Friday, October 30, 2009
Illustrated by Eric Heliot
Sterling Publishing - Children's (Ages 7 and up)
Constance and Tiny look sweet and innocent on that cover, don't they? Constance is, however, a little hellion. Her giant cat, Tiny, is equally rambunctious and shares in the terror. Much like Rotten Ralph, Horrid Henry or Dennis the Menace, Constance is a little girl who only knows how to behave badly.
In Constance and Tiny, we meet the pair and Constance describes her life:
My name is Constance.
I live in an evil mansion.
It's my parents' house.
They are terrible people -
unfair and mean!
With these words, we see a lovely little house with a pool, flowers blooming, Constance peering out of a window looking sullen and a smiling set of parents handing Constance a gift tied with red ribbon. It continues in the same vein, Constance's words always a stunning and hilarious contradiction to the illustrations.
Eventually, Constance steals some money from her mother's purse and runs away from home with Tiny, but they're "captured" (by the police), taken to "their hideaway" (officers are shown handing Constance some candy) and then "they tried to suffocate me" (her parents show up and give her a hug -- little red hearts exploding over their heads). Oh, those diabolical parents. The book ends with the words, "It's exhausting being good all the time!"
I've never been a huge fan of rude, rotten child characters, but I have to admit that I find the contrast between words and illustrations in this book charming and funny.
Constance and the Great Escape is a continuation of this series by French author Pierre Le Gall and illustrator Eric Hieliot.
In Constance and the Great Escape, Constance's troublesome behavior and pranks at school get her into so much trouble that she's sent to Jolly Boarding School without her "adorable little cat", Tiny. Constance quickly realizes that Jolly Boarding School is all about discipline and rules. In order to "escape", she decides she must behave like the perfect student.
Constance grins maniacally as she bathes with ice-cold water, calls her breakfast of boiled oats and prune juice "tasty", smiles as the class practices discipline with a run uphill . . . in short, she behaves like a perfect little angel. The headmistress calls her parents to request that they take her home. "You have wasted my time!" she says. "This is not the place for your child. We are busy with difficult children here."
As they pack up to leave, Constance peers into the the office of the headmistress, where she has left a little gift -- a bucket of water attached to a rope with a candle slowly burning against the rope, a tack on the chair upon which the headmistress is about to sit. "Now that's a child who seems to be on the right path," says the headmistress. The book closes with a picture of Constance cuddling with her humongous cat. "No one can separate me from Tiny, my adorable little cat," she says.
I feel so fortunate to be able to review books like Constance and Tiny. My half-blind kitty is not currently posing for photographs, due to her funky eye, although I did sit with her to read the two books. You can view a slide show of Constance and Tiny images at the Sterling Books website to get a nice view of the illustrations.
5/5 - I can easily visualize myself reading these books over and over and over to little ones or imagine seeing young readers curling up with them on their own (they're great for early readers).
My thanks to Sterling Books for the review copies! This is post #2 for Children's Book Day! I was going to write three posts but the other two books came to me unsolicited and the more I look at them the more I'm unsure what to say about them or whether I even like them, so I'll stop with those reviews of the three books I really loved.
Henry Holt and Company - Children's (I'd say this one's good for a broad range - maybe 4-12)
It's Children's Day at Bookfoolery!!
In tiny print on the cover of Christian the Lion, you may be able to see the words "Based on the best-selling true story!" I'm guessing that simply means the story has been boiled down to children's size (as opposed to, "We fictionalized this sucker") because it is known to be the true story of two men who bought a lion cub at Harrod's in London, raised it in their home and then released Christian in Africa. The video of the two men reuniting with Christian went viral on YouTube, not that long ago.
Christian the Lion is a lovely, lovely book and a tender, poignant true story. The layout looks like a scrapbook, with numerous black and white photographs that show the story of Christian from the time of his adoption to the final photos as Christian broke into a run and then "hugged" one of the men. Text and backgrounds are creatively and neatly placed, clearly written and simple enough to read to a fairly young child but not so babyish that an older child who loves animals should feel put off.
The slipcover is gorgeous, shiny, and textured. I absolutely love this book!
A commenter at Amazon has mentioned that there is an error in the book and Africa is referred to as a "country" rather than a "continent". I looked for this error and found it; elsewhere, Africa is simply referred to in general terms. England, London and Kenya are pointed out on very basic world maps. Hopefully, the error will be fixed in future editions. I've actually blacked out and corrected errors in children's books if I consider them serious, but I probably wouldn't have bought them in the first place if I'd known. This one doesn't bother me. Africa is a continent. One line, one word. I'll fix my copy and keep it.
5/5 - Perfect for the animal-loving, cat-crazy kid or adult in any family; a lovely story of affection between humans and pet.
Further information on the lion and how two Australians managed to raise a lion in an urban environment -- the very hip Chelsea in London, 1969 -- can be found at Today's website. Because the story was written for children, it obviously doesn't go into painful detail and the website answers additional questions. For my part, I plan to look for the complete memoir, as well.
Christian the Lion is Book #1 for Children's Day. More coming, soon!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
My copy of Can God Be Trusted? just arrived as I was preparing to write up my giveaway post, yesterday (obviously, I waited a day) so I hope I'll manage to read and review my copy soon. Subtitled "Finding Faith in Troubled Times," the theme of the book sounds pretty obvious. I'm looking at the cover flap and it says, "Williams reveals the way we so often expect things from God that He hasn't promised . . . and then blame Him when we're disappointed."
Boy, can I relate. I know I had an attack of wobbly faith after finding out my friend's son was killed in Afghanistan, a couple of weeks ago. Besides loss, it sounds like the author's going to delve into all kinds of disappointment and unfulfilled hopes, both personal and larger in scope -- such as frustration with injustice. I'm really looking forward to reading Can God Be Trusted? Faith is one of my favorite Christian topics.
Anyway . . . babbling on. I can give away up to 5 copies, and lately I've just felt like going with the full tamale, so I'm going with 5. This may be my last giveaway for a while, since we're headed into the busy month of NaNoWriMo joy.
Wait! Must tell you a quick anecdote before we get to the rules. My husband just walked in the door and I said, "UPS drove right by, today!!" His response: "Oh, I'm sure they're just getting a bigger truck." Hahaha. I'm just trying to help the shipping industry stay alive, you know. Passing around a little book love can't hurt. ;)
Back to the giveaway . . .
O, Sister, Where Art Thy Requirements? (aka, "Rules"):
1. You MUST leave your email address or else!!! No email, no entry!!! I no longer chase down people who forget to leave an email address.
2. Live in the right place - Hatchette's giveaways are limited to residents of the U.S. and Canada. No P.O. Boxes.
3. Answer this question: Do you think it's harder to maintain faith in the face of personal tragedy or simply when surrounded by those who don't believe in God? I'm just curious. I'll tally up the results and let you know.
4. Drawing will be held December 2, 2009 to avoid the Thanksgiving holiday. I'll probably give everyone a wee bit longer to respond, as well -- usually, I go with about 48-72 hours, these days. I highly advise either following this blog or my Twitter persona, "Bookfoolery" (where I cross-post announcements) to avoid missing out on the winners' list, in case a winning email goes astray. If you win and don't receive an email, just contact me at the email in my sidebar within the given time period.
While you're at it, check out my other giveaways:
Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby - ends Nov. 15
The Mosaic Bible in New Living Translation (1 certificate for a free copy) - ends Nov. 18
A Climate for Change by Hayhoe and Farley - ends Nov. 22
Just for grins, another anecdote:
Yesterday, Kiddo said he was soooo sleeeeepy, when he got home from school. I said, "Did you stay up late?" and he said, "I just didn't sleep well." Pause, pause. "But, at least I got 3 hours of sleep at school!"
Bookfool, whose teenage son occasionally makes her cringe
The Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes was one of those books that I looked at and thought, "Must read before the end of the month," which is a terrible reason to start reading a book, although I've been rather scheduled in the past year and it often works fine. At the time I opened it, I was decidedly not in the mood for historical fiction, but the work needed to be done and I gave it a shot. Once past about page 10, the pages actually flew, for a time. But, then I got tired of the manipulative queen and annoyed with my own ignorance about the Plantagenets and Tudors. It was a bit of a relief to set the book aside.
The Interrogative Mood by Padgett Powell blew my mind. At first, I thought it was the craziest thing I'd ever seen -- a book composed entirely of questions. Then, I started to really like it because it can be quite humorous and thought-provoking:
Yeah! Go, God! Nobody does clouds better.
Happy Wahoo Wednesday!
Bookfool, nearing the end of her identity crisis (we hope)
Monday, October 26, 2009
Quotable QTuesday: In which three fictional characters in times of old share their thoughts about women
I'd love to see this play performed. It was hilarious reading.
My heart sank within me. The sorapus nutshell had proved a false prophet, and, after all, my intuition had been correct -- it was the left-hand channel that I should have followed.
Right. Because all women are simpering wimps who collapse at the realization they've made a poor decision.
'Women,' said Psmith, helping himself to trifle, and speaking with the air of one launched upon his special subject, 'are, one must recollect, like -- like -- er, well, in fact, just so.'
Psmith, losing his characteristic wit for a brief moment in Psmith in the City
You seriously have to love the guy for dodging the issue in such an adorable manner, don't you?
And a couple of Psmith's remarks on work:
p.44 of Psmith in the City
p. 48 of Psmith in the City
Mr. Bickersdyke sat in his private room at the New Asiatic Bank with a pile of newspapers before him. At least, the casual observer would have said that it was Mr. Bickersdyke. In reality, however, it was an active volcano in the shape and clothes of the bank-manager.
Who would you want to hang out with? Chekov? Burroughs? Wodehouse?
Cat update (hence the photo, above -- unfortunately, I have no idea where it came from but don't you love it?) - The vet says kitty's eye is looking better, bump up the drops to 4 times per day. Wahoo! She's looking good for a girl that's 80 years old in cat years, if you ask me. We're back to the Kung Fu 180 spin at medicine time.
Kid update- Boy, teenagers are sleepy things, aren't they? Sleep, eat, eat, sleep. Amazing.
Hope everyone has had a fabulous Monday!
Bookfool, Winger of It
Sunday, October 25, 2009
So, how was your weekend? I had an interesting one, beginning with a kitty emergency on Friday. Miss Spooky's bad eye was looking worse to me, so I took her in to have it looked at. The vet said pressure was building and she appears to have developed secondary glaucoma. He gave her a shot of diuretic with a little tiny bit of painkiller, although he said the only painkiller that really works on glaucoma is marijuana. That's a pretty neat picture -- cat smoking marijuana.
I starting piling up books and just kept on piling. You can see from this photo that I ended up well stocked with 4 stacks of books, reading glasses, a pile of homemade bookmarks and some Post-Its. I'm not sure if you'll be able to enlarge, what with the blogger hinkiness of recent days, but there's some good stuff in those piles and way too much to list.
Friday night, with the cat locked into the bathroom because of Intestinal Difficulties (didn't want to have to chase her around to clean up after her) and loudly scratching at the door, crying out "Bookfool is an Evil Cat Mommy", I turned off the house lights, closed my bedroom door in the hope that the cat would settle down and started to read Not Becoming My Mother by Ruth Reichl, a memoir that I chose because it's only 112 pages long. It depressed me because I'm basically a 50's housewife transplanted into a decade when women who stay at home get funny looks and it was about how unhappy her mother was being stuck at home. Beautiful writing, though.
The Warlord of Marsis an odd choice, isn't it? Obviously, it was the cover that caught my eye. See that green creature? That's the warlord's Martian dog, Woola. Woola makes me snort. The book itself is total crap. I don't know how else to put it. But, it's mildly entertaining crap, if you can stand the fact that Mars is a racially-divided, misogynistic world. I couldn't help but wonder if Edgar's true colors were showing. I don't have the book handy, but I believe it was originally published in 1910 -- certainly a very different world. I'm not actually sure whether I'll be able to finish it. We'll see.
Now, I'm off to finish Psmith in the City. I just love Wodehouse, don't you? Hope those of you who joined in on the readathon are recovering. Since the posting is usually exceptionally heavy during readathon weekend, I'll do a mass delete in my reader for my sanity. It's okay if you don't have time to read this. For those of you who can focus . . . thanks for making it to the bottom of my post.
Smiles all around!
Friday, October 23, 2009
I'm reading A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions and enjoying it immensely. It seems to be a very fair and balanced view of global warming -- the theories, the facts, and what our response as Christians should be. I don't think it's necessary to be a Christian to read the book but it does approach global warming from that angle, reminding us that we're "stewards of the earth" and do, in fact, have a responsibility not to let the planet go to pot -- not to cause the going-to-potting, thereof. That's a technical term, "going to pot".
So . . . giveaway time!!! I can give away 5 copies of A Climate for Change, so that's what I'm a-gonna do, by golly. I think a lot of people have a political stance, one way or another, about global warming. This is absolutely not slanted in a political way. It's a strictly scientific viewpoint with religious undertones and it's very, very readable and politically neutral. I hope to finish and post a review, soon. In the meantime:
What'cha Gotta Do (aka, The Rules):
1. Leave your email address or else! No email, no entry. I am not chasing anyone down to remind them, this time. Except maybe Holly. Okay, if I know you and love you, I might chase you down but don't tempt me to get all mean and ugly!!
2. Live in the right place. This is a Hatchette giveaway, limited to U.S. and Canadian residents. No P.O. Boxes.
3. Jump through hoops. Kidding. But, if you could say something a little more clever than, "Sign me up!" or "Sounds good!", I'd appreciate it.
4. Drawing will be held on November 22, 2009. I close entries to further comments at 6pm, Central time. I now give winners approximately 48-72 hours to respond after notification, but sometimes emails go astray, so I recommend following this blog in a reader (or follow me on Twitter; I'm "Bookfoolery" - I do link up to announcements) if you don't, already. If you win and don't hear from me, contact me at the email address in my sidebar ----->
Good luck! And, may the best treehuggers win.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Delacorte Press (a division of Random House) - YA/Dystopian
James Dashner's website
A giant maze. A group of teenagers trapped like rats in an experiment. Dangerous creatures that roam the maze at night. A sting that brings back horrifying memories of life outside.
When Thomas awakes in an elevator and emerges into the center of a maze, in a place known as the Glade, he has no memory at all and no idea how he arrived in this new world. Surrounded by other teenage boys who've been trapped in the Glade for as long as two years, Thomas begins his new life as the "greenie" of the group - learning about the jobs in the Glade, the Grievers that often kill those who don't make it back from the maze before giant doors creak closed, the rules of a strange new life.
Thomas knows he wants to join those who search the maze passages for an escape route from the moment he sees the runners arriving home at the end of his first full day. But, it takes time and training to become a runner and he's new. New people are not allowed to be runners; they're not even accepted until they've had time to prove themselves. Then, everything changes. A girl arrives -- the first female ever to show up. She brings a message and a handful of memories, but they're fading fast. Thomas has a fleeting sensation that he knew her before he arrived in the Glade.
The girl's arrival signals the beginning of the end. Is there any way out of the maze? Or, will everyone die, one by one?
The Maze Runner is my kind of book -- thrilling, action-packed, suspenseful and unique. The pages flew so fast I felt like I needed a seatbelt.
I probably should have done a self-interview for this one because I'm afraid I'll gush if I get going. So, I'm looking at my old Q/A format to nudge myself into talking about the right things. What, for example, did I think of the characters? I thought Dashner did an excellent job of creating believable characters with a broad variety of personalities. The leaders were a little difficult to distinguish from one another and most everyone could have used a bit more development, but I'm pretty sure I went where the author wanted to take me. I liked Thomas, adored his friend Chuck and thought Teresa was funny. When a character was angry or rude, I tended to side with Thomas because he seemed level-headed and reasonable in his curiosity.
The way Dashner doled out just a little information at a time and kept the reader hanging irritated me, at first, but then I began to actually like that style. Bread-crumb trails of clues not only kept the pages turning but also helped to reveal important details about Thomas, like the fact that he was clever and saw clues to potential escape from the maze as if they were pieces of a puzzle.
Gladers have their own slang, which practically sounded like a foreign language, at first. Little by little, Thomas finds out the meaning of the slang terms and begins to use their expressions. I loved the way they said, "Good that," much like the Australian, "Good on you." The word "klunk" and its meaning bugged me, though, because it was a little too graphic.
And, oh, those Grievers were scary. Grievers were like the Reavers of the Maze -- utterly terrifying and somewhat baffling. If that group of teenage boys were part of an experiment, as it appeared, why would anyone let loose deadly creatures in the Maze? Wasn't it bad enough that they were trapped and had to work hard just to survive? I had this image of the Maze, shrunk down to size with humans peering over the top, watching how the kids behaved, as I was reading.
I don't want to spoil the book, of course, but I will say that the ending was expected in many ways and yet satisfying. There was enough information held back that it still managed to surprise me. I can't wait to read the next book in the series. And, isn't that a terrific cover? My copy is an ARC that I requested from Shelf Awareness -- black and white, darn it. I absolutely love the dripping moss and vines, the huge concrete walls. That cover is by far one of the most accurate, apropos, perfect bits of artwork I've seen, this year.
I should also mention that one of the things that really jumped out at me was Dashner's skill level. The Maze Runner is loaded with the senses; you really get a three-dimensional feel for the atmosphere, the emotions, the feeling of being trapped in a maze and not knowing what's going on. This is a book worth buying, saving to reread just before the next in the series is released.
4.5/5 - Excellent, very tight writing, suspenseful, high on senses - a fascinating little world. Half a point off for heavy violence and the word "klunk" (because it's my blog and I can take off for a word, if I want to).
I'm going to call this book #2 of the YA Dystopian Challenge, even though I finished it just before the challenge began, primarily for the sake of linking back.
Guest Post by Keith Williams:
What's in a name? For Holy Bible: Mosaic, there is a lot of meaning embedded in the title we chose. But before I talk about why we chose this title for this particular edition, I'll give you a little bit of trivia and insight into the process that went into arriving at this title.
When the idea for this Bible was first introduced, we had some discussions about the title and came up with what I thought was a great one, and it was the working title for some time. That title was Meditations: Via Christus. "Meditations" refers to the format of the Bible, with weekly "meditations" keyed to the church year and Via Christus is a Latin term that has long been used in the Church as a way of referring to a way of life following the pattern of Christ. It roughly translates from Latin to English as "the way of Christ." I liked this title, but it didn't really click with everyone internally here at Tyndale, and early this year a decision was made to drop it.
But now we had to come up with another title for this unique Bible. I had a difficult time letting go of the old title, and I came up with a number of suggestions--none of which were really any good. We had brainstorming meetings that came up with more ideas that didn't really communicate very well about what the Bible was all about, and I was feeling a bit discouraged. But then Kevin O'Brien suggested the title Mosaic. Immediately, I knew we had a winner.
Mosaic captures the "big idea" of what this Bible is about very well. As the body of Christ, every Christian is one piece of a unified whole--just like a mosaic is a unified picture made up of myriad individual pieces. Each piece contributes to the whole, but the whole is way more important than the individual parts. And the differences in the little pieces of stone, tile and glass are important. Different shapes, sizes, and colors are all needed to make the picture complete. And Holy Bible: Mosaic does a great job of highlighting many of the different shapes, sizes and colors that make up the body of Christ by providing quotes and art from every continent and every century of Christian history.
In the end, I think Holy Bible: Mosaic is the perfect title for this Bible. What do you think?
Thank you, Keith, for that lovely explanation of how Tyndale came up with the title for this Bible! I agree that the title works. It seemed a little odd, at first, until I understood the meaning, but that front section . . . the meditations . . . really make this Bible unique and special.
Linky-dinky do - a few links for those want more:
The Mosaic Bible website
Keith Williams' Facebook Page
Keith at Twitter
Remember, I'm giving away a certificate for one free copy of the Mosaic Bible. Sign up for the drawing, here.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Simon Pulse - YA/Dystopian
I bought Uglies last weekend when I was all reading-slumpy after finding out a friend's son was killed in Afghanistan. After a couple of days of bawling and finding it impossible to concentrate, Uglies saved the day. It's light; it's dystopian (a worse world than ours is always helpful when you're feeling bad about your own). It was perfect for the moment.
****Warning* - This review may contain spoilers. I hope not, but you never know and I'm too polite not to warn you. ****
Tally lives in a world that is divided by looks and age. Children, or "littlies" spend the first years of their life at home, with their Pretty, surgically-enhanced parents. At the age of 12, youngsters leave their parents and attend boarding schools in Uglytown (or, maybe it's Ugly Town -- I can't be bothered to look, at the moment . . . too tired) till they reach the magical age of 16. At 16, they graduate and are taken for the surgery that will make them physically perfect, then they can live in New Pretty Town.
Pretties are privileged. Uglies spend their time looking forward to becoming Pretties, calling each other ugly nicknames, playing tricks on each other and finding ways to sneak out of the dorms. Special Pretties patrol on hovercars to keep the Uglies in their place; bridges and hoverboards tattle on those who try to break the rules and leave the zones in which they belong; interface rings track people.
Tally just wants to hurry up and become a Pretty. Since her childhood best friend, Peris, has already been 16 for several months, Tally is lonely and eagerly awaits the day she can rejoin Peris. She misses him so much that she decides to sneak across the river to New Pretty Town for a visit. But, the Pretties spot her and she has to make some quick and clever maneuvers to get away. In the process, she meets another daring Ugly, Shay.
Shay and Tally find out they have the same birthday, immediately become friends and begin sneaking out and playing tricks together. Shay teaches Tally how to use a hoverboard and how to trick it so that she can't be tracked. She takes Tally further into the ruined city where the Rusties used to live before disaster struck, guides her on longer trips to a place where nature rules and, eventually, reveals her secret: Shay has no interest in becoming a Pretty. Instead, she wants to escape to a place called the Smoke, where a group of people who don't want to go through the surgery hide out and live in the old-fashioned way.
When Shay disappeares close to their birthday, she leaves a cryptic note behind -- just in case Tally wants to join her. Tally misses her new friend. But, she still just wants to be a Pretty and chooses to go through with her operation so she can move on with her life. And, that's when things get complicated. Instead of being taken in for her surgery, Tally is escorted to Special Circumstances, where she's given an ultimatum: Find Shay and the rest of the Uglies who have escaped to the Smoke or remain an Ugly, forever.
****Okay, I think it's safe, now.****
Good golly, Miss Molly. I had no idea what a fun, fascinating dystopian tale I was voluntarily missing out on by letting a title sway me. I'm so glad I bought Uglies!! It's entertaining, thought-provoking, and I want to buy the next book immediately. It's more than just an enjoyable tale; it's a social commentary that hits on some thoughts I've had, myself. My ugly face and I have thought about such things. Anyway, I want Pretties, now!!!! Only, that's not going to happen, at least until Saturday. Thank goodness for Borders and their hoopty fine weekly coupons. Please, please, please have a copy of Pretties, O people at the Flowood Borders!!!!
There were times I thought Mr. Westerfeld screwed up a little on his world-building, but then he managed to explain whatever I thought was missing and I had to give myself a lecture. I really enjoyed this book. It's a 5/5, for me.
This is my first book read for the YA Dystopian Challenge.
In other news:
Carpet! We have carpet!!! I'm so excited!!! And, now I can really see just how dinky my den is, but that's okay. It's soft! It's not bare concrete!!! I can do aerobics, again . . . or will be able to when we move the TV into that room. I have sooo missed my den. Two years we went without a den -- so long that we gave away our couch so we'd have a place to walk. That's a long time to go without a den in a fairly small house with no basement, let me tell ya.
Books, books, books!!! - Way too many have arrived in the past week. I got a lecture from my teenager about the influx, actually. One time, he even ran away with a parcel in his hands and wouldn't let me see what UPS had brought me! But, then he gave it back. Big meanie. Among other things, my copy of The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton has finally arrived, which made me say something to the effect of, "Squeeee!" I also received a copy of A Novel Idea - a book about writing Inspirational Fiction, for review. Very timely with NaNoWriMo coming soon.
From Paperback Swap, I received The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough (SuziQ's fault), Briar Rose by Jane Yolen (Andi gets the blame), Covered Wagon Women: Diaries & Letters from the Western Trails, 1850 (Sharon is guilty) and Handling Sin by Michael Malone (blame my book buddy Bob).
ARCs of Spellbinder by Helen Stringer and Cherries in Winter by Suzan Colon have recently arrived.
From Audra, the Magnificent Publicist of B & B Media, I have recently received No Idea by Greg Garrett -- not sure I mentioned that, last week, but I'm reading it. She also sent The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason, The God Sightings Bible and its Companion Guide (reading it, too -- it's a chronological Bible, so I can read it and also use my new Mosaic Bible, which means I have a super cool life) and I have a copy of The Church of Facebook on its way. Now, you know why I adore Audra.
From Hatchette, I got Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby and A Climate for Change by Hayhoe and Farley (reading - loving).
Sterling Kids sent me two beautiful illustrated classics: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, illustrated by Robert Ingpen and The Wizard of Oz, illustrated by Charles Santore. Even my husband gasped at their beauty. And, he's really not interested in anything but business, history and How People Seriously Screwed Up and Everyone Died books (you know, Charge of the Light Brigade type mistakes).
The only question I have is "When the heck am I going to find the time to read all of them?" I shall do my darndest.
I have a guest post scheduled for tomorrow, but haven't heard from the guest as of tonight. If he doesn't show up, next up will be my review of The Maze Runner, which was so totally awesome that I had to let it roll around in my head for a while. You know how that goes.
I have to go to bed, now, so I'm sending out happy, smiley fairy dust, wishes for health and excellent reading material, and a request for someone to bring a wheelbarrow to take away some of my older books. Nighty-night bookish ones!
Bookfool. Yeah. Still buried. Not looking hopeful that we'll dig out anytime soon.
Monday, October 19, 2009
1. Darling Jim by Christian Moerk
2. House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo
3. Pale Phoenix by Kathryn Reiss
4. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Many thanks to Carl V. of Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting the 4th RIP Challenge. It has always been my personal favorite and this year was just as fun as always!
New Living Translation
Link to Amazon from which I receive nothing (for your convenience)
Released September, 2009
I've been using my copy of the Mosaic Bible for about 3 weeks, now, so I feel comfortable talking about its pluses and minuses. The Mosaic Bible is really two books in one. The Bible is the latter portion of the book. In the front section is a 52-week devotional that contains beautiful artwork and thoughtful devotions with quotes. I particularly loved the fact that the referenced scriptures have the page number listed, so that you can quickly and easily locate them. The pages in the devotional section are nice and thick in order to allow writing on them without tearing up the pages. Lessons are designed to coordinate with the Christian year (beginning with Advent) but that's just a guideline. You can pick up the book and read at random or start from the beginning at any time. It's nice to have that extra reading material handy in case you just need a little inspiration.
As to the Biblical text, it contains the entire Bible and the print is a little small but not tiny; it's comfortably readable. The Bible portion is printed on thinner pages (the typical delicate paper), written in the easy-to-read New Living Translation. There are very thin margins with center-column references, no superfluous study material, a nice concordance and a Greek/Hebrew dictionary. The maps at the back are quite nice -- again, printed on thicker paper and all relevant, including the World of the Patriarchs, the Exodus from Egypt, and Paul's journeys, among others.
Because there isn't extra study material with the text, I really enjoy using this particular Bible for doing my Beth Moore Bible study. It's easy to find the scriptures because there aren't any extra notes to get in the way. And, sometimes, I just like flipping to the front to read something different, so I enjoy having that devotion section -- you just never know when you're going to have a quiet moment in church before everyone else shows up. It's not a Bible to write notes in because the margins are narrow, but I'm a purist in the sense of not wanting any writing in my Bible, so I consider that a plus.
The devotional section in the front can get in the way a bit if you're at church and trying to quickly flip to a scripture, but it's not a major nuisance and I'm getting used to it. Sometimes I've found that the NLT text is just too far removed from the NIV that is typically used in my Bible study. Fortunately, I'm a Bible nut. I'm taking the Mosaic Bible with me to church, but I also have a slim-line in Revised Standard Version, which is a wee bit closer to the NIV typically quoted. I take both with me to church and use whatever feels comfortable at the time.
In general, I just love this Bible and I'm sure I'll be using it for many, many years.
And, now on to the *Giveaway*. I have one certificate for a copy of the Mosaic Bible to give away. It can be redeemed from anywhere in the world. If you don't have a store nearby, you just fill out the information and mail it to Tyndale House -- the address is on the back.
1. This drawing is open internationally.
2. Leave your email address so that I can contact the winner. No email, no entry.
3. Tell me why you'd like to win a copy of the Mosaic Bible. What appeals to you most?
4. The only people who are not eligible are those who have already won a copy/certificate or received one from Tyndale House for review.
5. Drawing will be held November 18 in the evening; I'll close off comments around 6pm U.S. Central (I think that's GMT - 5, but I'm not certain). The winner will have approximately 48-72 hours to contact me, so I advise following this blog if you don't, already. I will email, as well, but sometimes emails go astray.
6. Good luck!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
And, the winners of The Bible Salesman are . . .
I'll be in touch, but if you don't get an email from me and you're a winner, please send your mailing address to the email in my sidebar by Wednesday morning.
I asked whether the fact that Christianity, beliefs and Bibles play an important role in this book had any effect on your desire to read the book and only one person said she was "totally put off" by the Christianity aspect. The rest said it either piqued their interest or didn't matter a bit. And, a lot of you love that cover! I haven't yet received a copy of this book, so there's no review to link up to but I do plan to read it, eventually. Congrats to the winners!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby - My copy just walked in the door 10 minutes ago so all I can do is share the description, which I have to type by going from window to window because @#*% Blogger no longer allows me to cut and paste. Grrr. Also, the Reader's Guide appears to be unavailable so I'll return to post it if/when it shows up at the Hatchette website. This title is supposed to be a good one for discussion.
For now . . . an embedded thingy:
And, a Description: Theodore Mead Fegley has always been the smartest person he knows. By age 12 he was in high school and by age 15 attending a top-rank university. Now he's 18 and on the brink of proving the Riemann Hypothesis, a mathematical equation that has mystified academics for over 150 years. But, just days before graduation he packs up his bags and runs home to Illinois. Why did he flee? Only Mead and a classmate whose quest for success has turned to obsession can answer that question.
At home, still haunted by private ghosts, Mead finds no solace. His parents don't understand the agony his genius has caused him, nor his desire to be normal. Mead's dreams seemingly crushed forever, he embarks on a new life's journey -- learning the family business of selling furniture and embalming the dead -- a choice that disappoints and surprises all who knew him as "the young Fegley genius".
Equal parts academic thriller and coming-of-age story, Life After Genius follows the remarkable journey of a young man who must discover that the heart may know what the head hasn't learned.
If you're North American and I like you, you can enter to win one of 5 copies!!! You may jump up and down, now, because I can already confirm that I like you (although I can't tell if you're North American -- you'll have to figure that part out on your own). Okay, sit back down to read the rules.
Rules, Rules, Rules:
1. Leave your email or I shall call up the tiny, frightening men in green suits with long, red beards and insist that they sing limericks and dance upon your head. Also, you'll be disqualified, ditched and eliminated.
2. Think like a North American and Be One. Hatchette's giveaways are limited to the United States and Canada, eh? No P.O. boxes.
3. I'm going to skip all the fussy extra-entry stuff, this time, just because I can. Mwah-ha, I have the power. So, that's it. Two rules. Sign up and leave an email if you qualify. The number three just gives balance. As we all know from reading home magazines, two objects on a table or other surface leave us feeling cranky and bloated. #3 is just for you. I want you to feel balanced and whole.
The drawing will be held on November 15, 2009. I will close the post to further entries at 6pm Central Time.
Important Notice: I now give winners 48-72 hours to reply to respond because I'm a busy girl (and I'll be even busier in November, writing my little heart out during NaNoWriMo). I strongly advise following this blog in a reader, if you don't already, so that you will see your name if something hinky happens to your email (or you just don't check your email often). I'll let you know how long you have to respond within the text of the drawing winners announcement post.
Don't forget my other drawings:
The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton - ends October 18
The YA Dystopian Challenge takes place from October 15 - the end of 2009. And, it's easy. You can read anywhere between 1-4 books. I've got 4 on hand and I'm afraid I am going to have no choice but to buy The Knife of Never Letting Go because Chris said so. Here's what I've got and will attempt to read before the end of the year:
1. Uglies - Scott Westerfield
2. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
3. Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins (assuming I get it back from the teenager who borrowed it)
4. The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Carrie Ryan
I just finished The Maze Runner by James Dashner and it would have fit this challenge perfectly. I'll get to my review ASAP, but in the meantime I highly, highly recommend The Maze Runner.
I just started reading Uglies. So far, so good!
Congratulations!!! Winners will be notified by email and y'all have till Sunday evening to send me your mailing address. If you do not hear from me by email, write to me at the address in my sidebar ---->
I asked entrants to tell me, for an extra entry, the title and author of a recent read that was unputdownable (although I didn't use that non-word . . . but you can imagine a gal who came up with the fake word "bookfoolery" has no problem with recently-invented words). Here are the books you found hard to put down:
Survivor - Chuck Palahniuk
The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
Wow, what an interesting list! Lots of variety. I hope it doesn't get everyone else in as much trouble as a list of gripping books tends to stir up in this household. Sorry about the wacky spacing in this post.
Coming up soon . . .
There are not even enough days in the week for all I have to babble about. Hmm. For now, though, I'm off to clean house because my husband is going to Germany without me for the 5th time, soon. Ask me if he'll make it out the door alive. The answer is "yes," but only because he swears he's going to take me somewhere, next year. I suppose he has to live in order to do that.
Happy thoughts to all!
Wellness Central - Nonfiction/Health/Medicine
282 pages, incl. substantial notes
I don't think Dr. Gupta needs a whole lot of help from me, since it appears that CNN.com has been telling stories directly connected to his book (Poison Gas, New CPR), but I really enjoyed Cheating Death. Ominous weather is shoving me into quickie review mode, so this should be a brief one. How many of you are laughing? Okay, yeah, not good with brevity.
Cheating Death is subtitled "The Doctors and Medical Miracles that Are Saving Lives Against All Odds" and Gupta focuses on the new, the bold, the surprising treatments -- often those that are so unusual or go so wholly against the intuitive that the doctors who are trying to make lifesaving practices mainstream in the U.S. truly are having to battle to get approval or just to get people to listen. Take the new version of CPR (one such story of a life saved can be read by clicking on the "New CPR" link, above). I remember reading about the new guidelines for CPR and thinking, "No way." It seems counterintuitive that doing nothing but compressions -- not even bothering with a single pause to breathe air into a patients lungs -- would work, doesn't it? But, in states where the new form of compression-only CPR has become standard procedure, survival rates of heart attack victims have tripled. Tripled!! That's pretty amazing.
Gupta also talks about deliberate hypothermia to slow the bodily processes and buy time before a patient can arrive at medical facilities -- how it works, the dangers and how doctors who use hypothermia are trying to get it approved for cardiac patients. Other chapters describe attempts at mimicking the bodily processes that allow certain animals to hibernate and how applying those processes using gas to create a form of suspended animation may also buy time for a patient.
He talks about Near-Death Experiences, the different theories about how they can be explained scientifically rather than spiritually and why some physicians still believe in life after death. The story about a comatose man who remembered which doctor took out his dentures is quite an eye-opener. Gupta discusses surgery on fetuses and the controversy wrapped around the practice, how procedures have improved and the dangers.
And, he talks about miracles and the fine line between life and death -- how difficult it can be for doctors to determine whether or not a person will ever recover from a coma, for example. Is there any such thing as a miracle, he asks? Can cases in which a serious cancer suddenly disappears be explained away by viruses or genetics? There are a lot of questions remaining. Dr. Gupta doesn't mislead you into thinking any doctor knows everything; in fact, he reminds his readers that medical science is still a mix of science, guesswork, standard practices that don't fit every patient, and luck. He even talks about prayer and hope.
4/5 - Very good, a quick read that is well-written and often quite exciting. Occasionally, Gupta stops one story to back up and describe a process and then continues with it later. In that way, it can get a little jumpy but this is definitely a fascinating read that I highly recommend.
Since the book is black and white, this post desperately needs some color. Here you go:
Don't forget, I'm giving away 5 copies of this book, thanks to the generosity of Hatchette Book Group. The odds are really terrific, at this point.
Thanks to Anna and Hatchette for my review copy of Cheating Death!
Also, as I'm writing, we're 4 hours away from drawing time for the 5-book Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration drawing. I will close that drawing at 6PM, weather permitting. Look for a winners' list tonight or tomorrow morning (again, this is weather dependent, although the situation appears to be improving).
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
David C. Cook; New edition (October 1, 2009)
Jesse Rice is a writer and musician and served for eight years as the Contemporary Worship Arts Director at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, a large and thriving congregation in the heart of Silicon Valley. Jesse has a Master’s in Counseling Psychology and is an authority on the search for meaning in a fast-paced, hyper-connected world. He is a sought-after worship leader and speaker with more than fifteen years of experience working with college students and young adults. Jesse and his wife, Katie, live in Palo Alto, California.
Visit the author's hilarious website.
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (October 1, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Akumal, Mexico, is just over an hour south of Cancun on the Mexican Riviera, a quaint resort community surrounded by white sandy beaches and lush jungle palms. Its miniscule “downtown” is composed of two small grocery stores, half a dozen restaurants, and a scuba-diving shop. It is positioned on a long stretch of beach regarded for its snorkeling and giant sea turtles. It is a tourist trap but few tourists know of it, keeping life in Akumal consistently vibrating at little more than a soothing hum. In other words, it is paradise.
On New Years Day 1998, three particularly pasty psychologists found themselves luxuriating in Akumal while discussing the topic, “What makes people happy?” As soft, eighty-degree breezes swept over the tops of their little tropical drinks sporting little tropical umbrellas, it was difficult to imagine discussing anything else.
Renown psychologist Martin Seligman was one of the three. His round, clean-shaven face and mostly bald head framed an easy smile, making him look like a beardless Santa Claus with a badly sunburned nose. Together with Ray Fowler and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (yes, that’s a lot of consonants but it’s easily pronounced: “cheeks-sent-me-high”), he was celebrating his very first day as president of the American Psychological Association. Seligman was known around the world for his work studying learned helplessness, depression, and, conversely, for his founding contributions to the emerging field of positive psychology. Each incoming APA president is asked to choose a theme for their yearlong term of office. Seligman, frustrated that so much of his field seemed entirely focused on the broken parts of humanity, wanted to steer things in a more optimistic direction. Thus the quiet beach resort, thus the tropical drinks, and thus the question, “What makes people happy?”
One year after that very conversation, Seligman and company—plus a group of young talent being groomed to lead the charge for a more optimistic approach in their field—returned to Akumal as part of a first annual conference on “positive psychology.” The tiny beach community had never seen so much pale skin. Not that psychology had always turned a blind eye to optimism. Throughout the decades there had always been a few rogues willing to brave their fellow researchers’ suspicious looks and folded arms in order to promote a more positive approach to well-being. But here was the beginning of a movement to reorient the entire field, to mainstream what had until then seemed little more than a fringe curiosity.
In the years following the conference, the evidence for what makes people happy began to roll in like a gentle wave in Akumal. What did researchers find? You may be surprised.
More money doesn’t make you happy. Yes, we’ve all been told that “money can’t buy happiness,” but here for the first time was actual scientific research that showed, once our basic material needs are met, additional income does almost nothing to raise our sense of satisfaction with life. (Wouldn’t we all love the chance to prove the exception to the rule?) How about education? Would another degree at a better institution make me happy? Again, research showed that more or better education or even a higher IQ did not equate to happiness. How about the quest to remain eternally young? In a culture that has elevated adolescence into an art form, surely perpetual youth would make us happy? Not so fast. Older people, studies revealed, were consistently happier than younger people. They were also less prone to bouts of depression. What about sunny weather? Be honest: Aren’t Californians happier than Michiganders? Research suggested that while those surveyed in the Midwest assumed Californians were a happier bunch thanks to their extra dose of vitamin D, it turns out there is no correlation between balmy weather and consistent feelings of well-being (though after a long Portland, Oregon, winter, my in-laws usually beg to differ).
So what does cause happiness? Dr. Edward Diener—known to his associates as “Dr. Happiness”—conducted a 2002 study along with Martin Seligman at the University of Illinois. That particular study summed up much of positive psychology’s overall findings. Students who tested with the highest levels of happiness and the fewest signs of depression all had one foundational thing in common: significant social ties to friends and family.
In other words, connection is the key to happiness.
“Authentic connection,” writes psychologist Janet L. Surrey, “is described as the core of psychological wellbeing and is the essential quality of growth-fostering and healing relationships. In moments of deep connection in relationship, we break out of isolation and contraction into a more whole and spacious state
of mind and heart.”
At the root of human existence is our great need for connection: connection with one another, with our own hearts and minds, and with a loving God who intended intimate connection with us from the beginning. Connection is the very core of what makes us human and the very means by which we express our humanity. As Surrey notes, there are no “growth-fostering” or “healing” relationships without connection. Apart from its presence the human heart becomes isolated and fragmented. Let’s look more closely at the power of connection through the lens of two compelling stories.
Harry Frederick Harlow was born October 31,1905. His parents were Mabel Rock and Alonzo Harlow Israel. Harry Harlow was not Jewish, but as an adult he changed his original surname from “Israel” to “Harlow” because he feared the prejudice he likely would have encountered in academic circles of the 1940s and ’50s. In grade school and throughout high school, Harlow demonstrated great proficiency in English, so when he headed off to university, he naturally chose English as his major. Harlow spent his first year studying at Reed College in Oregon and then transferred to Stanford University. At Stanford, Harlow continued his studies, but to his surprise, began doing very poorly in his English courses. Partly to avoid flunking out of Stanford and partly due to a growing interest in human behavior, Harlow switched his studies to psychology. Small decisions can make a big difference. Harlow’s decision to switch majors would eventually revolutionize the entire field of psychology.
Harlow completed both his undergraduate and doctoral degrees at Stanford, taking a professorship at the University of Wisconsin almost as soon as he removed his graduation gown. It was at Wisconsin that Harlow would make a name for himself in a series of cleverly designed experiments that involved a seemingly endless supply of rhesus monkeys.
Harlow, who looked exactly like what you’d expect from a research scientist in the 1950s—white lab coat, horn-rimmed glasses, grease-slicked black hair—was interested in love. In fact his name eventually became synonymous with the “science of affection,” and his best-known paper was titled, “The Nature of Love.” Harlow’s fellow researchers often heckled him and dismissed his fascination with affection for not being “scientific enough.” But he wasn’t deterred. Love was on Harlow’s mind and he knew it was on most other minds as well.
Interestingly, Harlow’s own romantic life would itself become a laboratory of love. He met his first wife, Clara, while she was a subject in a famous IQ study that Harlow just happened to be helping to administer. Clara posted a whopping 150 on the IQ test—well into the “genius” category. They were married in 1932 and had two children, Robert and Richard. Harlow and Clara later divorced in 1946. One
year later Harlow remarried. His new wife, Margaret, was herself a bright psychologist. Together, they had two more children, Pamela and Jonathan. Sadly, Margaret died in 1970 after a long battle with cancer. Again just a single year passed before Harlow was married once more. What kind of brilliant mind did he choose to wed this time? To everyone’s surprise Harlow remarried his first wife, Clara. They lived out the rest of their days together until 1981 when Harlow passed away. Hollywood screenwriters have written less interesting love stories.
But all of that lay in the future. For now, as a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Harlow’s primary “romantic interest” was in primates. One experiment in particular put Harlow on the map. Curious how infant rhesus monkeys would behave in an artificial environment, Harlow and his team built two artificial monkey “mothers.” The first was constructed of simple wire mesh and had a blank-faced head screwed on the top with a tube running out from its neck that could deliver milk to the infant monkey. It resembled he kind of demonic stick figure that people typically ignite at the end of the annual Burning Man festival. The second “mother” was identical except that its “face” was more monkeylike, and its wire mesh frame was covered with soft, warm terrycloth. It looked like an elongated furry snowman that would like to be everyone’s friend. There was one more key distinction between the two mothers: The cloth-covered contraption did not have a feeding tube. It was incapable of providing the infant monkey with food.
The black-and-white film from Harlow’s experiment is both hilarious and heartbreaking to watch. As the tiny elflike monkeys stumble around their cages just a few days after birth, they quickly climb up and take a sip from the wire mother but then scramble immediately back to the cloth mother, where they spend the vast majority of their day. If any element of fear was introduced into the environment, as was the case when researchers placed a drum-playing toy bear into their cage (and who wouldn’t find such a thing troubling?), the little monkeys always ran to the cloth mother for comfort instead of the fooddispensing
wire mother, clinging to her with all their strength until the fear passed.
Harlow and his team had expected the infant monkeys to create some kind of “bond” between mother and child immediately following birth. What they did not anticipate was, if forced to choose, the monkeys would select the nonfeeding cloth mother over the food-delivering wire mother every time. Their need for comforting connection, it seemed, was even greater than their need for food!
But there was more. Following his initial discoveries, Harlow introduced a series of modifications to his experiment. In one case he took away the choice between monkey mothers by separating the infants into two different environments: one with only a wire mother and one with only a cloth mother (a tube was added to the cloth mother to support feeding). Harlow found that monkeys from either environment developed physically at the same rate. It appeared there was little or no difference in the “connective effects” of cloth or wire. This seemed to imply that what the monkeys were connected to did not really matter. The only important thing was that they had some kind of connection.
But the scary drum-playing toy bear changed all of that. When the mechanical bear was placed in the “cloth” cages, the frightened monkeys would scramble on to the cloth mother, cuddling and rubbing against her until they were at last able to calm themselves. At that point, the monkeys would relax and
even become curious and playful about sharing a cage with a toy bear, venturing away from the cloth mother in brief excursions to sniff and paw at it.
The monkeys in the “wire” cages, however, could not have responded more differently. When the menacing toy bear was introduced into the wire cages, the little monkeys fell to pieces. They threw themselves on the floor, and rocked back and forth. They screamed in terror. The effect is so dramatic
that footage from the experiment can be quite disturbing to watch.
What Harlow concluded was that the monkeys in the “cloth” cages must have had access to some kind of psychological resource—what he later called emotional attachment—to help them deal with challenges in their environment, especially the introduction of fear. The monkeys in the “wire” cages had no such resources and fell apart at the first sign of danger. This, Harlow began to see, was evidence that there was in fact a certain kind of connection important not only to healthy development but also to serve in adequately facing challenges that might appear.
Harlow found that there are indeed different types of connection that make for different types of responses. There are some types of connection that enable adaptation and resiliency. There are other connections that create psychological breakdown. The monkeys from either cage developed physically at
normally expected rates. They appeared to be identically healthy and normal from the outside. And they behaved as you would expect healthy monkeys to behave. But those similarities vanished the moment some change—especially some threat—was introduced into their environment. When that happened, the difference in their “inner” realities became obvious. One kind of connection had led to the inner strength necessary to cope with and even overcome environmental changes. The other had led to inner chaos and a radically diminished capacity to cope with anything at all.
Harlow’s findings reflect what we now know to be true for human babies, as well. Bonding, the psychological process by which a mother creates a safe and nurturing environment for the child to develop, lays the groundwork for the baby’s ability to grow into a healthy and well-adapted adult. That is why, as soon as is possible, the new mother is handed her fresh-out-of-the womb baby to physically bond with. If a physical connection is not possible—for example, a health issue that requires the baby to initially be kept in an incubator—mothers are encouraged to speak tenderly to their child, connecting and intimately bonding through the soothing tones of their own voice. Studies have shown that, just like the little rhesus monkeys, a human baby’s need to bond with its parent may be even more important than
its need for food.
Harlow’s findings revolutionized the way psychologists thought about human relationships. Until then it was unlikely any scientist in his right mind would have claimed that some kind of emotional connection was more important to a growing infant than the most basic of all needs, food. But what Harlow demonstrated so vividly with infant monkeys, and what study after study has shown to be all the more true in human beings, is that connection is not just “what causes happiness.” It is also our most basic need.
The reality of our innate need for connection is often most clearly revealed in the experience of dis-connection. Dropped cell phone calls, the loss of a job or career opportunity, a romantic breakup, the death of a loved one—each kind of disconnection alerts us to the fact that we were meant to connect. The feelings that result from a broken connection can run the gamut from simple frustration to complete personal devastation. But we need not explore something as painful as death in order to further illustrate the effects of disconnection. We can do something as simple as turning on the “telly.”
The BBC, the United Kingdom’s mammoth media empire, produces some of the most clever and thought provoking programming that often tickles the funny bone while stretching the intellect. And no, I’m not talking about The Office. In 2006 a BBC television series called Horizon invited six people to take part in a compelling experiment. Adam, Claire, Rickey, Judy, Barney, and Bill agreed to subject themselves to forty-eight hours of sensory deprivation. They signed up to be “disconnected” in every way in order to see what would happen.
Adam is a stand-up comedian in his late twenties. He has a significantly receding hairline, a slight paunch in his belly, and eyes that appear slightly crossed. He’s the most extroverted of the six, a person who—like most extroverts—requires a great deal of sensory stimulation to make sense of the world. He jokes self-effacingly as he imagines the toll the next two days will take on him. “I’m afraid I’ll go mad. What if I start smashing things up?”
Claire is also in her late twenties with short dark hair and a pretty smile. She says she likes a challenge. “I do try to push myself.” As a doctoral student in psychology, she seems ideally suited to thrive in an experiment where her mind will be put to the test.
Bill looks lean and strong and is a former ad executive. He is the oldest in the bunch. He plans to cope with the forty-eight hour experiment by using his skills in meditation. “Every day I like to spend time on my own. I sometimes fantasize about being a hermit, about living up in the mountains and coming down to buy a few supplies in town, then going back to my cabin.” If anyone is going to be fine after two days without human connection, it seems to be Bill.
Rickey is a thirtysomething postal worker whose primary hobby is running one-hundred-mile ultramarathons. Yes, you read that correctly—one hundred miles. He plans to think of the experiment as just another test of his endurance.Barney is a film archivist who imagines quietly that he will probably have a hard time over the next two days. Judy is a copywriter for a toy manufacturer. “I’m very excited to get started,” Judy says, not sounding too excited at all. “I don’t know how I’m going to last, but I guess I’ll just keep going.”
As you can see, the “Horizon Six” were not extraordinary people, at least not any more extraordinary than the rest of us.3 They all had their own ideas of how to best handle a situation like this and their own concerns about whether those techniques would actually work. They were average folks who simply wanted to put themselves to the test, to see what would happen when they were disconnected from life as they normally experienced it.
The experiment took place in an abandoned nuclear bunker, the kind of dark and creepy place straight out of a Hollywood horror film. Walking down the stairs and into the long, dimly lit halls of the concrete structure, one might expect to stumble upon a cast of overly attractive twentysomethings being systematically stalked and hacked to death by some very disturbed but strangely likeable assailant.
The six subjects were given a battery of tests to use for before-and-after comparisons. In the first test, they were given a letter—F, for example—then asked to think of as many words as possible in one minute that began with that letter. Classic Adam: “Fake, farting, football …” For the most part, each of the six breezes through, listing dozens of words that begin with F, though no one else seems to come up with anything as creative as a “fake, farting, football.” The next test is presented to them. In this one the subjects are handed a sheet of paper. On the paper are the names of colors printed in columns: black, red, green, etc. But here’s the catch: The names of the colors do not match the actual color of the ink with which they were printed. For example, the word “black” was actually printed in green ink, the word “red” was printed in black ink, and so on.
The subjects are then asked to name the color of ink with which each color’s name was printed. It’s trickier than you think. Our brains typically register a printed word before we register the color of the printed word. But with a little bit of thought, each subject does quite well. They moved on to the final test. While the researchers were curious how the subjects would perform on the first two tests—any drops in performance would be easy to measure when everything was over—they were secretly interested in something quite different.
The last test, the one the researchers were most interested in, measured “levels of suggestibility.” What they wanted to find out was just how vulnerable someone might become to the power of suggestion when they are cut off from connection, disconnected from their social and sensory worlds. Would they fall for a lie? Would they give in to someone else’s point of view even if it were clearly “wrong”? To test for suggestibility, the researchers read their subjects a story with lots of intricate details, then quizzed them. “Was the assailant hit with a fist or a handbag?” Claire is asked. She looks at the researcher with a furrowed brow. “Well, neither.” Claire gets it right. They were trying to pull one over on her, but she was alert for the details. In fact all of the men and women in the group tested fairly well in the first round. In other words, they had very low levels of suggestibility and could not be talked into believing something
that wasn’t true.
With the testing behind them, the Horizon Six were placed into tiny individual concrete rooms with nothing but a lonely bed for furniture. The rooms looked very much like prison cells without toilets. Three of the subjects were placed in rooms completely sealed off from any light source; they could not see their hands in front of their faces. The other three were placed in well-lit rooms, but it came with a catch. They were stuffed into large, padded gloves and socks to disrupt their sense of touch, frosted goggles to completely hinder their vision, and headphones that played nothing but white noise to thwart their hearing. (The gloves were later removed when the subjects complained of painful rashes.)
As the experiment finally got under way, Claire was immediately overwhelmed by the inky blackness of her cell. She anxiously relayed to her observers that her bed sheets were cold and wet and that something should be done immediately to remedy the situation. Intending to remain silent so as not to influence any outcomes, her observers acquiesced to her concern and assured her via intercom that she was mistaken. The sheets were not wet, they said. She was just imagining things. “I don’t think you’re taking my concerns about the blankets very seriously,” Claire lamented. “No one should have to sleep in wet sheets.” After a short time Claire gave up trying to convince them and climbed into a fetal position on her bed.
After just nine hours the subjects were showing signs of wear. “I’m finding this grossly boring,” said Barney. Adam echoed Barney’s thoughts: “It’s unbearable. I can feel my brain not wanting to do anything.” Adam’s statement may not be far from what actually happens during solitary confinement and sensory deprivation. Just as new neural pathways form in our brain as a result of stimulation, there is now research to show that the opposite may also true. If the brain does not get the stimulation it needs, it begins to turn to mush. Bill, who seemed so keen to spend time by himself in the beginning, now complained, “I don’t really want to be here. It’s starting to get on my nerves. I feel like a … helpless lab rat.” Claire was found in her “cell” counting to herself. Barney had taken up singing. Judy, in the meantime, had simply fallen asleep.
After twenty-four hours (or the time it takes Jack Bauer to save Los Angeles from imminent destruction), the subjects began to exhibit truly bizarre behavior. They raised their voices in angry complaint to the walls. They wept uncontrollably. Many experienced vivid hallucinations. Adam reported, “I thought I could see a pile of oyster shells, empty, to represent all the nice food I could have eaten inside here.” Poor Claire was suffering similar effects. “There’s a snake there,” she said, pointing to the floor. In another strange visual display of the effects of disconnection, almost all the subjects began to pace their tiny rooms back and forth, their brains working to selfgenerate some kind of stimulation in order to keep them going. Not Judy, of course. Judy was still asleep. Judy’s eternal sleep, it turned out, was simply her body and mind’s way of dealing with the overwhelming lack of connection, just another form of a coping mechanism.
After forty hours Adam was in tears. “This is close to insanity.” The subjects seemed to have plummeted in both cognitive and behavioral functioning. Barney was singing again—poorly. Most had begun “hearing things,” and claimed that “someone seemed to be in the room” with them. Judy was—you guessed it—still sleeping.
Finally, the experiment came to a close. A researcher’s voice broke through the inky silence in each of their cells, causing them all a fright. “The forty-eight hours are over.” Adam cried out for relief: “I just want to kiss the person who’s letting me out!” Bill was similarly thrilled and laughed to himself. Claire
was visibly relieved. Judy mumbled sleepily, “Oh. Excellent.”
But before they could be reconnected to the outside world, the subjects were readministered the same battery of tests they were given at the beginning in order to reveal any cognitive changes resulting from their two days as lab rats. Of course, almost without exception, everyone performed poorly, further
proving the disabling effects of isolation (as if anyone needed more evidence than the video footage captured in each subject’s room5). Finally, the camera followed each of the six as they walked back through long, dark halls, up the tall steel stairs, and finally out into the sunshine. Adam, Claire, Rickey, Judy, Barney, and Bill were elated to be set free into a world brimming with connection. “My senses are overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and smells,” said Adam. “You have no idea how good this feels.”
BBC’s Horizon experiment revealed two natural results of disconnection that illustrate our human need to connect. The first result: Cut off from connection, our ability to make sense of the world begins to break down. We begin to see things that aren’t there, to buy into a reality that is wholly skewed. There were no snakes slithering on Claire’s floor. Neither were her sheets wet and cold. They were dry and room temperature, the same as everyone else’s. And Adam did not really have a large pile of seashells growing at the foot of his bed. His room was as empty as the rest. In the real world—the world of connection—Claire and Adam were normally adjusted human beings. In the experimental world—the world of disconnection—they became hallucinating paranoids.
The second result demonstrated by the Horizon experiment was that, cut off from connection, our ability to cope with reality quickly dissolves. In just one day of sensory deprivation and social isolation, each subject was reduced to infantile and even animalistic behavior. They cried uncontrollably and talked to
themselves out loud. They rolled up into fetal positions and huddled on their beds. They yelled at the unsympathetic walls of their room. They even paced their constricting cages like jungle animals, waiting for the moment to attack and escape. Apparently baby rhesus monkeys aren’t the only mammals that
fall apart without the proper connection.
Obviously, the six subjects in the Horizon experiment were placed in extraordinary circumstances. Not many of us (hopefully) live in tiny concrete rooms dominated by an absence of sight, sound, and touch. But the experiment proved what Martin Seligman and his associates began to uncover on the beaches of Akumal, demonstrating its truth by revealing its opposite: If connection can make us happy, then disconnection can make us unhappy. No matter how it was tested, though, connectedness mattered.
Two stories, one common thread woven throughout: the inestimable power of connection. As we saw with Harlow and his monkeys, connection lays the groundwork for growth. In connection we find comfort and safety. We find a nurturing space that allows us to develop as a whole person, maturing inwardly even as we develop outwardly. Without it we might fall apart in the face of terrifying teddy bears. But in the presence of connection, the same toy bear—or whatever real-world challenge we might face—can become a mere curiosity, something we simply adapt to and overcome, growing stronger as we do.
The Horizon Six echoed Harlow’s research: Apart from connection we fall to pieces. Our physical, emotional, and cognitive powers weaken significantly. We become vulnerable to suggestion, and can be easily led to believe things that aren’t true. Our decision-making ability gets cloudy. Our way of viewing the world becomes skewed. We question our ability to cope: Are we going crazy? Will we be able to make it? Am I truly alone? Disconnection seems to leave us locked in little rooms with no light source and no sense of when the madness will end. But it also reminds us of how precious connection truly is. Remember how the subjects responded when finally released from captivity, when they were finally reconnected to their natural environment? Adam, the highly extroverted stand-up comedian, said it best: “You have no idea how good this feels.” Connection, it seems, makes all the difference.
Of course, we are talking about a certain quality of connection, aren’t we? Not just any connection can keep someone from falling to pieces. The average television satellite dish connects us to two hundred-plus channels, each with its own endless number of programs. But not many of us can claim that such a wide variety of connections has revolutionized our lives. Clearly not just any connection will do.
We can look to our own life experience as evidence in the case for quality versus quantity. There are certain people whose emails and phone calls we answer right away, and certain other people whose emails and phone calls we don’t answer at all. If we are having a particularly difficult day, questioning our own worth, wondering what is the point in going on with life, we tend to share this with a certain kind of person and not necessarily the young man behind the counter of our nearest gas station.6 Similarly, if we have good news to share—if a wedding is proposed or a baby is on its way—celebration is usually all the more rich when communicated to certain favorite people.
If we are to make sense of why certain kinds of connection are beneficial and certain others aren’t, we must be more precise in our definition of “connection.” We have to get clear on what kind of connection has the power to secure, grow, free, and transform us. Toward the beginning of this chapter, I quoted psychologist Janet L. Surrey. Here she is again.
Authentic connection is described as the core of psychological wellbeing and is the essential quality
of growth-fostering and healing relationships. In moments of deep connection in relationship, we
break out of isolation and contraction into a more whole and spacious state of mind and heart.
Surrey uses words like “authentic” and “deep” to convey the type of connection that is powerful enough to break us out of “isolation and contraction into a more whole and spacious state of mind and heart.” Even though “authentic” and “deep” are still fairly ambiguous terms, they’re a good place to start. Let’s
build on Surrey’s ideas.
Henri Nouwen, the great spiritual writer of the last century, was a man constantly in search of connection, and his many books represented that search. He wrestled with feeling loved even as he wrote about being the beloved (Life of the Beloved ). He wrestled with hope as he spiraled down into the inky depths of depression (The Inner Voice of Love). He reflected on life in the face of his own mother’s death (A Letter of Consolation). And even though he was a Dutch Catholic priest, his largest audience, by far, was American Protestant evangelicals. The paradox of Nouwen’s life and his message brought hope and healing to millions of readers around the world. His popularity revealed just how well he understood the human condition. He described it this way in his book Lifesigns:
Probably no better word summarizes the suffering of our time than the word, “homeless.” It reveals
one of our deepest and most painful conditions, the condition of not having a sense of belonging, of not having a place where we can feel safe, cared for, protected, and loved.
Nouwen claimed that human suffering was the experience of “not having a place where we can feel loved, safe, cared for, and protected.” He explained that this is what it means to be “homeless.” We can use the inverse of Nouwen’s definition of suffering to help us find a more clear definition of connection: The kind of connection we’re longing for—whether consciously or unconsciously—is the kind that creates a sense of belonging within us, a sense that we are “safe, cared for, protected, and loved.” In other words, we feel most at home—most ourselves—around people with whom we experience that deep and authentic connection that Janet Surrey talked about. As such, we know that, whatever else connection means, it has to include the qualities that most make us feel “at home” in the world.
Finally, listen to this simple dictionary definition, one of several found for the word connection:
A friend, relative, or associate who either has or has access to influence or power.
This is the definition we use when describing someone who got where they are in life because they had “great connections.” But it’s also a description of the kind of connection that matters. We might say, then, that the recipe for the kind of connection we’re trying to define is one that includes authenticity and depth. It is sprinkled with protective safety and dignifying freedom. It contains heaping portions of loving concern for our becoming a better, more whole person. It is seasoned with access to transformative power.
When used in its very best sense, the word home summarizes this definition perfectly. Most of us come from homes that have been fractured in some ways. Many have not been safe, nurturing places. We haven’t always gotten the support and protection we needed. But ideally home was meant to be all of those things—a safe, nurturing, transformative environment where who we are—just as we are—was always celebrated. A place where our highest potential was encouraged and sought after. When we go looking for a best friend, we go looking for home. When we go looking for a spouse, we go looking for home. When we turn our attention to the divine, to spirituality of all kinds, to God Himself, we are looking for home.
There is a truth about our longing for home—our search for community—that emerges from the beginning of the Bible in the second chapter of Genesis: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” God makes this profound observation immediately after breathing His Spirit into Adam. God has just created something that appears to be incomplete; it’s missing something. Has He made a mistake? What does God do in light of his conclusion that “it is not good for the man to be alone”? The answer seems to emphasize the need for a certain quality of connection. God’s response to incomplete Adam: “I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18). To be clear, God was not making a statement about gender roles, assigning women the collective position of “administrative assistant.” Nor was He making an isolated statement about the preeminence of marriage (though marriage, with its qualities of mutual submission, self-sacrifice, and unconditional love, has always been a biblical archetype for every kind of community). Rather, God was clarifying that the fullness of our humanity could only be truly expressed through relationship with a suitable other.
The key word here is suitable. What kind of connection would best “suit” Adam? What quality of relationship would not only meet his basic needs for “home,” but also help him grow and flourish? Badgers, despite their sassy attitude and rugged good looks, did not “suit” Adam. Could he find this quality of connection with a giraffe? Could he teach a parrot enough words to connect in conversation? Adam found himself in what was likely the most beautiful garden ever imagined—couldn’t it have been enough for him simply to connect with nature? While Adam’s ability to care for and relate in healthy ways to his environment was vitally important (as it is for us today), his greatest need for connection was with one of his own. The quality of connection capable of meeting Adam’s need for home was to be found in intimate relationship with another human being. He needed one of his own and that’s what he got—perfectly matched Eve (for whom Adam was also a suitable helper). Remember, Adam was surrounded by creatures. He lived in a world saturated with life; there seemed no end to his connections.
But by intentionally creating both Adam and Eve (and every man and woman since) “in His image” and placing them in unique relationship with one another and with Himself, God demonstrated that the quality of a connection clearly matters.
Think back now to the book’s introduction. When the ribbon was cut and hundreds of people began to make their way across the Millennium Bridge, their individual footsteps generated energy. At first this energy was random, firing all over the place. But very quickly the energy became “synchronized.” It began taking on a life of its own as it passed through various points in the bridge’s structure. That new synchrony, or new “order,” forced the pedestrians to begin walking in step with one another, waddling en masse in a “skating gait.” The event pointed toward the first “reality” we discovered in the case of London’s Millennium Bridge. Here it is again:
1. There is a force that is capable of synchronizing a large population in very little time, thereby creating spontaneous order.
Now consider this: In the first quarter of 2009, five million people joined Facebook every week. In addition, Facebook’s membership doubled from one hundred million to two hundred million people from August 2008 to March 2009. Perhaps most incredible, the vast majority of its members—140 million, in
fact—have only been on the rolls since February 2007. That’s 140 million new users in just over two years. Facebook isn’t just a white-hot social-networking platform. It is a radical example of Steven Strogatz’s spontaneous order.
In a very short period of time (five years), a very large population (several hundred million and counting) has been synchronized (pulled into the orbit of a single Web platform called Facebook). And what kind of gravity is capable of accomplishing such a feat?
The human need for home.
It might sound a bit ridiculous. After all, who would claim to be looking for home in a social-networking site like Facebook? We’re there to keep in touch with friends and family, to make some new friendly connections or reconnections, to share small slices of our personal worlds through pictures and status updates and playful games of Mob Wars. We just want a little mindless entertainment, for heaven’s sake. But as we’ll begin to see in the next few chapters, home is exactly the kind of connection that Facebook is offering. For now it is enough to say that the human need for home is plenty powerful enough to create a spontaneous order all its own. Not even Steve Strogatz saw this one coming.
But what is the nature of this new “order” and how does it help us make sense of this tendency to seek out home wherever we can find it? That’s what we’re going to explore next. And while we began this chapter on the warm, white sand beaches of Akumal, Mexico, I’m afraid we’ll need to venture to a slightly less exotic locale to facilitate our exploration in the next one. I’m referring, of course, to the tiny community of Angola, New York.
©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. The Church of Facebook by Jesse Rice. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.
I passed up this tour because I needed to back off on accepting books for a while, but I regretted doing so, after I saw a video of the author (not the video embedded above). He made me laugh -- always a positive thing. So, I've added this one to my wish list and thought I'd go ahead and share the preview chapter. Hopefully, I'll manage to acquire a copy in the coming months!