Book Chat

This month’s book reviews:

Fahrenheit 451Fahrenheit 451 is a classic I hadn’t read. My 15-year-old daughter really enjoyed it, so I read her library copy after she finished. Written in 1953, it describes a dystopian world long before “The Hunger Games” made that phrase popular. Seriously, several times as I read it I’d think This is like the Hunger Games — but “Fahrenheit 451” was around for decades before HG had even been thought of. It’s the story of Montag, a fireman living in a time when firemen start fires rather than putting them out.

But Montag does something dangerous: he starts thinking. It bothers him that he’s going around setting things — specifically, books — on fire. It took some man a lifetime maybe to put some of his thoughts down, looking around at the world and life, and then I come along in two minutes and boom! It’s all over … We need to be really bothered once in a while.

The head fireman senses Montag’s wariness, and he explains things to him: We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal … a book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?

The book is filled with things that must have seemed impossible back in the early 1950’s when it was written, but which are now quite real: people listening to voices and music through “shells” in their ears, whole-wall televisions.

One of the treats of the book is the incredible writing, full of phrases and monologues that just make you think:

  • “You ask why to a lot of things and you wind up very unhappy indeed, if you keep at it.”
  • “Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy. Any man who can take a TV wall apart and put it back together again, and most men can, nowadays, is happier than any man who tries to slide-rule, measure, and equate the universe, which just won’t be measured or equated without making man feel bestial and lonely.”
  • “There were a lot of lovely books once, before we let them go.”
  • “Everyone nowadays knows, absolutely is certain, that nothing will ever happen to me. Others die, I go on. There are no consequences and no responsibilities. Except that there are. But let’s not talk about them, eh? By the time the consequences catch up with you, it’s too late, isn’t it?”
  • “You can’t make people listen. They have to come ’round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up under them. It can’t last.”

See? So many parallels to our current day. Read it for the amazing foresight Bradbury had. Read it for the language. Just read it!

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Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don't Agree With

Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With was the perfect book for me to read as the mom of tweens/teens. Because one thing you learn when your kids get older is that … newsflash! They’re not you! As my oldest said when she was a toddler to my dad when he offered to bring her food from a buffet: “Papaw, I have my own ideas!”

As they get older, they have more and more of their own ideas. How should parents deal with it when those ideas are different from ours? And sometimes not just different, but possibly immoral or illegal? That’s the question this book attempts to answer.

The author explores the topic with Biblical references and also by referencing her experiences with her own daughter, who even contributed various anecdotes to the book.

I found the book just okay. The information given was fine overall; it just wasn’t a “wow” for me. And at times I felt a bit exasperated at the author. First, I’m not sure how wise it was of her to write a book about “problem kids,” basically telling us that one of hers was such a child. Then at the end, she gives updates on the many families she mentions in the book. One child is in homeless, another chronically unemployed. Her own child? Will soon graduate with a master’s degree and recently gave the parents hand-made cards telling them that they’re her heroes and how she loves them. Way to rub it in to parents whose kids are in the far country!

Eh, I could take or leave this one.

Thanks to BookSneeze for a review copy.
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North of Hope

I read North of Hope: A Daughter’s Arctic Journey thanks to Zondervan’s review program. It’s the story of Shannon Polson, whose father and stepmother were killed in a grizzly bear attack while camping in northern Alaska.  A year after this, Polson travels to Alaska herself to retrace their journey and attempt to come to terms with their deaths.

The book is really beautifully written, and I feel like Shannon and I would be quite similar — of an intellectual bent, introverts, and music lovers (she weaves a performance of Mozart’s Requiem — one of my favorite musical pieces — throughout the book). It is heavy, deep reading — you won’t want to bring this one to the beach. You’ll feel like you’re actually in the wilds of Alaska while reading it. The book moved me to tears several times, even as part of it confused me. Polson hardly mentions her mom, who divorced her dad when she was around 12, I think. Sure, the book is focused on her dad, but it seems almost as if she has no remaining parent. She also throws her brother (who took the trip with her) under the bus — and according to what she describes in the book, perhaps that’s for a reason. Still, this seemed a little odd and I wondered how he and their other traveling companion (who doesn’t come off well, either) reacted to this book.

Finally, this seemed like a strange offering coming from Zondervan, a Christian publisher. While focusing heavily on death and grief, there’s little to no mention of heaven. Just things like “Grief washed over me, but our faith teaches that …” The faith aspect was touched on only lightly, and that portion of the book felt a bit forced to me. Then, ending with an afterward urging the US to decrease its dependence on oil yanked my chain a bit, and seemed an ugly distraction from the beauty of Polson’s earlier writing.

Recommended, overall.

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9 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. I recently listened to Fahrenheit 451 on audiobook, and I agree – it’s a fantastically well-written book. The classics are classics for a reason, eh? :)

  2. HA! Well, I missed yours from last month somehow so I’m GLAD you accidentally re-linked it! Otherwise I wouldn’t know about The Boy in the Striped Pajamas!

    So for this month I think Love No Matter What looks like a great book for all parents to read at any point during their child’s life!

  3. I didn’t read Fahrenheit 451 until my daughter was reading it also. But I’m glad I finally did. Really makes you think, yes? Those on-the-wall TVs really made a impression on me. :-)

    Thanks for your honest reviews. They help me in deciding what to read or not read.

  4. As Carrie, said, I’m glad you linked last month’s post because somehow I had missed that one!

    Fahrenheit 451 is one of those classes I keep meaning to get to but haven’t yet. My oldest son really liked it.

    Love No Matter What looks like a mixed deal. I like the title, and have had to wrestle with kids choosing differently from what they’ve been taught or would I would have chosen for them, so it sounds like that basic message would be good, to still love them and keep the lines of communication open.

  5. They all look interesting! I loved Fahrenheit 451 but I didn’t read it till i was an adult myself.

    Elizabeth from 5MFB

  6. North of Hope looks so neat! I want to read that one now.
    I haven’t yet read Fahrenheit 451, but I should. Looks like you have some good stuff lined up.

  7. I’m not sure any of these would be my cup of tea. But thanks for reviewing them.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing from you.