Friday, January 17, 2020

The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. DuBois

The Souls of Black Folk
W. E. B. Du Bois
African-American literature
Published 1903

I finished this book in 2019 as part of TWEM histories.

W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) was an American author, born after the Civil War. After writing The Souls of Black Folk, he helped organize the NAACP (1904). He was involved in multiple occupations, including civil rights, peace activist, historian, and sociologist. He was a productive writer whose works affected history.

Personally, The Souls of Black Folk was one of the most cohesive and engaging books I have read in a long time. I can tell by how much I wrote in the book. Half of my pages ended up like this:




I did not always agree with the author, but I understood why he thought the way he did. He made his case clear. He was truly impassioned and zealous about his arguments.

Some of the major ideas or arguments addressed by Du Bois included:

  • How it felt to be a problem
  • How the black man saw himself in this world
  • The real causes of the Civil War
  • What the nation should do with the newly freed slaves
  • How government complicated everything
  • Why the right to vote was most essential to the black man
  • Why Du Bois disagreed with Booker T. Washington
  • How wealth (or desire for wealth) destroys the black man
  • How should the Negro college respond
  • Why Du Bois disagreed with capitalism
  • The causes of poverty
  • How blacks and whites interacted
  • Segregation (the color line)
  • The characteristic of black religious life
  • The social history of blacks
  • Why blacks live a double life (black and American)
  • Why Freedom became Du Bois' religion
  • The "shadow of the veil"
  • What black folksong tells us
  • Why Du Bois went back to Africa

More difficult arguments were against Booker T. Washington, whom I respect very much. Du Bois claimed that Washington placed the black man's problems squarely on his shoulders alone; whereas Du Bois argued, and quite intelligently, that the responsibility belonged to the North, or the United States government.

Frankly, I accept both arguments equally. The government was responsible for the evils of slavery and the post-Civil War mistakes, which caused the difficulties that followed; but it was also wise to teach personal responsibility, as it made one more diligent, independent, and resourceful in the end.

Du Bois saw the desire for wealth as a stranglehold on black Americans, keeping them in slavery. He did not support capitalism, obviously, and believed it was one of the causes of racism. Instead he believed socialism was a better way to racial equality. (This I strongly disagreed with the author also.)

The book is bursting with arguments and evidence. It is well written and quite arresting. I only touched on two ideas.

Should You Read This Book?

Americans should read it for an engrossing perspective on American history, especially African-American history. If you are interested in topics on slavery, sociology, politics, economics, post-Civil War history, and African-American poetry and folksong, you should read this. Again, it is very well written and a prime example of how to write persuasive ideas in captivating and pleasing ways. In that case, if you want to be a great writer, read something by W. E. B. Du Bois.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, a reread


Moby-Dick
Herman Melville 
American novel
Published 1851
reread (first read July 2012)

"I have written a wicked book, and feel as spotless as a lamb," Herman Melville admitted to his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne after writing his most popular novel Moby-Dick.

Herman Melville hated God, and he loathed Christianity and its followers; but mostly he was angry with God. 

Melville was raised in a strict form of Calvinism and the Reformed Church. At age 12, he witnessed his father die a terrible death and had to work to help support his family. Eventually he went to sea, where, on many voyages, he witnessed every intolerable misfortune and immoral deed imaginable: lust, theft, disease, pestilence, hunger, hatred, murder, racism, poverty, and death. Many crimes and tribulations he connected with Christianity because these crimes were perpetrated by so-called Christians or in the name of "Christian" nations, with no relief even from the sympathetic God of his youth. Hence, Melville's heart hardened against Christianity, believers, and the Christian God.

In interpreting this novel, it is commonly held that Moby-Dick, the white whale, represents nature, a god, or the God of the Bible. I am 100% certain now, after this second read, that Melville intended to portray Moby-Dick as the Christian God, exactly as the author experienced His character.

To Melville, God was a colossal bully who exploited His power, harassing and tormenting small, powerless man on the earth, especially in his time of misery and affliction. To Melville, God was not a God of mercy, grace, or love. God was heartless. 
Here's food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels; that's tingling enough for mortal man! to think's audacity. God only has that right and privilege. Thinking is, or ought to be, a coolness and a calmness; and our poor hearts throb, and our poor brains beat too much for that. 
According to Melville, at least we humans can feel. God cannot. We are nobler than God, even though we can never overpower Him; at least we have a conscience,* Melville argued.

*(Notice that Melville claimed it was man who had a heart and felt compassion, unlike God, yet it was his fellow man who was responsible for causing many of these misfortunes against other human beings. But, I digress.)

On and on and on...the entire book is contempt, suspicion, animosity, and vexation directed at Christianity and God. Melville is not the first to experience rebellion toward his religion or to blame God for all the world's calamity, hardship, and injustice. But why did he fiercely reject and challenge Him? I cannot fully understand this answer until I dig deeper into Melville's personal life. 

Moby-Dick is not genuinely about whaling or struggles at sea or even a lunatic sea captain bent on revenge. It is a written record of one man's personal and private struggle with his pride. Melville knew his Bible very well, and He knew the truth; but he chose not to believe. He bitterly turned away from God, and he put himself in God's place, as man is want to do generation after generation. In the end, I think Melville knew it was dangerous to take this position; but he refused to yield. 

According to Hawthorne, he said of Melville, "He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other. He has a very high and noble nature, and better worth immortality than most of us." 

Moby-Dick, the novel, is a raging case against the God of the Bible, but it is also Melville's justification for his own self-righteousness. He said he felt "as spotless as a lamb" for writing a "wicked book," but I wonder if his conscience burned within him. With his obvious religious symbolism and parody of theology, he must have known he was accountable to Christians (and God). 

Furthermore, his rebellion against God is so blatant and arrogant that I believe he was unbearably cognizant of his circumstance. In other words, he needed to prove unequivocally to himself that he was not afraid of the wrath of God; and therefore should no one else.

Well, having said all that, what do I really think of Moby-Dick

I will never get rid of this book, and I will read it again, God willing. It is rightly considered important literature, cleverly written, and at times poetry. Melville wrote about what many people only struggle with privately: we have and will continue to throw temper tantrums at God; we rage about the world's misery and injustice; we question our own beliefs; and the hypocrisy of the religious confines us. Naturally, we all are at enmity with God; we all wrestle with our faith.

Moby-Dick is the written record of that universally personal, private human conflict with God. 

Unfortunately, Melville's rebellious pride was more valuable to him, even though he knew man never wins in his conflict with God; nonetheless, he would not yield to God's will. To me, that is the most notable and inescapable part of the story - the personal story behind the story

And so, if I can end on this note...while I think Moby-Dick is a literary treasure and that it should be read for its brilliance, just know that there is something far deeper about the story and its author than what you may initially read upon its surface -- something very melancholy and heartbreaking. That is how I feel about Moby-Dick and what I see when I look at the eyes of the man in this portrait.

Herman Melville ~ Joseph Oriel Eaton, 1870

I read this with a group - many of whom are still reading - for the Moby-Dick Readalong. If you want to know more about Moby-Dick, like if you should read it (which I would say, "You should."), you could visit Brona's blog at Brona's Books for the most comprehensive coverage of Moby-Dick on the entire planet.


Thursday, January 2, 2020

Back to the Classics Challenge 2020


Books and Chocolate is back for another Back to the Classics Challenge 2020. Yay!

Here is a condensed list of the categories (and my proposed reads):

1. 19th Century: Mill on the Floss ~ George Eliot (1860)

2. 20th Century: Babbit ~ Sinclair Lewis (1922)

3. Woman Author: Testament of Friendship ~ Vera Brittain (1940)

4. Translation: The Magic Mountain ~ Thomas Mann (1924) (German)

5. Person of Color: The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings ~ Olaudah Equiano (1789) (African American)

6. Genre: The Innocent's Abroad ~ Mark Twain (1869) (Travel)

7. Name in Title: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ~ Mark Twain (1884)

8. Place in Title: Under the Greenwood Tree ~ Thomas Hardy (1872)

9. Nature in Title: The Sun Also Rise ~ Ernest Hemingway (1926)

10. About Family: One Hundred Years of Solitude ~ Gabriel García Márquez (1967)

11. Abandoned: Out of Africa ~ Isak Dinesen (1937)

12. Adaptation: A Farewell to Arms ~ Ernest Hemingway (1929)

For more information, go HERE.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Reading Plans for 2020

My 2020 focus and beyond is the never ending BOOKS-OWNED-BUT-NEVER-READ pile, otherwise known as the TBR pile or unread books pile

To add to the pile, my husband, who does not usually buy books as gifts (because he says they aren't a surprise), relented and bought several from the top of my Amazon wishlist.



There are already numerous unread intimidating classic tomes established upon my shelves. It is time to conquer them!

Thankfully, I learned of The Unread Shelf Project 2020 at The Unread Shelf. Yay! (Thank you to Hamlette @ Edge of the Precipice for the idea.)

Following the rules, I first found the courage to divide my books between "read" and "unread," regardless of genre. It seemed criminal, but it must be done, whatever it took.

Next, I arranged books in alphabetical order by title, not author. This isn't part of the rules, but it was along the lines of shelving unread books in one location.

In the photo below, the top two rows are my READ books. The third row down with the red stars contains the most important UNREAD books (spilling into one cubby below it), which I want to immediately read in the next two years (or more). The remaining cubbies on either side of the fireplace are also UNREAD books, but they didn't make the immediate urgent cut .


There are bookshelves in two other rooms with mostly non-fiction books or books we use for homeschool, some of which are unread; but again, those are not most urgent.

The next rule was to count my unread books: there are 91 "urgent" TBR and 81 "not-so urgent," for a total of 172 unread books. I thought I had 300, which is why physically going through your books makes a big difference.

Also, during the process, there is opportunity to eliminate books you no longer want. Hence, sixteen books were removed that I would NEVER reread or attempt to read, two of which immediately found new homes.

My next job was to make a list of the top 10-12 unread books I want to read this coming year. I did this several months ago, but since my new additions this Christmas, the list has changed.

I am totally excited to get started on my unread TBR list and to follow The Unread Shelf Project for ideas to make me accountable.

In addition, I am still participating in The Classics Club, with my third list, which contains many of these unread classics. I am still working through The Well-Educated Mind Histories. And Brona's Moby Dick Readalong wraps up in March.

Remember: Silvia and I will host a read-along through One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Márquez, beginning March 6. This fantastical, symbolic, and complex novel is considered significant Columbian literature. Details coming soon.


Finally - just a sidebar - January, 2020, is this blog's 8th year in existence. I've been blogging since 2012. The idea was born January 1st when I posted my Intro, which has been updated numerous times. But my first post on Don Quixote was made on January 9th. And the rest is history. 


Happy New Reading to You!

Friday, December 27, 2019

2019 Year End Book Wrap Up and Recap

I expected 2019 would be the year of rereads, and I did reread 14 this year. Of the total read, I have discovered new books I definitely would like to reread in the future.

Here are books I read in 2019:

FICTION (10)

Miller: Caroline
Wharton: The Age of Innocence (reread)
Forster: A Room With a View
Cervantes: Don Quixote (reread)
Crane: Red Badge of Courage (reread)
Hardy: The Mayor of Casterbridge
Atwood: The Handmaid's Tale (reread)
Wharton: Ethan Frome
Wharton: The House of Mirth (reread)
Kovaciny: Blizzard at Three Bears Lake

*Still reading, but almost done...
Melville: Moby-Dick (a reread)

Almost every single book on this list was exceptional and memorable and, if possible, I would reread (again, in some cases), except maybe Caroline. I am still mulling over it.

BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR (8)

Ten Boom: The Hiding Place (reread)
Stewart: Letters of a Woman Homesteader
Wurmbrand: Tortured for Christ (reread)
Hillman: I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree
Bainton: Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (reread)
Stewart: Letters on an Elk Hunt
Newzad: My Journey to America
Moore: Inside Out

Excellent stand-out reads here are The Hiding Place, Letters of a Woman Homesteader, and Lilac Tree (for short). Inside Out, Demi Moore's autobiography, was a tragic modern day Lily Bart story. So sad. But at least Moore is still alive.

SORT OF SELF HELP (3)

Carnegie: How to Win Friends and Influence People
Thomas: Change Me
Ross: Jane Austen's Guide to Good Manners

HISTORY (8)

Paine: Common Sense (reread)
Gibbon: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Tocqueville: Democracy in America  (reread)
Marx/Engles: The Communist Manifesto (reread)
Eusebius: The History of the Church
DuBois: The Souls of Black Folk
Guerber: The Story of the Great Republic

Of my history reads, Gibbon's blew me away. But I am pretty sure I will never commit myself to it again.

OTHER NONFICTION (7)

Schaeffer: A Christian Manifesto
Fraser: Prairie Fires
McDowell: The World of Laure Ingalls Wilder
Wiker: The Mystery of the Periodic Table
DeMille: A Thomas Jefferson Education (reread)
Bonhoeffer: God is in the Manger
Bonnett: The True Saint Nicholas

The YA science book, Mystery of the Periodic Table, was fascinating. Fraser's Prairie Fires is like a history/biography, but more like a personal hit piece; it was really intense, though I won't read it again.

PLAYS (3)

Shakespeare: Twelfth Night
Othello
A Midsummer Night's Dream

Of course, Midsummer is amusing, but Othello was my favorite of these three; albeit, quite bloody.

JUVENILE/YA (15)

Uncle Tom's Cabin Young Folks Edition
Cousins: The Boy in the Alamo
Hinton: The Outsiders
Gatty: Parables of Nature
Beesly: Stories From the History of Rome
Curtis: Bud, Not Buddy
Yehoshua: The Story of Crime and Punishment
Carroll: Alice in Wonderland (reread)
Robinett: Forty Acres and a Mule
Smith: The Story of Antigone
Freedman: Children of the Wild West
McCauge: When Cowboys Rode the Chisholm Trail
Medearis: The Princess of the Press: The Story of Ida B. Wells
Coe: The Story of Gulliver
Estes: The Hundred Dresses

If you have children, check out the young edition classics (Crime and Punishment, Antigone, Gulliver) because they are well done, and you have to introduce the classics to your kids. I also enjoyed The Story of Ida B. Wells and look forward to reading more about her in adult formats.

BAILED (4)

Rushdie: The Satanic Verses
Burckhardt: Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (TWEM History)
Wallace: Ben Hur
Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo

Satanic Verses was too cryptic for enjoyable reading and Civilization of the Renaissance was dull and repetitive. I get it...the Italian Renaissance was politically corrupt! And also bloody. I read halfway through Ben Hur and about a third of the way through The Count of Monte Cristo, and neither kept my interest. I had to give them up.

TOTAL READ: 54 BOOKS

Forty was my goal, but from now on fifty will be a safe number for me. I read a lot of books with my kids, and those count.

Unfortunately, I lost inspiration to write later in the year, and several of my books have not been reviewed. The history portion of TWEM has been a disappointment maybe. Oh, well. Carry on.

Overall, I discovered several great new reads, and reread old favorites. It was still a good reading year.

~
How about you: 
Did you discover new favorites? 
Did you surpass your goal? 
Do you see any on my list that you want to read next year? 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Classics Club III


Previous lists:

The Classics Club List I March 2012 to December 2015 Total: 75 classics

The Classics Club List II January 2016 to December 2019 Total: 50 classics

Now it is time for a third challenge. I increased my total because I've reached my previous goals with more than enough time to spare. Since I prefer the classics, I need to commit to reading more. 

The following is only the start of the list, and I expect to add more as the years carry on, until I have reached seventy-five.

Presenting...

The Classics Club List III
Begin January 2020
End December 2024
Total 75 (58 currently)

Fiction

Hardy: 
Under the Greenwood Tree (1872)
A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873)
The Trumpet Major (1880)

Lewis: 
Babbit (1922)

McCullers: 
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940)

Brontë: 
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)

Haley: 
Roots (1976)

Hemingway: 
A Farewell to Arms (1929)
For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)
The Sun Also Rises (1926)

Hugo:
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831)
Les Misérables (1862)

Scott:
Ivanhoe (1819)

Morrison: 
The Bluest Eye (1970)

Tennyson:
Idylls of the King (1859-1885)

Verne: 
Around the World in Eighty Days (1873) (reread)

White:
The Once and Future King (1958)

Twain: 
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) (reread)
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896)
The Prince and the Pauper (1881) (reread, I think)

Austen: 
Sanditon, The Watsons, and Lady Susan (1870s)

Lawrence:
Sons and Lovers (1913)

Marquez: 
One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) (reread)

Malory:
Le Morte d'Arthur, Vol. 1 (1485)

Bédier:
The Romance of Tristan and Iseult (12th c.)

Eliot: 
The Mill on the Floss (1860)
Middlemarch (1871)

Irving: 
Old Christmas (1876)

Somerset: 
Of Human Bondage (1915)

James: 
The Turn of the Screw (1898) (reread, maybe?)

Faulkner: 
The Sound and the Fury (1929)

Collins: 
The Woman in White (1859)

Gaskell: 
Mary Barton (1848)

Achebe: 
Things Fall Apart (1958)

Steinbeck: 
To a God Unknown (1933)

Angelou: 
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969)

Stone:
Love is Eternal (1954)

Sinclair: 
The Jungle (1905)

Adams:
Watership Down (1972)

Dickens:
Bleak House 
David Copperfield

Sinclair:
The Jungle (1906)

Rand:
Atlas Shrugged (1957)

Doyle:
The Complete Sherlock Holmes, vol. II (1880s)
The Sherlock Holmes Mysteries (1880s)

Non-Fiction

Brown: 
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970)

Equiano: 
The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings (1789)

Twain: 
The Innocents Abroad (1869)
Roughing It (1872)

Eastman: 
Indian Boyhood (1902) (reread)

Friedan: 
The Feminine Mystique (1963)

Orwell:
The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)

Polo: 
The Travels of Marco Polo (13th c.)

Douglass: 
My Bondage and My Freedom (1855)

Wells:
Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells (1970)

Brittain:
Testament of Friendship (1940)

Austen:
The History of England (1791)

Melville:
Moby-Dick (1851) (reread)

Plays

Shakespeare: 

Hamlet (1603)

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Completed Classics Club II



The List: The Classics Club II

This is my second completed CC list. I started with 75 but cut it back to 50, which I finished one year early. Maybe I would have been able to read 25 more classics this next year, but I felt like starting fresh.

My absolute favorites from this second list are:

Fiction
The Handmaid's Tale . Atwood
A Room With a View . Forster
Far From the Madding Crowd . Hardy
Jude the Obscure . Hardy
The Mayor of Casterbridge . Hardy
Tess of D'Urbervilles . Hardy
Their Eyes Were Watching God . Hurston
Doctor Zhivago . Pasternak
Ethan Frome . Wharton

Non Fiction
A Room of One's Own . Woolf

History
City of God . Augustine
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire . Gibbon

Beginning 2020, I will start my third CC list.

The New List: The Classics Club III

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Wrap-up Challenge Post: Back-to-the-Classics 2019

I completed 9 of the 12 categories for this year's Back-to-the-Classics Challenge, hosted by Books and Chocolate.



I think my favorite was The Mayor of Casterbridge, and my least favorite was Democracy in America - not that it was awful or that I hated it, but just that it held my attention the least.

1. 19th Century Classic
Democracy in America . Alexis de Tocqueville (1835) 

2. 20th Century Classic
A Room with a View .  E. M. Forster (1908) 

3. Classic by a Woman Author
Ethan Frome. Edith Wharton 

4. Classic Comic Novel
Don Quixote*. Cervantes 

5. Classic Tragic Novel
The Mayor of Casterbridge . Thomas Hardy 

6. Very Long Classic

7. Classic Novella
Red Badge of Courage* . Stephen Crane

8. Classic From a Place You've Lived
The Age of Innocence* . Edith Wharton (NEW YORK) 

9. Classic Play
Othello . Shakespeare 

Contact info: grllopez(at)yahoo(dot)com

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Nonfiction November 2019


Saw a couple of Nonfiction November posts and thought I'd try to participate this year. I am following the initial post via JulzReads. I think I did the Instagram version last year. If you have an account, here are the Instagram categories for 2019:


Week One category is: My Year in Nonfiction



About People
Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland H. Bainton
I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree: A Memoir of a Schindler's List Survivor by Laura Hillman
My Journey to America by Newzad Brifki
Tortured For Christ by Richard Wurmbrand
The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom by Corrie Ten Boom



Pioneer-ish
The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscape That Inspired the Little House Landscape by Marta McDowell
The Wyoming Ranch Letters by Elinore Pruitt Stewart
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Steward
West From Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder



Histories
The Story of the Great Republic by Hélène A. Guerber
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
The Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau

Political
The Communist Manifesto and Other Writings by Karl Marx
Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
Common Sense by Thomas Paine


Educational
A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders by Oliver DeMille

Religious/Relational
A Christian Manifesto by Francis A. Schaeffer
Change Me: The Ultimate Life-Change Handbook by Rick Thomas
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick
The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis

 

Juvenile (but not)
Children of the Wild West by Russell Freedman
When Cowboys Rode the Chisholm Trail by James McCague
The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin Wiker
Princess of the Press: The Story of Ida B. Wells-Barnett by Angela Shelf Medearis
Stories from the History of Rome by Mrs. Beesly

Questions:
What was your favorite nonfiction of the year? 
My absolute favorite was I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree by Laura Hill. An extremely close second was Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt. Also, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom is an all-time favorite.

Do You have a particular topic you have been attracted to this year?
Many of my book choices were based on reading challenges, so they center on history or Christian-themed; however, pioneer books stood out because of my interest in that area.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?
I have recommended both I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree and Letters of a Woman Homesteader, with great success! I guess I know what my best reading buddy likes.

And more about these books listed in this post...
I would also recommend The Mystery of the Periodic Table to those curious about chemistry. What a fantastic little read through scientific history. (And I have very little interest in science.)

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is massive, but worth it. If you like reading about the Romans, you should commit to this for a year.

The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder is beautiful. If you love nature and gardening, and don't live in the barren desert like I do, you may enjoy taking a look at this book.

If you like lists, especially book lists...you may like to see the one at the end of A Thomas Jefferson Education. 

Finally, not that I would recommend the particular title I read to my kids, but if you have an interest in women in history - trailblazers, women of AMAZING courage -  I would suggest reading about Ida B. Wells. My kids and I read a juvenile version of her life...and I was so inspired, I bought a biography and her journal to read next year. I cannot wait! IDA B. WELLS! Check her out!

***

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

The Communist Manifesto
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
Published 1848

Oh, joy. I get to review this book. 

First...Should you read this book?

If you are a champion of Communism or Socialism, you better read it because it is one of the foundational books of such philosophies, and you better know what you argue, just as a Christian should know his Bible. 

If you are curious...it is super short, rather empty and, in my opinion, dated. Some have considered it dull and boring. It is not riveting reading, and personally, Marx does not impress me. 

Now, for more important points:

I hate Communism/Socialism. I lump them together because they are cousins. One leads to the other, and it is all the same: another failed attempt at utopia. Both philosophies hate individual liberties, loathe freedom of anything, and despise religion, specifically God (the Creator). Furthermore, both ideologies have a very poor understanding of human nature or man. 

Marx and Engels recognized that there was a universal, distinct class struggle between two groups of people: the bourgeoise (business owner) and the proletariat (worker). The bourgeoise were considered selfish and greedy; the workers were poor, innocent, and oppressed. The bourgeoise also manipulated the governing class in order to get what they wanted and to easily control the workers. (Sound familiar?)

By publishing the Manifesto, the authors hoped to unite workers all over the world and overthrow the bourgeoise. They wanted to incite a violent, bloody revolution. Hence, they wrote this public declaration, published in many languages, and distributed it immediately. It flopped. Unfortunately, it survived and is still feeding man's confusion today.

While the authors were correct about class struggle and distinction, their terrible solution was to take the property (capital, business) away from the Bourgeoise and transfer it to the workers. Essentially, it would be publicly owned, but really it would be controlled by the State (the governing class). 

Other terrible ideas included:
  • State control of and free education for all children;
  • End of child labor;
  • State controlled distribution of the population; end of town, county, and city distinctions;
  • State control of factories and manufacturing and production;
  • State control of the environment and agriculture;
  • State control of the bank;
  • End of personal and private inheritance;
  • Heavy progressive income tax;
  • No private property; the State owns the land!

WOW! That looks strangely familiar. 

That's because my government, in America, land of the free, has adopted many of these ideas. 

So I ask you...have we eliminated the problem of class distinction or struggle, yet? Have we eliminated poverty? Have we eliminated inequality? 

No. No we have not. And we will never eliminate class struggle or poverty or inequality, especially by handing control or power to the elite group in a centralized government.

Communism has proven to be the worst thing to ever happen to society, to personal liberty, and to individual creativity. The end result has been utter destruction. It has been said that the only equality  Communism creates is the equal distribution of misery. Like Tocqueville said - my paraphrase: man has always tried to force equality, but he complicates matters. Better to preserve liberty because you cannot have equality without liberty.

Recently, my kids and I saw a theater production of Newsies, a musical inspired by the true events of the Newsies Strike, of 1899. The poor young workers were striking against the greedy, wealthy newspaper owners, who raised the price of the paper for distribution; but I was most struck by the comment made by one character who declared that it wasn't a sin to be poor; they just wanted what was fair. They were not asking beyond that - only what was reasonable. 

It is not a sin to be poor. And society will always have the poor with them. We will never have equal circumstances or equal outcomes, let alone inputs. No matter how much government has control, we will still have inequality, poverty, and class struggles; we will never have a perfect society or utopia. 

The best society is a free society. And Communism is not it.



Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton

Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther
Roland H. Bainton
Published 1955

This was a reread for me. I like this biography about Martin Luther because the author, Roland Bainton, used perfectly plain language in a coherent, sequential format. 

Luther was one of the most unyielding workers of the Christian faith. Because Bainton was honest about Luther's emotional and psychological struggles, his sinful weaknesses, and health complications, this biography caused me to truly appreciate all Luther sacrificed, risked, and ultimately contributed to the Reformation and Christianity. 


Luther Nails 95 Thesis or Disputations
on the Power of Indulgences  ~ 
Pauwels

Imagine! This one man changed the Church because he dared to speak out against what he understood to be abuses of the Roman Church. He had to have known what happened to those before him when they spoke against the same Church. But he only thought about correcting a wrong, almost as if the offenders were not aware of their offense. And to think, he got these notions in his head because he read the Scriptures. Because Luther was a professor of the Word, he had to read the Scriptures to teach it; and it was then that his eyes were opened.

It's amazing what reading the Bible can do.

Imagine, also! This one man caused a political and social domino effect throughout Europe, and eventually the entire world. This book does not focus on the time past Luther's death, but I just had to add that bit because I think it would amaze Luther to see what he did beyond religion. He changed society completely.

Luther at the Diet of Worms ~ Werner, 1877

Continuing on, this book covered Luther's entire life, from birth, 1483, to death, 1546. Everything in between is described in perfect detail, including the beginnings of the new reformed church, or Protestant Church -- meaning, a turning back to the ways of the early Church. Luther never expected or imagined he would need to reform the Christian church, but followers looked to him, and hence, he needed to research, problem solve, and form a model for the future. 

Some of the new ideas from Luther included more music and singing, which eventually changed the secular world of music; and since music was written only for the church, which was absolutely restrictive, Luther caused classical music as we know it! (OK, I added that last part. But I think one can see the connection.)

Luther married, Katharina Von Bora, an ex-nun. Bainton also wrote considerably about her life and influences, which caused me to understand what an amazing woman she was. She had to put up with Luther's troubles, and he loved her very much for her patience and goodness. Together, they give Christians a delightful picture of God's design for marriage. 

Bainton included evidence for Luther's personality, much of it sarcastic and humorous, although he could be grouchy and short-fused. Nonetheless, he loved his wife and children dearly, and set a perfect example for a godly husband and father in the home. He was a hard worker and he cared so much for the souls of others, working to educate and inform people the truth of the gospel. 


Martin Luther, Katarina von Bora and children

Side bar: Three years ago, while reading about Luther with my children, we learned that he and Katarina had six children. I have five kids, and my fourth, who was 8-years old at the time, exclaimed, "Wow! You should be glad you were not his wife!"

The stuff that comes out of that kid's mouth!

Should you read this book?

If you like Christian biographies, Christian history, or you don't mind the Christian part, but appreciate history and biographies, or anything about people who have had a major impact on the world, and if you are a fan of Roland Bainton, then this would be a good book for you.

I would read this again, but I think I'm going to look at other books written by Roland Bainton.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville


Democracy in America
Alexis de Tocqueville
Published 1835-40

Democracy in America is almost 1000 pages long. The author, French politician Alexis de Tocqueville, visited America, in 1831-32, to study its penitentiaries and judicial system. While there, he made political and social observations, hoping to help France transition from an aristocracy to a democracy. Tocqueville also visited Britain and made similar observations, believing that France was moving toward a democracy like America, not a constitutional monarchy, as in Britain.

The County Election ~ Bingham, 1852
With the size of this work, written in two parts, you can imagine there were countless topics throughout, including liberty, equality, patriotism, social conditions and political society, elections, freedom of the press, individualism, slavery, and Native Americans. Part II covered democracy and how it affected religion, science, literature, art, education, civility, manners, and equality between men and women.

Independence ~ Meyer, 1858
For a while, I was confused what the author thought about democracy; sometimes I was not sure if he liked it or not. Then I learned that he was concerned that his nation of France may ignore the dangers of democracy, and he wanted to be sure that the country avoided these mistakes. That is why he carefully observed society during his visit to the United States because he thought the new, young  democratic nation was headed in the right direction. In fact, he wrote candidly about the drawbacks to democracy, but he believed that if applied properly - if a government and its people found the happy medium - democracy would ensure liberty and equality.

Stump Speaking ~ Bingham, 1854
Again, this is an essential work in the world of political science, especially for democratic nations, or those nations that consider themselves democratic and free. I think the author's honesty and warnings about democracy's weaknesses are relevant. But I wonder if anyone is listening anymore.

I will leave you with this...an observation that rang throughout: man would rather have equality than personal liberty, and that is what Tocqueville was concerned about. He wrote:
At such times men pounce upon equality as their booty, and they cling to it as to some precious treasure which they fear to lose. The passion for equality penetrates on every side into men's hearts, expands there, and fills them entirely. Tell them not that by this blind surrender of themselves to an exclusive passion they risk their dearest interest; they are deaf. Show them not freedom escaping from their grasp, whilst they are looking another way: they are blind -- or rather, they can discern but one sole object to be desired in the universe. 
I'm with Tocqueville. I'll take individual liberty over equality anytime! Because you cannot have equality unless you have liberty...not the other way around. 

Should you read this?

If you like political and social science, government, or American and European history (particularly France and England), and you don't mind committing to 1000 pages, then this would be worth your time.

I do not plan to ever read this again, unless my interests change; but I doubt it. I was so glad to be done with it. Whew.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Dilemmas of a Book Nerd "Tag"




Dilemmas of a Book Nerd "Tag"
(I am borrowing this from Sharon Goforth)

  • Storage: How do you store and organize your books?
In bookcases. One in my bedroom, one in my living room, and one in my school room.

The books in my bedroom include my husband's books, books of political and social topics, books about Italians, and two shelves for books on education, homeschooling, nature, and book or reading lists.

The one in my living room is organized by classic fiction, contemporary fiction, American history, ancient and other history, Christian history, poetry, biographies, plays, and children's books. All of my fiction is alphabetized by author's last name, while history I try to keep organized by time period. 



The books in my school room are living books for learning (that means NO TEXTBOOKS), and they are organized by historical time periods, or topic, such as music, poetry, geography, etc.
  • Tracing: How do you keep track of what books you read and what books you own?
I use Goodreads and Bookly. Earlier this year I bought an app to catalogue my books and spent all summer scanning them in - over 500 of them - though it took longer than expected because most of them had to be entered manually. Then, a week ago, I bought a new phone, and POOF, the library catalogue vanished. All that work could not be recovered. So I'm trying to find a way to utilize only Goodreads to keep track of those books I own, so that I do not duplicate any when I am out hunting for new books. I made a label called "own," and I must remember to remove the label if I get rid of the book, which sometimes happens. 
I just started using Bookly, which keeps track of books I've read, as well as statistics on how long I read or how long it took to read a book, and other interesting, though not important stats. (Above are some of its features.)
  • Borrow: Do you lend your books out?
There is one friend whom I swap books with because she is an ardent reader like me. She is so careful with my books and always returns them. I would rather not lend to anyone else because I hate having to ask years later for the book. A few times, I kissed that one goodbye and bought another copy. 
  • Buying: How do you buy or acquire your books?
Most books I buy used from library sales. I have purchased used books from Amazon.com for one penny. Yes, books would sell for one penny, plus $3 shipping! Obviously those prices have increased. I also shop our local used book store where books are $2 each. 

Rarely do I buy new books, like from Barnes and Noble, unless I get a gift card, or I fall in love with a book and I want a brand new copy. 
  • How do you respond to "How do you read so much" and other similar comments?
I do not know the last time asked me or if I answered them. I would probably disagree because I could read a lot more, but sometimes I have to sleep instead. I only read up to 50 books a year (and ten of those are usually children's books that I read with my kids.)
  • Next book: How do you choose your next read?
Toward the end of the year, I make a list of books - ones I own but have not read - that I want to read next year. I try to stick with it. Sometimes my next book is on The Well-Trained Mind list, and since I have committed to it, I must follow it. Unless it's terrible, then I will stop reading it and go to the next one. If a book feels like bad medicine, I may not start it at all. Sometimes I am inspired by another blogger's review of a book, and I will commit myself to read it ASAP. 
  • Travel: How do you pick which book to take on vacay with you?
I choose a short book - I have done this before: The Catcher in the Rye - and read it on the road or when we're just sitting around because that's what you do on vacation. It has to be something short and slim, not like War and Peace. Too much commitment. 
  • Annotate: Do you write in or mark up your books in any way?
Do I write in books? I deface my poor books! I argue with the author! I'll have it out with a character! I add stars and underlines and notes in the margins. I cannot read without a pen in my hand. That's why, if I fall in love with a book, I may consider buying a new copy so that it doesn't look like one of these:


  • New or back list: Which do you prefer?
Since I am stuck in the classics, I'm a back list reader. I don't know much about new authors or new titles. Occasionally, I have purchased new books as they have been released, like by Eric Metaxas.
  • Sequels: Do you read books as they are released or do you wait for an entire series to be released?
Again, I rarely know about new releases, but if books come in a series, I suppose I would read them as they were released, as opposed to waiting for them to be available at once. 

Tag people: If you feel inclined to participate, guess what? You've been tagged!