Friday, January 27, 2017


Seems my baby girl needs some succulents for the centerpiece thingies she'll be making for her wedding this summer.

Guess who got nominated to grow them? And since I do most everything my favorite child asks, tonight I repotted 57 clippings.

We'll see how they look in July.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Finished Block's "Sinner Man"

Lawrence Block's Sinner Man was a doozy. Supposedly lost in the abyss of the book publishing world for 50 years, Block's people found this and it was just recently published. Block provides a great afterward of trying to find his own lost treasure.

It's dark, violent noir and classic Hard Case Crime. I can't say I didn't see the end twist coming but it was still fantastic.

From Amazon:
To escape punishment for a murder he didn't mean to commit, insurance man Don Barshter has to take on a new identity: Nathaniel Crowley, ferocious up-and-comer in the New York mob. But can he find safety in the skin of another man...a worse man...a sinner man...?
Amazonians give it a 4.4. Goodreaders at 3.7 of 5. It's definitely one of the better books I've read in a while, tipping the scales at an 7+ on the 10-point Haugenometer.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A top-fiver from Wes in 2016: Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream
by H.G. Bissinger

As Sports Illustrated noted on the back cover: "The Best Football Book Ever"....I would agree. This was a masterpiece telling the story of "Friday Night Lights" in Odessa, Texas.

The book is about so much more than football: the town, the oil industry, the racial attitudes, the worship (at the time) of the Permian Panthers. Difficult to read in some chapters (centered around race), this is an important book to read. Glad I finally got around to reading it 20 years later! Reminded me some of my high school football experiences in some areas. 5 stars.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A top-fiver from Wes in 2016: The Fractured Republic

The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism
by Yuval Levin

"Fractured Republic" is without a doubt, one of the best policy books I've read in years about America and why we have become so polarized as a country. Levin's core premise is that both Republicans and Democrats are striving to return to each party's "golden age" (1960s and 1980s specifically) where "things worked" in each party's view. Levin notes on p. 102: "Our politics of competing nostalgias often translation into a fight between individualism and statism that neglects the middle layers of society: the Right wants unmitigated economic individualism but a return to common moral norms. The Left wants unrestrained moral individualism but economic consolidation. Both will need to come to terms with some unconformable realities of twenty--first century America."

The author does a great job walking the reader through these decades and why things seem to have "fallen apart" in the 21st Century. Throughout the book I found myself highlighting key passages and ideas I haven't thought of or considered before or circling passages that effortlessly summarize my thoughts over the years following politics. This book helped me understand better at the 10000 foot view why our country seems "off the rails" and why both political parties are locked in such fierce battles and never-ending partisanship and brinkmanship.

Levin makes a lot of sense in this extended essay (as he calls it), which he as put considerable time and reflection into before putting pen to paper or started typing away. A treasure of a book and a road map to the future in our fractured, individualist era we are now living in. Levin states (p 104) that, "Too many Americans are detached from some core sources and channels of human flourishing--family, work, faith, and community. The challenges of governing are great. But they are made made even greater than they have to be by our inability to grasp our circumstances as their are." A must read before the 2016 election and beyond for serious people seeking serious solutions to today's problems.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A top-fiver from Wes in 2016: Impossible People

Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization
by Os Guinness

As I look back at 2016, I believe "Impossible People" by Os Guinness is one of the most timely and important books I read. Guinness does a tremendous job and a terrific service to the reader, summarizing the peril that Western Civilization faces from enemies abroad and at home (and within our Church!)

Guinness notes: "At stake is the attempted completion of the centuries-long assault on the Jewish and Christian faiths and their replacement by progressive secularism as the defining faith of the West and the ideology said to be the best suited to the conditions of advanced modernity." (p.22)

He also states in a later chapter that "[The] future of the world in the next generations will be shaped decisively by the answer to three great questions:

1) Will Islam modernize peacefully in the end?
2) Which faith or ideology will replace Marxism in China?
3) Will the Western world sever or recover its roots? (The subject of this book)." p. 38

This book is a tour-de-force in a defense of Christianity and Judaism and Western Civilization. I found myself highlighting a passage on almost every page and notations in the margins throughout. His social commentary on the current world we live in is unsurpassed in modern writing. I would suggest reading the book slowly, grasping the big ideas and pondering and praying over his offered commentary.

In the end, Guinness challenges: "[Our] faith in God must always be our defining trust and the compass for our way of life. Living before the absolute presence of God, we are called to be faithful, and therefore unmanipulable, unbribable, undeterrable, and unclubbable [defines these terms in earlier chapters]. We serve an impossible God, and we are to be God's impossible people. Let us then determine and resolve to be so faithful in all the challenges and ordeals the onrushing future brings that it may be said of us that we in our turn have served God's purpose in our generation. So help us God". p.223

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A top-fiver from Wes in 2016: The River of Doubt

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
by Candice Millard

This spring my brother, father I had took a vacation or "mancation" to New York City. One of the highlights for me was to visit Theodore Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill home on Oyster Bay!

For the flight to NYC, I wanted to read an additional TR book to get my mind focused on the 26th president. Before I left, I picked up "The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey" by Candice Millard about his expedition through the deepest parts of the Amazon rain forest and river. I was glad I did! Millard is a master of narrative non-fiction. This book is incredible. Millard did a great job introducing the characters in the book, and weaving them into the story. Millard has tremendous respect for nature and the Amazon and is able to convey the wonder of nature throughout this book. If you didn't know about this TR's expedition, you would think it was a novel. Its an unbelievable tale of grit, determination, hard work, leadership and survival in one of the last "unreached" people groups and areas of the globe at the time.

I would place this near the top of my favorite Theodore Roosevelt books and also history books in general. Bravo, Ms. Millard! 5 stars! Looking forward to more from her in the future hopefully!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A top-fiver from Wes in 2016: Red Platoon

We’re not so far into 2017 that we still can’t look back at the best books we read last year. We’ve been busy! As such, I invited avid reader and co-worker Wes Roth to submit his best-of list. As you can see, he’s heavy into non-fiction, historical and political, but don’t hold that against him.

He has his top five, which I’ll feature one a day here. The one that didn’t make the list at No. 6 was Hillbilly Elegy, which was another fave among the 29 books he read last year.

So, in no particular order here is one of his top-fivers:

by Clint Romesha: 

"In war, you play for keeps -- and because of that, there are no second chances and no do-overs. The calculus of combat, at its most brutal essence, is binary: you either overcome the hurdles that are flung in front of you and you figure out a way to make things happen, or you don't. Its a zero-sum, win-or-lose game with no middle ground--and no points for trying hard" (P. 324). This statement sums up war from former Staff Sgt Clint Romesha, who has written a military biography for the ages and one that should be read by every American.

Romesha was awarded numerous awards and decorations, including the Medal of Honor, for his bravery in on 10/3/09 at COP Keating. Widely reported at the time, and later covered by CNN's Jake Tapper on his show and in his book, "The Outpost," Romesha's "Red Platoon" gives the reader a heart-pounding account of the battle to protect COP Keating against an onslaught by the Taliban on that FalL day. Jaw-dropping, uncertain, hopeful, sad, heartbreaking were some of the emotions I experienced while reading this book. Its a vital contribution to this history in the war in Afghanistan and will be referenced for many years to come. 

This was an excellent book and one of the best I've read recently. My heart breaks for the eight brave men that were lost and the families they left behind. We need to keep praying for them. A brief but important post written by veteran Ben Sledge should also be read after you read this book: "The Conversation About War and Our Veterans We Refuse to Have" 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

So now I have to buy a book I wasn't going to

As you've seen by now, I'm not a fan of boycotts and bans. So I see something like this and it really burns me: A bunch of jealous children's book authors are protesting a book deal of Simon & Schuster with Milo Yiannopoulos. Basically, he's getting a $250k advance and they're not.

I don't know much about ol' Milo, except that he's gay, not liberal, and has said some controversial things. Oh, no! In this day and age of snowflakes and professional undies-in-a-bunchers, that's practically a felony.

Fine, the kids' lit authors are entitled to their opinion, but seriously? Authors wanting to curb free speech? And then they have the audacity to suggest they aren't suppressing free speech because Milo has other platforms (internet & organizations) to get his message out.

That's like saying it's okay to ban Huckleberry Finn in the libraries because people can read it online. What a bunch of crap from a bunch of crybabies who you'd think would know better.

I wonder if these kiddy book writers also protested other Simon & Schuster authors who have said or done controversial things: Hunter S. Thompson, Glenn Beck, Hillary Clinton, Mark Levin, Stephen King, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Donald Trump, Dick Cheney, Dan Brown, Carrie Fisher. Among others.

And the story mentions bookstores who plan to ban his book. As if they carry no books somebody else might find offensive. And they don't even know if there will be anything offensive in this book, only that they don't like the politics of its author. Good grief. Book sellers censoring. Craziness.

So many people disappointing me with their hypocrisy these days.

It's not just the hypocrisy of people who should be celebrating free speech actually thwarting it, but their stupidity in thinking boycotts work. All it does is bring more attention to Milo. Want to shut him up, ignore him.

I have a sticker on my portfolio at work that says "I buy banned books." I'd normally have no interest in Milo. Nothing against him, just no interest. But now I do. Now I'll buy his book, assuming our local bookstore sells it. If they don't, they'll be hearing from me.

As my wife and others who know me will attest, if you want me to do something, tell me I shouldn't.

The book is called Dangerous. It comes out March 14. Pre-order it here.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Huckleberry Finn smokin'

I added to my modest collection of Huckleberry Finn books recently when the public library had a remodeling sale. Picked it up for a buck.

The thing I like about it, and which makes it unique to all the others I own, is it’s the only one I have where Huck is smoking a pipe on the cover. It’s a cool drawing, though I think Huck looks younger than the 13- or 14-year-old Huck in the novel. Maybe not.

Huck, the vagabond, slippin’ out for a smoke. Widow Douglas would not be happy.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

It's time to read a book

So I’ve had this project in my head for quite a while but couldn’t figure out how to pull it off.

As you can see, each book coincides with the hour (except for 9 and 10, which are just place-holders until I read a book with 9 or 10 in the title). The problem was trying to figure out how to hold the books without taping or nailing them. I went to Hobby Lobby and tried to find some sort of little knick-knack holder each book could rest on. But I couldn’t find anything.

Then, the next day, it struck me like a bolt of lightning. Ribbon! Tacks. Clear.

So the boy and I hit up Walmart initially looking for a transparent ribbon, but Junior had a moment of brilliance and said: “Why would they make clear ribbon?” So we settled for “transparent” ribbon which has a little lacy look to it you can barely see in the photo. Then there’s a tack at the top and bottom to hold up the books. Worked like a charm, but kind of limited to paperbacks as I don’t think it will hold hard-cover books.

Anyway, it wasn’t quite as cool as I envisioned in my head, but not bad.