Please note: I have intentionally decided not to include Amazon links (unless something is available exclusively on Amazon). Instead, if you are interested in reading any of the books I mention, I encourage you to check out your local library or independent bookstore. These places (and the communities around them) need your support, and they are generally quite willing to order any book if they don’t currently have it in stock. However, if Amazon is still the more practical choice for you, it is easy enough to search and find any of the titles that I mention.
Dinosaur! by Dr. David Norman
This is definitely the most detailed and informative of all the dinosaur books that I have read so far, even if it is not as narratively engaging as some of the others. Though some of the information is now out-dated, this book gave the clearest definition of what classifies a ‘dinosaur’, as well as describing the many different types and species of dinosaurs. But like I said, some of the information is rather out-dated by now. When the book was written, very little was known about the feathers of dinosaurs or even about the Yucatan meteor crater, therefore these are things that the author could only speculate on. However, this does provide a very interesting look at how different theories and ideas have evolved and changed even in just the last few decades. Overall, I do think this makes for a good reference book and is an excellent introduction to the world of dinosaurs.
Extra Live: Why Video Games Matter, by Tom Bissell
I started this book skeptical about the valid insights that it would be able to offer about life and the role that video games play, then I was gradually impressed by the self-awareness and skilled writing of the author, but unfortunately I ended the book with my skepticism justified. Bissell does have some wonderful insights about what video games have to offer, but he doesn’t take his observations far enough, in my opinion. He has an excellent understanding and appreciation not only of video games themselves but also of their narrative and psychological value. However, he fails to discuss what their greater impact might be on individuals and on our culture-at-large. I kept expecting an epilogue at the end of the book to put everything back into perspective, but this never came. Bissell is a very good writer and seems intelligent, but I feel that the book would have been better served if he had waited a few more years to write it. His views come across as immature and not fully developed; which is a shame because it seems there is great potential for deeper thinking in the ideas that he brings up.
The Dinosaur Hunter, by Homer Hickam
This story focuses on an ex-cop-turned-cowboy-turned-amateur-fossil-hunter, how could I not love it? Hickam does a great job of incorporating lots of dinosaur and paleontology facts and trivia into the narrative of the story without it just coming across as info dumps. He is a very skilled writer, which makes it extremely pleasant to read, and you can tell his love for fossil hunting, the farmers of Montana, and the way of life out there. There were some story elements, especially towards the end, that were a little over the top but still made for a fun read. Enough romance to be engaging and truthful to the human condition, but not overly mushy or sentimental. Enough intrigue that I wanted to know more about all of the characters, but also knew enough to just enjoy them. Made for the perfect fun summer read.
Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely, by Lysa TerKeurst
Read this as part of a women’s book club. I could tell within the first few chapters that TerKeurst was Protestant and not Catholic; she writes a great deal about relying on God, but there is no mention at all of looking to Our Lady or the saints as examples. There are a lot of really good messages in this book, but her tone was a little off-putting to me personally. She uses a great deal of self-deprecation, but instead of coming across as true humility it just struck me as insecurities that she has still not entirely worked through. And that is certainly understandable, and I don’t want to judge her harshly for these things, but it is not particularly beneficial or enjoyable for me to read. For learning self-acceptance, I would prefer to read Brene Brown. For learning to rely on God, I would prefer to read from the treasury of Catholic spiritual writing given to us by the saints.
The Undergraduate, by E. Scott Lloyd
I enjoyed this novel a great deal, though I have some minor criticisms of writing technique. I think his female characters could have been better developed and that they could have been given more closure in the end. But for a first novel, I think Lloyd did an excellent job. It was extremely refreshing to read a novel with a Catholic protagonist, whose faith very much influences his life and how he conducts himself, even if he fails at it more often than not. I also felt that it was a very honest look at college culture and the detrimental effects that it has on lives. The character of the campus priest rang very true to me, more than any of the other characters. The book was very engaging and I read through it pretty quickly.