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by Ken Shufeldt
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
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3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable rapid-fire book, despite flat characters., November 24, 2014
This review is from: Rebellion (Mass Market Paperback)
This is an interesting novel. Of course you have the speculative part--the Chinese military in the mainland US, and the underground liberation movement that naturally arises. This is interesting in its own right. After all, back in 1999 when Clancy published "Debt of Honor," who would have thought that 2 1/2 years later we would really be dealing with a similar scenario. Don't dismiss these books!

And the book's quick pace left me dizzy. This book is like reading an abridgment of five full-length novels. It is that dense, that rapid-fire, and thus all the more enjoyable. Of course there is a cost--no character development and no time for reflection or wonder.

(Though she comes late in the book, Molly is a great foil and companion.)

And there are also other shortcomings. One was the endless ammo loops, and unbelievable coincidences: they find jet fighters/trucks/weapons just at the right time, nature works with the freedom fighters, etc. Another is the inexplicable perfection of JD. Doc Savage and Kimball Kinnison (Lensman)were the end-product of selective breeding and intelligent education, and Captain America had the super serum and vita-rays. But why is JD so perfect at everything?

So, expect more of a pulpy Mack Bolan book (which is not necessarily bad thing: read G. K. Chesterton's essay on the Penny Dreadfuls), and less of a Tom Clancy or Brad Thor book. Enjoyable, nonetheless.

Way Below the Angels: The Pretty Clearly Troubled But Not Even Close to Tragic Confessions of a Real Live Mormon Missionary
Way Below the Angels: The Pretty Clearly Troubled But Not Even Close to Tragic Confessions of a Real Live Mormon Missionary
by Craig Harline
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.58
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Disillusionist., November 19, 2014
Disclaimer: Although Mr. Harline attends my local LDS congregation, I have not once never brought him a plate of cookies.

Mr. Harline's mission experience is a good instance of C. S. Lewis's four stages of bicycle riding ("Talking About Bicycles" Present Concerns). In the enjoyment of bicycles, and in other areas of life, we go though four stages: Unenchantment, Enchantment, Disenchantment, and Re-enchantment.

Being raised in the church, Harline never really experienced the unenchanted stage. But he begins mission thoroughly enchanted.

And who wouldn't?

The prophet said every worthy young man should serve a mission. The were all those farewell and homecoming talks in church, and the lilting cowboy soundtrack of "I hope they call me on a mission" sung on Thursdays and later Sundays in primary classes.

But ... but ... but the books retrospective tone, however, is one of disenchantment. Even sarcasm.

Two points here: one, on it's face, this book is a dialogue: the older unenchanted Harline lovingly ridiculing the younger enchanted Harline about his oh so faulty expectations with missionary work.

(Indeed, his steady stream of sarcasm reminds me of G. K. Chesterton's observation about nonsense poets [i.e. Lewis Carroll, Dr. Seuss, John Lennon], saying they were possessed of a "a kind of exuberant capering round a discovered truth" that was both "satyric" and "symbolic." The Defendant)

Disillusionment, therefore, is the book's theme-song.

And this sarcastic, ridiculing tone is everything.

As Thomas Jefferson said:

"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions." (letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 30 July, 1816)

Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Like black humor, sarcasm and ridicule have their place. And they can be useful weapons against faulty ideas.

(Though not the most effective weapon. See Hebrews 4:12)

So if Harline seems disillusioned, this is a good thing. Etymologically speaking, we should all be disillusionists. Dis-Illusion. If there are any illusions out there, it is a noble thing to dispel them.

For example, in chapter 1, Harline talks about the illusion that saints who serve foreign missions are somehow more spiritual than members who serve in--say--Utah.

Of course this is wrong, as President Joseph Fielding Smith pointed out: "To save the souls of those who have strayed from the fold is just as worthy and commendable, and causes just as much rejoicing in heaven, as to save souls in far away parts of the earth." (Doctrines of Salvation. Complete Three-Volume Work [3-in-1]. Sermons & Writings of Joseph Fielding Smith., 3:118).

But still this loopy idea--this loopy illusion--persists. And you can see why Harline writes the loopy way he does: a mission is a mission, regardless of where you serve. Serving foreign is no gauge of future success.

In fact, maybe the biggest illusion is the undeserved guilt some RMs feel about their service.

Thus another illusion has to do with "Success!" as a missionary. Again, Joseph F. Smith said, "Everywhere men hear the word success dwelt upon as if success were defined in a word" (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 417). "Success!" is more than slogan, but a way of life. And it is not about numbers.

Consider the scriptural examples of missionary failures: Aaron in the Book of Mormon, whose "lot [was] to have fallen into the hands of a more hardened and a more stiffnecked people" (Alma 20:30), or Ezekiel, "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 14:14), Jeremiah "Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people" (Jeremiah 15:1). Or President Joseph Fielding Smith who, again, baptized no one (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith).

These were great men, who, because of circumstances, did not have "Success!" And they were still good men.

Do you see this book's secret: Harline talks disenchanted, but he is really reenchanted. His book is a message of hope for people struggling with their mission experiences that did not live up expectations. He did not. Prophets ancient and modern did not.

If if you did not, well, join the club.

One final note: Is the mission for the missionary or the people?

Ezra Taft Benson said:

"You are not out in the world with self-improvement as the major objective, but you can't help getting a maximum amount of self-improvement if you lose yourself in the work of the Lord. I don't know of any better preparation for life than two years of devoted, unselfish, dedicated service as a missionary. Now it's all right to keep that in the back of your minds, but you have been called to carry the Lord's message to the world, not to improve yourselves particularly. However, you can't carry this message to the world without doing yourself a lot of good." (God Family Country: Our Three Great Loyalties, 59-60).

Atomic Fracture (StonyMan)
Atomic Fracture (StonyMan)
by Don Pendleton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.29
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5.0 out of 5 stars Blood and Thunder ... and God, September 16, 2014
For what it is, this is a rather enjoyable book.Carl Lyons, the great and enjoyable smart-alec, makes the story come alive. Also appreciated was the presentation of religious ideas. There is more to religion than terrorism, but meaning in life. And this resonated with me.
Yes, this is pulp writing. But as G. K. Chesterton said, this "drivelling literature will always be a 'blood and thunder' literature, as simple as the thunder of heaven and the blood of men."

One Second After
One Second After
by William R. Forstchen
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $8.51
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Despite its flaws, this book's core is sound., September 3, 2014
To begin, think of Da Vinci's “Last Supper.” The paint is peeling, and the picture is cracked and scaly—like a molting reptile. Even so, there is beauty, majesty, and genius in this fractured image.

The point being thus: a work of art can be chipped and flawed, but still be powerful.

Such is this book.

Yes, this book has flaws—editing, typos, misplaced homonyms, repetitiveness—but the book's core is sound. That is, electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) present a grave and menacing danger to this book.

We are confronted with the “Inconvenient Truth” that EMPs present an inconvenient danger.

And there are two marks to this folly, viz.—

1. We know about the danger.
2. We are putting this “important, but not urgent” issue on the back burner, and going back to business as usual.

Which is why this book was written.

As to the book, here are some observations.

One. Despite the accusations, this book is not partisan. We have no idea who the president was, or which party he belonged to. As to the new president, all we know is that she used to be secretary of state. This would be either Hillary Clinton, or Condoleezza Rice, or possibly Madelein Albright. Although Sec. Albright was born in Czechoslovakia, which made her ineligible for presidential succession. Although in a pinch, “they” might recruit her.

Two. This book either could have been a small book (which is what we got) or a long book (like Stephen King's “The Stand.”) I read this book in about eight hours, and like a good 30 minute episode of “The Twilight Zone” got the point in a memorable way. “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

However, this book could easily have been expanded. But in the process, its effectiveness would have been blunted. It has been pointed out that winter was completely snowed over in the narrative. But what could be said? “We woke up, shoveled snow, starved, and buried dead people—every day for three months.”

On the other had, companion and parallel novels could have been written: “One Second After” in various cities: New York, Salt Lake City, Omaha, etc. See the “Endworld” series. Forstchen focused in the religious Posse. But what about the race wars that would ensue? The multi-generational welfare recipients being unable to use EBT cards, etc. Or battles between the Chinese and Mexicans over California? Or what about D.C—the people who knew about the problem and did nothing about it?

Three. This book illustrates the point that John Jay makes in Federalist 2. In order to survive, there needs to be a common culture and also common sense. The mayor could have had a chip on her shoulder and kept control, there could have been the turf wars, positioning and posturing, the office politics that allowed to EMP to happen in the first place. But that may be a secondary point of the book:” if we cannot prevent, may I illustrate how people can survive such disaster?

Four. The most memorable character is Carol, the PR lady. She was wealthy enough to have food storage and supplies to last for several month, enough bounty to survive. But she had her flashy car, her corner office, and Hawaii condo. Then the EMPs burst upon her well-ordered world, and she is reduced to … well....

The question raised is, “Are we Carol?” Used to the world as it is, and having a 9/10 mindset. All is well in America, and the stock market is up.

Or are we heeding the books voice of warning and take action?

Let us prepare.

Have Space Suit, Will Travel
Have Space Suit, Will Travel
by Robert Heinlein
Edition: Paperback
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intentionally bad, but for a crafty reason., May 22, 2014
Heinlein INTENTIONALLY wrote this book bad for two reasons.

First, the pressing one was that he had he had been writing juvenile novels for the past 11 years. He wanted out of his contract because it was just tiring for him. He needed to move on, careerwise. He did not succeed with this novel, but conquered with the following novel, Starship Troopers.

(Think “creative incompetence” and “constructive laziness” like Lazarus Long)

Second, Heinlein is a great satirist. “The Star Beast,” “The Rolling Stones,” “Stranger In A Strange Land,” “Job: A Comedy of Justice” are proper satirical-humor novels, and all of his work is spiced with witty and wry observations. This novel is a satire of the second-rate science fiction stories flittering around in the Fifties.

For example, consider the silliness of the following:

The Micky Mouse watch surviving 8gs of acceleration, but Kip's high-end watch not breaking.
The Mother Thing being able to kit-bask claymore-precise explosions from things kept in her marsupial pouch.
The bubblegum stopping a door.
The BSA knife blade breaking, then working later on in the book (though most BSA knives have multiple blades
The space opera dream early-on.
Jabs at Utah and Mormons (See “Citizen of the Galaxy,” “Tunnel In The Sky,” “Job: A Comedy of Justice”
Wormfaces as mindlessly evil villains, Ace as the typical Lampwick bad-guy foil, Peewee having the answer to everything, Oscar the Space Suit personified …

Even so, about ¾ of the way through the book, Heinlein gives up his satire, and writes us a decent novel. And he knows how to end a story without being sappy, sentiment, or a neat package. There are loose ends. But so does life. And that is why we read Heinlein.

Studies of the Book of Mormon
Studies of the Book of Mormon
by B. H. Roberts
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.62
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An extended study of "cum hoc ergo propter hoc.", November 21, 2013
This book can be divided int four parts: B. H Roberts's Book of Mormon Difficulties; Roberts's Book of Mormon Studies; Roberts's Parallels; and then all the commentary.

The first three sections (Roberts's own work) have been widely touted as evidence of glossing his testimony of the Book of Mormon. Hence the seething interest in these manuscripts. But is that true?

SECTION I: Book of Mormon Difficulties

This section covers Roberts's wrestling with six perceived Book of Mormon difficulties:

1) The diversity of languages
2) pre-Columbian horses
3) the bow of steel
4) scimitars
5) silk

As a reviewer, I cannot answer these question--they being beyond my capacity. There are experts on both sides, and it is a bit like MAD Magazine's Spy vs. Spy-- how do you choose,?

More importantly, though, this discussion does show a weakness in Roberts apologetic style. What research was available seemed to sway against Mormonism.

Roberts, as the Blacksmith-Orator and defender of the faith hit a wall. He was, illiterate for the first eight years of his life, and, for the most part an autodidact. He was a politician, a husband with three wives and respective families, and a general church leader. It was just beyond his temporal capacity to answer these questions.

For example, to handle the silk question, and by extension the barley questions, he would need a degree in agronomy, and also paleo-agronomy, and then need to do field studies to double-check the current literature and understanding. He just could not address these questions in a way that would give a viable scientific response.

The same applies to the other questions. History--archeology in particular--is vexed by the survivability problem. If something does not survive, or leaves no trace, then even though it existed as an ontological factor, we cannot study it. But, as Carl Sagan noted, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." (The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 213). This is the fallacy of appeal from ignorance.

SECTION II: Book of Mormon Studies

If the last section was an extended study of "argumentum ad ignorantiam," this one is a twin-spiral of "post hoc ergo propter hoc" and "cum hoc ergo propter hoc." Roberts discusses the problems of both sequence and similarities, viz-a-viz the Book of Mormon and "View of the Hebrews."

(Implicitly, this is also applies to "Manuscript Found.)

One more point, and this is where the commentary materiel is invaluable. Roberts explains:

"Let me say once and for all, so as to avoid what might otherwise call for repeated explanation, that what is herein set forth does not represent any conclusions of mine. The report herewith submitted is what it purports to be, namely a 'study of Book of Mormon origins,' for the information of those who ought to know everything about it pro et con, as well as that which has been produced against it. I do not say my conclusions for they are undrawn." (57-58).

Thus, Roberts was merely war-gaming here, and when your statements such as "The evidence I sorrowfully submit, points to Joseph Smith as their creator. It is difficult to believe that they are a product of history ..." (271), this means he was speaking "in persona" of a critic, not as B. H. Roberts.

(He even makes a jab at his own suggestion that the name Ethan suggested the name Ether [186].)

In this section, the persona Roberts adopts makes a big deal about the location of Ethan Smith to Joseph Smith, using "circumstantial" proximity arguments that D. Michael Quinn uses in "Early Mormonism and The Magic Worldview" (21, 98, 194). He also makes hay with rhetorical questions, such as "can it be that it is mere coincidence" and "is there not also enough resemblance in the one to suggest the other?" (214, 227).

But, as I learned on my second day of my Philosophy 110 class, sequence does not imply causality, and similarity does not imply causality. When there is a perceived similarity between two things:

1) X causes Y
2) Y causes X
3) X and Y are caused by a third factor Z
4) It is a coincidence (Historians' Fallacies : Toward a Logic of Historical Thought, 166-169).

Thus, coincidence is a viable explanation, though True Believing Mormon would suggest that both books are the product of real historical events.

Again, the problem here is not with the Book of Mormon, but Robert's human and educational limitations.

This section also discusses the possibility of Joseph Smith's imagination being the source of the Book of Mormon, a position held by both Fawn Brodie and Harold Bloom (No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, ix, 25-27; The American Religion, 83-84, 96-111).

The problem is here is threefold. One, after dealing with several chapters describing similarities between the Book of Mormon and "A Veiw Of The Hebrews" (a book we have no proof that Joseph Smith ever read), this section begins with a quote from Lucy Mack Smith explaining that young Joseph was not bookish (242). That is significant, since we are not dealing with a coherent discussion, but a series of ad hoc hypotheses. Thus, whatever argument works for the matter at hand, we'll take--even if there is no coherence among the theories.

Two, there is a difference between the young and old Joseph Smith. Lorenzo Snow noticed that the more mature Joseph was a more robust person." (They Knew the Prophet: Personal Accounts From Over 100 People Who Knew Joseph Smith, 36-37)

Emma Smith maintained that her husband "could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter; let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon" (Remembering Joseph: Personal Recollections of Those Who Knew the Prophet Joseph Smith, 303). The "crooked, broken, scattered, and imperfect" 1832 history bears this out.

Third, how do we falsify this hypothesis? He might have been able to fabricate The Book of Mormon, but did he really do it?


This is just a variation of the similarity questions.


This study, as valuable as it is, does not conclusively show that Roberts lost his testimony. But it does who that he had hit the limitations of his apologetic approach. As to the Roberts thinking the plates were "subjective," there were too many people who handled the plates and then left the church but still maintained there were plates to ignore. Such as the time Emma ran her thumb up the back of the plates (Remembering Joseph, 302).

It should also be remembered that Joseph Smith never claimed originality with the idea that the American Indians were descendants of Israel: "It has been said by many of the learned and wise men, or historians, that the Indians or aborigines of this continent, are of the scattered tribes of Israel." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 85)

But we are going to believe whatever we want to believe.

The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic
The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic
by Mark R. Levin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.80
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Post-Constitutional Soft Tyranny", October 26, 2013
This is more of a nuts-and-bolts book, as opposed to the observational Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, or the philosophicalAmeritopia: The Unmaking of America. If you agree with Levin that the Constitution is hanging by a thread--and indeed, beyond that, viz. that we are living in a "post-constitutional soft tyranny" (2), then this book gives hope.

He suggests a series of constitutional amendments to rectify the problem of the centralized mommy-state. Most of these banish the federal government back to her proscribed bounds. And they allow the states to overturn or override government laws, or runamuck supreme court rulings.
This is nothing new: Bork, in Slouching Towards Gomorrah, suggested the same thing (page 117). Moreover, these amendments would help resolve the historical questions about abrogation and nullification, and even potential second civil war.

I'm not a lawyer, thought I did minor in political science at university. The book is an easy read--I read it in seven days. No leaglese, zero technobabble, zip on jargon. A freshman highschooler could understand this book. And it would be a refreshing change from the Twerking video (Bangerz), or that Fox Song. Get the children to read these books and The Federalist Papers.

I see one flaw to this process: If we pass another amendment or series of amendments, who's to say that these new ones won't be ignored, selectively applied, or distorted and contorted just like the earlier ones? The problem is not a legal problem, but a human problem: why do we like the soft tyranny of the mommy-state? And why is the mommy state wrong?

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Tight holder., September 16, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is not a floppy, plastic holder, but a tight and rigid card holder. I use it for my bus pass, and it has worked for the past few months. It uses tension to hold the card in place, by slightingly bending it. And it has several holes for a lanyard, or for a keychain or similar device.
No regrets.

Superman in The phantom zone connection (A big little book)
Superman in The phantom zone connection (A big little book)
by E. Nelson Bridwell
Edition: Unknown Binding
5 used & new from $5.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Whatever version of Superman you like, you'll enjoy this tale., July 11, 2013
Whatever version of Superman you like--Max Fleisher, George Reeves, Christopher Reeves, Superboy, Superman: The Animated Series, Lois and Clark, Smallville, or, hey even the comics--this small book should appeal to all. Written in 1980, it gives us a generic "Superfriends"-type of Superman. No angst, no yuppiness, no peudo-adult themes, just an abstracted ideal.

Nineteen-eighty is also significant, since that was the year the second Superman movie came out. And that's the rub. The plot and situation bear a similarity to that movie. Three convicts (Jax-Ur, Fqora, and General Zod) escape from the Phantom Zone and exact payback on the son of the Zone's discoverer, Joe-El and Kal-El, Superman.

However, this book does things differently from the movie. A somersaulting rhombus? Forget it. The PZ is closer to the ethereal realm in classic Dungeons and Dragons. The inmates are like ghost, phantoms--hence the name--and can observe us.

And this touches upon a key difference. Lex Luthor appears in this book. And it is his prison cell kit-bashed PZ projector that gets things rolling. And that mix of Lex with the terrible trio makes for an interesting romp. Written for children, expect a lightweight but fun adventure, like CHiPs.

Pocket Aquinas
Pocket Aquinas
by Thomas Aquinas
Edition: Paperback
65 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good SECOND book for Thomists-in-Embryo, July 7, 2013
This review is from: Pocket Aquinas (Paperback)
First, a reminder about books that contain selections:

"The only use of selections is to deter those readers who will never appreciate the original, and thus save them from wasting their time on it, and to send all the others on the original as quickly as possible." (The Quotable Lewis, #447)

Now to this book. I'm torn between which book is a better introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas: this one or Peter Kreeft's slender A Shorter Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of Saint Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica. The tug-of-war is further intensified by me being not only a layman, but also a Mormon. Go figure.

This book has its advantages over Kreeft's. Key for Catholics, it has an imprimatur, although it lacks a nihil obstat. Kreeft's book lacks both. Most importantly, it has a broader selection, and diversified sources and translation, while Kreeft's is the Summa alone.

Indeed, this book's strength is its broader selection. We have the gamut here of kingship, lending and usury, psychology, astronomy, and human nature.

Ah, human nature. Sometimes, one sentence in a book is worth the cover price. One such sentence is this: "Man lives on the borderland between the brutes and the angels" (92). That is a great example of Aquinas's ability to take ethereal subjects, and to bring them down to earth.

Other clinch phrases are:

"All sciences and arts are directed in an orderly way toward one thing, that is,the perfection of man which is his happiness." (145)

"Now it is ridiculous, even to unlearned people, to suppose that instruments are moved but not by any principle agent. For, this would be like supposing that the construction of a box or bed could be accomplished by put a saw or a hatchet to work without a carpenter to use them." (Paley's watchmaker argument,500 years early.)

"Just as in the law courts no man can pass judgement who does not listen to the arguments from both parties, so must the person whose task is to study philosophy place himself in a better position to reach a judgement by listening to all the arguments ..." (89)

And there are more.

On the other hand, Kreeft's has advantages. It uses the Fathers of the English Dominican Province, which is homey. It also has very helpful plain-talk footnotes, helpful to a non-Catholic. Also, including only selections from the Summa Theologica, which is Aquinas's last work (excluding the Compendium Theologiae [Light of Faith: The Compendium of Theology (Aquinas)], which was a "Summa for Dummies").

This means, we have the cutting-edge finality of his thought. Thinkers go back and forth--think of Plato's Republic and the later Laws--and the Summa is the concluding exclamation mark to the Dumb Ox's bellow.

It also has many of the objections and responses characteristic of Thomistic tutoring. For me, I relish intensely the intellectual give-and-take. Joseph Smith taught, "by proving contraries, truth is made manifest." (HC 6:248).

This back-and-forth is key. It shows us both sides of the question, giving us a parallax and a stereoscopic insight on the question. Truth leaps out because we understand it in 3D.

Moreover, Kreeft's book has a glossary, which I found myself referring to as I read this book.

There is another weakness. This book is divided into topics, but I felt they were out of sequence. Certainly, Joseph Vernon has a sequence, but he does not follow Thomas's sequence.

And this raises a concern raised by Thomas himself. In his prologue to the Summa, he said that one problem he encountered 800 years ago was that "those things that are needful for them to know are not taught according to the order of the subject matter, but according as the plan of the book might require." This, in turn, has "hampered" understanding, and contributed to "weariness [boredom] and confusion." (296)

So Kreeft's book wins out. This does not mean this book is bad. I enthusiastically recommend it as a SECOND book for understanding the Dumb Ox. A good third would be Penguin's Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings (Penguin Classics), and fourth would be a full-circle to Kreeft's A Summa of the Summa.

Whatever route you choose, a conversation with Aquinas is always beneficial--even for a Mormon.

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