• Archive of "Book Reviews" Category

    Books for 2012

    December 22, 2011 // 1 Comment »

    You suggested them. I have picked them. Here are the books I hope to read in 2012. Actually, I hope to read many more than these, but here are the ones at the top of the list. My goal is to read broadly, to move beyond my typically narrow range of subjects. Thank you for all the wonderful recommendations you made.

    Sabriel, Garth Nix

    I love fantasy films (some of them, anyway), but I’ve never read much fantasy. I chose Sabriel because, though it is part of a series, the story of book one stands on its own. No cliffhanger demanding I read more if I choose not to. Publishers Weekly says, “Rich, complex, involving, hard to put down, this first novel, an Australian import, is excellent high fantasy. The suitably climactic ending leaves no loose ends, but readers will hope for a sequel.” Amazon.com’s reviewer says, “Just try to put this book down.”

    Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott

    From Amazon: “Think you’ve got a book inside of you? Anne Lamott isn’t afraid to help you let it out. She’ll help you find your passion and your voice, beginning from the first really crummy draft to the peculiar letdown of publication. Readers will be reminded of the energizing books of writer Natalie Goldberg and will be seduced by Lamott’s witty take on the reality of a writer’s life, which has little to do with literary parties and a lot to do with jealousy, writer’s block and going for broke with each paragraph. Marvelously wise and best of all, great reading.”

    Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt

    Seems an obvious pick for March, what with St. Patrick’s Day and all. A Pulitzer-prize winning memoir from a first time Irish author. Four and a half stars with nearly 2,000 reviews on Amazon. From the publisher: “Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors—yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness.” School Library Journal says, “Readers will enjoy the humor and the music in the language. A vivid, wonderfully readable memoir.”

    Why We Love, Helen Fisher

    This Valentine’s Day, tell that special someone, “I neurotransmit you.” I don’t think neurotransmit is a word, but neurotransmitter is, and I bet this book uses that word a lot. Having studied (amateurishly) the goings-on of the brain suffering a mood disorder, I’m curious to know just what is happening “up there” that we call falling in love. Publishers Weekly says, “Fisher also reports on the behaviors that lead to successful lifelong partnerships and offers, based on what she’s observed, numerous tips on staying in love.”

    The Holy Bible with the Apocrypha (NRSV)

    In college, my friends and I made up nicknames for all the many versions of the Bible. The NIV was the Non-Inspired Version. The NASB was the Non-Authoritative Scripture Bible. The NKJV, the Never Knew Jesus Version. CEV, Completely Erroneous Version. My favorite was the KJV: The Killer Jargon Version. The list went on and on. Well, the past couple years I’ve read the Bible through in various versions. This year, I want to take my next 365-day jaunt through Holy Scripture by reading the NRSV, the Not Really Scripture Version. (Weren’t we clever?)

    How to Cook Everything, Mark Bittman

    Okay, so probably I’m not reading this one cover to cover, but I do want to cook better in 2012, so I’m picking up a copy of this. Some of you suggested the vegetarian version, but the original contains vegetarian recipes, and really I want to know how to cook everything better. Chef Bobby Flay says, “Mark Bittman has done the impossible, improving upon his now-classic How to Cook Everything. If you need know-how, here’s where to find it.” Good enough for Bobby Flay, good enough for me!

    Thanks again for all the great book recommendations. If your book didn’t make the cut, don’t despair. A year is a long time for someone who enjoys reading as much as I do. I may yet read your favorite.

    Happy reading in 2012!

    Posted in Book Reviews, General

    Review: “Wired for Intimacy”

    March 2, 2010 // 1 Comment »

    Struthers bookI like any book that provides a new twist on an old idea. Christian books for men on the issue of pornography certainly are not novel. But William M. Struthers, associate professor of psychology at Wheaton College, offers something I don’t believe I’ve seen on the subject from a Christian author: a book that describes the neurological implications of pornography on the brain. Published by InterVarsity Press, Struthers work is titled Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain.

    From the publisher:

    “Countless Christian men struggle with the addictive power of porn. But common spiritual approaches of more prayer and accountability groups are often of limited help.

    In this book neuroscientist and researcher William Struthers explains how pornography affects the male brain and what we can do about it. Because we are embodied beings, viewing pornography changes how the brain works, how we form memories and make attachments. By better understanding the biological realities of our sexual development, we can cultivate healthier sexual perspectives and interpersonal relationships. Struthers exposes false assumptions and casts a vision for a redeemed masculinity, showing how our sexual longings can actually propel us toward sanctification and holiness in our bodies.”

    I recommend this book to men battling pornography, and to men who’ve yet to realize they should battle it. Struthers’ strongest point is his most simple, but it can shake men from complacency over their online habits: pornography physically changes the brain in frightening ways, forming neural pathways that enslave men to sin, pushing them further down a depraved road.

    Sound grim? Perhaps, but then so it would seem are the consequences of the habit. Struthers does offer hope in Wired for Intimacy. In fact, that’s the point of the book, to, yes, present the serious reality of viewing pornography, but then to show a way out. Struthers writes, “Imagine that you could be neurologically ‘enslaved’ to purity rather than porn. Enslaved to seeing the dignity of each individual rather than their utility to you. This is the distinction between the journey toward sanctification and the journey toward depravity.”

    Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain is available from all major outlets, including Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

    Posted in Book Reviews

    Review: Scot McKnight’s “Fasting”

    November 13, 2009 // No Comments »

    fastingSo I’m on a Scot McKnight kick of late. First, I read The Blue Parakeet (see review below). Then, yesterday, I stumbled across his take on Fasting. I read the whole book in one sitting. Didn’t even make it out of Barnes and Noble. Just sat there in a comfy chair till I was done.

    Fasting has always confused me. People tell me glorious tales of what God has done in response to their fasting, but all I ever seem to get from it is hunger pains, headaches, and bad breath. I was curious what light McKnight could shed on the topic for me.

    McKnight says, “Fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life.” It is not, he contends, primarily a means of ramping up the intensity of our prayers with the purpose of getting a response out of God. Rather, it is identifying with how God feels about a situation and bringing our whole self, body and spirit, into agreement.

    I found Scot McKnight’s take on fasting refreshing and well-researched. He did his homework, reading broadly on the topic and appealing to the Scriptures to support his views. At 165 pages (with plenty of white space), you can read it in an afternoon. And it is certainly worth a reading.

    Posted in Book Reviews

    Review: “The Blue Parakeet” by Scot McKnight

    November 1, 2009 // No Comments »

    theblueparakeet Always, it seems, there is some new book telling us to rethink how we do church and how we read the Bible. Such books usually bore me at best, annoy me at worst. So many of them seem like little more than the author’s preferences on how to do church and study Scripture.

    The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible (Zondervan, 2009), is refreshingly different. Author Scot McKnight brings to bear solid scholarship in his critique of how we’ve read the Bible in the past and his proposal for how we read it moving forward. Along the way, McKnight guides readers to ask tough questions of themselves: Why do I believe certain commands from the Old Testament were for ancient times but not for today? How do I determine which are still relevant and which are not?

    Take Leviticus 19 as an example. In verse 11, the writer says, “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.” We would all say these instructions are for today. But just a few verses later in the same chapter, we read, “Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material” (vs. 19). Is that also a command for today? What about other laws in the same chapter that say not to trim our beards or tattoo our bodies? Regarding the Bible’s instructions for living, what do we keep, and what do we toss?

    McKnight’s solution to these questions is both intelligent and intriguing, and his writing style is–unlike that of so many authors of similar books–never dry. He keeps your attention with well-reasoned, sometimes hilarious prose. In what is perhaps my favorite quote, McKnight says, “… Some folks see some of the goofiest things in the Bible, and I wish I could just blow Holy-Spirit-air on them and cure them of their silliness.” The Blue Parakeet is Scot Mcknight’s attempt at just that. It’s an attempt well worth reading.

    Posted in Book Reviews