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Three Cheers for Ruth! November 19, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Books, Parenting.
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Ruth started reading Three Cheers for Becky, a Barbie book, today, and she’s doing awesome!

This book is notable for her because of several things:

  1. It is a chapter book
  2. It has very few pictures
  3. It is worth 1 Accelerated Reader point – her first book to be worth that much

We are very, very proud of her.

My Grandfather’s Son November 2, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Books.
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This is the autobiography of Clarence Thomas.  It is well written and a quick read, covering Thomas’ life from birth through confirmation to the Supreme Court.

 I was particularly interested in the perspective of a successful, intellectual (black) man who grew up in segregated Georgia, because many of the tribulations he faced in his confirmation hearings were eerily similar to the persecutions he and his family faced several decades earlier.  Both were clearly racist in tone, and Thomas described the confirmation hearings (and the ordeal with Anita Hill) as a “high tech lynching”.

Overall, a great book about someone I respect, and even those who disagree with Thomas’ conservatism will find the book to be a great perspective on life growing up in (and overcoming) the segregated South.

The Fountainhead September 25, 2007

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I read this book on the recommendation of six or seven different people, each of whom said, “That was the best book I ever read.”  (OK – everyone except Jonathan W., who said it was the second best book he’s ever read, behind Atlas Shrugged, another of Ayn Rand’s novels.)

This book is the exposition of the “perfect man” of objectivism, Rand’s philosophy that holds that man’s ego is the fountainhead of human progress.  Much of the book is centered on Howard Roark, an architect who selfishly works at his craft to please himself and who refuses to compromise.  It is difficult not to like him.  Many of the other characters in the book lead “second-hand lives,” since they have no identity of their own – just that imposed on them by the ideals of society around them.  By contrast, Roark (and other characters like him) lives his life to the fullest because – according to Rand – he lives for himself.

I did not understand the relationship between Dominique (the “perfect woman”) and Gail Wynand (a man who could’ve been).  I did not understand the self-flaggelation motif, especially with regard to Dominique – if she was truly selfish, why the self-destruction?

Aside from that, this is a great book.  It is definitely a book of ideas and it’s fairly long (~700 pages).  It is worth reading, if for no other reason than you will love Roark and readily identify people in your own life who parallel Peter Keating, Gail Wynand, and Ellsworth Toohey.

What we’re reading September 12, 2007

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  • The Great Snake Escape – this will be her 6th of 7 books she needs for her next party, and it’s by far her most advanced to date.  She’s doing a great job.


  • Anything you’re willing to read to him, particularly as he sits on his potty!

New Baby

  • Nothing.  Too Dark.

Odyssey September 12, 2007

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I read Allen Mandelbaum’s verse translation of this epic from Homer.  (D’oh!)

This was the first time I have read this since high school, and it was really great.  I don’t remember if we did a verse translation in high school or not, but this was really impressive – every line had 10 syllables, frequently rhyming, and very beautiful to read.

I started reading this to see how appropriate an adapted version might be for a kindergartener or first grader, as suggested in The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer.  This is one we will probably hold off on for now – there is so much of the story that involves the work of the Greek gods, and I think stuff like that is confusing for a little kid who is just learning a lot of the Bible stories, and I don’t want to mix the messages.

Robinson Crusoe September 12, 2007

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This was a really great book.  I listened to a recording from librivox.org.  Check it out, if you want.  They have tons of free, public domain recordings of the classics.

It was clean, though a bit disgusting on the discussion of the cannibalistic savages.  I never could understand two things, though:

  1. Why Crusoe was unable to make a bigger boat.  He was on the island for 28 years or so, but he never figured out how to saw more than one plank from a felled tree.  He also never figured out how to craft a sealant for applying to the connections between planks in a would-be boat.  The best he could do was to make a dugout canoe.
  2. Why the island wasn’t overrun by the goats, since there were no obvious natural predators for them and there was more than abundant food for them to eat.

This is a great example of the classics being better than similar modern stories – I thought Robinson Crusoe was a much better story than the movie Castaway.

Accelerated Reader Points Formula July 9, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Books.
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I found this overview of the Accelerated Reader program, which includes the formula for calculating the number of points a book is worth.  The formula is:

AR points = (10 + reading level) X (words in book/100,000).

I tried this formula out on a few different books from Amazon that include the “reading level” and “words in book” numbers.  Some point values calculated this way were way off of the numbers posted on the Marietta, Georgia, Accelerated Reader site, but most were close enough to seem useful.  The difference may be attributed to any of the following:


Thoughts on reading and rewards July 8, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Books, Education, Parenting.
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Reading has been on my mind a lot lately, especially a Ruth is starting to read more on her own and as we have the first day of school quickly approaching.  I have a semi-formulated (or semi-unformulated, depending on our outlook) plan for creating some structure and incentives around reading at home.


3 out of 5 never read a book after high school June 27, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Books.
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I originally heard this on the radio (don’t remember the source), but I found the same data quoted by Para Publishing, who is quoting Jerrold Jenkins:

  • 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.
  • 42% of college graduates never read another book.
  • 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.
  • 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
  • 57% of new books are not read to completion.


This statistic makes me blush.  I believe another stat from that source was that the average page where people stop reading a book is page 18.

Reading teaches, challenges, and helps one think more critically – three things that most of us can use.  Try to read a book by the end of the summer.  Here are a few of my favorites:

And the one I’m reading right now: