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Books with a Beu

Jamie Beu, owner and co-author (with his wife) of CatholicFamily.info, is a "cradle Catholic", devoted husband, and father of two girls. He is a regular contributor to his parish newsletter, as well as an impassioned defender of the faith who is able to both support and challenge others as necessary -- all in an effort to build-up Christ's Kingdom on Earth. To this end, he does a lot of reading - not just of religious books (for education and research), but also of secular books, both to decompress as well as to keep a finger on the pulse of pop culture (the better to relate to others, as well as to help restore the culture).

Currently reading

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know
Meg Meeker, Meg Meeker
Dan Simmons
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life
'John Townsend', 'Henry Cloud'
Boundaries Face to Face: How to Have That Difficult Conversation You've Been Avoiding
Henry Cloud
Jesus of Nazareth
Pope Benedict XVI, Adrian J. Walker
Permutation City
Greg Egan
Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions
Pope Benedict XVI
Is Jesus Coming Soon?: A Catholic Perspective on the Second Coming
Ralph Martin
Prelude to Foundation (Foundation: Prequel, #1)
Isaac Asimov
Autobiography of a Saint: Therese of Lisieux
Thérèse de Lisieux, Ronald A. Knox, Vernon Johnson

Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged - Leonard Peikoff, Ayn Rand Eerily prescient for when it was written.

This book will frustrate some (i.e., those who believe more government is the answer to our economic problems) while others will be depressed at seeing their worst fears in print (those fears being: what happens if the socialists get their way in America). What I can say about the book is this: there were parts I liked and parts I didn't like.

First, the dislikes... From a literary standpoint, there is an awful lot of suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader - not so much regarding the events of the book, but rather about the dialogue in it. I mean, who talks like these characters? The monologues are so incredibly long that they are not at all realistic, except in the respect that they tend to ramble. The dialogue between some of the characters is just as bad, particularly when you would expect regular conversation to be a little more exciting and less academic.

Case in point: some of the "love/sex scenes" - these are the most loquacious "love-making" sessions ever. I get that Rand is trying to put her ideology into a work of fiction, but one would think that being in her budoir must be like being in a college philosophy class that happens to have a bed in it. I don't know about you, but my idea of "pillow talk" is not a treatise on animal urges vs moral ideals. I'm sorry, but for a female writer, those scenes are some of the most misogynistic and boring love scenes I've ever seen, read, or been a part of in any way, shape, or form.

That said, what she has to say about economics, politics, and even morality has a lot of merit. She does a much better job than Gordon Gekko/Oliver Stone of explaining why "greed" is good. She explains how "self-interest" actually results in the most good for the most people. She does this, not just by positive example (showing how a true innovator who gets to keep his profits will continue to innovate and thereby provide more jobs) but also by negative example (as the main plot point of the book: what if innovators and true capitalists went on strike?).

Of particular interest to me was that she was an atheist who espoused a certain view of morality that, at first, seems to be at odds with the core Christian tenet of charity. As I read this, I puzzled over how Christian charity (of giving to those in need; of loving the unloveable; of being our brother's keeper) could possibly be reconciled with the ideas in this book. I found that Christian charity dovetails very well with objectivism, when responsibility is factored in. Christians are called to be charitable, but we are also called to be responsible for and to our fellow man. Merely having good intentions is not enough - we are called to be as innocent/pure/blameless (but not naive) as children, but we are also called to be as cunning/sharp/quick as vipers. We can't just give money to "charity" and think our responsibility is over with - we must do our homework to make sure our money is going where it should (and not where it shouldn't). In other words, help those that not only really need the help, but also to those that will do the right thing with that help, i.e., help those in the safety net - don't enable them to continue to use it like a hammock.

If you read this and do not see Obama's post-AIG, GM bailout, healthcare reform (a.k.a., socialized medicine) America... If you don't see the "donate or else" attitude of most "charities" (particularly government welfare programs that want more taxes from the productive to help the unproductive)... If you don't recognize these current events and attitudes reflected all too clearly in this work of fiction, then I don't know what to say to you that you could possibly understand.