Book Review: Every Frenchman Has One by Olivia de Havilland (Four Stars)


Book Review: Every Frenchman Has One by Olivia de Havilland

Four Stars

“I’m not at all sure if you know that I’m alive.”

So she was/is. One hundred years old, and still living in Paris, which was the point when she wrote this book sixty years ago. She was a big Hollywood deal before most of us were born.

This short book is a chatty, personal memoir of her moving to Paris and marrying a Frenchman in the 1950s. Paris then–France then–clutched the tatters of its legacy as the center of the world, politically and in fashion. Though she still lives there; she probably doesn’t recognize today’s Paris.

“If you are loved by the French as a whole, you really feel loved.

Her adjustment to France and the French made for many humorous episodes which she relates in a conversational style. She suffered many of the misconceptions of fellow Americans and committed many gaffes, but no faux pas. (The significant difference is explained therein.)

What does every Frenchman have? A liver. And how he cares for it makes for a humorous tale in itself.

She learned, “The importance of tact, restraint, subtlety, and the avoidance of banality.”

Book Review: This Life I Live by Rory Feek (Four Stars)


Book Review: This Life I Live: One Man’s Extraordinary, Ordinary Life and the Woman Who Changed It Forever by Rory Feek

Four Stars

“People pass away. It’s part of life. It’s hard and it’s terrible, but it’s gonna happen to all of us.”

An extraordinary story told very well. Feek bares his soul and talks from the heart about his life, which started badly and got worse as he lived it. The conversational tone pulls the reader in as if this was a chat over coffee.

“A different perspective from what I had most of my life. Finally opening my hands and turning my life over to God.”

So many quotable epigrams that I filled four pages of my notebook. The man is a professional writer: it shows.

“The only way this can work is if we are both willing to give everything up for the other person.”

I never heard of Rory Feek or Joey Martin. I’m not a fan of Country and Western music, but the man has a powerful message: admittedly Christian, but without the trappings and jargon of professional religion. He used only one theological word.

“The point where I did everything wrong was just the bigger of a bigger story. Just the setup.”

“I just wanted a little bit of something good, what I got was a lifetime of something great.”

If you read this book, be prepared to be moved, both by the hash Feek made of his own life and to its incredible outcomes. He takes you deeper inside himself than many memoirs and tell-alls. He shares his heart.

“A story that will live long after the man who told it is gone.”

“Her love strengthened my faith.”

Book Review: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (Five Stars)


Book Review: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Five Stars

“How we seek to spend our time may depend on how much we perceive ourselves to have.”

“We want autonomy for ourselves and safety for those we love.”

This book should be read by everyone who expects to die, which excuses half of us. Americans today deny that life will end, often in unpleasant circumstances. Our head-in-the-sand attitude only makes our dilemma worse.

“Twenty-five percent of all Medicare spending is for five percent of patients in the final year of life … most of little apparent benefit.”

Better solutions are possible, but we have to seek and demand them. Left to themselves, the medical and government communites will treat us like high-cost, low-success science experiments.

“The closing phase of a modern life often looks like a mounting series of crises from which medicine can offer Continue reading

Book Review: Riley Unlikely by Riley Banks-Snyder with Lisa Velthouse (Five Stars)


Book Review: Riley Unlikely: How One Young Woman’s Heart for Africa is Changing the World, by Riley Banks-Snyder with Lisa Velthouse

Five Stars

“If anything has become clear to me … it’s the link between love and craziness.”

This is an awesome book. Not only is the subject a great, true story, but the writing is genuine. The voice sounds like a real person–a poised, enthusiastic young lady who is as amazed as anyone else at what a couple weeks in Kenya changed her life … and the lives of hundreds of American and Kenyan children.

“A pencil could be a source of fulfillment and deep satisfaction.”

A fast read; a fun read. Hard to put down. Ups and downs and twist like an adventure novel. It was/is an adventure story, but it’s true. It feels authentic, even as readers follow Riley on her unlikely journeys–literal and figurative.

“His response to my doubt is not punishment; it was unmistakable grace.”

A note about “with.” Co-authors, ghost writers, whatever you call them seldom get credit for what they do. Lisa Velthouse managed to capture the enthusiasm and personality of Riley Banks-Snyder. Extraordinary young lady; extraordinary book.

“The beauty of watching God work is that his ways are so utterly unlike ours that often his moves are so utterly unlike ours that often his moves seem to come out of nowhere.”

Book Review: The Light and the Glory: Did God have a Plan for America? (Second Edition) by Peter Marshall and David Manuel Four Stars

Book Review: The Light and the Glory: Did God have a Plan for America? by Peter Marshall and David Manuel

Four Stars

As the cover asserts, the second edition is “revised and expanded.” (For a fuller review of the first edition, read here.) Some material has been deleted, some of which had doubtful providence, some perhaps to keep the book close to 500 pages. The result is a better, tighter argument of the author’s thesis.

As reviewed previously, this book presents an argument, that “Since the first Christian settlers entered into covenant with Him, God has called the people of this country to be ‘a City on a Hill,’” referring to John Winthrop’s 1630 quote from Matthew 5:14.

Thirty years elapsed between editions. This writing is tauter and reads better. While the cover art of the first edition is more striking, this edition is preferred for the text.

(Both authors are now deceased. The link in is erroneous, to Marshall’s father.)

Review: The Age of Alexander: Nine Greek Lives by Plutarch Four Stars

Review: The Age of Alexander: Nine Greek Lives by Plutarch

Four Stars

“War has an appetite that cannot be satisfied by quotas.” Hegesippus

Plutarch’s Parallel Lives was the primary source for the history of Rome and Greece during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, this volume covers the period after Athens fall from supremacy in the Greek-speaking world.

“… and deliver the state from the habit of pandering to the mob, a disease scarcely less pernicious than tyranny itself.” (Some things never change)

Plutarch’s Lives influenced art and literature as well as politics and history. Shakespeare based his ancient history plays on Plutarch, occasionally quoting him verbatim.

“The truth is that the great majority of mankind are more offended by a contemptuous word than a hostile action, and find it easier to put up with an injury than an insult.”

Ian Scott-Kilvert’s English translation is clear and readable, if occasionally colloquial. Every day English has evolved since the 1970s.

“To show kindness only to one’s friends and benefactors is no proof of having acquired such self-control: the real test for a man who has been wronged to be able to show compassion and moderation to the evil-doers.”

The serious student of history may look elsewhere for greater authority, but the rest of us are enlightened and entertained by Plutarch’s commentary on the lives of the movers and shakers during a time which reads to us like epic fantasy: Descendants of Heracles, mythic tasks, loyalty and betrayal, heroes and tyrants.

“One more victory like that over the Romans will destroy us completely.” Pyrrhus

Book Review: A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War by Joseph Loconte (Five Stars)

Book Review: A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18 by Joseph Loconte

Five Stars

“For a generation of men and women, it brought the end of innocence … and the end of faith.”

An extraordinary and deep exploration of how the Great War, which we call World War One, impacted the lives and works of two of the twentieth century’s greatest writings of epic fantasy. “All the horrors of all the ages were brought together and not only armies by whole populations were thrust into the midst of them,” Winston Churchill. Not unflawed, the work nevertheless demands Continue reading

Book Review: Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow (Four Stars)

Book Review: Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Four Stars

“Instead of glorying in his might, he feared its terrible weight’s potential misuse.”

An encyclopedic survey of the life of George Washington. Well done, but Chernow was so heavily engaged in selling his theories of Washington’s personality and style that parts felt like the 2016 election campaign. “The most interior of the founders.” Pages of pithy epigrams by and about Washington. At 900 pages, it’s hardly “crisply paced”

“Things seldom happened accidentally to George Washington, but he managed them with consummate skill that they often seemed to happen accidentally.”

Modern availability and cataloguing of founder correspondence allows Chernow to explore both sides of many conversations, facilitating greater understanding of the bonds and divisions between Washington and Continue reading

Book Review: The Light and the Glory: Did God have a Plan for America? by Peter Marshall and David Manuel (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Light and the Glory: Did God have a Plan for America? by Peter Marshall and David Manuel

Four Stars

“God would provide grace commensurate with the call.”

An excellent development of one exceptionalist view of the founding of the United States of America. Written in 1977, some cultural references now seem either quaint or prescient. Like Evidence that Demands a Verdict, this book draws heavily from primary sources (eyewitness accounts, letters and journals, not just other histories), in this case to argue for divine participation in the discovery and development of America.

“What if God had conceived a special plan for America?”

This book has Continue reading

Book Review: Every Man his own Doctor by John Tennent (Three Stars)

Book Review: Every Man his own Doctor, or, The Poor Planter’s Physician  by John Tennent

Three Stars

This 1737 guide to home medicine was widely available and followed in colonial times. Benjamin Franklin is reputed to have been among its printers and distributors. The book offered a cure for everything from “vapours” (“Hysterick fits”) to cancer.

Cures feature frequent, repeated bloodletting, teas of herbs, abstinence from meat, horse riding,

Medicine in that century could only deal with symptoms, because true antibiotics–indeed the germ theory of diseases–was in the future. Sometimes getting symptoms under control and letting the body heal itself sufficed, other times not. A disturbing number of treatments including repeated blood letting.

For example: To prevent “consumption” (tuberculosis) “never suffer a cough to dwell upon you; but bleed in time, and purge gently once a week. In the meantime, eat not one morsel of meat, nor drink anything stronger than a little sound cider: And to make the game sure, ride every fair day, and breathe as much as possible in the open air.”

Entertaining, if gruesome. (I read it researching a Revolutionary War historical fiction.) I think our medical care is better now, though some of the home cures you see on Facebook make you wonder. Thank God for antibiotics and vaccines.