I Sold My Soul on Ebay by Hemant Mehta

The premise of this book is fairly simple. An atheist decided to "sell his soul on Ebay" or in reality to take on the burden of having to attend the church of the winning bidder's choice for a number of times commensurate with the winning bid. In this case, the winning bidder, one former pastor, decrees that Mehta visit a variety of churches and write his views on his experiences.

As a result, the author makes various excursions, both in his own area, and to some churches of national recognition, (one is Joel Osteen's megachurch) and observes not only how people react to him as a visitor, but to the program the church presents. All this is done as an atheist with an open-minded view as to how it is all done, with an eye on how each church could potentially be drawing or even repelling the potentially unsaved masses.

As a church-going Christian myself, I think that there is some interesting views that the author makes that can be taken into account for many churches. For instance, he says and I think rightly so, that too many churches have a long song and praise session that may tend to bore those who are new to the church. Actually, there are probably more than a few members of these churches who harbor the same feelings (myself as one).

Taken for what it is, open-minded people from both sides of the church door should find this book pretty interesting. I won't give away whether or not the atheist becomes a Christian, you will have to read the book to the end to find that out, but you can be entertained in the meantime with his observations.

Rate this one 6 stars.


Unusually Stupid Politicians by Kathryn and Ross Petras

If you really want to know who you are paying to represent you you in DC or your local capitaol building, you should read what they have to say in public. Anybody can manufacture a press release to put themselves in a good light, but the real cream of the crop comes in public speaking.
And not everything that comes out of a politician's mouth is pure gold. Sometimes, what they have to really say can be downright disturbing on one level or unintentionally hilarious on another level.
Brother and sister Petras have collected some gems here, the oldest of which only dates back to the late '80's or early '90's, so they are stilll fresh. And given light of the current political landscape, can be very enlightening. Although Republican comments predominate the book, there are plenty of Democrat faux pas to give the other side a laugh or two, also.
Typically, a book like this will have some slanting in it, it can hardly be avoided. Given that they consistently refer to Sen. Joe Lieberman as "Democrat" ("D") , an obvious snide jab as to whether the Senator is really a Dem, they seem to have shown their hand pretty well. (Just asking, but would Congressman Ron Paul have been referred to as a "Republican" ("R")?) But other than that one thing, I had no objections to the book. I thought it was pretty good.
I'll rate this one 7 stars.


If I Did It by O. J. Simpson

I hadn't intended on reading this book. To be honestly blunt, I grew tired of all the crap from both sides when the original trial was going on, not to mention that Simpson had the temerity to do his shennanigans with the Bronco on the L.A. Freeway during a game of the NBA finals.

Add on to that every year for the 13 years after the fact, you had some lame-brain on talk radio mentioning the trial and the fact that, despite the jury verdict, O. J. was "guilty as sin". And some jackass would call in to refute that statement. And nobody would let it just pass, even though countless other similarly "miscarriages of justice" have since lapsed into only the subconcious, if that, of the public.

But the recent events surrounding Simpson in Las Vegas prompted me to check this one out. I have to admit, by the time I got to the chapter on "The Night in Question" I wanted to kill the girl myself. She is painted in broad strokes as an extremely unstable person, who is at times sane, but as often on the verge of going off like a bottle rocket.

Whether or not this is in fact the "Confession of the Killer" as the Goldman family so named it, it is an insight into the life of Simpson before the night of the crime, as well as what potentially could have happened.

I'll give this on 5½ stars.


Fanatic: 10 Things All Sports Fans Should Do Before They Die by Jim Gorant

The author's premise derives from a dinner conversation that had several of his dinner companions trying to come up with the ultimate list of sporting events that should be seen live and in person. Over a period of several days/weeks, Gorant brought up the subject again and again with various friends and colleagues and narrowed it down to ten. He took a year and made it his goal to visit these 10 events.

  • The 10 events as he decided are:
  • The Super Bowl
  • The Daytona 500
  • The Final Four
  • The Masters
  • The Kentucky Derby
  • Wimbledon
  • A game at Wrigley Field
  • A college football rivalry game
  • A game at Lambeau Field
  • A game at Fenway Park

I take issue with some of his selections. For instance, tennis is about as fascinating as watching ants collect stuff. And in the chapter on the rivalry college football game, he passes a comment that "the NBA is unwatchable...". OK, consider he lives in New York, and I gather, spends some time in Philidelphia. No wonder he feels that way, but I disagree if you consider the top flight teams. (As of this writing, all three Texas teams are soaring....) And I may be the only true southern redneck who thinks NASCAR is only interesting on the final 10 laps.

Given that, I think this is a pretty fascinating book, if you can overlook the occasional derogatory comments towards people of Southern heritage. The best chapters, by my somewhat biased viewpoint, are the ones on the Super Bowl and the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry game. Of course football is my main abiding passion, so there.

Rate this one 6½ stars.


You Can Lead a Politician to Water, But You Can't Make Him Think by Kinky Friedman

The Kinkster has been one of my favorite authors since I first discovered his mysteries back in the halcyon days of my college years. He has been a regular guest on the "Sam and Bob Morning show" on local KVET radio for as long as I can remember. I thought many times over the years that we had a kindred spirit. When in 2005, he announced his intention to run for governor of Texas, my first thought was he'd be better than the goons and goombahs running things now.
As time went on I realized that my kindred spirit was much more than just a passing fancy. Much of what Kinky said on the campaign trail made beaucoup sense. Unfortunately for those of us who fell in behind the Kinkster's drive to the governor's mansion, he fell short of the needed majority to move in to said residence.
With this new book, Kinky recounts his journey, as well as espousing and clarifying his stance on the major issues of his campaign. But this is not dull, dry political prose, a la the editorial page of most newspapers, nor is it (entirely) ranting against political foes, a la Sean Hannity. Although he does take some occasional digs at current governor Rick Perry and at the Democrats, it is done tongue-in-check with the great style and wit that Kinky has developed as a writer.
Covering every issue he encountered during that long foray into political stumping, and establishing exactly what his stance is and why, this book is an excellent primer for those who are unsure what is wrong with politics, in Texas or elsewhere, although the focal point, necessarily, is Texas. And if you can read the chapter "Thou Shalt Not Kill" without shedding a few tears, well then, Gov. Rick Perry needs some new campaign supporters for the next election.
I rate this one 9½ stars.