Mike Cornelison

Letters from the Lunar Outpost

Category: Books

The Last Town on Earth

The Last Town on Earth, by Thomas Mullen, 2006

Written fourteen years before this current global pandemic, Thomas Mullen’s debut novel, The Last Town on Earth, is set during the height of the Spanish Influenza in 1918.

As you travel back in time with this book, you have to marvel at how often we hear the phrase “unprecedented times” used to describe our current pandemic. Globally, the Spanish Flu took the lives of 50 million while another 40 million were dying as The Great War raged in Europe.

Those times make our current crisis look like a walk in the park.

With an interesting technique, the first two pages of the book are completely detached from the story that fills the rest of the book, but it paints the horrors of those times in stark detail.

The sun poked out briefly, evidence of a universe above them, of watchful things—planets and stars and vast galaxies of infinite knowledge—and just as suddenly it retreated behind the clouds.

The doctor passed only two other autos during the fifteen-minute drive, saw but a lone pedestrian even though it was noon on Sunday, a time when people normally would be returning home from church, visiting with friends and family. The flu had been in Timber Falls for three weeks now, by the doctor’s best estimation, and nearly all traffic on the streets had vanished. The sick were condemned to their homes, and the healthy weren’t venturing outside.

“No one’s been down this street yet?” he asked the two nurses he was traveling with, both of whom had husbands fighting in France. He was a thin, older man with spectacles that had been dirtied by the wet coughs of countless patients.

“No,” one of the nurses said, shaking her head. Amid the swelling volume of the sick and dying, they hadn’t yet reached those this far outside of town, a lonely street where the poorest derelicts and most recent immigrants lived.

Neighbors had reported unnerving sounds coming from within one of the houses, but no one had been willing to go inside and check on the family.

The doctor parked beside the house, a two-story structure at the base of a slowly rolling hill. The ground was all mud, the wheels sinking a few inches. It even looked as if the house were sinking into the earth, its roof sloping to the right. The house was the last of five narrow buildings that seemed to lean against each other in their grief.

Before leaving the car, the visitors fastened gauze masks to their faces, covering their noses and mouths, and pulled on thin rubber gloves.

The doctor knocked on the door. There was no reply so he knocked again, harder this time, and identified himself.

“Look,” one of the nurses said. In the window to the left of the door they saw a face peering through the sheer curtain, a child no more than four years old. Her eyes were large and she appeared ghostlike, neither frightened of the masked strangers nor particularly interested in them. The nurse lifted a hand to wave but the child made no reply. The doctor knocked again, motioning to the door, but the child just stood there.

Finally the doctor turned the knob and walked inside. All the windows were shut, and the door clearly had not been opened in days. He noticed the smell immediately.

The little girl at the window turned to watch them. She was wearing an adult’s flannel shirt over her dirty nightgown, and her thick blond hair was uncombed. She was frighteningly thin.

The parlor was a disaster, clothes and toys and books strewn everywhere. A rocking chair was lying on its side, and a lamp had shattered on the floor. As the visitors stepped into the room two other girls emerged from the chaos, one younger and one slightly older than the girl in the window. They, too, were oddly dressed, dirty, wraithlike.

The doctor was about to ask where their parents were when he heard coughing, dry and hoarse. He and one of the nurses followed the sound down a short hallway and into a bedroom.

The other nurse stayed in the parlor with the children. She knelt on the floor and took some slices of rye bread from her bag. The girls raced toward her, hands extended, fingernails ripping into the food. In seconds there was nothing left, and all six eyes were again gazing at her expectantly.

In the bedroom, dark curtains were pulled over the window. The doctor could see the two beds, both occupied. Intermittent coughs came from the figure on the right, whose head rested on a pillow stained a dark red. The earlobes, nostrils, and upper lip were blackened with dried blood; the eyes were shut and the lids were a dark blue, as was the skin around them. The doctor saw a hand lying on top of the sheets, the fingers the color of wet ink. The small table beside the bed was streaked with blood, as was the Bible resting upon it.

The man coughed again and his eyes opened, unfocused, for no more than a second. The nurse knelt beside him to perform the meager duties her training dictated, even though she knew they were worthless now. It was better than looking at the figure in the other bed.

The woman lay on her side, facing her husband, her lips frozen in a rictus of pain. Her thin blond hair spilled across the pillow, some falling over the side of the bed and some caked in the dried blood on her face. It was impossible to tell how long she had been dead, as the Spanish flu’s corpses looked unlike any the doctor had seen. The blueness that darkened her husband had fully consumed her, making it impossible to guess her age or even her race. She resembled the burn victims the doctor had seen after a horrific mill fire years ago.

She was probably about the age of the nurses, the doctor wagered, for the flu seemed to be taking only those who were in the prime of their lives. The children may already have been recovering, but the flu had smothered their parents. This was entirely the opposite pattern of most influenzas.

They heard more coughing, from another room. The doctor and nurse looked at each other, surprised, then followed the sound into a bedroom on the opposite side of the hall. Here the window was curtainless, and as soon as they entered they saw two bodies lying on a large bed, both of them coughing. They were young adults, the sheets bloody near their heads. They sounded exactly like what they were: two people slowly suffocating to death.

There was a sudden movement between the bodies, tiny hands. A raven-haired child no more than three years old had been napping between her dying parents. She appeared tranquil for a moment, but the instant the girl opened her brown eyes, she started to scream. Whether terrified by the strangers in the masks or her nearly motionless parents, the nurse wasn’t sure. The girl kept screaming. It was as though the three silent children in the other room had found a voice in this one girl’s horror.

Books I Have Known

Abagnale, Frank
1980 – Catch Me If You Can

Abbey, Edward
1968 – Desert Solitaire

Adams, Richard
1972 – Watership Down

Adams, Scott
2013 – How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big
2017 – Win Bigly

Agee, James
1957 – A Death in the Family

Alighieri, Dante
1320 – The Inferno

Allen, Jonathan and Parnes, Amie
2017 – Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign

Amis, Martin
1984 – Money: A Suicide Note

Ansari, Aziz and Klinenberg, Eric
2015 – Modern Romance: An Investigation

Asher, Jay
2007 – Thirteen Reasons Why

Asimov, Isaac
1955 – The End of Eternity

Azerrad, Michael
1993 – Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana

Backman, Fredrik
2012 – A Man Called Ove
2016 – Beartown
2017 – Us Against You
2020 – Anxious People

Baldacci, David
2011 – Zero Day
••• Aloysius Archer Series
• 2019 – One Good Deed
• 2021 – A Gambling Man
• 2022 – Dream Town
2022 – The 6:20 Man

Balzac, Honore de
1830 – The Elixir of Life

Beckett, Samuel
1953 – Waiting for Godot

Bible, The
circa 1st century AD – The New Testament

Bilton, Nick
2017 – American Kingpin

Blume, Judy
1970 – Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret
1974 – Blubber
1975 – Forever…

Booth, Stanley
1984 – Dance With the Devil: The Rolling Stones and Their Times

Bourdain, Anthony
2000 – Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
2010 – Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook

Bradbury, Ray
1950 – The Martian Chronicles
1953 – Fahrenheit 451
1972 – The Halloween Tree

Brooks, Terry
••• The Shannara Series
• 1977 – The Sword of Shannara
• 1982 – The Elfstones of Shannara
• 1985 – The Wishsong of Shannara

Brown, Dan
2003 – The Da Vinci Code

Brown, Janelle
2017 – Watch Me Disappear
2020 – Pretty Things
2022 – I’ll Be You

Brynjolfsson, Erik and McAfee, Andrew
2014 – The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

Bryson, Bill
1990 – The Mother Tongue
2003 – A Short History of Nearly Everything

Bugliosi, Vincent and Gentry, Curt
1974 – Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders

Bukowski, Charles
1971 – Post Office
1973 – South of No North
1975 – Factotum
1978 – Women
1982 – Ham on Rye
1983 – Hot Water Music
1989 – Hollywood

Bulgakov, Mikhail
1940 – The Master and Margarita

Burroughs, Edgar Rice
••• The Barsoom Series (John Carter, Warlord of Mars)
• 1912 – A Princess of Mars
• 1913 – The Gods of Mars
• 1914 – The Warlord of Mars
• 1916 – Thuvia, Maid of Mars
• 1922 – The Chessmen of Mars

Byrne, Rhonda
2006 – The Secret

Cabane, Olivia Fox
2012 – The Charisma Myth

Campbell, Joseph
1949 – The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Camus, Albert
1942 – The Stranger

Cervantes, Miguel de
1615 – Don Quixote

Capote, Truman
1958 – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
1966 – In Cold Blood

Carnegie, Dale
1936 – How to Win Friends and Influence People

Cather, Willa
1927 – Death Comes for the Archbishop

Center, Katherine
2019 – Things You Save in a Fire

Chandler, Raymond
1939 – The Big Sleep
1940 – Farewell, My Lovely
1942 – The High Window

Charlamagne tha God
2017 – Black Privilege

Chekhov, Anton
1894-1899 – Five Great Stories
1903 – The Cherry Orchard

Chrichton, Michael
1980 – Congo

Christie, Agatha
1936 – The A.B.C. Murders

Cialdini, Robert B
1984 – Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Clarke, Arthur C.
1951 – The Road to the Sea
1953 – Childhood’s End
1968 – 2001: A Space Odyssey

Cline, Ernest
2011 – Ready Player One
2015 – Armada

Clines, Peter
2014 – The Junkie Quatrain

Coelho, Paulo
1988 – The Alchemist
1992 – The Valkyries: A Magical Tale About Forgiving Our Past and Believing in Our Future

Collins, Suzanne
2008 – The Hunger Games

Condon, Robert
1959 – The Manchurian Candidate

Conn, Peter
2013 – Great American Bestsellers: The Books That Shaped America

Conrad, Joseph
1899 – Heart of Darkness

Copeland, Stewart
2009 – Strange Things Happen: A Life with The Police, Polo, and Pygmies

Crouch, Blake
2016 – Dark Matter

Cullen, Dave
2009 – Columbine

Davis, Miles and Troupe, Quincy
1989 – Miles: The Autobiography

Davis, Stephen
1985 – Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga

Dershowitz, Alan M.
2006 – Fundamental Cases: The Twentieth-Century Courtroom Battles that Changed Our Nation

Diamond, Jared
1997 – Guns, Germs and Steel

Dib, Allan
2016 – The 1-Page Marketing Plan

Dick, Philip K.
1953-1980 – The Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol. 1 & 2 (Blackstone Ed.)
1953 – Dr. Futurity
1955 – Eye in the Sky
1958 – In Milton Lumky Territory
1958 – Time Out of Joint
1959 – Confessions of a Crap Artist
1961 – The Man in the High Castle
1968 – A Maze of Death
1973 – A Scanner Darkly
1976 – Radio Free Albemuth
••• The Valis Trilogy
• 1978 – Valis
• 1980 – The Divine Invasion

Dickens, Charles
1843 – A Christmas Carol

Donaldson, Stephen R.
••• The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever
• 1977 – Lord Foul’s Bane
• 1978 – The Illearth War
• 1979 – The Power that Preserves

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor
1846 – The Double (trans: Constance Garnett)
1864 – Notes from Underground (trans: Pevear & Volokhonsky)
1866 – Crime and Punishment (trans: Pevear & Volokhonsky)
1866 – The Gambler (trans: Constance Garnett)
1869 – The Idiot (trans: Pevear & Volokhonsky)
1872 – Demons (trans: Pevear & Volokhonsky)
1880 – The Brothers Karamazov (trans: Pevear & Volokhonsky)

Durant, Will and Ariel
1968 – The Lessons of History

Eggers, Dave
2009 – The Wild Things
2013 – The Circle
2016 – Heroes of the Frontier

Ehrman, Bart D.
2005 – Lost Christianities

Ellis, Bret Easton
1991 – American Psycho
2010 – Imperial Bedrooms
2019 – White

Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe
2004 – Ideas that Shaped Mankind

Fitzgerald, F. Scott
1922 – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Stories
1925 – The Great Gatsby

Fleming, Ian
1953 – Casino Royale
1954 – Live and Let Die
1955 – Moonraker
1956 – Diamonds Are Forever
1957 – From Russia with Love
1958 – Dr. No
1959 – Goldfinger
1960 – For Your Eyes Only
1961 – Thunderball
1963 – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
1964 – You Only Live Twice
1965 – The Man with the Golden Gun
1966 – Octopussy and The Living Daylights

Flynn, Gillian
2006 – Sharp Objects
2009 – Dark Places
2012 – Gone Girl
2015 – The Grownup

Forsyth, Mark
2013 – The Elements of Eloquence

Frankl, Viktor E.
1946 – Man’s Search for Meaning

Frey, James
2003 – A Million Little Pieces
2005 – My Friend Leonard
2008 – Bright Shiny Morning

Fry, Stephen
2017 – Mythos

Gabor, Don
1998 – How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends

Gaddis, John Lewis
2005 – The Cold War

Gaiman, Neil
1996 – Neverwhere
1998 – Smoke and Mirrors
1999 – Stardust
2001 – American Gods
2005 – Anansi Boys
2007 – M is for Magic
2013 – The Ocean at the End of the Lane
2015 – Trigger Warning
2020 – The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction

Galloway, Scott
2020 – Post Corona

Garland, Robert
2015 – Living History: Experiencing Great Events of the Ancient and Medieval Worlds

Gee, Henry
2021 – A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth

Gibson, William
1984 – Neuromancer
••• Blue Ant Series
• 2003 – Pattern Recognition
• 2007 – Spook Country

Gilder, George
1981 – Wealth and Poverty

Gildiner, Catherine
2019 – Good Morning, Monster

Glynn, Alan
2001 – The Dark Fields (re-released as “Limitless”)

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
1831 – Faust

Gogol, Nikolai
1842 – Dead Souls
1830-1842 – The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol (translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)

Golding, William
1954 – Lord of the Flies

Goldsborough, Robert
1986 – Murder in E Minor
1987 – Death on Deadline
1988 – The Bloodied Ivy
1989 – The Last Coincidence
1990 – Fade to Black
1992 – Silver Spire
2012 – Archie Meets Nero Wolfe
2014 – Murder in the Ball Park
2015 – Archie in the Crosshairs
2018 – The Battered Badge
2020 – Archie Goes Home

Gottlieb, Anthony
2000 – The Dream of Reason

Greene, Robert
2001 – Art of Seduction: An Indispensible Primer on the Ultimate Form of Power

Grey, Zane
1914 – The Rustlers of Pecos County
1933 – The Drift Fence
1933 – The Hash Knife Outfit: A Western Story

Grisham, John
1991 – The Firm
2003 – Bleachers
2006 – The Innocent Man
2012 – Calico Joe
••• The Whistler Series
• 2016 – Witness to a Trial
• 2016 – The Whistler
• 2021 – The Judge’s List
2017 – The Rooster Bar
••• Camino Series
2017 – Camino Island
2020 – Camino Winds

Guelzo, Allen C. and Gallagher, Gary W. and Allitt, Patrick N.
2003 – History of the United States, 2nd. Edition

Haddon, Mark
2003 – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
2019 – The Porpoise

Hailey, Arthur
1968 – Airport

Hammett, Dashiell
1929 – The Maltese Falcon
1931 – The Glass Key

Harari, Yuval Noah
2011 – Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Harford, Tim
2017 – Fifty Inventions that Shaped the Modern Economy

Harvey, Hannah B.
2013 – The Art of Storytelling: From Parents to Professionals

Hawking, Stephen
2018 – Brief Answers to the Big Questions

Hawkins, Paula
2015 – The Girl on the Train
2017 – Into the Water
2021 – A Slow Fire Burning

Hawley, Noah
2016 – Before the Fall

Hedges, Chris
2016 – Unspeakable

Heilemann, John and Halperin, Mark
2010 – Game Change

Heinlein, Robert A.
1942 – The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag
1956 – Double Star
1959 – Starship Troopers
1961 – Stranger in a Strange Land
1963 – Orphans of the Sky
1966 – The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Hemingway, Ernest
1929 – A Farewell to Arms
1952 – The Old Man and the Sea
1970 – Islands in the Stream
1923-1957 – The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway

Henderson, David
1981 – ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky: The Life of Jimi Hendrix

Hendricks, Greer & Pekkanen, Sarah
2020 – The Getaway

Herriot, James
1972 – All Creatures Great and Small

Hesse, Hermann
1919 – Demian
1922 – Siddhartha
1927 – Steppenwolf
1930 – Narcissus and Goldmund

Highsmith, Patricia
1952 – The Price of Salt

Hill, Joe
2005 – 20th Century Ghosts
2007 – Heart-Shaped Box
2010 – Horns

Hillier, Jennifer
2020 – Little Secrets

Hitchens, Christopher
2011 – Arguably: Essays
2015 – And Yet

Hoover, Colleen
2018 – Verity

Hopkins, Jerry and Sugerman, Danny
1980 – No One Here Gets Out Alive

Hunt, Margot
2019 – Buried Deep
2022 – Tell Her Story

Huxley, Aldous
1932 – Brave New World

Jackson, Steve
1999 – Monster

James, E.L.
2011 – Fifty Shades of Grey

Jennings, Ken
2012 – Because I Said So

Saint John of the Cross
circa 1585 – Dark Night of the Soul

Johnson, Paul
1999 – Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties

Kafka, Franz
1915 – The Metamorphosis and Other Stories (trans. by Stanley Appelbaum)

Kaku, Michio
2004 – Einstein’s Cosmos

Kawakami, Mieko
2009 – Heaven

Keefe, Patrick Radden
2021 – Empire of Pain

Kerouac, Jack
1957 – On the Road
1958 – The Dharma Bums
1962 – Big Sur

Keyes, Daniel
1966 – Flowers for Algernon

Kidder, David S and Oppenheim, Noah D
2007 – The Intellectual Devotional – American History

King, Stephen
1975 – ‘Salem’s Lot
1977 – The Shining
1978 – The Stand
1979 – The Dead Zone
••• The Dark Tower Series
• 1982 – The Gunslinger
• 1987 – The Drawing of the Three
• 1991 – The Waste Lands
1984 – Thinner
1991 – Needful Things
1993 – Nightmares & Dreamscapes
1996 – Desperation
1996 – The Regulators
1999 – The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
1999 – Hearts in Atlantis
2001 – Black House
2002 – From a Buick 8
2005 – The Colorado Kid
2006 – Cell
2008 – Just After Sunset
2009 – Ur
2011 – 11-22-63
2013 – Doctor Sleep
2014 – Mr. Mercedes
2018 – The Outsider
2020 – If It Bleeds
2021 – Later
2021 – Billy Summers
2022 – Fairy Tale

Klosterman, Chuck
2019 – Raised in Captivity
2022 – The Nineties

Knight, Molly
2015 – The Best Team Money Can Buy

Knight, Phil
2016 – Shoe Dog

Koestler, Arthur
1940 – Darkness at Noon

Koontz, Dean
1984 – The Servants of Twilight
1985 – The Door to December
1987 – Watchers
1990 – The Bad Place
1993 – Mr. Murder
1995 – Intensity
1998 – Seize the Night
2000 – From the Corner of His Eye
2003 – Odd Thomas
2006 – The Husband
2007 – The Good Guy
2007 – The Darkest Evening of the Year
2010 – What the Night Knows
2011 – 77 Shadow Street
2011 – The Moonlit Mind
2013 – Innocence
2014 – Wilderness and Other Stories
2014 – The City
2015 – Ashley Bell
••• The Jane Hawk Series
• 2018 – The Bone Farm (Prequel)
• 2017 – The Silent Corner

Korelitz, Jean Hanff
2021 – The Plot

Krakauer, John
1996 – Into the Wild
2003 – Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
2011 – Three Cups of Deceit

Krist, Gary
2018 – The Mirage Factory

Kubica, Mary
2014 – The Good Girl
2015 – Pretty Baby
2016 – Don’t You Cry
2017 – Every Last Lie
2018 – When the Lights Go Out
2021 – Local Woman Missing

Kushner, Harold S.
2012 – The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person

Kyle, Chris
2012 – American Sniper

L’Amour, Louis
Desert Death Song (Collection)
1953 – Hondo

Lao Tzu
circa 500 BC – Tao Te Ching

Larson, Erik
1999 – Isaac’s Storm
2003 – The Devil in the White City
2006 – Thunderstruck
2015 – Dead Wake

Larsson, Stieg
2005 – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Lehane, Dennis
••• Kenzie and Gennaro Series
• 1994 – A Drink Before the War
• 1996 – Darkness, Take My Hand
• 1997 – Sacred
• 1998 – Gone, Baby, Gone
• 1999 – Prayers for Rain
• 2010 – Moonlight Mile
2001 – Mystic River
2003 – Shutter Island
2006 – Coronado: Stories
••• Coughlin Series
• 2008 – The Given Day
• 2012 – Live by Night
• 2015 – World Gone By
2014 – The Drop
2017 – Since We Fell

Lem, Stanislaw
1961 – Solaris

L’Engle, Madeleine
1962 – A Wrinkle in Time

Lewis, C.S.
••• The Space Trilogy
• 1938 – Out of the Silent Planet
• 1943 – Perelandra
1942 – The Screwtape Letters
1943 – The Abolition of Man
1945 – The Great Divorce
1950 – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
1952 – Mere Christianity
1955 – Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

Lewis, Dan
2013 – Now I Know: The Revealing Stories Behind the World’s Most Interesting Facts
2014 – Now I Know More: The Revealing Stories Behind Even More of the World’s Most Interesting Facts

London, Jack
1903 – The Call of the Wild
1906 – White Fang
1913 – John Barleycorn
1899-1911 – The Best of Jack London Short Stories

Lorr, Benjamin
2020 – The Secret Life of Groceries

Lovecraft, H.P.
1917-1933 – Necronomicon
1917 – Dagon
1931 – At the Mountains of Madness
1931 – The Shadow Over Innsmouth

Lowndes, Leil
1999 – How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships

Lowry, Malcolm
1947 – Under the Volcano

Lynch, David
2006 – Catching the Big Fish

Machiavelli, Niccolò
1532 – The Prince

Manson, Mark
2016 – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia
1967 – One Hundred Years of Solitude
1968 – No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories

Martel, Yann
2001 – Life of Pi
2016 – The High Mountains of Portugal

Mason, Robert
1983 – Chickenhawk

Mather, Matthew
2013 – Cyberstorm

Max, Tucker
2006 – I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
2010 – Assholes Finish First
2012 – Hilarity Ensues
2012 – Sloppy Seconds: The Tucker Max Leftovers
2015 – Mate: Become the Man Women Want

McConaughey, Matthew
2020 – Greenlights

McCarthy, Cormac
1968 – Outer Dark
1985 – Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West
1992 – All the Pretty Horses
2005 – No Country for Old Men
2006 – The Road

McCourt, Frank
1996 – Angela’s Ashes

McCullough, David
2001 – John Adams
2005 – 1776
2015 – The Wright Brothers
2019 – The Pioneers

Mcdonald, Gregory
1974 – Fletch
1976 – Confess, Fletch
1978 – Fletch’s Fortune
1980 – Fletch and the Widow Bradley
1982 – Fletch’s Moxie

McDonnell, C.K.
2021 – The Stranger Times

McWhorter, John
2004 – The Story of Human Language
2008 – Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English
2012 – Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths of Language Usage
2013 – Language A to Z

Melville, Herman
1851 – Moby Dick

Meyer, Stephenie
2005 – Twilight
2016 – The Chemist

Michaelides, Alex
2019 – The Silent Patient

Miller, Henry
1934 – Tropic of Cancer
1936 – Black Spring
1939 – Tropic of Capricorn

Miller, Madeline
2011 – The Song of Achilles

Mitchell, Stephen
2004 – Gilgamesh: A New English Version

Mitnick, Kevin
2011 – Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker

Moore, Alan
1989 – V for Vendetta

Moreno-Garcia, Silvia
2022 – The Daughter of Doctor Moreau

Morrison, Toni
1977 – Song of Solomon

Mosley, Walter
1997 – Gone Fishin’
2003 – Six Easy Pieces
2004 – The Man in My Basement
2005 – Cinnamon Kiss
2005 – The Wave
2006 – Fortunate Son
2010 – The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey
2012-2013 – Crosstown to Oblivion (Sextet)

Mullen, Thomas
2006 – The Last Town on Earth
2010 – The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers
2011 – The Revisionists
••• The Darktown Series
• 2016 – Darktown
• 2017 – Lightning Men

Musashi, Miyamoto
1645 – The Book of Five Rings

Nabokov, Vladimir
1934 – Despair
1955 – Lolita

Nevin, David
1997 – 1812

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm
1532 – The Prince

North, Alex
2019 – The Whisper Man

Ogilvy, David
1963 – Confessions of an Advertising Man

O’Hara, John
1934 – Appointment in Samarra

O’Neill, Bill
2017 – The Fun Knowledge Encyclopedia

Orwell, George
1933 – Down and Out in Paris and London
1945 – Animal Farm
1949 – 1984

Owens, Delia
2018 – Where the Crawdads Sing

Palahniuk, Chuck
1996 – Fight Club
2009 – Pygmy
2011 – Damned

Pirog, Nick
••• Thomas Prescott Series
• 2008 – Unforeseen
• 2010 – Gray Matter
• 2013 – The Afrikaans
• 2017 – Show Me
• 2021 – Jungle Up
••• Henry Bins Series
• 2013 – 3:00 A.M.
2021 – The Speed of Souls

Pirsig, Robert M.
1974 – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

Plath, Sylvia
1963 – The Bell Jar

Prose, Nita
2022 – The Maid

Pynchon, Thomas
2009 – Inherent Vice

Quick, Matthew
2008 – The Silver Linings Playbook
2015 – Love May Fail

Rand, Ayn
1938 – Anthem
1943 – The Fountainhead
1964 – The Virtue of Selfishness

Rice, Anne (as A.N. Roquelaure)
1983 – The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty
1984 – Beauty’s Punishment
1985 – Beauty’s Release

Ridley, Matt
2015 – The Evolution of Everything

Rimbaud, Arthur
1873 – A Season in Hell and The Drunken Boat (trans: Louise Varese)

Robbins, Anthony
1988 – Personal Power
2000 – Get the Edge

Roberts, J.M.
1994 – The History of the World

Rocca, Mo
2019 – Mobituaries

Ronson, Jon
2004 – The Men Who Stare at Goats
2011 – The Psychopath Test
2012 – Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries
2017 – The Butterfly Effect

Rosenberg, Joel C.
2010 – The Twelfth Imam

Roth, Philip
1959 – Goodbye, Columbus
1979 – The Ghost Writer
1986 – The Counterlife

Rovelli, Carlo
2017 – The Order of Time

Rowell, Rainbow
2011 – Attachments

Ruff, Matt
2016 – Lovecraft Country

Rule, Anne
1998 – Bitter Harvest

Safire, William
1980 – On Language

Sagan, Carl
1994 – Pale Blue Dot

Sager, Riley
2020 – Home Before Dark

Salinger, J.D.
1951 – The Catcher in the Rye
1961 – Franny and Zooey

Scalzi, John
2016 – The Dispatcher

Scientific American
2013 – Fact or Fiction: Science Tackles 58 Popular Myths
2014 – Ask the Experts: Astronomy
2017 – Fact or Fiction 2: 50 (More) Popular Myths Explained

Sebold, Alice
2002 – The Lovely Bones

Sendak, Maurice
1963 – Where the Wild Things Are

Setterfield, Dianne
2006 – The Thirteenth Tale
2013 – Bellman & Black
2018 – Once Upon a River

Seymour, Gerald
2003 – Traitor’s Kiss
2010 – The Dealer and the Dead
2011 – A Deniable Death

Shubaly, Mishka
2020 – Cold Turkey

Silverman, Steve
2020 – The Flip Side of History

Sincero, Jen
2013 – You Are a Badass

Sinclair, Upton
1906 – The Jungle

Slim, Iceberg
1967 – Pimp: The Story of My Life

Sloan, Robin
2012 – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Sowell, Thomas
2005 – Black Rednecks and White Liberals

Spurrier, Libby
2018 – Henrietta & Eleanor: A Retelling of Jekyll and Hyde

Standiford, Les
2015 – Water to the Angels: William Mulholland, His Monumental Aqueduct, and the Rise of Los Angeles

Stearns, Peter N.
2007 – A Brief History of the World

Stedman, M.L.
2012 – The Light Between Oceans

Steinbeck, John
1932 – The Pastures of Heaven
1937 – Of Mice and Men
1939 – The Grapes of Wrath
1947 – The Pearl
1952 – East of Eden

Stein, Garth
2008 – The Art of Racing in the Rain

Stern, Howard
1993 – Private Parts
1995 – Miss America

Stoker, Bram
1897 – Dracula

Stoler, Mark A.
2012 – The Skeptic’s Guide to American History

Stout, Rex
1913 – Her Forbidden Knight
1934 – Fer-de-Lance
1939 – Some Buried Caesar

Straub, Peter
1979 – Ghost Story
1980 – Shadowland
1990 – Houses Without Doors
1999 – Mr. X
2007 – 5 Stories
2010 – A Dark Matter

Strauss, Neil
2005 – The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists
2015 – The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships

Sullivan, Jay
2017 – Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond

Sun Tzu
circa 512 BC – The Art of War

Susann, Jacqueline
1966 – Valley of the Dolls

Swarup, Vikas
2005 – Q & A

Tanner, Stephen
2002 – Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban

Tartt, Donna
1992 – The Secret History
2002 – The Little Friend
2013 – The Goldfinch

Thompson, George J. and Jenkins, Jerry B.
1993 – Verbal Judo

Tolkien, J.R.R.
1937 – The Hobbit
••• The Lord of the Rings
• 1954 – The Fellowship of the Ring
• 1954 – The Two Towers
• 1955 – The Return of the King

Tolstoy, Leo
1863 – The Cossacks
1899 – Resurrection
1886-1909 – The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories

Toole, John Kennedy
1963 – A Confederacy of Dunces

Towles, Amor
2011 – Rules of Civility
2016 – A Gentleman in Moscow
2021 – The Lincoln Highway

Tur, Katy
2017 – Unbelievable

Turton, Stuart
2018 – The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
2020 – The Devil and the Dark Water

Tyson, Neil DeGrasse
2017 – Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Vaynerchuk, Gary
1993 – Crush It!

1759 – Candide

Vonnegut, Kurt
1959 – The Sirens of Titan
1963 – Cat’s Cradle
1968 – Welcome to the Monkey House
1969 – Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death
1973 – Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday
1982 – Deadeye Dick

Voth, Grant L.
2011 – The Skeptic’s Guide to the Great Books

Wallace, David Foster
1987 – The Broom of the System
1988 – Girl with Curious Hair

Warburton, Nigel
2011 – A Little History of Philosophy

Ward, Geoffrey C. and Burns, Ken
2017 – The Vietnam War: An Intimate History

Warren, Robert Penn
1946 – All the King’s Men

Weir, Andy
2011 – The Martian
2017 – Artemis
2017 – James Moriarty, Consulting Criminal
2017 – The Egg and Other Stories
2021 – Project Hail Mary

Wells, H.G.
1896 – The Island of Doctor Moreau

White, E.B.
1952 – Charlotte’s Web

White, T.H.
1958 – The Once and Future King

Wilder, Thornton
1927 – The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Williams, Tad
2012 – The Dirty Streets of Heaven

Winchester, Simon
1999 – The Professor and the Madman
2001 – The Map that Changed the World
2003 – Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded
2004 – The Meaning of Everything
2010 – Atlantic
2013 – The Men Who United the States
2015 – Pacific
2018 – The Perfectionists

Winters, Ben H.
2020 – Inside Jobs

Wodehouse, P. G.
1919 – My Man Jeeves

Wooten, Victor
2008 – The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music

Zafon, Carlos Ruiz
2001 – The Shadow of the Wind

Anthologies / Various Authors
2002 – Classic Russian Short Stories (Audio Connoisseur)
2013 – The Mystery Box
2010 – Stories: All-New Tales
2019 – Forward: Stories of Tomorrow
2022 – Hotel California

Mere Christianity

When Christians seek to share the message of Christ, most of their appeals are made by attempting to speak to people’s hearts. From my experience however, most non-believers take great pride in thinking of themselves as guided by reason. A more effective way of reaching these people then, would be to make the case for Christianity not from an emotional standpoint, but from a logical standpoint.

That’s where you enter the realm of Christian apologetics. To our modern sense of the language, the word “apologetics” lends itself to being interpreted as saying you’re sorry for being a Christian. In this case however, the word “apologetics” is derived directly from the Greek, “apologia”, meaning a rebuttal or verbal defense.

In having just finished C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”, I want to tell you that it lays out the strongest, most rational case for Christianity I’ve ever encountered.

Again, we have a title subject to misinterpretation. Lewis doesn’t speak of “mere Christianity” the way a “mere child” refers to someone who is “no better then” or “no more then” a child. Instead, Lewis borrows the phrase from the 17th century writer Richard Baxter, who wrote of “mere Christianity” as being the essentials of Christianity, the core beliefs shared by Catholics and Protestants alike. Lewis goes on to define it as “an agreed, or common, or central, or ‘mere’ Christianity, which omits the disputed points.” Doesn’t it make sense to start the non-believer from the point where all the denominations agree, instead of getting lost in the details of dispute?

At the age of 30 as a non-believer attending Oxford, Lewis says he finally gave in and admitted that “God was God”, describing himself as “perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” It is from that perspective as a former non-believer that Lewis uses great talents as a writer to document his own evolution from the non-believer to the true believer. In doing so, he makes a compelling case for Christianity.

At 229 pages, Mere Christianity has more thought-provoking passages per page than just about anything I’ve ever read. Allow me to share just seven samples in hopes it may inspire you to pickup a copy of the book yourself:

On being an atheist:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.

On the devil:

Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery. I know someone will ask me, ‘Do you really mean, at this time of day, to re-introduce our old friend the devil – hoofs and horns and all?’ Well, what the time of day has to do with it I do not know. And I am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer is ‘Yes, I do.’ I do not claim to know anything about his personal appearance. If anybody really wants to know him better I would say to that person, “Don’t worry. If you really want to, you will. Whether you’ll like it when you do is another question.”

On free will:

When we have understood about free will, we shall see how silly it is to ask, as somebody once asked me: ‘Why did God make a creature of such rotten stuff that it went wrong?’ The better stuff a creature is made of the cleverer and stronger and freer it is – then the better it will be if it goes right, but also the worse it will be if it goes wrong. A cow cannot be very good or very bad; a dog can be both better and worse; a child better and worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit best – or worst – of all.

On the oft-repeated “respect” the non-believer gives in saying Jesus was a great teacher:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

On why we need Jesus to properly repent of our sins:

Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person – and he would not need it.

. . .

You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God’s dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God’s dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.

On propriety, or decency:

The social rule of propriety lays down how much of the human body should be displayed and what subjects can be referred to, and in what words, according to the customs of a given social circle. Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times, the rule of propriety changes. A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally ‘modest,’ proper, or decent, according to the standards of their own societies: and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be equally chaste (or equally unchaste). Some of the language which chaste women used in Shakespeare’s time would have been used in the nineteenth century only by a woman completely abandoned. When people break the rule of propriety current in their own time and place, if they do so in order to excite lust in themselves or others, then they are offending against chastity. But if they break it through ignorance or carelessness they are guilty only of bad manners. When, as often happens, they break it defiantly in order to shock or embarrass others, they are not necessarily being unchaste, but they are being uncharitable: for it is uncharitable to take pleasure in making other people uncomfortable.

On morality:

There is a story about a schoolboy who was asked what he thought God was like. He replied that, as far as he could make out, God was ‘the sort of person who is always snooping round to see if anyone is enjoying himself and then trying to stop it’. And I am afraid that is the sort of idea that the word Morality raises in a good many people’s minds: something that interferes, something that stops you having a good time. In reality, moral rules are directions for running the human machine. Every moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that machine. That is why these rules at first seem to be constantly interfering with our natural inclinations. When you are being taught how to use any machine, the instructor keeps on saying, ‘No, don’t do it like that,’ because, of course, there are all sorts of things that look all right and seem to you the natural way of treating the machine, but do not really work.

. . .

People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, ‘If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.’ I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.

I’ve headed in the one direction and I’ve headed in the other. More often, I need ask myself in which direction I’m heading today.

We’re just scratching the surface here, but imagine an entire book of kernels of wisdom like the seven shared here, and for every kernel, even more to ponder as he expands on every thought.

Mere Christianity is full of inspiration and full of ammunition for discussing God with the atheist who prides themselves in logical thinking.

Mere Christianity at amazon.com

The Professor and the Madman

The Professor and the Madman??? You had me at hello. If ever a book grabbed me right from the title, this is it.

“The Professor and the Madman” centers on the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, almost undoubtedly the greatest undertaking ever made in the English language. The scope of the project was staggering: over a span of 70 years, volunteers submitted an estimated 5 million quotations. From these submissions, the book used 1.8 million quotes from 4,500 literary works written by 2,700 authors. The finished version listed 252,200 entries and 414,800 word forms, weighing in at 15,490 pages.

The “Professor”, in this case, is Sir James Murray (pictured above). Murray presided over the greater portion of the 70 years of the OED’s formation. Spoiler alert, because here comes the bombshell in the story – after many years of correspondence and collaboration with Dr. William Chester Minor, the dictionary’s most prolific contributor, Murray finds out that Minor has submitted his thousands of quotations *from a cell in an insane asylum*.

A passage that really had resonance for me:

One in a hundred people today suffer from schizophrenia: Nearly all of them, if treated with compassion and good chemistry, can have some kind of dignified life, of a kind that was denied, for much of his time to Doctor Minor.

Except, of course, that Minor had his dictionary work. And there’s a cruel irony in this – that if he had been so treated, he might never have felt impelled to work on it as he did. By offering him mood-altering sedatives, as they would have done in Edwardian times, or treating him as today with such antipsychotic drugs as quetiapine or risperidone, many of his symptoms of madness might have gone away – but he might well have felt disinclined or unable to perform his work for Doctor Murray.

In a sense doing all those dictionary slips was his medication; in a way they became his therapy. The routine of his quiet and cellbound intellectual stimulus, month upon month, year upon year, appears to have provided him with at least a measure of release from his paranoia. His sad situation only worsened when that stimulus was gone: when the great book ceased to function as his lodestone, when the one fixed point on which his remarkable but tortured brain was able to concentrate became detached, so then he began to spiral downward, and his life began to ebb.

One must feel a strange gratitude, then, that his treatment was never good enough to divert him from his work. The agonies that he must have suffered in those terrible asylum nights have granted us all a benefit, for all time. He was mad, and for that, we have reason to be glad. A truly savage irony, on which it is discomfiting to dwell.

There were times in the book where I had to wonder if perhaps William Minor was faking it when he constantly complained to his caretakers that he was tormented by people who would come from under the floor and down from the ceiling to perform heinous molestations on him while he slept in his cell, but any wonder of whether this guy was faking it fell to the wayside when we learn he subjected himself to an autopeotomy. If you’re wondering what an autopeotomy is, the word was new to me as well. Turns out it means the dude cut off his own penis.

Thankfully, I’ve never been anywhere near that level of crazy but I can very much identify with the wonderful, meditative properties found in working obsessively and compulsively. When your entire consciousness is absorbed in the task at hand, the work becomes a medicine. It is at that point that all troubles of mind and spirit cease to exist.

Link: More from Simon Winchester on the entry of “autopeotomy” into the language and English officially hitting 1,000,000 words.

© 2022 Mike Cornelison

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑