Alas, Babylon – by Pat Frank (1959)

Alas Babylon

Randy Bragg is a 32-year-old Korean War vet living in a small town in central Florida. His brother, Mark Bragg, is a SAC (Strategic Air Command) intelligence officer. When Mark learns that a Soviet nuclear attack on the US is about to happen, he telegraphs a message to his brother with the code words: Alas, Babylon.

The novel has just the right amount of characters to keep it interesting – Randy, sister-in-law Helen, a niece and nephew, Lib the girlfriend, Florence the Western Union operator, Dan the town doctor, Alice the librarian, and the Henrys next door.

There’s a good amount of build-up to the actual crisis, but the nuclear attack is not portrayed in gory detail like some books. The rest of the novel details how they adapted to a radically different world. The skills of their ancestors had to be re-learned, like salting meat and making a water system. They rationed supplies, and learned ways to survive without things that were considered necessities. Racial divides were put aside.

All in all, this is an excellent read, and shows what a person in the 1950’s thought surviving a nuclear attack would be like. This is a good book to compare and contrast with “One Second After” by William Forstchen.

 

One Second After – by William Forstchen (2008)

One Second After

What would happen if our country was attacked – not by an atomic bomb or chemical poisoning, but by an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)? Life as we know it would screech to a stop. Every computerized device we depend on would abruptly cease to operate. No modern cars, electricity, telephones, refrigeration, or even back-up generators. We would truly be set back a hundred years, without the benefit of know how to keep ourselves warm and fed.

This novel shows the effects of an EMP on a small average town. At first everyone pulls together and shares. But time goes by and nothing gets better. People get more and more desperate for food and medicine. Things get ugly as the weeks and months go by. This is one scary book – pray it never actually happens.

 
Excerpt:

“Look, John, something’s up. Got a problem here. I gotta-”

The phone went dead.

At that same instant, the ceiling fan began to slowly wind down, the stereo in Jennifer’s room shut down, and looking over to his side alcove office he saw the computer screen saver disappear, the green light of the “on” button on the nineteen inch monitor disappearing. There was a chirping beep, the signal that the home security and fire alarm system was off-line; then that went silent as well.

“Bob?”

Silence on the other end. John snapped the phone shut…

Puzzling. The battery in his phone must have gone out just as Bob clicked off. Hell, without electricity John couldn’t charge it back up to call the power company.

 

Unbroken – by Laura Hillenbrand (2010)

Unbroken

There have been hundreds of biographies written of World War II heroes, but one you should not pass over  is “Unbroken”, the story of Louis Zamparini. As a child, he had limitless energy and a propensity to get into trouble. By the grace of God and the love of his family, he managed to focus on his strengths, and ended up running in the 5000-meter race at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.  Hitler was so impressed with his lightning-speed finish that he insisted on meeting Louis and shaking his hand.

Then World War II broke out, and he became an Air Force pilot. Louis was the best of the best in his field. Despite his expertise, things went terribly wrong and he found himself afloat in the ocean, followed by even worse circumstances – washing ashore and becoming a prisoner of war. How much suffering could one man bear? There seemed to be no end in sight. But keep reading to the end – you will see how God wove all the events of Louis’ life together into something amazing.

Parts of this book are difficult to read because of their graphic nature. But until you read a story of someone like Louis, you truly have no idea what our soldiers went through to preserve the freedom of all Americans. This book has been made into a movie, which will open on Christmas Day 2014. But read the book first, and you’ll appreciate the movie more.

Safely Home – by Randy Alcorn (2001, 2011)

Safely Home

 

Have you ever run into an old college friend many years later? You might find that you can pick back up that friendship instantly, or you may find that you no longer have anything in common. “Safely Home” is the story of a friendship between Ben, a business student, and his Chinese roommate, Li Quan. Ben shares his faith with Li Quan, who also becomes a follower of Jesus before returning to his homeland.

Fast forward 20 years. Ben travels to China, attempting to help his company expand their business, and lives with Li Quan. By now, it is Ben who has no faith, and Li Quan tries to lead him back to God. The story deals a lot with the daily persecution that Chinese believers endure. How far would you be willing to go in living what you believe?

 

Excerpt from chapter 2:

Is this the day I die? Li Quan asked himself the familiar question as he wiped sleep from his eyes. Why couldn’t he be courageous, like his father and great-grandfather?…

He’d asked himself the question every day since he was Shen’s age. Every day the answer had been no. But his father had taught him, “One day the answer will be yes, and on that day you must be ready.”

It was on a Sunday his great-grandfather Li Manchu had been beheaded. And it was also on a Sunday his father, Li Tong, lying in a beaten lump, had died in prison. Here in the cold predawn outside Pushan, it was another Sunday.

Sycamore Row – by John Grisham (2013)

Sycamore Row

Anyone reading “Sycamore Row” will be struck by its connection to earlier novels. Attorney Jake Brigance and Sheriff Ozzie Walls are brought back from the very first Grisham novel – “A Time To Kill”. Judge Atlee is brought in from “The Summons”. Lawyers Harry Rex Vonner and Lucien Wilbanks from “The Last Juror” assist Jake in preparing his case. And the former owner of the Ford County Times, Willie Traynor, has a small part in the story.

Clanton is a town that struggled with racial issues in “A Time To Kill”, and years later, it is still an issue. The story centers around the suicide of Seth Hubbard, who had advanced lung cancer. The day before he hung himself, Seth invalidated his traditional will with a new, handwritten will leaving almost his entire fortune to his black housekeeper, Lettie. Needless to say, this did not sit well with Seth’s children and grandchildren, who took the matter to court. Much of the book is preparation for the trial, but the story easily kept my attention from beginning to end.

iWoz – by Steve Wozniak (2006)

iWoz

 

Do you love reading about the early days of the personal computer? Then I would recommend Steve Wozniak’s autobiography. It covers the same times and events as the Steve Jobs’ biography, but I enjoyed this book more, for the following reasons:

1 – Wozniak wrote his own book, as opposed to Jobs having someone else write it for him. You can feel the enthusiasm of Woz as he directly tells the story.

2 – It’s not as long. The Jobs’ biography was good but overly detailed. Woz sticks to the things he thought were important, and skipped the rest.

3 – Woz is more compassionate and caring. His attitude of wanting to share what he had made was so much more inspiring than Jobs’ cut-throat style.

The book covered the things you could want to know about Steve Wozniak – his childhood, his shy years, the pranks he played, working with Jobs, making the Apple computer, his marriage and children, and his relationship with the people he worked with. It was just the right length, and a very enjoyable read.

 

Excerpt from pages 222-223:

“I decided I was going to offer to sell some stock really cheap to people who deserved it. Regular employees didn’t get all the stock options the executives did. Which wasn’t fair. So I came up with something I called the Woz Plan. Any engineer or marketing person could buy 2,000 shares from me at a really low price of $5. Almost everybody who participated in the Woz Plan ended up being able to buy a house and became relatively comfortable…

Then there was the matter of some of our earliest employees who didn’t get stock at all… they offered the inspiration that really allowed me to do the great stuff. I thought of them as part of the family, part of the family that had helped me design the Apple I and Apple II computers. I gave each of them stock worth about a million dollars.”

Crazy Dangerous – by Andrew Klavan (2012)

Crazy Dangerous

Sam is just an ordinary guy that wants to fit in and have everyone forget that he’s the pastor’s kid. Jennifer is a girl suffering from schizophrenia whom Sam saves from a group of bullies. From that point on, Sam is her best friend and hero.

The story is told alternately from Sam’s and Jennifer’s point of view. Both of them struggle with their fears and demons. The phrase “do right – fear not” pops up many times throughout the story. There is much for them to fear, both from people they can see and presences they cannot see. Sam makes some bad decisions, and then struggles with how to get himself out of the situation. The story reminds us that we’ll encounter spiritual warfare in life, but have to keep struggling to do what’s right.

The book would be great for a discussion group. There are some suggested questions by the author at the end of the book.

 

Excerpt:

Jennifer dropped her voice and leaned toward me. “I said your name last night,” she confided to me as if it were her great secret.

“You…what? What do you mean?”

“I said your name,” she repeated, even softer than before. “When the demons came to my house.” …

“Demons, huh?” I said. I hoped maybe Jennifer was making some kind of joke, but I didn’t really think she was. “You get those a lot around your place?”

She nodded. “They come in at night. When no one else can see them. They change everything.”