WWII. It is her diary - her personal thoughts, recollections, musings; her hopes, her dreams, her fears. The context of history provides a foreshadowing that holds a readers attention more than the writings of any other teenage girl.
First published in 1952, and as a play in 1955, I had the privilege 25 years later, in 1980, to perform in this play as a high school junior. I recall reflections at the time that the things we were acting were actually experienced by someone only several years younger than ourselves. It made for strong emotions and powerful storytelling. I had never read the book until now. Many fond memories that had faded came flooding forward while reading a phase or sentence that sounded familiar and caused me to reflect.
Now, an additional 38 years later, I feel the power of Anne's words no less poignantly than I did then. Touching, thought provoking, sincere truths -
"Its really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."
"April 16th Virginia Tech Remembers" is about the 31+1 students who were killed during a campus shooting rampage in 2007.
The first third of the book is a 'oral history' format. Hokie journalism students at the time of the shootings assembled witness accounts, their first hand testimonies, and major media stories - into a linear telling of the events of April 16, and the media chaos in the days that followed.
The middle third of the book contains a memorial to each of the victims. Reflections and reminiscing tales collected from a wide variety of sources - interviews with students' parents to Facebook postings - woven to offer personal glimpses at the lives of each of the slain.
The final third is the impact to the University and the challenge to the Engineering department as a result of the location of the killings . . . Norris Hall, also home to numerous high tech laboratories.
"April 16th Virginia Tech Remembers" is very easy to read; often contradictory as view points of events are shared from different perspectives; and highly emotional. I had everything from damp eyes to streaming tears for at least 270 of the 324 pages.
I have been left with a few clear impressions. First, excellent job by a group of students - how tough it must have been, as their world was erupting around them into chaos - to stay focused and provide 'real' information. And even more impressive was the ability to talk to friends and family about their losses while preparing the various memorial bios. Second, the book has a feeling of catharsis. There will be those who may not like how the book is written, the fact that it doesn't attack somebody or attempt to assign blame, but as simply as possible, lets the story be told and how it is told is how it should be. Finally, as a Virginia Tech alum, it is with great pride and no surprise to read how the Community pulled together. Go Hokies!
Just finished the 3rd in Stephen Lawheads 'Pendragon Cycle', "Arthur". While it took me longer to get through than the previous two books, it was no less entertaining. Lawhead continues to weave wonder fiction around history and myth. While the depth of character was maintained in this book, the storyline was not nearly as detailed as the earlier ones. To portray Arthur as a master strategist, the story is filled with the history and detail of many battles. The unfortunate thing is that the story between these battles often seemed forced nor as detailed as his prior books. This is not necessarily a bad thing because it helped paint the picture that this time of Arthur's life was filled with the intensity of war. The ending of the book was sudden, quick, and caught me totally unprepared!
I have yet to read a book by Stephen Lawhead that I haven't enjoyed. His easy style turns everyday people into heroes and makes heroes of legend seem familiar, as if we have known them our whole lives. "Avalon: The Return of King Arthur" does the same.
In a modern day England struggling with global identity and nearly devoid of hope, we are introduced to a new cast of characters that seem vaguely familiar. The story is a valiant and hopefully tale about a man who discovers he is next in line for throne, in a country where the monarchy is about to be eliminated. The one common theme between these new characters and the ones that seem so familiar is the twisting political intrigue, and the single mindedness the enemies of chivalry, justice, mercy, compassion, and truth. [4/5]
"The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith" by John Salza was on my 'to-be-read' list for several months. I hadn't picked up a copy yet but a friend brought it to Bible study one Saturday morning offering it to anyone who was interested. Then it sat next to the tv remote for a few months until I began to read it.
I was raised Catholic. I went off in different directions when I started college, and through my faith journey attended services at nearly every major denomination, even preached and witnessed in some. Two years ago, through a series of Spiritual revelations, I returned to the Catholic faith. What does this have to do with the book? Let me explain.
What became evident to me upon my return was that I had a deep arrogance regarding the Church. I thought I knew and understood its rituals and traditions, its beliefs. My exposure to the broader Christian community with its more overt importance on Scripture left me wondering about the very topic this book addresses, how much of the traditions of the church are Biblically based? As many believe, even some Catholics themselves, the traditions of the church do not appear to have a Biblical foundation.
"The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith" is a great read for anyone interested in knowing more about the foundation of Christianity and the Catholic faith. It can be read topically but the chapters build upon themselves so you will likely get more out of it reading it front to back. I would often find myself, unaware at first, that I would read several pages or a chapter, then spend time reflecting on it. Mr. Salza's writing style is clean, precise; he makes often tangled and difficult topics - like Reconciliation, Holy Communion, Priesthood, the Bible, Purgatory, Mary and the Saints - clear and covers a majority of the points both from a deep historical as well as spiritual perspective. He is firm and not condescending when he clarifies a point of separation between Catholicism and Protestant faiths.
I recommend for any Catholic who is wanting to understand more about the faith and wants to engage in deeper dialog more confidently with their non-Catholic friends; and likewise recommend for non-Catholics for the same reason.
Black Belt Patriotism: How to Reawaken America by Chuck Norris is a great book for our times. Written in 2008 yet as important, if not more so, today than when it was written. Mr. Norris articulates a list of issues with the current state of our society and in my interpretation with what extrapolates to a primary focus on a loss of faith faith in ourselves, faith in our country, faith in God.
Every time a Black Belt competes they know that their opponent has a unique style and set of skills. Because Chuck Norris isnt a literary wizard, his points about the current state of our country are like his martial arts skills, direct and hard hitting, from a perspective that isnt necessarily unique but is held and shared with much conviction.
A list of actions is proposed nothing new, mostly things we have all heard before. But as any Black Belt knows, it is action, every small step taken, that eventually leads towards great achievements. Failure to achieve a Black Belt in nearly any form of martial art is failure to try.
Two primary topics that hit me personally were expecting more from and empowering youth; and being a better father/husband. The first is something I have always believed in and the second is something I am always aware of. I have already tried a few of the ideas he proposes and have gotten some strange expressions from my daughters good, maybe its working!
Whether conservative or liberal, whether you whole heartedly agree with his assessments, somewhat agree, or adamantly disagree, there is plenty of historical anecdotes that make black Belt Patriotism: How to Reawaken America a fun and interesting read.
I found this book sitting on our coffee table. Not sure where it came from or how it got there. And I am glad I picked it up to read. While not the most exciting book to read - lots of references to research studies and statistics - the brief stories reflecting 'the data' really bring home the books key concepts. What Malcolm terms 'thin slicing', that judgement we make unconsciously the first 2 seconds we see something or met someone, relates highly to my own search for understanding regarding 'intuition.' He encourages development of our 'intuition'. And also makes it clear that there are times to react quickly and 'trust our gut', there are times appropriate for more detailed analysis. Most important is the creation of the awareness of how heavily our unconscious mind impacts our conscious, and unconscious, decisions - and how these decisions can impact our lives and influence the direction of our society.
Consider yourself an American patriot? "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" will tear your heart and fill your soul with anguish. The book details the organized unraveling of Indian cultures across the Western United States during the 1800's, predominantly organized and led by the U.S. government.
Dee Brown's weaving of tales and timelines is not a revisionist approach, but is significantly researched, packed with documented sources. "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" removes the white-man's romanticism we learn during our early school years and presents a bleak and raw history with only occasional glimmers of hope that makes one feel ashamed to be a white-man.
Once started it was hard to put down even though the content was not the most uplifting. Easy to read, just be prepared - as with most historical reading - to remember names, dates, and places. As this book unfolds, it paints relationships among the different Indian cultures that adds a perspective and reality to this history. [4/5]
I thoroughly enjoyed "Business Stripped Bare" by Richard Branson. A bit dated [2008, updated 2010] but the hindsight only adds to the wisdom shared from the man who is the only person in the world to lead 8 different businesses from scratch to billion dollar status, and the fastest to ever get to billion dollar status; he shares his insights on organization development, branding, business ethics, trusting people, and fun. We've come to expect successful people to be ruthless. In Sir Richard's own words, business is extremely competitive but you don't have to be mean. While he grudgingly admits he is wealthy, he just as readily proclaims that money is a poor of success, to quote "whether you die with a billion dollars in your account, or $20 under your pillow, is not that interesting. What matter most is whether you've created something special - whether you've made a real difference in people's lives." [4/5]
We have all heard âdon't sweat the small stuff.' âThe Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Mattersâ by Andy Andrews provides a poignant insight into how the things we do have consequences, even when we don't see them â and opens the thinking that there may be no small stuff. Andrews starts with the result of a historical event and traces back through decisions made, some generations past, to attempt to discover who ultimately deserves recognition.
Easy read, quick read â took me less than an hour â but with a powerful message. 5 of 5
Recommended by several people, "The Case for Christ" by Lee Storbel is written as an investigation by a journalist into whether Jesus Christ was real, resurrected, and the son of God. Strobel postulates a series of questions that if answered will validate the position of Jesus. He attempts to answer these questions through a series of authorities and experts.
The concept behind the approach to "The Case for Christ" was intriguing. Strobel researches his case in the format of how a criminal investigation may be investigated and presented.
This book will mean different things to you depending on your personal biases and your religious paradigm. If you are a skeptic, it is unlikely that anything presented in "The Case for Christ" will change your perspective. If you are a hard core believer in Jesus divinity, you will nod your head in passionate agreement. If you are a seeker, somebody still trying to "figure things out", there are several questions of historical and theological to find interesting to consider.
Personally, while I found the book logically weak and presumptive in its conclusions. However, through the investigative process points were raised about several topics I had never considered previously. This introduction of new facets of consideration moved my ranking from a 3 to a 4 out of 5.
A must read American classic? Hmmmm. I decided to read "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger out of curiosity. I'm not sure if it was required reading when I was in school that I either skipped or have forgotten. Doubtful. Some small parts of the language would have eliminated it from any required reading list of the era (although my daughter just had to read it for her lit class).
I began the book without any prior knowledge, absolutely zero. It is a very easy read. I found the story's contents mostly meaningless; it is how the book is written that is intriguing. I found myself simultaneously frustrated and enthralled, wondering why anyone would recommend this book and how it could was worthy of being considered 'a classic' - until the end. Salinger wraps up his story in dramatic yet anti-climatic fashion that shifted my opinion from a 1.5 to 3.5 star rating.
A thought provoking book, and you will have plenty of time to think because this book is a bicep builder. Somewhat daunted when I picked it up to begin, it was hard to put down. It's a great read on numerous levels. If you like history, it's packed. If you enjoy sociology, there's plenty for you. If you are a student of or advocate for the environment, the information is enlightning. If you simply wonder about our world, Jared Diamond weaves information about the rise and fall of so many past cultures in "Collapse" (and not the ones most of us have learned about in school) into a tapestry of questions that really has a single common thread "survival is our choice, what choice will we make?" Not overly political, negative, or fanatical, it is sobering in its persepctive. Highly recommended read.
"A Crown of Swords" by Robert Jordan, 7th in the Wheel of Time series, follows the same tempo and format as the other books in the series. . . 750 pages of character development, quickly pulled together in the last 100 pages with unexpected (?) twists. This one stays the status quo - if you like Robert Jordan, you'll like the book; id you don't like Robert Jordan, you probably won't make it through it. My only struggle is keeping the vast array of characters straight in my head!
"Do It Well, Make It Fun" by Ronald Culberson, quick, easy read, not much in the way of new or original inspirational thought but it did serve as a good remind to always do your best and have fun doing it.
"The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything" by Ken Robinson was one of the books I took on my recent beach vacation. I often take several and rotate them around based on how I am feeling. It was my only 'vacation read'.
"The Element" is a blend of motivational messaging intertwined with very brief mini-historical stories about the successes and struggles of numerous pop culture icons, like Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Richard Branson. Ken Robinson has created a book that is exciting and relaxing, prodding yet reassuring. The primary concept is everyone can be fullfilled if they find their passion - we've all heard the 'cliche' you never have to work a day in your life if you do what you love.
Obviously, "The Element" doesn't specifically provide a magic formula but illustrates numerous examples with some common themes - everyone is different, therefore everyone's success and happiness will be different; because everyone's passion is different it can never be discovered too early or too late. And most importantly, passion must be discovered, it can't be taught. Which leads to the common theme running thread throughout the whole book is Ken Robinson's frustration with current education methodology.
I was a bit worried when I started reading the book as it is dated 2002 but the relevance of the concepts, I believe, are even more important today. Definitely worth a read for young people attempting to plot a course, older folks attempting to reinvent themselves, or anyone in between who wants to do something, be something better than they are today.