Friday, August 29, 2014

Thoughts on Audible.com

Let me begin by saying that I'm not receiving a penny from Audible for this post. I like to share ways to save money on books, so here it goes.

Audiobooks are expensive. Audible charges $14.95 per month/book and therefore, I wasn't even vaguely interested in joining. When I registered my new Kindle, I was given the option of two free Audible titles (normally it's just one) and the right to drop my membership at any time. Since I'd been wanting to buy a pricey audio Bible, the offer was too hard to resist. I decided to get my free books and hang around for a couple of months to buy a few more at the regular price.

As I cullled through the titles I discovered many favorites at rock-bottom prices. Without using either of my "expensive" credits, I bought two favorites: Jane Eyre and Persuasion. Through their summer kids' book sale I got Peter Pan. At their anniversary sale I got two Shakespeare plays for 99 cents each. Also, there are some deep discounts if you already own the book version on Kindle. Did I mention that most of these titles are done by outstanding British voices? Top that with their beyond excellent customer service, and I'm one happy camper.

The final results...

ESV Audio Bible - Free Credit
Classics of British Literature (24 lectures) - Free Credit ($250 on The Great Courses website)
Jane Eyre - $2.99
Jane Austen's Persuasion - 69 cents
Psalms (KJV) - $2.35
Peter Pan - $2.99
Shakespeare's Julius Caesar - 99 cents
Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - 99 cents
Paid Credit #1 - With a Buy-One-Get-One-Free I purchased Part One of The Lord of the Rings (19 hours!) and Higher Call, a WWII title I've been wanting to read.
Paid Credit #2 - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming
Wind in the Willows - $2.99
Richard Burton reading Poetry of John Donne - $4.95
Screwtape Letters - $1.95

Summing it all up: If you get your free title(s) and several deals along with a few regularly priced books, it's VERY reasonable. (For around $50 I got 13 books and 24 lectures.) Well-produced audiobooks at about $4 each are quite a bargain.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Free Kindle Titles - Christian Classics

I'm a voracious reader, but I have to remind myself to balance fiction with non-fiction. So I've intentionally scheduled six devotional books into my next 10 months of reading. Here's what I'm hoping to read: A Life of Obedience by Murray, Pilgrim's Progress by Bunyan, Wisdom & Wonder by Kuyper, The Scarcity of Praying Men by Opoku, Simply Christian by N.T. Wright, and Death by Living by Wilson. Almost all of these were free at the time I downloaded them, but are now back to their original prices. Many Christian books, however, are always free for Kindle and I thought I'd highlight those this week:

Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton
The Pursuit of God by Tozer
Lord, Teach Us To Pray  by Andrew Murray (ANYTHING by Murray is good.)
When the Holy Ghost is Come by Samuel Logan Brengle (founder of The Salvation Army)
Pilgrim's Progress by Bunyan
The Confessions of St. Augustine
The Practice of the Presence by Brother Lawrence

Free titles by D.L. Moody, and R.C. Sproul are also available.

Since the newest NIV is not a reliable translation, I'm pleased that these two good Bibles are free - HCSB and the ESV.

Do you know of any titles I missed?
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Friday, August 15, 2014

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called 'Huckleberry Finn,'" Ernest Hemingway famously declared in 1935. Considered by some to be the greatest American novel, Huckleberry Finn is definitely not one of those classics you have to struggle through. Twain is a gifted story teller and there is nary a dull moment in this tale of a young boy and his struggle to live free from society's constraints. Plus, a lot of it is laugh-out-loud funny.

Critics of the book fall into two distinct camps. The loudest group calls it racist for it's profusion of derogatory references to African Americans (This is why it has been banned in many schools). The other group insists that Twain was reflecting the language of the times BUT was making a strong case for the humane treatment of black Americans. After all, Huck grows to love and respect Jim, and refuses to return him to slavery.

This idea of allowing Jim to go free was so counter-culture that Huck decides it must be a sin: He writes, "All right, then, I'll go to hell. . . . And I never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head, and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn't. And for a starter I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go whole hog." (from Chapter 31)

I listened to the audio version done by Elijah Wood, which was outstanding. My only quibble is that it is easier to skim over coarse language in a physical book, but impossible to do so with an audiobook. Having been taught as a child that the "N" word was profanity, hearing it over 200 times caused a continual pang.


Friday, August 8, 2014

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None is one of Christie's most famous novels. It's not really a spoiler to tell you what's right on the back cover: Ten people are on an island and are murdered one by one. But there is no 11th person. How is it done?

There are two film versions, one made in 1945 and the other 20 years later with the title Ten Little Indians. I saw the 1965 movie version when I was a child, but luckily I'd forgotten the identity of the culprit. I did remember a key point to the plot, but that did not diminish my enjoyment of the mystery. Christie writes an engaging story with fascinating characters that keeps you hooked to the end.

Note: this was not as cozy a story as Miss Marple's The Murder at the Vicarage since there was a lot more hysteria and swearing. Still, it was a satisfying, quick read.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Free Audiobook for August - Anna and the King of Siam

Christian.Audio.com has a fun, free audiobook this month. It's been years since I've read Anna and the King and I look forward to revisiting it.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Children of the Blitz by Robert Westall


I didn't find the Children of the Blitz; they found me. It began when I wrote The Machine Gunners in 1975; a book about kids in the Second World War who find a crashed German bomber, steal its machine-gun and set out to fight their own war against the Germans.

Thus Westall introduces his book of war-time memories. After the publication of Machine Gunners, hundreds of letters poured in from men and women who had been children during the War and had their own hair-raising adventures to share.

Stories range from how families built their own bomb shelters, to how they stretched their food budget (many through black market purchases), to how kids spent their free time looking for spies or searching through downed planes for war souvenirs. The prevailing emotion of the anecdotes is not fear, but a great sense of adventure. For many of these children the war was a time of much freedom, (Many schools were closed and parents were too worried or too busy surviving to police them.).

Westall knows that memory can be selective and that events can take on larger-than-life proportions with time. So he refers to these stories as "war myths." For every one story that is a hundred percent true, there are probably five that have been wildly exaggerated. But who can verify the facts now? Nevertheless many of the memories match up with events recorded in other books I've read such as London 1945 and The Children's War.
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I especially enjoyed the stories of POWs since I recently read Morpurgo's Little Manfred, a story of a British family befriending a German prisoner after the War.  In Westall's book, a fourteen year old boy recalls: I remember practicing the piano one afternoon and seeing a German POW, who was engaged in hedge-cutting for the local farmer, spending a long time on the [bush]immediately in front of our house. When we got into a conversation with him, it turned out he had been a cathedral organist in Germany and he was delighted to listen to anyone playing Bach, even a beginner like me..."

This is just one of many astounding stories that will delight lovers of war history, especially as it pertains to life on the homefront.



Monday, July 28, 2014

E-Books vs Physical Books - Part Three

Tim Challies once again linked to a great post from The New Yorker about how our brains process printed words and the big difference between e-books and regular books. I continue to be fascinated by this discussion.

One slice of the article:

Professor Ann Mangen had her students read a short story in two formats: a pocket paperback or a Kindle e-book. When Mangen tested the readers' comprehension, she found that the medium mattered a lot. When readers were asked to place a series of events from the story in chronological order - a simple plot-reconstruction task, not requiring deep analysis or critical thinking -  those who had read the story in print fared significantly better, making fewer mistakes and recreating an over-all more accurate version of the story. The words looked identical, but their physical materiality mattered for basic comprehension.

MaryanneWolf's (author of a book on the history of reading called Proust and the Squid) concerns go far beyond simple comprehension. She fears that as we turn to digital formats, we may see a negative effect on the process that she calls deep reading..."Reading is a bridge to thought," she says. "And it's that process that I think is the real endangered aspect of reading."

Two previous posts on this topic are here and here.