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Blue Lion's Lair

Hunting for Answers and Devouring the Issues

It has come to the attention of the Blue Lion that there is finally a T-shirt store that caters to those who believe in Libertarian (or Classic Liberal) philosophies. The site currently seems to be concentrating on getting the current President and his administration out of office.    However, there are shirts for sale that also address Economic and Constitutional issues and a new area entitled Stars and Stripes that will apparently have patriotic designs in the near future.  Check it out at

OK.  I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but somehow I got very distracted and haven’t written a blog in 4 months.  To me, it only feels like about three weeks, but each day I put off writing just makes it that much longer until I get back.  When I left off I was planning on finishing my discussion on abortion and how to go about reducing the number of them.  After rereading my previous post, I see I already said most of what I really wanted to talk about on abortions.

The only aspects of the subject I wanted to touch on were the rights of the women who find themselves pregnant.  Of course, one of the reasons I haven’t written in four months is that I’ve been avoiding writing about this subject since it’s a delicate one.  Do women have the right to control what happens to their own bodies?  Clearly, the Blue Lion would say that they do.  The problem I have is that, as discussed in the last post, it’s not only the woman’s life that is affected.  By the time a woman determines she’s pregnant, due to the uncertainties of personhood of the fetus growing inside her, that life has to be treated as if it has the rights of personhood (i.e. a right to live).  I know many people don’t like this and believe it’s unfair to women, and I understand that.  However, fair or not, women have the responsibility of caring for a life that isn’t their own.  We all know that life is not fair, but it’s even more unfair for women of child bearing age.

Where does that leave us?  Well, as we all know, to paraphrase Spiderman, with all powers, freedoms, rights and privileges comes additional responsibilities.  Women have the absolute right to control what happens to their own bodies.  With this right comes the responsibility to make sure they don’t become pregnant before they are able to care for a child or be able to give that child up for adoption.  I know it’s easy for me to say this since I’m not a woman and I know that there is no perfect solution to this problem.

However, we as a society need to start teaching our children that there are consequences to their actions from the time they are born.  They need to know when they make mistakes, and that although we still love them, they have erred.  The way we have been brining up our children to believe they can do anything they want and everything will be OK has hampered our evolution as a society.  Yes, every child should be taught to lead their life the way they choose, but they also need to know which choices are rational.  They need to learn how to make decisions that are in their rational self interest.   The notion that if if feels good to them they should do it, is anathema to living a happy successful life in the long run.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t subscribe to the notion that all sex outside of marriage is wrong.  But adolescents/young adults that understand that there are consequences to their actions at least have a chance of stopping for a few seconds or minutes to make sure they are protecting themselves in one of the many ways available to them.  Of course this won’t eliminate unwanted pregnancies since the relevant demographic of humans is wired to think they are invulnerable to consequences.  This is probably and evolutionary strategy to ensure the continuance of the genetic code.  However, as thinking humans we need to work at overcoming this drive.  It will take generations, but at least it will move us in the right direction.

There is also the larger issue of the growing population of the planet and possible stresses this puts on the survival of the species, due to large, but finite resources.  That’s an interesting issue that the Blue Lion doesn’t really have an answer for.  Yes, increased population requires more use of resources, but the increased population itself is a resource.  Every person born adds to the chance that new technologies and resources will be discovered that will make the planet able to support more people.  Clearly, at some point, the pressure on resources might outweigh the ability of people to innovate solutions.  However, that has not happened yet and that point may be quite some time in the future.  At any rate, rational use of technology to limit the number of unwanted pregnancies and slow the population growth in many places may not be a bad thing.  The days of needing large families of children to ensure the survival of the family are gone in the industrialized world.  We don’t however, need to brutally limit the number of children a couple can have via forced sterilizations and abortions as they do in China.  In this case, a middle way that emphasizes freedom and responsibility of the individuals needs to be found.

There, as usual, I’ve said more than I planned when I started.  Until next time, live well.

Sorry for the break in posts.  It’s been a busy couple of weeks.  Too much Halloween decorating, doctor appointments, scouting activities and work.   Today’s subject is something a little more concrete then some of my other posts, but definitely controversial.

Let me start off by reminding my readers about what I said in the post “Who Am I”.  I stated that “Above all, I believe that life, everyone’s, life is unique and important.”  Everyone has a right to their own life.  The ending of a life, for any reason is a terrible thing.  In my mind, there is only one legitimate allowable reason to kill someone.  Only if an individual has forfeited their lives by deciding to take someone else’s life.  This same standard applies in the case of abortion as well.  In simple terms, abortion, in my mind, is a horrible and terrible wrong.

I know.  Many readers will say that a fetus is not a person and therefore they should not be granted the same rights as a fully developed human being.  Do you know what the difference between a baby and a fetus is?  It’s whether it’s wanted or not.  Think about it.  For a baby wanted by the parents, we will even go to the extent of performing corrective surgery to a fetus as young as 20 weeks in utero.  These people are thinking of this child as a baby.  Conversely and although in the minority of abortions, people will abort a baby that’s over 21 weeks in utero.  These people think of the baby as a fetus.  Both babies are at the same level of development.  Those people who want to have a baby will tend to think of the child as a baby from the day they find out they are having a baby.  Those who don’t want to be pregnant and pursue an abortion, will tend to dehumanize the child they want to abort and call it a fetus.

OK.  That describes the emotional definition of a fetus and a baby, but the Blue Lion strives to bring rational thought to all discussions.  For those who don’t believe in a soul, my argument is a little weaker than it is for those who do.  To those who don’t believe in a soul, all I’ll say is that left alone, the fetus/baby will, with a high percentage of success, grow into a fully viable human with all the rights to live their lives that this entails.  Since we don’t know exactly when the “experience” of life really begins, a conservative determination is called for.  Clearly at some point, fairly early in development (around 4 weeks after conception), brain cells start to form and interact.  This, to me, is the most conservative stance that can be taken from a purely biological standpoint.  Ironically, this is about the same time that women start to find out that the are pregnant.

For those who believe in a soul, the argument is even stronger.  I have a real problem with people who believe that we have souls and then turn around and have an abortion because the fetus isn’t a person.  No one can determine just when a person gets a soul.  Clearly, it would have to be some time between or at conception and when the child is born.  Most people would say this happens much earlier than half way through the pregnancy.  In fact, since we can’t determine the “when”, the only logical stance to take is that the child has a soul at conception.  This, to the believer would make abortion the killing of a person in all cases.  However, for even the non-believer, the logical determination is that the fetus is a baby after only 4 or 5 weeks.

So, now that we can see that almost every abortion performed should be considered killing a person, we need to think outside of the box to actually make any progress in reducing the number of abortions to a very small number.  You see, as my title suggests, abortion is not the problem.  As horrible a thing as abortion it, it’s only a symptom of the problem.  The problem, is unwanted pregnancies.  If every pregnancy was one that was wanted by the man and woman involved, there would not be any need for abortions.  Sadly, this will never happen.  However, we can and should do much more than we currently do to help prevent unwanted pregnancies.  Technology has provided us with a plethora of methods to avoid pregnancies.  None of them are perfect, but most work very well.  The pill, condoms, tubal ligation, vasectomies and even Natural Family Planning (which is NOT the rhythm method) have been proven to be very effective means of birth control, if used correctly.  Unfortunately, many religions teach that the only acceptable method of birth control is abstinence if not married and Natural Family Planning if married.  The biggest problem with both of these methods is they require a large amount of discipline.  Something lacking from the vast majority of people.

What about the rights of the woman?  Shouldn’t they come into this discussion?  What exactly should we do to reduce abortions?  I’ll discuss those parts of the issue and that fact that while the Blue Lion is pro-choice, I believe the “choice” needs to happen before the sexual activity occurs. Until then, be well.

Yes!!  We are finally up to the number one book that everyone should read.

It has become completely obvious to the Blue Lion that there is one subject in which the average American in particular and the average human in general, is woefully under educated.  That subject is economics.  In fact, if you asked 10 people to tell you what the study of economics was about, most of them would tell you it was the study of money, or give you some lame answer about the Law of Supply and Demand.  They would be wrong.  The Supply and Demand group would at least be close to an accurate answer.

There are several books I could recommend here for most people.  For those who have absolutely no interest in economics, but know they need to learn something, I would probably recommend Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan.  For those who have a more academic interest I might recommend Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt.  One book I won’t even link to, but will steer you away from is the hugely popular, but woefully inadequate, and just downright silly Freakonomics.  This is a book written by fools to be read by fools.  Yes, I did read it, but I’m sorry I did.  Mainly, I’m sorry I paid for it and gave my money to the authors.

That leaves me with the single best economics book I’ve ever read.  That is Thomas Sowell’s excellent Basic Economics 3rd Ed: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy.  Dr. Sowell starts out with providing the actual answer to “What is economics?”  Basically, economics the study of the distibution of resources.  He then goes into explaining that all resources are scarce at the given price.  From there he gets into the guts of supply and demand.  The reader will finally have a working understanding of how these concepts apply to commerce and industry after reading this book.  Other subjects, such as the role of risk, the value of work, how the rules of economics play out in both the national and international realms, and how many people make important decisions without any ability to predict what the final outcome will be are thoroughly explored.  A thorough understanding of all of these priciples is a prerequisite of being able to talk intelligently about the current issues of the day.  Health care reform, government spending, tax increases, inflation, and enegy generation and use are all important issues that require an understanding of the material in this book in order to make informed, rational decisions about.  Relying on the “mainstream media” to stay informed on these issues will lead you to make emotional judgements instead of the rational ones that need to be made to lead all of us in the optimal direction.

For all of the above reasons, I believe that not only every American, but every human should read this book.  Many of the worlds problems could be solved by people armed with the knowledge Dr. Sowell has passed on in this book.  We are doing our children a disservice if we don’t understand this information and find ways to make them understand it as well.  I personally, would love to see high schools and junior colleges teaching economics to every student using this book as the textbook.  I’m sure there are some places that do so, but I haven’t heard of them. In a country where there are schools that teach Psychology courses based upon the Simpsons, this is a crime.  Therefore it is up to everyone to take responsibility for their own education and buy and then read this book.  Do it.  You know you want to.

Good day all! We’re getting to the end of the book reviews. We are now up to my Top 4 Books That Everyone Should Read.  And off to the countdown.

In 4th place we have a book that will change your concept of money, how to earn it, and how to invest it.  However, in researching this book for this list I saw a critique that gives me reservations about recommending this book.  After much soul searching (which delayed this post), I’ve decided to still recommend this book, but with a caveat.  The book I still believe you should read is Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.  Why the caveat?  Well, after you read the book you need to read the critique of the book by John T. Reed at this link.  However, I’m going to still recommend the book for two reasons.  Kiyosaki’s treatment of Investments and Expenses is exceptional and most people will benefit by understanding it.  Also, his “Cash Flow Quadrant” is something everyone needs to understand as well.  Kiyosaki explains why it is much better to be earning your living via “passive” income instead of  “active” income, both from a lifestyle and a tax consequences standpoint.  The book is engaging and entertaining.  You’ll feel you learned something after reading it.  However, balance what you read by looking at the Reed critique and make your own decisions on how much to believe.

My 3rd place book was written in the 1930’s by Ayn Rand.  If reading this book doesn’t remind you of the present leaders of our country and scare the fecal matter out of you, go back and read it again.  I’m talking about Atlas Shrugged.  It’s a fictional story about an alternate 1930s scenario.  In this scenario, liberal thinking people have gained control of the Government and are making rules that unfairly treat successful businesses in favor of business owners who are friends with the Government leaders.  As things go south, a man named John Galt is trying to change things, or at least rescue those who think like he does from the ensuing destruction.  There is much to like about Shrugged.  The story is interesting and the characters are, for the most part, well drawn.  I won’t lie to you.  It is a very long book that will take a while to read.  It’s also not the easiest reading at times.  John Galt’s climactic 30 page rant about the evils of liberalism and religion and the benefits of objectivism is fairly unbearable.   There are also some things that are quite out dated, like a positive fixation on smoking and descriptions of smoke stacks spewing pollutants as being “beautiful”.  However, when the book was written, the dangers of these things were not known.

But the concepts of objectivism spelled out in this book should be required reading by everyone over the age of 18 in this country.  While, as I’ve stated before, I have a problem with the objectivists total lack of wondering “why we are here”, I believe the way we need to live our lives is almost exactly the way objectivists do.  I guess you could call me a spiritual objectivist.  I live my life in a rational manner, but I also spend some of my mental energy wondering about the bigger questions of God and our reason for being here.  When I read this book, many of the concepts I had about life and how to live it were crystalized in my mind.  I hope it can do so for you as well.

All Covers From The Sword Of Truth

All Covers From The Sword Of Truth

For our second place book I’m going to cheat again.  This is actually a collection of 11 books.  They are the Sword of Truth series of fantasy novels written by Terry Goodkind.  This series is, bar none, the best work of fantasy I’ve ever read.  Mr. Goodkind has taken a genre that is often written for younger audiences and turned it into a truly adult medium.  I don’t mean in any way that this series is “adult entertainment” (ie. pornographic).  What I mean is that the concepts discussed and the, sometimes brutal, events experienced by the protagonists are only going to be truly understood and appreciated by a mature audience.  The characters are completely realized and incredibly deep.  Characters don’t always end up to be who you think they are.  Redemption is possible, but certainly not easy or frequent.

This series covers much of the same ground as Atlas Shrugged, but in a much more fulfilling manner.  I can’t think of a single weakness these books have as a work of art.  They are emotionally deep, humorous, philosophical, exciting, and inspiring.  While the concepts of objectivism are fully explained here as well, the relationships between the characters are much more realistic and fulfilling.  The hero, Richard Rahl, is someone I wish existed in this world to learn from and support.

One of my favorite parts of this series are the “Wizard’s Rules” that are presented in each book.  The first book is, coincidentally enough entitled Wizard’s First Rule.  The first rule is “People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.”  (—Chapter 36, p.397, U.S. hardcover edition) Goodkind follows this up with the second rule “The greatest harm can result from the best intentions”  otherwise known as the Law of Unintended Consequences.  Anyone who can present these two “Rules” to start his series is a genius in my book.  I’ve got a post planned in the near future discussing all 11 Wizards Rules and seeing how they apply in our world.  This series is for anyone who has become bored by fantasy or believes fantasy is childish only for younger people.  For all of the above reasons, it is easily my second highest recommendation.  For pure enjoyment and entertainment, it is my first pick.  In fact I’m currently rereading the entire series.

We’re almost there.  Next post is my number one book that everone should read!!

Welcome back.  I hope everyone is finding the book selections interesting and/or entertaining.  I hope my descriptions on why these books are important aren’t boring anyone.  If they are….well too bad.  It’s my blog and we only have 7 more books to go. :-)

In seventh place is a book that may be the most important one I’ve read over the last year or so.  It’s called Terrestrial Energy and it’s written by William Tucker.  What makes this book so important?  It posits the single best energy plan that I’ve seen to date.  It explains why we need to rethink the types of energy we are using mainly due to the relative energy densities of these technologies.  Mr. Tucker starts out with a detailed discussion of global warming.  He gives what is the most complete and fair discussion of the topic I’ve seen.  He talks about the scientific theory behind the arguments for and against man made global warming.  Although I don’t necessarily agree with his conclusions that man is definitely warming the planet and that this could progress to a runaway situation that would be disastrous, I at least feel that the entire subject was rationally addressed and while his arguments show some reason for concern, he doesn’t give weight to those who treat man made global warming as a new religion.

The rest of the book is just phenomenal.  He goes through the entire history of human energy use, from wood, to coal, to oil, to nuclear and everything else that is being tried.  He talks about the good and bad points of each type of energy.  He debunks the “green energy” crowd by showing that the impact to our environment would be larger due to them than due to the energy we have today.  He shows clearly where we went wrong by fearing nuclear energy and not working to make the technology safe for many years thanks to Jimmy Carter’s decision to stop reprossessing spent nuclear fuel and the hysteria created by the movie “The China Syndrome” and the Three Mile Island incident and the Chernobyl disaster. While the failure mode posited by the China Syndrome has never been physically possible in an American nuclear plant, it happened at Chernobyl due to poor reactor design.  Carter’s fear that plutonium from reprocessing could be used to create weapons is shown to be nonsensical since Carter, as a nuclear engineer for the Navy, should have known that no one could separate the 4 isotopes of plutonium resulting from reprocessing.  This decision creates a much larger nuclear waste problem than there needs to be.  If France can solve these problems, why can’t we?

In the final analysis, Tucker proposes that we convert our base energy generation to nuclear (including reprocessing) with solar energy to be used for “peaking power” as the only possible way to wean ourselves off of coal (eliminating the biggest contributor of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere) and oil (the reasons for this are obvious).  If you’re not sure this book would be of interest to you the at least read Mr. Tucker’s article entitled “There’s No Such Thing As Nuclear Waste” available in many places on the internet by searching Google, or by clicking the link I’ve so thoughtfully provided.

In sixth place we have an all time classic.  It’s Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends And Influence People.  This is the book that started the whole field of Human Relations.  Every single leadership, team building, team work or interpersonal skills training course I’ve taken over the years, and I’ve taken a rather large number of them, has used this book as it’s basis.  Mr. Carnegie was a genius at figuring out how to deal with people.  What’s interesting is that it all makes common sense when you look at it, but the lessons are not always intuitive.  Recently, one of my posters brought up the “Platinum Rule”.  Do unto others as they would want you to.  This pretty much sums up the tome in one sentence.  The main concepts discussed in the book are:

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six Ways to Make People Like You
1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
2. Smile.
3. Remember that a man’s Name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
5. Talk in the terms of the other man’s interest.
6. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking
1. Avoid arguments.
2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never tell someone they are wrong.
3. If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
4. Begin in a friendly way.
5. Start with questions the other person will answer yes to.
6. Let the other person do the talking.
7. Let the other person feel the idea is his/hers.
8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
9. Sympathize with the other person.
10. Appeal to noble motives.
11. Dramatize your ideas.
12. Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment
1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
2. Call attention to other people’s mistakes indirectly.
3. Talk about your own mistakes first.
4. Ask questions instead of directly giving orders.
5. Let the other person save face.
6. Praise every improvement.
7. Give them a fine reputation to live up to.
8. Encourage them by making their faults seem easy to correct.
9. Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.

I could try to explain how helpful this book can be, but years of success by the many people who have read this book speak louder than I can.  Just suffice it to say that if everyone read this book and implemented even half of the concepts, this would be a much more pleasant and productive world.

In fifth place I have a toss up.  Two books by the same author, either of which I could put in this spot.  The author is Brian Greene, a brilliant theoretical physicist from Columbia University.  The first book, The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory is the easiest read of the two books.  Of course, neither would be considered an easy read by the average person.  However, this book starts out by providing the single best explanation and visualization of the various Laws of Relativity I’ve ever heard of.  Mr. Greene has the ability to take concepts that are as complicated as the most accomplished scientists deal with, and make them somewhat understandable to readers with an interest in science.  I mean really.  While this book didn’t introduce me to a 10 dimensional universe, by the time I finished reading it, I felt that not only did I finally really grasp Einstein’s theories of General and Special Relativity, but I also could follow conversations about String Theory, Brane Theory, Calabi-Yau manifolds, and quantum gravity.  Now at one time in my life, I earned an engineering degree.  However, it has been some time since I did so my mathematical skills have atrophied.  This book provides an understanding of the basic concepts of theoretical physics without requiring a PhD. in mathematics.

The other book by Brian Greene that belongs here is The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality.  This book is even more interesting than the first one, but much more mind bending.  Mr. Greene really takes on a challenge here discussing whether or not there is a true reality or not.  This book borders on philosophy, but uses actual physics theories to discuss the topic.  These theories were not available to the philosophers of the past and make for some very interesting comparisons.  The complexity is continually expanded to include the nature and direction of time, trying to apply string theory as a unifying Theory of Everything to finally unite the cosmological and quantum worlds, the origin of the universe and supersymmetry.  I’m aware that much of this will sound like gobbledygook to most people reading this, but this book is the one that really started me thinking about time, the nature of time and the possible purpose of time.  This directly led to my thinking about what being outside of time would have to mean to a Creator of the universe.

While these two books are near the top of my list of books everyone should read, I have to admit, they are not for everybody.  These books should be read by people with a basic understanding of scientific principles and theories.  Having an interest in understanding the ultimate nature of the Universe helps as well.  However, their importance to me in understanding enough of current theoretical thinking on the ultimate nature of the universe can’t be understated.  For this reason, I’m including them both here.

Next up we have some more entertaining entries in spots 4, 3 and 2.

Thank you to all the readers following up to now.  I now bring you, drum roll please, Blue Lion’s Top Ten Books That Everybody Should Read!  For this installment we will be revealing books 10 through 6.  So, without further ado, let’s get to the countdown.

In tenth place we have The World’s Religions by Huston Smith.  The Blue Lion has always been interested….OK, maybe always is too long.  The Blue Lion has, for as long as he can remember, been interested in religions and the beliefs of others.  This book was a natural for me to pick up and read.  Mr. Smith does a superb job providing not just the tenets of the world’s major and even some not so major religions, but traces their histories as well.  In some ways, this book is also a history of humanity.  Reading through the histories, teachings of the various religions’ founders, and their modern beliefs, one thing became clear to me.  Every major religion of man has been “corrupted” from the original teachings of their founders.  I don’t mean that every religion is run by corrupt people, although that can be an issue.  What I mean is that the simple and pure ideas each religion started with have been added to and embellished, many times so much so that the original founders wouldn’t recognize them.

Since I’ve been raised as a Catholic, I’ll give Christianity as the perfect example.  Jesus Christ, and we’ll assume he existed and said and did much of what was attributed to him, had a very simple message.  Basically, he told us we were all brothers and sisters.  He included himself in that mix.  He told us to love one another as we loved ourselves and to love God with your whole heart.  With one stroke he superseded the Ten Commandments with one.  This was the essence of the “Good News”.  If we followed this one commandment, we would be “saved”.  All of us sinners could be saved.  Pretty much everything else Christ did or said was an extension of this.

Well, apparently, people couldn’t leave well enough alone.  Somehow, this simple concept has turned into reams of dogma and rules that people had to follow. If they didn’t, they would be damned to hell for all eternity.  Then people disagreed on the rules and broke the religions up into countless demi-religions.  The Churches were established, whose leaders had great power, both secular and spritual.  At one point, the Catholic Church had three people declaring that they were the one and true Pope.  Crazy.

Any way, this book is one of the many that has informed by spiritual thinking of the years.  It started me down the path of realizing that although most religions had some truth to them, there was not a single organized religion that had the entire story.  Also, no religion was entirely true as well.  This book in many ways spurred my search for answers.  Even if you don’t find the answers I did in it, it is always beneficial to understand one’s fellow man and I cannot recommend a better way in which to start than by reading The World’s Religions.

In ninth place we have one of the most purely entertaining series ever written.  I’m talking about J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series.  Ms. Rowling has written one of the best fantasy series of all time, probably one of the best works of fiction as well.  This series starts out with The Sorcerer’s Stone, a wonderful story focused on youths that adults can enjoy as well.  With each progressive book, the main characters in the story grow up and the depth, complexity, and consequences of each story grow right along with them.  By the time of the 4th book, The Goblet of Fire, comes along, the writing and story is as good as almost any adult fiction I’ve read.  The exceptions are further along in this countdown.  The final three books are superb works of fiction.  Ms. Rowling deserves every penny she has earned with this series.  She found the perfect sweet spot in writing.  She wrote something that can be enjoyed by ANYONE above the age of 12.  This is something few authors have accomplished.  Tolkien did it to an extent, but the Potter series is initially more accessible to the younger readers.  I can only imaging what reading this series in step with your current age must have been like.  Since each book came out about once a year, someone who was 11 or 12 when the series started would have been able to read about kids their own age in each book.  I only had the privilege of reading this series as an adult and being able to remember what it was like to be the ages of the protagonists.

As with most stories about great struggles, the people in the Harry Potter series are fighting against tyranny and for their freedom and liberty.  As the series progresses, the consequences of making mistakes against a powerful foe become more and more profound.  Characters we come to care about get killed.  There are set backs for the good guys.  All through this, the heroes learn they cannot give up.  Ironically, they discover that in order to win the future, they need to understand what happened in the past.  With each installment the picture of what needs to be done and why things are the way they are becomes clearer.  The ending is triumphantly bittersweet.  The right people win, but at a heavy price.

This is a series that even people not generally drawn to fantasy should enjoy.  However, even if you can’t bring yourself to read the books, at least the movies are acceptable alternatives here.  All the movies are well done, with some being better than others.  However, even the best of the movies are mere shadows of the books they represent.  Yes, the seven books in this series are long, but they will not waste your time.  I heartily recommend everyone read this saga.

Next up is our eighth place entry; Leadership by Rudy Guiliani.  As everyone in the US probably knows, Rudy Guiliani was the very successful mayor of New York City who turned the city around from a crime infested hell hole to the great place to visit it is today.  I can hear the chorus of “give me a break, he wasn’t THAT good” now.  OK. I guess you have a point.  Maybe getting rid of the windshield washers at the tunnel exits in Manhattan doesn’t exactly turn NYC from a hell hole to paradise.  However, that one act did start the people of NY City to start changing their self defeating attitude that allowed the city to fall into a state of resigned acceptance that things couldn’t be improved to one that allowed the city to bounce back from the September 11th attacks faster than anyone would have imagined.  Mayor Guiliani provided a steady hand on that dark day that helped keep people from panicking, rioting and looting.  Let’s face it, NYC on 9/11 didn’t look anything like LA after the OJ Trial or the Rodney King trial or heck, even the Lakers winning the NBA Championship.

However, this book is not really about Rudy’s success as mayor.  It’s really about his leadership style.  For people who lead other people in any way this is a facinating and instructive book.  The main message I took from it was that you must always treat people with respect.  You don’t always have to agree with them, but you need to be able to discuss controversial or sensitive subjects in a way that makes others feel like they were at least not dismissed out of hand.  It’s the leader’s job to stand in front of the group and point in the direction you want everyone to move.  You need to make sure everyone knows the goals you are trying to accomplish and that the goals are worth while.  While you need to understand what actions are being taken to accomplish those goals, you can’t dictate what everyone is doing.  Everyone needs to be impowered to make decisions and make a difference.  YOu need to care about the people you are leading and be willing to be part teacher, part coach, part councillor and part friend.  While there are concepts that can help you do these things, leadership is an art and not a science.  Rudy Guiliani addresses all of these topics, giving examples of how he applied them, making this book an interesting read.

Now, since these mini reviews are getting longer than I thought they would be, I’m going to change my plans and only do three books each post.  So, next up well have books 7-5.  Until then, good hunting and good reading.

OK. I’m back after a couple of days of camping with the kids and getting my minivan fixed. Let’s get right back to the countdown.

In 14th place we have Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe by Terence Dickinson.  If you’ve ever looked up into the night sky and wondered what you were looking at, this is a great book to have.  This book is, by far, the best book for an introduction to astronomy.  Mr. Dickinson covers all the important topics and the photos used in this book are spectacular.  There is a thorough discussion of the various type of observation equipment, descriptions of the most famous stars and constellations, some great seasonal star charts, and more essential information.

However, the part of this book that puts it on this list is a section that does an amazing job of showing just how large the universe is in comparison to our planet.  He starts with a picture of the Earth filling the frame of a picture in the first step.  With each successive step the picture is further from the Earth such that the sides represent 10 times the length of the sides of the previous step.  This process is followed until the picture is showing the bounds of the known universe.  This is the single best description of the scope and size of the universe I’ve seen that makes it perfectly understandable.  Even if you don’t buy the book, you should read this chapter to get a good idea of your place in the universe.

In 13th place we have Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsch.  Actually, this is now a series of 9 books.  I read the first three and found them very interesting.  If you believe the premise that Mr. Walsch has been getting information from God and writing it down into books, there’s some very interesting concepts here.  Personally, I believe that something is going on here.  How much of the information is direct from “God” is open for debate.  Of course, considering my understanding of us all being God, I guess everything written by anyone is at some level direct from God.  As you can see if you read the Wiki article about the books, many of the ideas about God in these books are in close alignment with my own.  These books started me down the path to the understanding of God and the universe that I believe now.  I guess you could say I’m the rational side to Mr. Walsch’s emotional side.  That’s one key difference between us.  I still recommend these books to the believers reading this blog.  The belief “challenged” will not find these books helpful in the least.

The next entry is another series of books.  I’m talking about the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien.  Ten years ago, these books would have been firmly up into the top ten.  Now they’re coming in 12th place.  For many years this series was the single best example of fantasy and world creation ever accomplished.  It is still a singularly classic achievement.  I’ve read these books more times than I can remember.  For a while, during high school and college, I probably read them about once a year.  These books did much of form my ideas and concepts of good and evil and the understanding that we can never give up or surrender when our lives and way of life are being threatened.  The only reason these books have lost some of their influence on me is probably mainly due to familiarity.  However, there are also two more recent fantasy authors who I now have to place higher on my list and both will be in my top ten.  Please don’t let my preference for these other authors take away from Professor Tolkien’s masterpiece.  Without his work, neither of the more recent fantasy series coming up would exist.

My last “runner up” book comes in at number 11.  That’s Give Me a Break by John Stossel.  Mr. Stossel actually has two books out and they are both well worth reading.  Mr. Stossel is a libertarian and in many respects that’s where my politicial outlook lies as well.  These books explore many of the areas that government regulation actually makes worse than if they just did nothing.  They also discuss many areas where the media are driving unreasonable fears in the public and ways in which the free market should be used as the best way to fairly distribute resources.  These books will make you laugh at the ridiculous, but also get angry and disturbed by the lies we hear every day.

I believe Mr. Stossel is the single best reporter on Network TV today.  If I see a show that he’s done I will always sit and watch it.  He’s one of the few honest reporters who is more concerned with the facts he can find than the political outlook he’s trying to project.  Yes, he has a perspective that he wants people to agree with, but his perspective is informed by facts, not by the way he’d like things to be.  This is apparent by the “conversion” of his perspective from a pro-government intervention one to the libertarian view he now holds.  I’m actually shocked that ABC News has not only kept him employed, but has increased his visibility over the years.  I guess I have to give ABC credit for allowing an alternative view point to thrive.  In any case, John Stossel’s books are worth reading.

That’s all the runners up.  Next post starts into my top ten books.  This is where the real fun begins.

OK.  So when I conceived doing a top ten books everyone should read article, I thought I could stop it at 10 books.  As I kept looking back at the books that have influenced my thinking, the list kept growing.  I kept finding books I wanted to recommend to everyone.  As it stands, the list is now up to 18 books.  So, I’m going to make this a Top 18 Books Everyone Should Read Article.  Well…..actually, it’s a lot more books than that.  Some of the entries are series of books.  I’ll have a final book count at the end.

So without further ado, here is the list starting from spot number 18.

In 18th place we have the Story of Philosophy by Will Durant.  This is a great introduction to the field of philosophy.  It starts out with the ancient Greek philosophers and winds its way through history and describes the lives and philosophic works of the major philosophers.  I very much enjoyed the first part of this book starting with Plato, Aristotle and the other Greeks.  I have to admit though, that once I got to Schopenhauer, Kant and some of the more “modern” philosophers, I started to lose interest and find the whole subject depressing.  The lack of morality and any meaningful existence that is discussed did not answer the questions I was looking for.

However, since the creation of Wikipedia, you can probably find much of the philosophic  information from the book there.  The book does a better job describing these men’s stories than Wiki.  For these reasons, I have this book at the end of my list, but I still recommend it to fill in your knowledge of this subject.

In 17th place we have Chaos, by James Gleick. I read an earlier edition of this book some years ago, when Chaos Theory was brand new and no one had heard of it, much less understood it.  The search of patterns in what previously had been thought to be completely random is extremely interesting and although we see it all around us, it takes a fairly large amount of computing power to crunch the numbers and repetitions involved.  This book was brought back into my memory by a recent Nova special on PBS called Hunting the Hidden Dimension.  This fascinating look into fractal mathamatics, Mandelbrot, and applications in nature brought me right back to reading this book.  Cool stuff for people interesting in how the world works “behind the curtains”.

In 16th place we have Hyperspace, by Michio Kaku.  This book is full of mind bending stuff.  However, this book provided me with the first description of higher dimensions that made sense to me.  If you ever see Kaku on TV, he has a great way of explaining things.  This book has been somewhat superseded for me by two books by my other favorite cosmologist, one of which is in my top ten.  However, Kaku’s description moving from a two dimensional world to a three dimensional world as an analogy for 4th dimensional space/time first got me interested in the subject and started the juices flowing in my brain on the dimensions of time and space.

Next up in 15th place is an odd sort of self-help book called Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz.  Many successful individuals have used the concepts in this book to reach their goals.  The main thrust of this book is that your brain is a fantastic goal reaching and problem solving machine.  You need to provide your mind with an accurate self image and set positive goals for your future.  Your brain will figure it out if you let it.  Basically, if you want to change who you are, change your mind.  Those who know me will recognize one small way I use what I’ve learned in this book.  I often find myself having an aphasia event, where I can’t remember the word I want to use or the name of someone I want to talk about.  I usually work around this by finding a synonym or trying to describe who the person is.  I know, however, that if I stop thinking about the word or name and let my mind work on it in the background, the answer will pop into my head in fairly short order.

Next time we’ll do number 14-11.  The books get better as we go deeper into the list.  What won’t change is the eclectic selection.  I’m nothing if not eclectic.

Well, now that we’ve answered “Who am I?”…….well at least started to answer it.  It’s a question we spend our whole lives answering.  We can start to put the whole thing together.  Keep in mind this is an iterative process that we need to continue throughout our lives.  The important thing is to make sure that all your answers are in harmony.  You can’t let something you want change who you are, as we’ve already discussed.  However, sometimes your understanding of why you are here, or where you going may make you change who you are, at least somewhat.

What do I mean by this?  Let’s say you are a member of a religion that teaches that they are the only way to salvation.  OK, most religions do this, some more vehemently than others.  Let’s also say that you are reading a blog or a book, written by someone who thinks about God differently than you do.  No, it doesn’t need to be this one.  What if by reading this publication, you see some information that leads you to now believe that God is more encompassing than you previously did and that there may be some truth in other religions that you hadn’t considered before?  Now, you may want to re-evaluate who you are in this new light.  You may decide you now believe that all who search for truth are on the same path and should be given respect and that you might even want to learn something from them.

Another example involves asking yourself the question “Where am I going?”.  In examining your life, this is one question you need to be continually asking yourself.  Basically, you want to know if the path your life is on is in congruence with who you are and maybe even what you want.  Are you doing things that get you closer to your goals and agree with who you are?  If not, you need to make a change.   You need to make part of who you are someone who does those things that you believe are important.  For instance, if you find that in your job you feel the need to mislead people in order to accomplish your goals, but you believe that honesty is a key character trait.   You need to make a change.  You need to do the difficult thing and be honest to those you’ve been misleading.  This takes courage.  However, there is a payoff.  You will gain credibility.  You may have some short term difficulties, but you will be improving your long term image.  Unfortunately, for those who work in the US Capitol Building, they only look to the next election.  We, as their constituents, should not let them get away with it.

Now, assuming you have a good idea of who you are, what you then want, where you are going, and possibly, why you are here, we only have one more question to ask.  Assuming you’re not where you want or need to be, you need to have a plan.  This is the “How do I get there?” question.  It’s more than a plan though.  Often there is a choice between more than one path.  Some seem easy, but make you compromise yourself in some way.  Some are at least initially hard, but are in harmony with what you believe to be right.  Every once in a while there’ll be an easy path that is also right.  When you see this, be happy.  Obviously, I’m telling you that you have to take one of the paths that will allow you to be true to yourself.  You’ll know which path is right once you know the answers to your other questions.

Many people do things they think are right because it will “get them into heaven” or at least “keep them out of hell”.  That’s a childish outlook.  That’s like saying you’ll eat your vegetables or Mommy and Daddy will get mad.  Adults do the right thing because they know it is right.  They have a code of honor or ethics that makes them do what they do.  Not because someone tells them to, but because they choose to.  This is the essence of free will.  We get to decide, who we are and let everything else follow from there.  There can be no greater gift.  It allows us to maximize the quality of our experiences, which is as I’ve said before, the whole reason we are here.

How do we choose the type of life we will live?  I’ll start looking at some traditional and non-traditional codes of ethics starting in the next few posts.  Next, however, there are some great books I’d like to recommend for everyone to read.  So we’ll have the start of Blue Lions’ Library with 10 books everyone should read.  Until then…..good hunting.