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Volkert Volkersz RSS Feed (Snohomish County, WA United States)

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A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
by Bill Bryson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.00
174 used & new from $1.22

4.0 out of 5 stars Reminds me of Patrick McManus at times, October 10, 2014
Bill Bryson reminds me of Patrick McManus at times. Much of his outdoors humor is laugh-out-loud funny. Bryson chonicles his endeavors to "do the Appalachian Trail" with his companion, an overweight recovering alchoholic who starts the trip ill prepared. They do the trail in sections, taking breaks at local motels and hostels, and sometimes skipping whole segements of the trail. Later in the book Bryson does some of the trail as a series of day hikes.

While I'll admit that I was disappointed that Bryson and his companion didn't walk the whole 2,200 mile trek, either as a through walker, or even as a section hiker, I still admire him for undertaking the task at all. Along the way he provides interesting, sometimes dramatic, narrative of their adventures, while also filling in with information on geology, history, topgraphy, etc.

I gave the book 4 stars largely because I got weary of hearing the "F bomb" used by his companion.


The Map of Enough: One Woman's Search for Place
The Map of Enough: One Woman's Search for Place
by Molly Caro May
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.72
49 used & new from $12.44

5.0 out of 5 stars An examined life while building a yurt in rural Montana, June 26, 2014
The Map of Enough - Review

I was given a copy of The Map of Enough: One Woman's Search for Place because my brother and sister-in-law appear on several pages of this memoir as friendly neighbors of the author and her fiancé who were building a yurt in rural Montana. While I had visited my brother and sister-in-law on several occasions at their home in the hills outside Bozeman, I had more often listened or read their descriptions of the long, white winters and short growing seasons in the summer.

What I found in this memoir was true to what I had heard, but it gave me a more detailed description of a year and a half in this rugged environment. I also found the descriptions of my brother and sister-in-law to be right in line with the thoughtful people I know them to be.

Having said that, I found myself pulled into the journey of the author to find a place to call home after having lived much of her young life in several different places. I thought of the quote attributed to Socrates: "An unexamined life is not worth living." I enjoy reading the writings of individuals who choose to grow with life, to learn from their experiences, and to reflect on what they have discovered. I read this volume with the same fascination that I read A Walk Across America, by Peter Jenkins, many years ago.

Here I got to peer into a life experience very different from my own, by a woman of a younger generation, doing something adventurous and writing about it as she went. Molly Caro May writes well, describing not only her environment, the weather, the wildlife, the neighbors, the hard work involved, but she whittles away at her feelings and her memories of growing up in various locales. My only nit-picking problem with the book is that she used the Mongolian terms for the parts of the yurt as it was being constructed and I had difficulty remembering what was what. Maybe a short glossary at the back would've helped.

But at the heart of the book is the search for place, the search for self. As the book progressed I began marking memorable quotes. Here are a few:

"If you have lived so many somewheres that you have no somewhere to leave, then your journey might be finding a somewhere to simply be (page 208)."

"I hadn't climbed a tree since when, when, when. My hands gripped rough bark and sap, sticky sap, the smell of pitch and a break through small branches with my head...I hadn't ever felt the blood in my body match the sap flowing up and down the tree, rooting it down and rising it up. Roots held the tree up, yes, but the inside, cells drawn from other trees, faraway trees, from forests combed by humans and from forests no one would ever see--that made it grow into its destined shape and then fortune allowed it to tweak that shape. The tweak was necessary. Bloodlines teach us how to stand. Later, we have to teach ourselves to keep standing (page 248)."

"Maybe homeplace is wherever you end up when you are adult enough not to overcontemplate, when you've been there long enough that memory embeds and you let go of the other lives you had once imagined (page 257)."

"We all have a learning moment as children that only focuses into meaning once we are older (page 275)."

"When our tracks were, as suspected, covered by morning, I stood by the yurt and understood that there was no great map that would steer me to what place or self might be enough. If we put something on the map, it gains importance. If we cut something out of the map, it loses importance. If something is off the map to begin with, it doesn't exist. We map out our places. We are creating new maps all the time (page 278)."

"I had never been placeless. Someone is only placeless when place has been taken from her. Instead, I had been simply without a place (page 279)."

So I recommend The Map of Enough as enjoyable memoir, a journey and an examination of life, a glimpse into a year-and-a-half in rugged western Montana, and as a mirror by which one can examine one's own life.


Three Cups
Three Cups
by Mark St. Germain
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $9.15
51 used & new from $4.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Wisdom for children on how to handle money, May 28, 2014
This review is from: Three Cups (Hardcover)
This is an enjoyable, and short, picture book for the purpose of teaching children how to use their money wisely so they can go on "an adventure." The three cups are for savings, spending and charity.

This is very similar to the way my father raised us when he said 10% goes to savings and 10% goes to charity. The rest is yours to spend (or save up for later) as you choose. This book does not dicate the percentages, but does give some helpful tips for parents at the end. I like this book and will probaby buy copies to give to young parents in the future.


Mister Sandman (Piano Vocal, Sheet Music)
Mister Sandman (Piano Vocal, Sheet Music)
Offered by Elma's Music
Price: $5.65
6 used & new from $4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars It's OK, April 27, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I was hoping to find the full harmony version of song with all the vocal parts. This version does not have it. It's OK if you're looking for melody, lyrics and chords.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 28, 2014 9:55 PM PDT


Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream)
Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream)
by James (Music) / Same (Lyrics) Keyes
Edition: Sheet music

3.0 out of 5 stars Just OK, April 27, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This arrangement does not contain the background vocal parts, which is what I was looking for. It's OK, if you're looking for lyrics, melody and chords to the Crew Cuts version of the song.


10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War
10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War
by Philip Caputo
Edition: Hardcover
60 used & new from $3.25

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of the Vietnam War accompanied by large photographs, April 9, 2014
10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War Review

This well-written, concise and clear, account of the War in Vietnam is written by a Pulitzer Prize winning author who also a veteran of the war. This volume is richly illustrated with full-page black and white (and some color) photographs on the right, and few maps, with accompanying text, sidebars and smaller photos on the facing page.

In most cases each chapter is one full page (a few extending to a second page). They follow a chronological order, while dealing with a single aspect of the war per chapter.

After a three-page introduction, the first chapter deals with communism. At first a young reader might wonder what this has to do with the war, but it is an essential backdrop to what follows.

The “origins of the Vietnam War” are covered early in the book, starting with World War II and French colonization, and then going on to the dividing of the country.

The bulk of the book deals with the American military buildup, the escalation of the war, various key battles, and the view from the perspective of the American involvement. The growing media coverage, notably that of television reporting, an the increasing opposition to the war, get fair treatment. The author blames the loss of the war on failures by President Johnson, as well as the sensationalized TV reports.

The volume wraps up with the Paris Peace talks, the “Pentagon Papers” and Watergate, the fall of Saigon, the MIA issues, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and a brief discussion of Vietnam after the war (up to 1995).

At the end of this volume is a glossary, which will be essential for young readers, except one term I looked up was not listed. A helpful bibliography is listed, but it primarily consists of military titles, and nothing about the home front or the antiwar movement.

While it took me less than a day to read this informative volume, I found myself spending almost as much time looking at the photographs as I did reading the text. In this case, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

It appears that the intended audience for this book is high school, and possibly middle school readers. But as a adult who lived through those times, I found it engrossing to revisit and reflect on what happened. Much of it I was too young to understand at the time, so this book helped to fill in some of the gaps. Having said that, there are many military terms and acronyms tossed around, it does get a bit confusing at times. And while the maps are certainly helpful, a few times when I looked for locations mentioned in the text, I could not find them labeled on the facing maps.

But all in all, it is a good read, and one that I would recommend.


The Pacifist Option: The Moral Argument Against War in Eastern Orthodox Theology
The Pacifist Option: The Moral Argument Against War in Eastern Orthodox Theology
by Alexander F. C. Webster
Edition: Paperback
Price: $33.30
39 used & new from $29.35

5.0 out of 5 stars The Roots of Peace in the Christian tradition (an academic, but thorough study), April 8, 2014
The Pacifist Option is the revised edition of the author’s doctoral dissertation. It is highly academic, complete with extensive endnotes and bibliography. I have a college degree and have done graduate studies in theology, and I found this volume a challenge to read, but it was worth the effort.

Webster presents the pacifist trajectory within the Orthodox Christian faith, and cites supporting documentation from Scripture, Patristic writings, canons, lives of the saints, devotional literature, and even the fiction of Dostoevsky. Pacifism has solid roots in the Orthodox Christian faith, and this book proves it. But the author also sees it as one of two antinomies, or tracks, with the other being the “justifiable war trajectory.” In the end the author has chosen to subscribe to this latter position, and this second undercurrent is evident throughout the book.

Having said that, the roots for pacifism are deep and strong within the Church, starting with the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. A secular reviewer on NPR recently described Christianity as a “peaceful, non-violent religion.” That should certainly be the ideal.

Given his bias, I believe the author has done an admirable job of presenting this “option,” with plenty of supporting documentation. Since I was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, I encountered many of the sources (including Catholic, Quaker and Mennonite) that I used to defend my position back in 1970, even though I was not an Orthodox Christian at the time.

My favorite quote in the book comes from Dostoevksy, when Zossima says, in The Brothers Karamazov:

“Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand on it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.”

I recommend The Pacifist Option to the serious reader, one who can wade through the academic language, to discover the rich roots of pacifism in the Christian faith.


Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories
Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories
by Tanya Lee Stone
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.34
112 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Bullying through the eyes of authors who have survived it, April 7, 2014
In Dear Bully you will find 70 young adult authors, most of whom are well-known and well-respected in world of contemporary young adult literature, writing about bullying. In most cases they write about their own experiences of being bullied in school (from elementary through junior high and high school) but a few admit to having been the bully, or the innocent bystander who didn’t want to get involved. A few others talk about what they did to stop instances of bullying.

All 70 stories are different, but certain themes begin to appear. The obvious is that they are all writers and they found some measure of solace in either writing (novels, poetry, diaries) or in reading. And this solace became the key to their later success as writers.

The sum total of all these stories, true stories, is greater than the parts. And most of these stories are only a few pages long (some are poems and a couple are written in graphic novel format).

Here is what I got out of the book:
1. Bullying happens.
2. Bullying can be stopped, but it’s not easy.
3. Try to find an adult who can listen, intervene, or at least get you away from the bullying situation.
4. You can find solace in reading, writing, and other activities.
5. Even though bullying feels like it will last forever, it does get better when you move on to post-high school life or college.
6. Most bullies end up not being successful in life.
7. Quite often bullies don’t remember the bullying later in life, while you have let it define you. Once you make that discovery, you can begin to learn to forgive, or at least let it go.
8. If you are an author, poet, or artist, you will let your bullying experience drive your work to help others who are still going through it.

The vast majority of authors in this anthology are women writers. I would have liked to see more male authors tell their stories, as there is a subtle difference in the way boys and girls experience or deal with bullying. Having said that, this book is worth taking the time to read for both boys and girls, young men and young women. As an adult it gave me an opportunity to reflect on bullying experiences in my youth (and in some cases, I was the bully). One is never to old to learn about what happened in life.


Black Boy
Black Boy
by Richard Wright
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.45
168 used & new from $0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful look into growing up in the Jim Crow South and later life in the North, March 19, 2014
This review is from: Black Boy (Paperback)
Black Boy is required reading in several English classes at the high school where I am the librarian. But, sad to say, I had never read this enlightening narrative until recently.

I was a white boy in a predominently black junior high in the 1960s and my life has been profoundly affected by that experience. Among my favorite pieces of literature are The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Penguin Modern Classics), Roots: The Saga of an American Family and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry series by Mildred Taylor. So why Black Boy had escaped my attention for all these years is a mystery to me.

Black Boy gives us insight into the struggles of one boy who grew up in the Jim Crow South in the 1920s (and later as a young man in Chicago during the Depression). Each chapter can almost stand on its own as Wright details struggles and lessons learned along the way. He dealt with hunger, discrimination, a broken home, abuse, anger, religious fundamentalism, and an inadequate education system as he learned to read, write, and navigate life. By extension, one can assume that the lives of many black boys would've been similar during this era.

The book is divided into two halves, and our classes usually only study the first half, detailing Wright's life in the South. In the second half, he moves to Chicago, where he works various jobs and gets involved in the Communist Party during the 1930s. Most teachers in my school find this part of the book "too preachy," but I found it interesting to learn about the dysfunction of the Communists during this time.

I discovered I found myself reflecting on my experiences in junior high, and I began understanding why some of my classmates did the things they did in a new light.

I highly recommend this book. Don't wait as long as I did to read it.


Love's Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life
Love's Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life
by Scott Cairns
Edition: Hardcover
46 used & new from $3.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughts of the Christian Mystics, from East and West, poetically set to verse, February 17, 2014
In the preface of this volume, Scott Cairns begins: “This collection is a mere taste of the bountiful feast that awaits any who would pursue a life of faith and prayer, equipped with both the holy Scriptures and the holy tradition that surrounds them.”

He goes on to say, “This book offers some of that tradition, and its purpose is to make available—in what I hope is a pleasing form—some of the spiritual guidance offered by the mothers and fathers who have walked this particular Way before us. Their words have been rendered here in verse, and—one prays—in poetry as well. It is safe to say that the originals were all poetry, though they were not all verse. I have re-translated where I both could and felt that I should; I have “adapted” virtually everywhere else, hoping to press a range of existing—and what I took to be insufficiently suggestive—translations into more generous terms, whose evocative figurations might yet come into play, yielding more rather than less.”

And in the Prologue, Scott quotes from “The Cloud of the Unknowing,” asking the reader “to read slowly, and thoroughly, tasting each word’s trouble.”

I made the mistake of trying to rush through this volume of spiritual quotes, rendered as verse, because of the clean simple layout. What I began realizing is that there were so many voices to be heard, that I was jumbling them in my mind. I eventually slowed down, deciding to read one voice per day, and thereby the confusion ceased and I was able to hear more clearly.

There is an inherent unity to what the great Christian mystics say about the immensity of God’s love, as well as their love for God. Scott has selected voices from both the Christian East and the Christian West, perhaps to underscore the point that there is no schism when it comes to those who actively pursue God’s love.

While each voice is uniquely rendered on these pages, Scott’s voice also comes through, both in the way he lays out these writings as verse, and also in some of his translations. My only quibble is the way he often chose to refer to God as “the God.” I found myself stopping every time I encountered this to ask myself what his point was. I would’ve preferred the more simple use of “God,” as that is how we usually refer to our Divine Father in speech.

Having said that, I enjoyed this volume, and I hope that it leads me to read more of these Christian mystics in their entirety.


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