Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Kiko's House Book Club

Will the first meeting of the Kiko’s House Book Club come to order.

(Sound of gavel being hammered.) Thank you.

We have for your perusing pleasure today a selection of six books recommended by visitors to Kiko’s House and yours truly. The books marked with an asterisk (*) are available in paperback.

Although it was entirely unintentional, three of the six books have strong spiritual themes, perhaps a commentary on the uncertain times in which we live.
The Fall of Lucifer (Chronicles of Brothers)
By Wendy Alec (Realms, 2005)

The book opens with the three Angelic brothers, Lucifer, Michael and Gabriel, in heaven before the fall. Over the course of the book, the essence of the angels is developed. A controversy arises when God creates man to be higher than the angels and Lucifer is embittered to the point of rebellion. The beauty of heaven and the grotesque quality of hell, the depths of evil, and the beauty of grace is conveyed through beautiful imagery and an intriguing plot.

The First Emancipator: The Forgotten Story of Robert
Carter, The
Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves
By Andrew Levy (Random House, 2005)

Wealthy plantation owner Robert Carter III would seem to be an unlikely apostle of liberty, but shortly before the end of the 18th century he had a religious awakening – first as an Anglican, then as a Baptist and finally as a Swedenborgian – that led him to embrace egalitarianism and free his slaves. Remember, this was nearly 70 years before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did the same thing.

The Life of Pi: A Novel
By Yann Martel (Canongate, 2001) *

A young man and a 450-pound Bengal tiger spend 227 days in a lifeboat in the Pacific. The young man learns a lot more than just how to stay at his end of the boat.

Lost Battalions: The Great War and the Crisis of American Nationality
By Richard Slotkin (Henry Holt and Co., 2005)

This is a worthy addition to the study of the racial, ethnic and social fault lines that are shot through American history. The focus is on two World War I combat units that Slotkin calls “the Lost Battalions”: the African-American troops of the 369th Infantry, who were known as the Harlem Hell Fighters, and the 77th Division, 0r Statue of Liberty Division, made up entirely of immigrants to New York City, many of them Eastern European Jews.

What Is Life Worth? The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11
By Kenneth R. Feinberg (Public Affairs, 2005)

This little book packs a big punch. It fell to Feinberg, as special master of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, to literally determine the value of life. He did so with empathy, compassion and wisdom. Given the seeming inevitability of another terrorist attack, it’s a job that may have to be done again.
And my own top recommendation:
The Second World War
By Winston Churchill (Houghton Mifflin, 1948-53) *

Okay, I’m cheating because I’m only a little more than one third of the way through this six volume, 4,000-page masterwork. I first read “The Second World War” at the tender age of 14 and it left an indelible impression on me. With the wisdom of the years and many more books about WWII under my belt, the series is nothing less than a revelation. Besides being a damned fine prime minister, strategist, diplomat and historian, Churchill wrote with a keen eye and trenchant wit.

* * * *

Here's how the Kiko's House Book Club works:

Whenever you read a good book or may have read one in the past that you'd recommend to your fellow visitors, e-mail me at

Include in the body of the e-mail the book's title, author and type (fiction, nonfiction, bio, advice, etc.) and a few words about why you enjoyed and would recommend it. I'll post your recommendations at the next Book Club meeting.

By the by, my all-time favorite book recommendation came from Albert Einstein, who besides being the patron saint of Kiko's House, famously remarked that:
This paperback is very interesting, but I find it will never place a hardcover book -- it makes a very poor doorstop.

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