1984 – by George Orwell (1949)


It’s the novel that people have been reading and talking about for over sixty years. Written after World War II, it portrays a society run by a totalitarian government. Citizens are under constant surveillance at work, on the street, and in their homes. There is no way to opt out of the monitoring. The government tells you what to do, where to go, and what to think.

Winston, the main character in the story, is a simple man who has a government job with the Ministry Of Truth. Ironically, the agency he works for exchanges the truth for whatever they want the common people to believe. Newspapers and history books are constantly being re-written, and as time passes, everyone – at least almost everyone – accepts the altered version. As long as Winston does his job, never disagrees with anything, and toes the government line, he is fine. But when he begins to question the truth, and yearns for freedom to do as he pleases, he finds himself in serious trouble.

This book is as timely now as it was in 1949. The struggle between government and individual freedom has always existed. We enjoy relative freedom in the United States, but many of our liberties are being taken away. “1984” is a chilling reminder of what happens when government is allowed too much power.


All Creatures Great And Small – by James Herriot (1972)

All Creatures Great And Small

(James Herriot is actually the pen name for James Alfred Wight)

In 1940, James Herriot was a young veterinarian college graduate looking for work. He applied for a position with Siegfried Farnon, a rural vet, and to his amazement, was hired. That began years of interesting animal cases that the author would write about later. As a country vet, James worked with horses, cows, rabbits, sheep, and pigs, as well as people’s pets. Because he was so young, and the new fellow in the community, it took awhile for people to accept him. But as time went by, he became respected and loved.

James shared some of his most interesting veterinarian visits. His recall of how the animal looked, the details of its illness, and the demeanor of its owner, are astounding. Sometimes the diagnosis was simple, sometimes complex. Sometimes he was treated like family by the person who had called him, sometimes they treated him quite rudely. Sometimes the treatment worked, sometimes the treatment failed and the animal died. It was a mixture of the good and bad times of being an animal doctor.

The other thing that made this a great book was the dialogue between James, his boss Siegfried, and Siegfried’s younger brother Tristan. Siegfried was an eclectic sort who would tell James one thing, then the next day tell him something totally different. Sometimes he was magnanimous and gracious, other times scolding and harsh. Poor James was often confused about what his boss actually wanted him to do. Tristan also received verbal blasts, and James sometimes found himself in the middle of Siegfried and Tristan’s disagreements.

Although some of the names of people and places have been changed, this is still considered a fine biography. So many people enjoyed the book that it was made into a television show in 1978 by the BBC. This fine series is available on DVD – but read the book first!

“Could Be Worse!” – by James Stevenson (1977)

Could Be Worse

When we were kids, every little thing that went wrong was a big deal. As we grew up, we learned that the things that bothered us were just small stuff in comparison to the major problems of adulthood.

In this story, Mary Ann and Louie keep telling Grandpa all the things that are going wrong. To their dismay, he just answers: “Could be worse!” They conclude that Grandpa doesn’t understand their situation because he has a boring life with no problems. When Grandpa overhears their conversation, he cooks up a whopper of a tall tale about his worst day.

The author not only wrote a wildly funny story, but added great illustrations to each and every page. In fact, kids who can’t read yet will be able to “read” you the story just by looking at the series of pictures. If you love this story as much as my family did, there are more books about Grandpa and the grand-kids! But this is the one that started it all.

Other “Grandpa” books:

That Terrible Halloween Night (1980)

We Can’t Sleep (1982)

The Great Big Especially Beautiful Easter Egg (1983)

Grandpa’s Great City Tour: An Alphabet Book (1983)

What’s Under My Bed? (1983)

Worse Than Willy (1984)

That Dreadful Day (1985)

No Friends (1986)

Will You Please Feed Our Cat (1987)

We Hate Rain! (1988)

Grandpa’s Too-Good Garden (1989)

Brrr (1991)

That’s Exactly The Way It Wasn’t (1991)

In Memory Of Kimberly



She’d been coming into my work place for some time. She was short, about the same age as me, and was always bundled up in a long coat. I would greet her with a smile, ask her how she was, but she would generally not speak. Occasionally she would smile and give a slight nod of the head. After a while, she would walk out the front door as quietly as she had entered.

On January 21, the local news reported her missing. Police found her purse on the ground, with footprints leading away and ending at the river. A search was conducted, but she was not found. For the first time, I knew her name: Kimberly. In the news article, Kimberly’s sister said that she suffered from schizophrenia and did not have her medication. Many of us prayed that Kimberly would be found alive somewhere, but yesterday, nearly two months after she was reported missing, her body was found in the river.

There are so many around us that suffer from illnesses of the mind, schizophrenia being just one of them. Most often we can’t do a lot to help them, but we can at least smile, say hello, be gracious, and pray for them. Treating people with kindness and dignity is the least we can do, as we were all made in the image of God.

Rest in peace, Kimberly.

Stories about Kimberly:



I Remember Running – by Darcy Wakefield (2005)

I Remember Running

Having read this book cover to cover two times, I have both great admiration and great sadness for the author. Darcy was an English professor at a college in Maine. She taught with great enthusiasm, ate healthy food, and got plenty of exercise. One of her favorite things to do was run. If she wasn’t running, she was swimming or hiking. Despite her lifestyle, she was diagnosed with ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease – at the age of 33.

What I admired so much about Darcy was her determination to accomplish her life goals before ALS rendered her incapable of doing so. She wanted to find a soul mate, buy a house of her own, and have a child. That she was able to do them all in a year was amazing. I also was impressed with the way she endeavored to live as normal a life as possible, and managed to keep her sense of wit as she wrote this book.

No matter how upbeat Darcy was, the story was still tinged with sadness as her condition grew worse. She would not be able to finish raising her baby. There would be no miraculous cure. I was also sad that during her last year of life, she only seemed to experience God as an impersonal deity that she would pray to, rather than having a personal relationship with Jesus and walking through it with His comfort.

So why read this book? First of all, to understand what it is like to experience a serious, fast-moving disease and how one very special person handled it. Secondly, to be reminded to slow down and notice the beauty of the little things that we miss because we are rushing through life. Lastly, to consider that none of us are guaranteed a long life, so be prepared to meet the One who made you.

Gone With The Wind – by Margaret Mitchell (1936)

Gone With The Wind

Margaret Mitchell spent a decade of her life writing her novel, “Gone With The Wind”. It originally began as a way to pass the time as she was laid up with an ankle injury. The story was set in the south during the Civil War and Reconstruction era. Margaret was a true Southerner, born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She grew up hearing stories of the glorious South, and of the War Between The States. Although the book is fictional, it does give the reader a window into the heart of the south.

At the center of the story is Scarlett O’Hara, a spoiled young woman who lives on her parents’ plantation, living the life of a wealthy belle. She yearns for the love of Ashley Wilkes, but instead he marries the kind, compassionate Melanie. Then the Civil War breaks out, leaving Scarlett and her family desperate and impoverished. Rhett Butler keeps popping up in the story and trys to win Scarlett’s heart, but her fixation on Ashley keeps her from appreciating Rhett’s affections.

The historic flavor of this book is incredible. It’s like stepping back in time, and walking through the 1860s. You read of the pleasant life of the well-to-do families and their social customs. The chapter where Atlanta is burning is so vivid that you can see it in your mind. And the descriptions of the wounded soldiers and the doctor trying to treat them with almost no supplies is heartbreaking.

One of the things most interesting to me was the contrast between the characters of Scarlett and Melanie. Scarlett has ambition and drive, but is totally devoid of conscience or caring for others. Melanie, on the other hand, has an almost other-worldly aura about her. She is deeply caring of others, and sees their hidden hurts when no one else does. Her humble nature is directly opposite to Scarlett’s. The relationship between the two women is fascinating.

This is not a book you can rush through. Pick it up when you have the time to read it leisurely. Enjoy those thousand-plus pages!


Animal Farm – by George Orwell (1945)

Animal Farm

Ever think that if you were in charge of your city hall, things would run smoother? Or maybe if you were the boss at work, things would be much more efficient? Maybe if you were the chairman of the college board, policies would be more fair for everyone.

“Animal Farm” is a tale about a group of animals on a farm who decide that they could do a better job than the owner, Farmer Jones. So they organize, and overthrow the farmer. He flees, leaving the animals to care for and govern themselves. At first the animal leaders have everyone’s best interests at heart. But it doesn’t take long before power begins to corrupt the leaders, and they are soon no better than Farmer Jones.

George Orwell originally wrote this book as a protest against England’s alliance with the Soviet Union and Stalin during World War II. Although he wrote it during the winter of 1943-1944, it was rejected by a number of publishers before being accepted and published in 1945. World War II has been over for decades, but this book still does an excellent job of showing how power changes and corrupts almost everyone in a high position.