Book Review: The Mormonizing of America

Recently I was approached by Worthy Publishing with the opportunity to be one of a select group of bloggers to review this new release by best-selling author Stephen Mansfield. Having always had a fairly positive opinion of the Church of Later Day Saints, I was a little leery at first. I didn't want to read a book that simply chose to pick apart a faith, or that paid all of its attention on some of the more peculiar practices of it's members. Truth be told, I think if you look objectively at any religion, some of the rites and rituals are a little strange - my own faith included.

The subtitle of this new book is what convinced me to read it: How the Mormon Religion Became Became a Dominant Force in Politics, Entertainment, and Pop Culture. As the author repeatedly states, we are certainly living through a "Mormon Moment" and to learn what it is about this faith that seems to produce successful adults in numbers that belie their relatively small membership could be interesting. After finishing it, I have mixed feelings.

Book Review: The Shakespeare Thefts & The Fourth Fisherman

Over the past week I read two short books, The Shakespeare Thefts and The Fourth Fisherman. Both books were good but fairly quick reads, so I have decided to write a short two-fer this week.
It is hardly debatable that the two most important publications in terms of modern English language are the King James Bible and the First Folio of Shakespeare. In 1623, two actors who had worked with Shakespeare sought to publish a collection of his work in order that the acting company could profit rather than the many knock offs that were circulating at the time. Only about 1,000 copies were printed, of those 232 remain accounted for. How do we know this? Because of the work of Eric Rasmussen and his crack team of Folio Hunters. Rasmussen formed his team in 1996 with the expressed aim of documenting as many surviving copies as possible and determining their provenance in the process. The Shakespeare Thefts can be looked at as a highlight reel of what they have been able to accomplish.

Book Review: The Serpent of Moses

Books, much like anything come with expectations. The same holds true for all kinds of entertainment media. If you are going to see an romance epic, you expect to shed some tears. Pick up a thriller and you expect to be kept awake at night, or at the very least, to suffer from a few quality nightmares. A treatise on history? There had better not be factual errors or clearly identifiable bias. As long as something meets our expectations we are generally pleased with our investment of time and cash. The Serpent of Moses by Don Hoesel completely met my needs in terms of an action-packed beach read.
Is it full of Indiana Jones styled unbelievability? Yup.
Is the good guy the stereo-typical hero who is brilliant but flawed with a devil-may-care attitude? You betcha.
Is the love interest a beautiful scientist? Almost, in this case she is a linguist, which of course our hero needs to decipher the ancient codes necessary to fine the long lost artifact, deal with his own troubled past, defeat the terrorists, evade the Mossad who are also…well…you get the idea.
Everyone needs some escapism once in a while, and this kind of books is mine. If you like them too, then I can strongly recommend The Serpent of Moses. In fact once I started reading I realized this is a sequel. Now I know where to turn the next time I need to kill a lazy afternoon on the deck. Thank you Mr. Hoesel.

Book Review: Thomas Jefferson, the Classical World, and Early America

Thomas Jefferson, the Classical World, and Early America, edited by Peter S. Onuf and Nicholas P. Cole is a collection of essays from various classical scholars that attempts to flesh out the degree of influence classicism had on Jefferson, both personally and politically. This is no easy task, as the architect of Monticello, one of the most famous examples of neo-classical buildings in early America, and the scholar who was fluent in both Greek and Latin, in a letter to John Adams, “ridiculed Plato’s Republic; and in other correspondence, he dismissed the importance and refused to bemoan the loss of major portions of Aristotle’s Politics,” (56). Evidently, Thomas Jefferson’s views on the relevance  and importance of classicism was at best conflicted.