Book Reviews

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To understand Rand's rather economically conservative stance (to put it mildly), it is important to look at her background. Born in the early 1900's, the writer escaped Soviet Russia after college in 1924. Under Communist rule, she saw her father's pharmacy confiscated and the near-starvation of her family. Needless to say, Ayn Rand was vehemently opposed to the Marxist ideology, “From each, according to his ability; to each according to his needs.”

In this political climate, I definitely thought it was important to explore this work of fiction that was the culmination of Rand's work as an author and her philosophy of “Objectivism.” Regardless of one's point of view- democrat, republican, conservative, liberal- this is a book that should be read and analyzed, whether or not one agrees with the tenets that are put forth.

Some things to point out...

  1. It's long. Like, really, really long: over 1,000 pages.

  1. Economical philosophies aside, the actual novel is pretty entertaining. The main character, Dagny, is the strong-willed VP of Taggart Transcontinental Railroad. She has a love affair with Hank Rearden, a successful industrialist in the field of steel-making. As the country's economic collapse unfolds, the brightest and most hard-working people begin to disappear. We come to find out that they're hiding out; lying in wait for the downfall of the country in order to return, unscathed, to rebuild.

  1. After reading this book, I have to say that the words "but it's not fair" scare me most of all. It was an entire generation that was criticized for believing that all children deserved a trophy, that there should be no "winners" or "losers," that everyone should share- regardless of circumstances.  We have learned, as a people, that this doctrine should be discarded; it promotes whininess in children, and adults who do not see the value in working hard.  What is the point in working hard if everyone reaps the benefits? Perhaps it is "fair" that everyone is rewarded equally, but the system just does not work.

  1. If that is agreed upon, then we should discuss what an appropriate reward should be for a job well done: possibly a certificate that allows one to obtain items that he or she desires, or "money" as it is commonly called?  Rand believes strongly in being paid as a reward for hard work.  She believes in bonuses, raises, and commissions. After reading this novel, I can say with confidence that money is NOT the "root of all evil."

  1. At times, workers are recompensed for their hard work with a higher salary, or better benefits.  Perhaps they receive a a more inclusive retirement package, a company car, a lollipop… The point is that if everyone acquires the same rewards, regardless of what they do, society no longer has a reason to "step up to the plate," and capitalism, as we know it, ceases to exist.  It may not be "fair," but it is a belief that America is built on.

  1. I completely understand that others may have different, and very valid, viewpoints. Believe me- I didn't agree with EVERYTHING that Ayn Rand said, however I did feel riled up after reading this book- and isn't that the point? I suggest that you go out and read it if you haven't already. I'm very interested in hearing what you have to say!
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Sometimes you just need to read something short and sweet- cue this novel (whose title is so long that I will not re-type it).


Though geared toward an audience of adolescent readers, this book is so different, so unusual, and so incredibly well done that I suggest everyone read it (plus the fact that at 150ish pages, it can be read as quickly as an issue of “Us Weekly”).

What makes this story so unique? The main character and narrator of the tale, Christopher, is a fifteen-year old autistic boy. Haddon is able to capture the complexities of this disorder so clearly; Christopher is gifted in many respects, yet cannot understand or convey emotions. Through his eyes, the reader embarks on an adventure to seek the murderer of his neighbor's dog. Because of his practical account of the events that transpire during his quest, the reader becomes aware of a much more significant occurrence that has come to take place, and affected the lives of Christopher's entire family.

I cried a little (but then again I usually tear up during Folgers commercials too).
Tell me what you thought and if you cried as well.

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In the nineteenth century, New Yorkers assembled at what was known as “Cabinets of Curiosity” to view abnormal and grotesque marvels from around the world. These cabinets were considered the first museums, though judging by their description, they seemed more like freak-shows.

This novel actually takes place in modern-day New York, where a woman named Nora (beautiful, brilliant, perfect in every way- this book was definitely written by men) works at the Museum of Natural History. Her boyfriend, Bill, is a reporter for the Times. When old bones are discovered in the basement of a building that is being excavated, the two, along with Detective Prendergast (apparently the authors have written several books that include this character) are thrown into the midst of a 100-year-old mystery and a recent serial killing spree (fun!).

Okay- my thoughts: if you haven't read this book and are looking for a decent mystery, it's worth it. This book will not change you life (unless, of course, you're researching the different methods to undergo your serial killing).

The novel is a good enough read, but it takes itself way too seriously, making the characters seem a bit pretentious.

“Smithback loved this restaurant more than any other in New York City. It was decidedly untrendy, old-fashioned, with superb food. You didn't get the bridge and tunnel crowd here like you did at Le Cirque 2000...”

It goes on to describe Bill Smithback's new Armani suit with the paisley, silk pocket square, then describes his rare steak au poivre. We get it. He's classy.

If you can get over that level of pomposity in your reading, the plot-line of the story is pretty worthy.

I recommend reading this novel, but not buying it. Go to the library and pick up a copy (that's that place on the corner that you always pass on your way to Barnes and Noble- they have all the same stuff, but it's free!). Or, you can borrow my copy!

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For a book with this particular title I noticed a lack of, well, philosophy, let alone a club devoted to the subject. I don't even believe that McCall Smith referenced Sundays at all- or even sundaes (yum!). That said, however, this novel was an absolute pleasure to read and kept me entertained the whole time.

Though the setting was modern-day Edinburgh, Scotland, it seemed the story could take place anywhere- it was easy to follow, despite the fact that it is a place I've never been (hint, hint, Kyle).


The main character, a middle-aged single woman named Isabel, is surprisingly relatable (although I'm neither of those things). A very curious woman by nature, she sets out to investigate the falling death of a handsome young man, with whom she felt a “connection” with as he dropped from the highest balcony at the symphony. Since Isabel was the last person he saw in life, she felt a moral obligation to find out the truth about his accident, suicide, or murder.

The real draw of this novel, however, is McCall Smith's ability to develop the relationships between his characters. They're just so... real.

I would definitely give this book an A (wait, is that the scale I'm using? I better go back to some earlier posts. Okay- good enough. A.).

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