Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Resources for Lent

Christianity Today, March, 2009

Best books to read before Easter.

Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
Orbis Books

Six dozen penetrating readings from evangelical stalwarts (Chambers, Stott, Yancey), classic masters (Augustine, Luther, Pascal), English favorites (Chesterton, Lewis, Sayers), and scores of others provide deep insight across the gamut of Lenten themes.

* * *

Small Surrenders: A Lenten Journey
Emilie Griffin

Short, simple reflections encourage us to move beyond the surface question, "What are you giving up for Lent?" to embrace small surrenders. This is "a series of large and small conversions, inner revolutions, that lead to our transformation in Christ."

* * *

The Way of the Heart
Henri Nouwen

In his inimitable style, Nouwen leads readers through the practices of solitude, silence, and prayer to teach us very practical ways to "fashion our own wilderness"—one of the great themes of Lent.

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Fasting: Beyond our Appetites
Lynne M. Baab

To a consumer generation always feeding but never satisfied, Baab presents fasting as an invitation to "back away" from the madness of this table and feed on the living bread. This book is a fitting primer for those seeking a broader understanding of fasting.

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Eastertide: Prayers for Lent through Easter
Phyllis Tickle

Whatever disciplines we do or don't choose for Lent, at the very least, we need a way to pray. Taken from her larger work The Divine Hours, this small paperback provides fixed-hour prayers to carry you through the season. Don't leave home without it.

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Reformed Perspectives Magazine Volume 11, Number 13

Reformed Perspectives Magazine Volume 11, Number 13 (March 29 to April 4, 2009), is now available. The following articles are featured in this issue:

1 Timothy - An Introduction
A Sermon
By: Scott Lindsay
Webpage PDF Word

The Shepherd and His Flock
An Article
By: Murdoch Campbell
Webpage PDF Word

The Lord’s Prayer, III
An Article
By: Robert Traill
Webpage PDF Word

Summary of Christian Doctrine, III
An Article
By: Louis Berkhof
Webpage PDF Word

There Was Silence in Heaven
An Article
By: Kim Riddlebarger
Webpage PDF Word

God’s Golden Warriors
An Article
By: Jim Williams
Webpage PDF Word


Monday, March 30, 2009

The Wisdom of the Desert Abba and Amma (16)

A certain man said that there were once three men who loved labors, and they were monks. The first one chose to go about and see where there was strife, which he turned into peace; the second chose to go about and visit the sick; but the third departed to the desert that he might dwell in quietness. Finally the first man, who had chosen to still the contentions of men, was unable to make every man to be at peace with his neighbor, and his spirit was sad. He went to the man who had chosen to visit the sick; he found him in affliction because he was not able to fulfill the law which he had laid down for himself.

Then the two of them went to the monk in the desert, and seeing each other they rejoiced, and the two men related to the third the tribulations which had befallen them in the world. They entreated him to tell them how he had lived in the desert. He was silent, but after a little he said unto them, "Come, let each of us go and fill a vessel of water." After they had filled the vessel, he said unto them, "Pour out some of the water into a basin, and look down to the bottom through it," and they did so. He then said unto them, "What do you see?" And they said, "We see nothing." After the water in the basin had ceased to move, he said to them a second time, "Look into the water," and they looked, and he said unto them, "What do you see?" They said unto him, "We see our own faces distinctly."

He said unto them, "Thus is it with the man who dwelleth with men, for by reason of the disturbance caused by the affairs of the world he cannot see his sins; but if he live in the peace and quietness of the desert he is able to see God clearly."


The Day of the Triffids

This is one of the earlier science fiction books I read which has hooked me to science fiction ever since.

ISBN: 0141185414 The Day of the Triffids John Wyndham

The Day of the Triffids
John Wyndham

Wyndham’s novel has two strands of catastrophe. Firstly, lights from a meteor shower blind anyone who watches it (and that’s most people) and the visionless society completely breaks down. Then the triffids – walking, killing, meat-eating plants – take advantage of the whole situation and go on the rampage.


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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tank Warfare in Warhammer 40,000

After a busy day of preaching twice and giving a talk, I am happy that I am able to relax by reading a novel on tank warfare. I wish to thank all my prayer partners that literally prayed me through this grueling day.

I found this book, Gunheads by Steve Parker at the MPH bookstore. It is a novel about Warhammer 40,000.

From the wiki

The Warhammer 40,000 game setting is a space opera that takes place
in a gothic science-fantasy universe. Set in the 41st millennium, most of the major storylines that provide the backdrop and history span over millennia. Central to the Warhammer 40,000 universe are the Space Marines, somewhat anachronistic combinations of genetically enhanced super-soldiers with world-destroying firepower, and crusading knights with an unswerving, fanatical loyalty to the God-Emperor. While Space Marines act as the special forces of the Imperium, the bulk of mankind's military power is found in the Imperial Guard, which consist of billions of regiments, each thousands of soldiers strong. Their quintessential opposition is the Chaos Space Marines, who betrayed the Emperor during the Horus Heresy, led by Warmaster Horus (who was eventually killed by the Emperor). Much of the Milky Way galaxy is controlled by the Imperium of Man, though it is not the only galactic power. Other races include the Orks, a barbaric humanoid green-skinned semi-fungoid race; the Eldar, survivors of an ancient fallen civilization reminiscent of classic fantasy Elves; the Tau, a young and technologically-sophisticated civilization of aliens that work for the "greater good" of their empire and its inhabitants; the Necrons, soulless living metal constructs tricked into slavery by star gods; and the Tyranids, an all-consuming, all-organic, bio-engineered, extragalactic hive-swarm. Each of these races have playable armies. Other playable armies include the Witch Hunters and Daemonhunters, organizations within the Imperium, as well as the fallen Dark Eldar and the capricious Daemons of Chaos.

Warhammer 40,000 is a tabletop miniature wargame produced by Games Workshop, set in a science fantasy universe. I have watched a few games being played but am not involved in the inticracies of the game yet.

picture source here and here

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The Depressed Christian

Depression and the Christian Life

Sermon Statement
It is a myth that Christians do not suffer from depression. The community of faith must be prepared to help those suffering from depression.

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Boy's Brigade Enrolment Service 2009

Sermon on Discipline
Text: 2 Tim. 2: 3-7

Boy’s Brigade Enrolment Service 2009
29 March 2009
Holy Light Church, Johor Bharu

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Therese of Lisieux

A good slide documentary

by jpitera123

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

A.W. Tozer on Foolishness

"The notion that the careless sinner is the smart fellow and the serious-minded Christian, though well-intentioned, is a stupid dolt altogether out of touch with life will not stand up under scrutiny. Sin is basically an act of moral folly, and the greater the folly the greater the fool."

Man The Dwelling Place of God, 48.

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Will Video Games be Better than Life?

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Friday, March 27, 2009

The Health and Longevity Gospel

From Mark Galli's blog, a post, The Health and Longevity Gospel, about red meat increasing the risk of early death. I like his insight about stewardship of our bodies and discipleship.

This fixation on food’s relationship to death is but another sign of our
culture’s deep fear of death. The subtext of these studies is “Eat and exercise
like a Spartan now, and be active and alert into your 90s—and with Viagra,
anything is possible!”
This addiction to longevity is especially evident in
the area of medical care—and not just among those who have no faith, but
especially among the most devout.

read more

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A Canticle for Leibowitz

An excellent science fiction to read if you are looking for good books

ISBN: 0553379267 A Canticle For Leibowitz Walter M. Miller

A Canticle for Leibowitz
Walter M. Miller Jr.

A nuclear war has devastated the world. The monks in a Catholic monastery in an American desert are attempting to preserve books that could save humanity. Miller was part of a bomber crew that helped destroy the Monte Cassino monastery in Italy during World War II and that experienced served as an inspiration. A Canticle for Leibowitz won a Hugo Award in 1961.

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The Balanced Spiritual Life

Disciple Ah Lek went to the other brothers working in the field and said, “St. John said ‘Do not labour for the food which perishes’ (John 6:27) and St. Luke said ‘Mary has chosen the good portion’ (Luke 10:42).” He became such an nuisance that the disciples complained to Abba Ah Beng.

Abba Ah Beng instructed disciple Ah Kow, “Put Ah Lek in a cell with his Bible and nothing else.” Ah Lek was very happy to remain in the cool cell while his brothers worked in the hot sun. When dinner time came, Ah Lek was watching the door expectantly but no one came to call him for dinner.

After an hour, Ah Lek cannot stand his hunger so he went in search of Abba Ah Beng. Abba Ah Beng was relaxing under a Frangipani tree and a pleasant soft fragrant was in the air. He gave a satisfied burp when he saw his disciple Ah Lek.

“Has all the brothers eaten?”

“Yes we have,” replied Abba Ah Beng, “and we had chilli crabs as the main course!”

Ah Lek’s stomach convulsed at the thought of missing chilli crabs which is his favourite dish. "Why did you not call me?"

Abba Ah Beng said to him, “Because you are a spiritual man and do not need that kind of food. We, being carnal, want to eat, and that is why we work. But you have chosen the good portion and read the whole day long and you do not want to eat carnal food.”

Realising his misinterpretation of the scripture, Ah Lek said “Forgive me, Abba, for misusing the Holy words.”

Abba Ah Beng said to him, “Mary needs Martha. It is really thanks to Martha that Mary is praised. It is because of Martha that everyone is fed. There need to be a balance of Martha and Mary in our lives.”

“Mary is the sitting at the Lord’s feet and enjoying his presence and love.”

“Martha is providing the support so that the Lord’s work may be done.”

“Neither sister is independent of one another. However, there is another in the house who loves and empowers them.”

“Who is it? Is it the Lord?” asked Ah Kow who has joined them under the Frangipani tree.

“No,” answers Abba Ah Beng. “It is Lazarus who has experienced the power of a new life. A resurrected life.”

“Ah Lek, you think we are carnal because we work for a living and you are spiritual because you spend your time in prayer and reading scripture. A true spiritual man is a perfect balance of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. There is a time for work, a time for contemplation and a time for renewal.”

“This is like the Holy Trinity; the Father , Son and Holy Spirit who are in perfect communion and harmony with one another. Theologian Rahler called it the economy of the Trinty,” continued Abba Ah Beng. Like all preachers, once get started Abba Ah Beng found it hard to stop.

“This spiritual man is dying of hunger,” Ah Lek whispered to himself.

Abba Ah Beng looked at his miserable disciple and a faint smile appeared on his face.

“Go,” he ordered Ah Lek, “I told the kitchen to keep some chilli crabs and rice warm for you.”

picture credit


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila is one of my favourite Christian mystic and this video is really good.

Saint Teresa of Ávila, known also by her religious name, Saint Teresa of Jesus and baptized as Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, was born March 28 1515 at Avila, old Castile, Spain, died October 4, 1582 at Alba de Tormes, Salamanca, Spain. She was a Carmelite nun and prominent Spanish mystic and writer of the Counter Reformation. She reformed her religious Order and together with St John of the Cross founded the Order of Discalced Carmelites. She became the first female to be named a Doctor of the Church in 1970 and is one of the three females to be awarded that honour, along with St Catherine of Siena and another Discalced Carmelite, St Therese of Lisieux.

The slide show starts with panoramic view of Avila, the town built on the hill overlooking the Adaja River and the highest city in Spain. The city is surrounded by distinctive stone walls, we can see the picture of Avila Cathedral followed by vintage and modern pictures of St Teresa convent exteriors - including the Saint statues, and interior - with St Teresa beautiful chapel. These pictures are followed by the image of young Teresa and several of her images painted both by famous artists as well as by more popular productions. We can see also little collection of stained windows depicting the Saint, as found in her convent chapel and in Churches dedicated to her from around the world. We can also see two vintage holy cards dedicated to her. The slide show concludes with the picture of St Teresa reliquary containing her heart and Discalced Carmelites shield followed by drawing representing of St Teresa canonization Mass at St Peter's in Rome back in 17th century. The background music is from the track "Salve Regina" by Benedictine Monks chanting favourite hymn of St Teresa, Ave Verum, followed by Adoro te and short sequence Sub tuum presidium.

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Spiritual Gems for Lenten Meditation

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The Theology of Church Extinction

The Other Side of Church Growth
Philip Jenkins says we need a theology of church extinction.
Interview by Stan Guthrie posted 3/18/2009 08:45AM

The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia — and How It Died by Philip JenkinsHarperOne, October 2008297 pp., $19.99
In our time, we are witnessing an extraordinary phenomenon: the virtual wiping out of the church in a place it has existed for nearly 2,000 years. The plight of Iraq's Christian community reminds us that church expansion is not a constantly upward slope.

In his 2002 book The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, historian Philip Jenkins told the world where Christianity was heading. In his latest—The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia — and How It Died (HarperOne, 2008)—Jenkins looks at where it has come from. The Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Humanities at Penn State University, Jenkins first notes that the faith is not rooted in any one culture. "The more you look at history, the more you realize Christianity is not solely a European religion," he says. "It's European, but it's also Asian and African, and it has a long history of developing in very different societies."

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Tank Warfare

Tanks changed the concept and strategy of warfare as the horse did many centuries before. It was with the skillful use of tanks that Hilter and his generals were able to capture Europe and Paris so rapidly during the beginning days of the Second World War.

Tanks was first introduced during the First World War. Initially it was unreliable and as dangerous to its drivers as to the enemies. Christy Campbell, a former war correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph gave an interesting and readable account of early tank warfare.

I had a good time reading it.


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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who Can Be A Doctor?

A Quandary in Sweden: Criminals in Medical School

A year ago, Sweden’s most prestigious medical school found itself in an international uproar after it unknowingly admitted a student who was a Nazi sympathizer and a convicted murderer, then scrambled to find a way to expel him.

It is hard to imagine how the case could get any more bizarre. But it has.

The 33-year-old student, Karl Helge Hampus Svensson, having been banished from the medical school of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm on the ground that he falsified his high school records, has now been admitted to a second well-known medical school — Uppsala, Sweden’s oldest university.

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This news report raises an interesting question. Should a convicted murderer be allowed to train to be a doctor?



Doctrine Bears Repeating

Something from Christianity Today online
Top Story
The Twelve Apostles from the Ethiopian Bible
Doctrine Bears Repeating
Evangelicals need to brush up on basic Christian teachings.

Listen to Charles Colson read his column

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Update of Redeeming Your Time

I have posted previously about an excellent community project by Hebron Presbyterian Church in Johor Bahru in helping school dropouts to attend an IT course, receive certification and then job placement appropriately called Redeeming Your Time

Here is an update from Elder Daniel Sin

To date, we have recruited 5 dropouts and 1 game addict...In April, 4 dropouts or more will be joining our Campaign.

All these students were invited to join our Youth Aflame and YA Steamboat Fellowship on 20th March 2009. Both bro Doulos and Pastor Daniel had made special arrangement to channel them to join our Youth and YA CGs.

Some of these students will be presented with Cert of Completion (subject to completion of projects) and MLM Book 1 Cert during Easter Service on April 12 at Hebron. Also, a special arrangement has been made to involve 4 ofour students to be interns in a nearby Advertising company mid April. PTL!

I am very encouraged by the effort of this small externally focused church. However they still need help financially and man/womanpower. Those interested may contact Elder Daniel Sin(Elder, not the Pastor) at danielsinhf@hotmail.com.

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Postcards from the Edge (9)


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Ban

“Oh, my..” “Stop! Don’t say anymore” shouted Disciple Ah Kow waving a piece of parchment in front of his fellow disciple Ah Lek’s face. Ah Lek shut his mouth as he continued to read the Proclamation.

“By the spiritual authority granted to them, the Council of the Abba has forbidden anyone except its members to use the following words,
(1) God
(2) I
(3) We
(4) They
(5) You
This is to ensure the spiritual purity of these words as they pertain to the guardian of the faith.”

“We are a monastery. Everyday we pray to…”
“Arrh. Don’t say it,” warned Ah Kow. “Cannot say the ‘w’ word too.”
“Then how am…” stammered Ah Lek lapsing into silence.
“And how can …” “No ‘t’ word too. It has been done. It is the law. It has to be obeyed,” Ah Kow spoke slowly carefully choose his words.

“How can anyone banned the use of certain words? These words are in common usage!” Fumed Ah Lek as he started to tear the parchment. “No. Stop. Mustn’t tear,” warned Ah Kow, “holy paper.”

“So what are ..ur..the two person here should do?”

“This person does not know.”

“This two person must go to the chapel. It is time for service.”

The chapel service had already started when the two disciples crept into the seats at the back of the chapel. There was some confusion as the choir tried to sing a few hymns without using the five banned words.

“What’s this,” whispered Ah Lek looking at the chapel Bible. “Why are there so many blackened sections on the pages?” “Banned words” whispered Ah Kow in reply.

“Today’s reading is Psalms 77:1-2. _cried out to _ for help; _cried out to _ to hear me. When _was in distress, _sought _; at night _ stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted.” Ah Lian finished reading and walked sheepishly back to her seat.

“…” said the congregation.

The sunlight was bright when Ah Lek and Ah Kow left the chapel. “What’s this,” said Ah Kow when he was handed another parchment. “Oh, no. The council have banned more things. A list of books. And soap! All are not supposed to use soap when bathing. It is now a banned item.”

“Why?” asked Ah Lek surprised. “Apparently in the Gospel it is said that Jesus went under the water and came up cleansed. He did not use any soap,” said Ah Kow reading from the parchment.

“Arrgh,” said Ah Lek thinking how the dorm would smell that evening.

“Here,” said Abba Ah Beng, handing them another patchment. “Another banned item from the Council of the Abba.”

“Pneuma or breath refers to the Holy Spirit,” Ah Kow read from the latest parchment, “It is therefore not appropriate for sinful humans to inhale the Holy One….”

“What! What!”

“They’ve banned breathing!”

picture credit


Monday, March 23, 2009

Random Musings on Teaching Medicine (1)

Over the weekend, I attended an intensive course on teaching for higher learning in the field of medicine. It was a selected group that participated and I feel honored to be included with all these medical professors. Medical education has expanded by leaps and bounds since the apprentice system of my training days. I was fascinated to learn that there are now full time medical educators with their own professional bodies, journals and conferences.

In the context of our discussion, it was suggested that being an excellent competent doctor does not necessarily mean that he or she will be an excellent competent teacher. A question was asked whether teachers are born or made. Personally I believe the question is nuanced because it depends who is asking the question and who is answering them. A profession medical educationalist will likely to favor ‘being made’ while an overburdened clinician-scientist-medical doctor will favor ‘being born.’ The alternative implication to them will include the involvement of the medical educationalists in their lives.

Being a good teacher involves knowing and understanding medical content, an ability to communicate, a charisma to command respect, and a high EQ. Gardner in alerting us to multiple intelligences has expanded our understanding of different types of intelligences. These intrinsic characteristics and intelligences that favor a good teacher are also reflected in a good doctor. It is my proposition that a good doctor is also a good teacher. Note here that I am referring to the character of the doctor and not his or her technical skill. Elsewhere I have posted about a highly competent surgeon with poor EQ as trainer of surgeons. Some doctors are practitioner of the art of medicine and some are mechanics and we need to differentiate between them in our discussion.

If all good doctors are good teachers, why then are there some doctors who cannot teach? All things being equal, I believe good teachers are people who have a desire to teach. Therefore good doctors who want to teach will be good teachers. The reverse is also true.
Do doctor educators need effective teaching tools? Yes, they do if they are to be better than they are. However one needs to be aware of the dangers of these teaching (pedagogical/androgical) tools being awarded greater importance than they deserve. These tools should be a minor part of medical education and should not be regarded as the key to medical education.

Answering the question he asks in his paper, Are Teachers Born or Made? Max Malikow of Le Moyne College, an educationalist, seems to contradict himself when he writes, “There is no such entity as a born teacher. However, by nature, some people possess a combination of personality characteristic that are conducive to effective teaching. Further, these characteristics have been enriched by a lifetime of favorable nurturing.” He then adds, “Nevertheless, even the most genetically blessed teacher would benefit from a teacher education program.”

Maybe the answer lies in the middle. Teachers are both made and born. Malikow quoting William Butler Yeats’ observation that “[e]ducation is not the filling of the pail, but the lighting of a fire” confirms my suspicion that teaching and education is the process of mentoring rather than a just set of techniques or tools.


National Forum of Teacher Education Journal-Electronic. Volume 16 Number 3E, 2005-2006. Retrieved 30 June 2007 from Malikow,%20Max%20Are%20Teachers%20Born%20or%20Made%20The%20Necessity%20of%20Teacher%20Training%20Programs.pdf

picture source

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Wisdom of the Desert Abba and Amma (15)

One of the old men of the Thebaid used to tell the following story: "I was the son of a pagan priest. When I was small I would sit and watch my father who often went to sacrifice to the idol. Once, going in behind him in secret, I saw Satan and all his army standing beside him; and behold one of the chief devils came to bow before him. Satan said, 'Where have you come from?' He answered, 'I was in a certain place and made much blood flow, and I have come to tell you about it.' Satan asked, 'How long did it take you to do this?' He replied, 'Thirty days.' Then Satan commanded him to be flogged, saying, 'In so long a time have you done only that?'

And behold, another demon came to bow before him. Satan asked him, 'And you, where have you come from?' The demon replied, 'I was on the sea, and I made the waves rise, and small craft foundered, and I have killed many people, and I have come to inform you of it.' He said to him, 'How long did it take you to do this?' and the demon said, 'Twenty days.' Satan commanded that he also should be flogged, saying, 'That is because in such a long time you have only done this.'

Now, a third demon came to bow before him. he asked, 'And where have you come from?' The demon replied, 'There was a marriage in a certain village, and I stirred up a riot, and I have made much blood flow, killing the4 bride and bridegroom, and I have come to inform you.' He asked him, 'How long have you taken to do this?' and he replied, 'Ten days.' Satan commanded that he also should be flogged because he had taken too long.

After this, another demon came to bow before him. He asked, 'And where have you come from?' He said, 'I was in the desert forty years fighting against a monk, and this night I made him fall into fornication.' When he heard this, Satan arose, embraced him, and put the crown he was wearing on his head and made him sit on his throne, saying, 'You have been able to do a very great deed!'

The old man said, 'Seeing this, I said to myself, "Truly it is a great contest, this contest of the monks," and with God assisting me for my salvation, I went away and became a monk.'"



Sunday, March 22, 2009

Good to Great Science Fiction Books

Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein

Double Star
Robert A. Heinlein
The Hugo Awards and the Nebula Awards are the traditional yardsticks for fantasy and science fiction writing. Since 1953 when the Hugos began, (the Nebulas started in 1965) there have been 82 titles awarded one or the other prize - and 19 titles with the distinctive honor of winning both. We've listed them all for your perusal.

The Fine Books Company in Rochester, Michigan, is offering first editions of all the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novels for a cool $116,530. From Asimov to Zelazny, every book which won either (or both) award is here. And that's not all.

The listing includes 126 books, and 95% of them are signed or inscribed, and in fine or better condition.

David Aronovitz, from The Fine Books Company, describes the collection as a unique gathering of books that has never been offered for sale anywhere before and in all likelihood will never be offered again.

See all the award winners.
A Case of Conscience by James Blish

A Case of Conscience
James Blish
Dune by Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein

Stranger in a Strange Land
Robert A. Heinlein
Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

Rendezvous with Rama
Arthur C. Clarke
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game
Orson Scott Card
To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer

To Your Scattered Bodies Go
Philip Jose Farmer
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller

A Canticle for Leibowitz
Walter M. Miller
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

Lord of Light
Roger Zelazny

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Though I cannot afford the collection, there is a great list of good science fiction books here. I am happy to note that I have read almost all of them. Great stuff.


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