Book Chat October 2015

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Book Chat book reviews contain affiliate links.

I borrowed Making the Rounds: Memoirs of a Small-Town Doctor from a friend. Her husband’s mother had been Dr. Miller’s head nurse for several years, and Dr. Miller’s daughter recently worked with him to write this memoir. They live in the county where I taught for 8 years, which made the subject matter interesting to me as well.

Dr. Miller practiced family medicine in the small town of Markle, Indiana, from 1964 – 2006. This book was a sweet look back at what medical practice used to look like, with house calls and doctors who knew their patients well, interacting with them in the community. Dr. Miller recalls that when he and his partner set up practice, they charged $4 for an office visit. His predecessor charged the same amount, but also included any prescribed medicines in that fee. Can you imagine!!?

He mentions the various animal last names of some patients: Bear, Fox, Wolf, Beaver. I am assuming these are a carry-over from Indian times? As I thought about it, I remembered students I had taught with each of those last names (or in the case of Bear, that’s my friend’s last name!)

I enjoyed the style of the book, with various quotes used such as this one by C. S. Lewis: “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see,” in closing a chapter on delivering babies, or this quote on faith by Hoosier author Gene Stratton Porter: “In the economy of nature nothing is ever lost. I cannot believe that the soul of man shall prove the one exception.”

Making the Rounds Gerald Miller


This was just a fun romp along memory lane. It made me homesick for the “good ol’ days” when people like Doctor Miller volunteered to travel with the local high school teams to events to be the team doctor, and for small towns like Markle, where everybody knew each other and there were official “town grumps” and other fun eccentricities. Very enjoyable read.



I enjoy listening to Glenn Beck on the radio most mornings. I had heard him talking about his new book, It IS About Islam: Exposing the Truth About ISIS, Al Qaeda, Iran, and the Caliphate, and wanted to read it.

The book begins with a history of Islam, and to be honest it was a challenge to stay focused here. There are only so many names like Ihsanoglu, al-Qaradawi, and Tamimi that I can read before glazing over.

I’ve often heard commentators say that the word “Islam” means “peace.” Actually, the book says, “salam” is the word for peace, Islam means submission. Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes: “these are 2 distinct words with unrelated meanings.”

Christianity and Judaism began as persecuted minorities of believers, but Islam has almost always been associated with power and conquest.

The next part of the book was more interesting to me; each chapter is a “lie” we have been told about Islam. For instance: “Jihad is a peaceful, internal struggle, not a war against infidels.” Many details and quotes from the Koran follow, showing that this is not true. For Muslims, they see their violent actions as defensive. When Muslims massacred staff at Charlie Hebdo after the magazine ran a comic featuring the Prophet, the assassins saw their actions as justified — they were not going on the offensive, but were defending the Prophet.

Another lie: “Most Muslims don’t really want to live under Sharia law.” A 2013 Pew poll of 40,000 Muslims reveals that many actually do. 99% of those in Afghanistan do want to live under Sharia law (Sharia law is the most stringent reading of the Koran, which features cutting off hands, stonings, etc). In Iraq, it’s 91%, and so on. Some sharia courts have now been established in America. Trust me, if you think our courts based on the Constitution are bad, a court based on sharia law is far worse.

Another lie: “Islam is tolerant toward non-Muslims.” According to the Koran: “And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.” Okay then.

The book describes a disturbing tenet of Islam called “taqqiya” — lying for the sake of Islam. This means that it is acceptable for Muslims to lie (about nuclear weapons, treaties, intents, ANYTHING) if the lie advances the cause of Islam. Obviously it’s a little dicey trying to negotiate with people who have this belief. I just kept thinking of the US’s recent nuclear treaty with Iran. A good point is that, while in the US we have our famous separation between church and state, no such idea exists in Muslim countries. Muslim/Sharia belief infiltrates government policies to a large extent.

I also read about how Islam and US first amendment free speech rights conflict. The US animated TV show South Park planned an episode with Mohammed as a character. The outcry over this from Muslims was so great that the network decided against it. “We can do whatever we want to Jesus, and we have,” said the show’s creator. “We’ve had him say bad words. We’ve had him shoot a gun. We’ve had him kill people. We can do whatever we want. But Mohammed, we couldn’t just show a simple image.” Hmmmm. And lest you think only a few Muslims feel this way, when asked, “Do you believe that criticism of Islam or Muhammad should be permitted under the Constitution’s First Amendment?” 58% of US Muslims surveyed replied, “no.” 58 percent.

Small quibble — the book mentions a muslim academic project at “the University of Indiana.” Ummm, that’s my alma mater, and it’s “Indiana University.” Small thing, I know, but in an academic-type book, these things should be correct.

Scholarly, scary book, but one I feel like many people should read. Our eyes need to be open as to what is going on in our world.


Wet Desert Cover

Several years ago, we visited Hoover Dam on vacation. It was huge,  and I was fascinated by the brief history of it that I learned while touring. Imagine — what if someone blew a hole in the dam?

That’s the premise of Wet Desert (well, the targeted dam in this book is not Hoover, but Glen Canyon). We follow Grant from the Bureau of Reclamation around as he travels downriver, watching the Colorado River rise to scarily-high levels at town after town, dam after dam. Floods occur. People die. Hikers are out of luck; boaters stranded. 

There are so many facts in Wet Desert that I figured it had to have been written by an engineer, and it is. I enjoyed this book overall, although I see it as more of a read for the tech-fan (lots of specifics: “the lake will remain greater than 500,000 cubic feet per second until late this evening, approximately 9 p.m.” — hey, is this a book or a story problem?). I also think it would be interesting for someone who lives out west, particularly along the Colorado River, since so many places are mentioned by name. I appreciated the lack of profanity in the book. It was well-written overall, although the editor in me did notice a few things I wish I could change: “the shaking in his hands gradually resided” — “with they’re mouths” — etc.

If you’re into nature, the Colorado River, etc., I think you’ll enjoy Wet Desert.

9 thoughts on “Book Chat October 2015

  1. Making the Rounds reminded me of something I have long had here. I will dig it out and if you would appreciate it, I will give it to you. It would make for an interesting post. I have a few things I’ve been keeping tucked away in the event I have a grandchild who becomes a doctor.
    Good work as usual in your book reviews!

  2. Foreign names make it hard for me to stay focused too. Especially when there are so many in a single book. That’s one reason I had to read Spark Notes when I read Anna Karenina and Brothers Karamazov this year—so many Russian names that I couldn’t even pronounce in my head.
    Nonetheless, Glenn Beck’s book sounds interesting!

  3. I’d like to read the doctor book. I haven’t read Beck’s book, but a reminder: The Koran can be as misused and as taken out of context as the Bible. I haven’t read his book so I don’t know if he did any of this–I’m not saying he did. Just a reminder from a librarian that we need to go back to the primary source if we question something.

    “University of Indiana” is the kind of thing that makes me nuts today. Just because Spell Check said it’s o.k. doesn’t mean a book shouldn’t be reviewed by human eyes before they push “print.” Lots of that kind of thing today.

  4. Lisa, I do think Beck’s book was researched well. He gives many quotes from the Koran, and it seemed to me that he took pains to put things into context. Of course I’m not a muslim so I can’t speak from that perspective, but the book didn’t seem purposely slanted “pro-Christian” to me at all.

  5. The Glenn Beck book sounds interesting – I’m interested in learning more about Islam and the different sects. Finding a book that provides a balanced view is always a good thing.

    Making the Rounds sounds so good – I love cozy, memorable stories like that.

  6. I would love “Making the Rounds.” I would strongly dislike Glenn Beck’s book, because I realize it’s only a matter of time until Islam has taken over America, and having lived in Africa, I don’t want to think about that happening.

  7. I am putting Making The Rounds on my to read list. I love medical type stuff, and small town back in the day kind of stuff absolutely intrigues….probably why I like historical fiction as much as I do.

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