A log of some books I've actually made it to the end of.
Funeral Rights - Robert Larkins
Thunderball - Ian Fleming
The Rip Curl Story - Tim Baker
Mr Eternity - Roy Williams with Elizabeth Meyers - (2017) - AcornPress
Interesting biography of that guy who wandered the streets of Sydney writing "Eternity" in chalk. So much so that, amazingly, it became written on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in fireworks for NYE the turn of the millenium (2000). The old history of Sydney stuff, circa 1900, is naturally fascinating to a local. Well written and well researched. I certainly give it a thumbs up to Christians, and drunks, familiar with Sydney. Non-christians with a connection to Sydney or colonial history might fare well. Others, I'd wait for them to ask before offering my opinion.
Treasure Islands - Pamela Stephenson - (2005) - Headline
I owe the author an apology because in Chapter One I decided this was written by a "ghost writer" and could not shake the idea the whole way through. In hindsight, perhaps just a good editor. Curiously, I did actually make it to the end of this one. Not rapidly, but the insights into life on the tiny islands of the Pacific did manage to keep me interested. It is also an odd insight into the life of the "rich and famous", and far more real than all that crap you get in the media; Pamela is married to Billy Connelly, the comedian, and takes a fair chunk of money to put together a luxury yacht with a paid crew and sail it in a retracing of a voyage by author Robert Louis Stevenson, one hundred and twenty years before. The parallel stories are quite clumsy but the read would be vastly different without as they manage to add so much context to the places they visit, and motivation to do it, and what path to take.
It is neither great literature nor rollicking sailing yarn, but curious and unique, and able to stand on its own two legs.
The Hunger Games and Philosophy - (2012) - Wiley
Silence - Shusaku Endo - (1966) - Picador
Novel about a catholic missionary to Japan in the 1600s. It was short and very easy to read with a light whimsical quality; somewhat like one of those Japanese 'Death Poems'. It was also a waste of time.
I struggled with the theology, or lack of it, or perhaps the curious fixation upon Roman Catholic failings (to my Protestant eyes) of ornaments, ceremony, and the stations of the cross in absence of any teaching or theology. They were probably quite representative of the period, but the theme of the book was lost on me; I failed to relate with the protagonist, instead constantly urging him to forego his cermonies and symbols, and instead to preach the ideas, concepts, and ressurection of the gospel. Why doesn't he just stomp on the symbols, as the powers desire, thence spread the power of ideas?
The climax occurs when the Priest 'apostatizes', stomps on an image of Jesus, in order to save some peasants from excruciating torture and death. The title chosen is 'silence'. Is the author presenting the 'silence' of God, in the face of terrible suffering, as evidence that there is no God? Or that the missionary, by sacrificing himself (in denouncing Jesus) to save the others, has fulfilled his role and followed in Jesus' footsteps? I didn't really get which. You can certainly find better books on theology, and better books on Japanese life in the 1600s. Maybe one of the three movies drawn from this novel are time better spent than actually reading it?
"David Mitchell" (English Author?) is quoted on the cover, "One of the finest historical novels written by anyone anywhere... flawless". Certainly he should be thrown in the pit himself and tortured for this gross overstatement.
Prayer: Experiencing awe and intimacy with God - Timothy Keller - Hodder & Stoughton
A very cerebral and structured examination of prayer broken into two halves: first he studies basic questions like what is prayer, why do it, what does it look like, some history and more objective aspects. Second is a study of the subjective work of actually praying: what, where, how, etc.
I've been struggling to get through this book. It is great to examine the topic objectively as he does, but perhaps the style of writing is not for me: as I read I notice myself flicking ahead to see how many more pages in the chapter, then flicking back to recall the context of the words in hand. I think it is a crucial topic, so am very motivated to read it, but nonetheless it is gathering dust with a bookmark still in the middle somewhere.
Structured and pragmatically academic; not yet complete.
Groundswell: The Christian Surfers Story - Brett Davis - (2012) - SelfPublished
A lot of what is described in the early years, and chapters, of this read was occuring not far from where I myself was, and the people I knew at the time, or do now. So it was quite naturally very interesting to me. "Wow, I know that guy" and "That was about the time I..." were fairly common thoughts, so I expect my appreciation of the content will be different to others.
The opening third of this autobiography (effectively) was poignant and moving as the young Brett Davis commits himself to God and the mission, and forms a revolutionary counter-culture. It's a great read.
Then as the organisation gets established and more people come to bear the story itself suffers. It devolves into a catalogue of who was who and what they were doing. Whilst it is commendable to give everyone credit, it becomes dull reading. There are snippets of people's stories as the movement becomes international, but interesting as they are, they are necessarily superficial. Fortunately it closes strong by returning to longer personal journeys.
A fascinating start. A grind through the middle. A nice flourish to finish.
The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - Rob Mundle - (2019) - HarperCollins
Started strong with a fascinating story of some sailors who got together for an ocean cruise, and how that morphed into the great race that we have today. Thence it extracts the essence of the drama from year on year. Does well for a time, but somewhere along the way the weather turns and it becomes a tortuous upwind slog; just grinding out the catalogue of line honours and handicap winners. My advice to readers: turn up for a colourful start, but dock at Bega, or wherever the going gets tough, and abandon it there.
D-day. Through German Eyes - Holger Eckhertz - (2015) - Amazon
Excellent. By focusing on their personal experience of D-Day we get rare insights into exactly what was like to be a soldier in combat and, most interestingly, attitudes, points-of-view, and even the people around them. Like the workmen from the East, and what happened to the Russians, the gamble of allegiance the French had to make, the 'Fortress Europe' justification, the shock at how determined the Allied soldiers were to kill them, the great imbalance of available resources and more. Personal experiences recorded within 10 years of the events (~1955) but not released until recently.
Riddle of the sands - Erskine Childers - (1903) - Wikipedia
Meh. It held my interest. I was intrigued by how one can write a whole book from what is effectively a bit of floating around some sandy shallows in a small boat. I can understand how it became popular as a boys own adventure story, as that is what it is. I'm into sailing so that captured me. The narrative was odd and irritating at first, but I came to rather like it by the end. So very Proper. I was surprised that war between Germany/Britain was being forecast ten years before it happened.
Stranger No More - Annahita Parsan/Graig Borlase - (2017) - Amazon
Harrowing autobiography of an Iranian mother and her escape from domestic abuse and Iran in the late 1980s.