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Welcome to The catholic reader!

cath·o·lic/ˈkaTH(ə)lik/

Adjective: (esp. of a person's tastes) Including a wide variety of things; all-embracing.
 
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which has created words and worlds that border on the eternal.

I read promiscuously with catholic tastes-—biography, history, classic fiction, mysteries, general science, travel, philosophy, theology, sports, humor, politics. I thrive on the odd juxtapositions of ideas and words that such an eclectic mix brings to my thinking and writing.

I find that I tend to be less generous (I prefer to think more realistic) in my star ratings than most reviewers. In my reviews I have my own fixed scale that I use:

5          stars - What a classic!
3 or 4   stars - Worth my time
1 or 2   stars - Well, OK, I guess
0 to -3  stars - Waste of time
-5         stars - Waste of paper

Classics are timeless and universal; very few books deserve this rank.

Worth my time are books that I thoroughly enjoyed, including the writing, the style, the setting, the topic, and I would recommend to any reader. Sometimes, these books lack only the timelessness (too new) or universality (narrower subject) that defines a classic.

Books rated "Well, OK, I guess" while otherwise good have some flaw in one area (writing, topic, style, or other characteristic) that hinders the reader's enjoyment of an otherwise fine book.

Waste of time are books that are discernibly less well written than the first three categories but still have some redeeming qualities ("Guilty pleasures" fall in this category)

Wastes of paper are relentlessly awful and would be unlikable by any reader; very few books deserve this rank.
Rate Some Topics
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millenium Bob Dylan The Girl Who Played With Fire (book) Schindler's Ark John Adams
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Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
You know how in a Dickens novel pretty much every thing works out happily in the end?  Yeah, that doesn't happen here.  Hardy followed up his "comedy in chapters" (The Hand of Ethelberta), where superficially or potentially tragic events turned out for the good, with "Return of the native", where everything that appears tragic is tragic and almost nothing ends well.  …
reviewed Beatles vs. Stones. June 28
Beatles vs. Stones
The title might suck you in like it did me in this intertwined thumbnail parallel sketch of the careers of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.  After all, I am just old enough to remember when that was a question that might seriously be posed to a fan of rock and roll music, because the answer to the question meant something about what you thought about music and life.       …
1913: In search of the world before the Great War
Cataclysmic events like the Great War cause us to see the history of the time immediately preceding only in the light of the events that followed.  This historical hindsight can blind us to the true perceptions and important events as seen by the contemporaries of the time.  Emmerson attempts to remedy this by looking at the major cities, societies, nations, and empires as they were in 1913, …
reviewed The Hand of Ethelberta. June 19
The Hand of Ethelberta
Hardy tries his hand at a "comedy in chapters" in this outting.  It actually sold better in serial form than Far from the Madding Crowd, the great classic just preceding it, but in comparison it has not stood up as well critically.  The comparison really isn't fair to Ethelberta which on its own is an enjoyable addition to the Hardy shelf.    Maybe its the name. …
Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years
MacCulloch's massive one volume history of the religion based on the man and the mission of Jesus Christ is imaginative, insightful, and mostly maintains interest beginning to end.  The interest starts with the intriguing subtitle, as MacCulloch begins by examining the roots of Christianity in the Jewish, Greek, and Roman worlds that the man Jesus bridged.  The collective human and spiritual …
The story of music: from Babylon to the Beatles: How music has shaped civilization
Goodall spans the entire history of music (including why musical notations like allegro are in Italian) in just over 300 small format pages.   The coverage of the roots of music as sound, as oral communication, as notations that can be read and repeated, as emotional and spiritual and political devices, and as recorded entertainment is fascinating and deep and worth the price of admission.  …
reviewed 11/22/63: A Novel. May 03
11/22/63 a book by Stephen King
I haven't read many of this hyper selling author's books and not for quite a while (I remember reading Christine when it was a new book decades ago) and just from the plot synopsis this seems like not a standard King thriller, so maybe it really doesn't count as "reading a Stephen King book." There is very little of the supernatural or otherworldly horror here, that is, once …
Far from the Madding Crowd
Not with any other author, even the inimitable Dickens, have I ever seen the linear progression in maturity and strength of writing as in Thomas Hardy's from his debut through Madding Crowd.  This is his first What a Classic rating from my reviews as I read through his bookshelf in chronological order, earned by his powerful and appealing characters and his unflinching approach to moral issues …
reviewed A Pair of Blue Eyes. April 16
A Pair of Blue Eyes
The third book published in his slowly accelerating career brings Hardy to. the style and moral principles that will finally bring him fame and acclaim as a writer.  Desperate Remedies was a derivative genre novel, Under the Greenwood Tree was a picturesque but slight prose painting.  In A Pair of Blue Eyes Hardy starts to speak in his own voice and establish his fictional Wessex as his …
Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1
If you search any book buying site you will find editions of Mark Twain s autobiography.   You will also learn that Mark Twain's will called for his autobiography to be sealed for 100 years after his death because of named names and his blunt assessments of fools, knaves, relatives, friends, and politicians.  And you should never believe everything you read on the internet.   …
reviewed The Skin map. March 31
Lawhead has made a career writing series of books updating and reinterpreting legends that may have some roots in the early mists of history, most notably Robin Hood and King Arthur.  I have read both of those series and found them entertaining if sometimes written more by a template in his word processor than by his research, imagination and writing skills.     Thinking that …
reviewed Civil War Pittsburgh: Forge of the Union. March 22
Civil War Pittsburgh: Forge of the Union
Pittsburgh may have been far from the battlefields of the Civil War but from its position guarding the Ohio River gateway to the South and West it supplied the men and steel that earned it the subtitle of the "Forge of the Union.". Barcousky mines the archives of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to present this thin collection of Civil War related stories.  While moderately interesting it …
reviewed Heretics and heroes: How Renaissance .... March 18
Heretics and heroes: How Renaissance artists and Reformation priests created our world
Cahill has been guiding us through what he calls the "Hinges of History", describing the major threads and the decisive turning points in cultures, languages, arts, nations , and religions that have made us.  His style is narrative, ecumenical, inventive. and broad-ranging.   Previous volumes in the series introduced us to our Jewish and Greek roots filtered through the world-changing …
reviewed Ping Pong diplomacy: The Secret histo.... March 09
Ping Pong diplomacy: The Secret history behind the game that changed the world
If you have a chance to go to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH, be sure to stop by the museum there, and take special notice of the display of the rail car mounted Minuteman nuclear missile.  When I saw this a decade or so ago I was jarred to realize that within my adult lifetime this was a real proposal for shuttling armed nuclear warheads around the country's railroad racks …
reviewed Fizz: How soda shook up the world. March 03
This is a fast paced trace of carbonated soda pop beverages from their historical roots in mineral waters, ginger beers, and patent medicine concoctions.  While Coca-Cola features prominently because of its presence early in the foundation of the industry and its size later, Pepsi, Schweppes, and Dr. Pepper also get coverage for their role in the growth of the industry and the Cola Wars of recent …
reviewed Candy: A century of panic and pleasure. March 01
Candy: A century of panic and pleasure
Candy might be empty calories but Kawash has written a satisfying study of the intersection of the history, nutrition, sociology, marketing, and even morality of candy.  Yes, candy is bad for you, we can agree (although candy companies have tried to convince otherwise). but is it bad?    Kawash argues convincingly that candy isn't bad, evil, poison, a gateway drug-or good food, …
reviewed Let me clear my throat. February 24
I picked this up based on the title of one of the essays in this collection called "Double Joy: Myron Cope and the Pittsburgh Sound."  Growing up listening to My ron Cope on Steelers games and on the Channel 4 News sports segment, and sporting perhaps the only Myron Cope memorial front license plate in the world, when I have lived away from the area I have struggled to convey to those …
reviewed Under the Greenwood Tree. February 22
The concept and the execution of Seinfeld, the TV show about nothing, applies to Hardy's second novel as well.  Though nothing much happens, the feel, the characters, the places, the relationships are everything and carry the whole much farther than the parts.    While his opening novel Desperate Remedies felt like a mechanical chess match, here Hardy appears as relaxed and happy …
reviewed Desperate remedies. February 15
Hardy became known for the depth and nuance of his morality plays but in his debut the moral landscape is simpler and clearer in its shading of black and white.  The subtle shades of gray would come with Hardy's maturity as a writer.    The plot turns on a fading beauty and a young heroine sharing the same unusual first name which we will learn through a series of too-remarkable …
reviewed The Life of Charles Dickens: The Illu.... February 06
The Life of Charles Dickens: The Illustrated Edition
But maybe not larger than this book.  The title of my review is the tag line on the back cover of this one volume 500-page abridged edition on oversized pages printed on thick glossy paper, referring to its subject but also applicable to this book (ISBN 978-1-4027-7285-6; I found it in the bargain section at Barnes and Noble).  It is large and hard to hold to read, and you won't want …
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