Oscar Wilde: Plays: The Importance of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband, Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance, Salome'Oscar Wilde: Plays: The Importance of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband, Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, Salome’ by Oscar Wilde

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been an admirer of Oscar Wilde since adolescence, and I still find his mixture of social edginess, wit, and sophisticated (but ever so slightly wicked) wisdom irresistible. I actually listened to a delightful BBC production of these plays, plus a dramatized version of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and fell in love with Wilde all over again.

This time around, what I noticed was that his social and political commentary was right on, and as relevant today as when he wrote it 100 years ago. Also, I don’t think I know a writer who incorporates a higher percentage of quotable epigrams. There is nobody quite so inimitable as Oscar Wilde. If you’ve never experienced his writings, do yourself a favor and spend a delightful hour or two with one of these plays.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary ObsessionThe Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some parts of this book were fascinating. But not quite enough of them. Bartlett tries a little too hard to romanticize and complicate something that in the end is just not that romantic and complicated.

She tells the story of John Charles Gilkey, a pathological book thief who steals rare books in an elusive, quixotic search for the well-heeled, intellectual life they represent to him. While I did enjoy the story and SOME of Bartlett’s endless psychoanalysis of Gilkey, in the end it just was not interesting enough to hype so much.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop TalkingQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am a pretty strong introvert (INFP, to give myself a four-letter label), so it was inevitable that I eventually read this book. There was definitely a lot of food for thought here, and a lot of angles of introversion which I had not considered. Many times in the book, I found myself thinking, “oh, that explains why I think/feel/act that way.”

However, at times it seemed repetitive and (dare I say it) boring. Some of Cain’s dramatically stated conclusions strike me more as common sense than revolutionary. Still, it was well-written and extensively researched. I did enjoy learning about all the studies that have been done about introversion.

And yes, I admit I enjoyed hearing it constantly repeated that there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. In fact, according to this book, had there been more introverts at the helm in the banking industry, we could have avoided the Great Recession of 2008. I guess it’s nice to know that we could have saved the world.

This is a good book for introverts who feel uncomfortable with their introversion, extroverts frustrated or mystified by the introverts in their life, or parents who are trying to not scar their introverted children for life.

The Middle of InfinityThe Middle of Infinity by Kevin R. Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Full disclosure: I copy-edited this book for Kevin, who is a dear friend of my parents and has known me since I was a toddler.

That said, I am pretty sure I would have enjoyed reading it even if I hadn’t known the author. Kevin’s candid, at times painfully vulnerable account of his experience with a life-threatening illness is both an informative look into the daily drama of living with a medical condition and a deeply profound meditation on life, death, and the meaning they suddenly gain when one is not quite sure where one will end and the other begin.

Kevin went into his ordeal after decades as a practicing physician, and his insider knowledge of every medical procedure and physical process that happened to him will be invaluable for non-medical professionals battling a serious medical condition, and their loved ones. No one passes through such an experience unchanged, and it was interesting to see Kevin’s character development as he went through the stages of illness.

This meditation on life and eternity will give you an intimate look into the day-to-day experiences of someone living with a serious illness and inspire you to live every day to the fullest.

A Short Stay in HellA Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a fascinating novella. I would never have imagined Hell as a vast library. Heaven, yes. But Hell?

I loved the beginning of the book, when several people who have just died end up in the afterlife, only to discover that they were all members of the “wrong” religion, and that the only true religion that could get you into Heaven was Zoroastrianism. There are a lot of people of varying religions (including my own) who believe that only those who belong to theirs have a shot at Heaven. Or that just belonging to the right religion will get you there. This book is worth reading just for that delicately ironic first scene (which you can read for free as a Kindle preview, and ought to).

The rest of the book is alarming and thought-provoking by turns. I have never had such an experiential glimpse into the idea of eternity.

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4 thoughts on “

  • September 5, 2013 at 9:49 pm
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    That’s a lovely way of looking at it. I’d like to believe that is true.

    Thank you for your explanation!

  • August 28, 2013 at 3:52 pm
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    That’s a good question, Susanne. Yes, we believe in three “heavens” (or “degrees of glory” in Mormon parlance). And we believe that you need to be baptized the way we baptize to get into the highest.

    But we also believe that everyone will eventually get baptized. In fact, we are busily trying to make that happen by baptizing everyone, whether it’s in this life or vicariously after they’ve died. So yeah, you could almost view that baptism requirement as a sort of formality.

    In the end, I think heaven has a lot more to do with how you lived and loved your neighbor than what church you went to. It’s the only way I can make sense of a beautifully diverse world full of wonderful people of so many different faiths.

  • August 26, 2013 at 6:12 pm
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    “There are a lot of people of varying religions (including my own) who believe that only those who belong to theirs have a shot at Heaven. Or that just belonging to the right religion will get you there. ” — I was under the impression that only Mormons will get the highest-heaven, but most of the rest of us would get one of the other two since Mormons don’t believe in hell. Or maybe there is variety of thought even among Mormons. Anyway, that comment piqued my interest. :)

    Thanks for sharing your reviews. I have read “Quiet” so it was good reading your thoughts on it.

  • August 25, 2013 at 10:42 pm
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    I also liked A Short Stay in Hell. Quite entertaining and really made me think.

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