Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Everything Matters!

by Ron Currie, Jr.

Lots of books have an omniscient narrator. "Little did Bob know, he was making a terrible mistake..." Okay, that was an awful example, but you get the idea. Junior Thibodeau is actually born with that voice in his head, and it's talking to him. It doesn't talk all the time, but what it says seems to be true. The information he receives is often useful, and sometimes more than he can handle. The day he's born, he's told that in 36 years, 168 days, 14 hours, and 23 seconds, the earth will be hit by a massive meteor, wiping out all life on the planet. As you can guess from the title, this is a story about deciding what to do with one's limited time. Is it worth investing in relationships, trying to help people, getting involved in a world you know will come to an end? Junior struggles with these questions, as we all do.

This was a strange book, and pretty dark at times, but Junior is ultimately a likeable character. You hope he'll succeed, whatever that means. And I really couldn't tell where the story was going... could Junior use his "gift" to help himself? To help the world? And, as the voice in Junior's head asks him, after telling him of the world's fate, does anything he does really matter?

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?

by Michael Sandel

Sandel, Harvard professor, took his popular class on the philosophy of law and condensed it into 200 thought-provoking and entertaining pages. Sandel's goal is to give a brief but thorough introduction to several different legal philosophies, including Utilitarianism, Libertarianism, the works of Aristotle, John Locke and Immanuel Kant, and modern philosophers like John Rawls. In each case, Sandel uses thought experiments as well as historic legal cases to examine these philosophies from different angles. The effort to create a just society has never been easy, and I found my eyes opening to some of the benefits and pitfalls of each approach. I felt that Sandel did "justice" to each system he talks about, while still clearly having his own point of view. Highly recommended.