Ok. I have a small mountain range of books, read and unread, that I have slowly been conquering. Instead of writing long posts about each book I’ve recently pinnacled, I’ll instead give you a Blogger’s Digest version and quick recap of what I’ve been reading. Think of it as a Twitteresque approach to book review.
These five books are in no particular order. And they certainly do not reflect the complete list of what I’ve burned through in the last several months. But here they are, for whatever reason, with a short review from yours truly. Let’s get started:
CHRISTIANITY BEYOND BELIEF — following Jesus for the sake of others
by Todd Hunter
I’ve met Todd a handful times through my association with Off the Map, a progressive Christian organization that I connected with several years ago. I was surprised that he had not authored any books up to this point of his illustrious career as a professional Christian leader.
Todd was the national director for the Vineyard Churches USA and also the US president of the widely received Alpha Course. He’s also a board member of several ministries including Renovare and I think he might still be on the board with OTM. He’s in it for the long haul.
So, what did this dedicated churchman tackle for his first published work?
In Christianity Beyond Belief Todd confronts the idea that being a Christ follower is about the endgame of heaven and everlasting life. He challenges that mentality (thank God!) by insisting that the outcome of deciding to be a Christ follower is to experience the quality of new spiritual life in the here and now, and to experience that in such a way that it results in that newness oozing out to those around us. He maintains that our current relationship with our understanding of the gospel mainly results in forgiven people instead of a different kind of life, a “new and eternal kind of life right now.” (page 26)
Christianity Beyond Belief is a good read for those who wonder what the point of the gospel is all about. If it matters. At times the book is repetitious, which I find is a common writing trait of those who teach and preach, but overall it is written in very accessible language. It will give you a fresh perspective on John 3:16. That alone makes reading this book a worthwhile endeavor.
PRINT IS DEAD — books in our digital age
by Jeff Gomez
This book was a thoroughly fascinating read about the transition we find ourselves in between the print and digital worlds of written communication. The author does a thorough job examining how the digital revolution is a tsunami wave of change and books will not be left unscathed. He cites many contemporary sources that add analysis to his thoughtful outline of why we need to be paying attention to a time in written communication the world has not seen since the Gutenberg Press was invented in 1440.
Will books shrivel up and blow away in the wind like dead leaves? No, says Gomez, but he likens them to candles. There was a time when lamps and candles were the means of lighting homes. That is, until the light bulb was invented. We still use candles, but for décor and art, or in emergencies. Gomez predicts that books will become quaint, archaic artifacts in the not too distant future. Generation Download is happy to receive their content through digital means.
One of the best insights I enjoyed from Print is Dead is Gomez’ assertion that the printed page is the limited page. Digital pages, in contrast, can embed links and instantaneously take the reader to a citation or other useful hyperlink. The printed page will never be able to do that. He also discusses the increasing demand among readers to interact with content. It is not enough for younger readers to just read a book. Increasingly they want to interact with not only the author, but also with the characters and the story. Savvy publishers and trend-watching writers need to pay attention. The written word as we know it is changing. It wasn’t that long ago when Ipods were a trinket for the affluent and techno-wizard. The world has witnessed their rise to power and now the music industry has forever been altered. LP records and cd’s are increasingly becoming dinasaurs as young people — and old — can dowload a song with a click of a mouse. Imagine doing that with books. Oh, yeah, that is happening…Kindle anyone?
Print is Dead is a clarion call to pay attention to the mindblowing shift that is happening right in front of our eyes and in our hands. If you doubt that books can be challenged by the digital age consider this:
We need to realize we live in a time of almost unimaginable change, and to think that we can have such transformation in other areas of our lives but have books and publishing stay the same is naïve bordering on irresponsible. And of course, for books to change, the business models on which the industry of publishing has been built for the last century will also have to change. While those in publishing hem and haw and wearily engage in this debate at various levels, an entire generation has already decided that print is dead. Indeed, for them — raised on the Internet — it might ever have been alive. (page 46)
Fantastic book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the historic transition of the printed word.
FALLING LEAVES –the memoir of an unwanted chinese daughter
by Adeline Yen Mah
My best friend in the world, Kim, was just here with her kids and husband staying in our home for the last three weeks. She and her family live in China. She gave me this book last week and I immediately dove into it. There is something riveting about Chinese women and their stories.
It was a hard read. Adeline, the writer and focus of the book, grew up in a home where she was abused emotionally, and sometimes physically, by a cruel stepmother. Culture and dysfunction married together with abandonment and rejection comporised her excruciating childhood.
Adeline writes the story well, providing rich descriptive scenes of the various cities she lived in including Tian Jin (where Kim just happened to have recently move to!), and also Shanghai and Hong Kong. I lived in HK in my twenties for nearly seven years. Her description took me there. In fact, I realized that some of her HK years coincided with my HK years. This made me connect to the story even more.
But it’s not a heartache ending. Adeline overcame the odds and grew up into a strong woman and became a doctor. Despite her family’s cruelties to her, even into adulthood, she managed to keep her heart soft and find joy in life. Falling Leaves is a beautiful reminder that we each determine how we will respond to the pain we find ourselves in. I have been inspired.
DATING JESUS– a story of fundamentalism, feminism and the american girl
by Susan Campbell
My snarky friend Mimi loaned me this book. (oops, I just realized I need to get it back to her!). Great read. A kind of memoir of how the author, a free-spirited strong-thinking girl, handled
growing up in a strict Christian fundamentalist home. She realized early on that all was not quite right between men and women when it came to pulpit power and homefront power. She absorbed her childhood with all the obediance of a child who may be sitting down on the outside but is standing up loudly shouting on the inside. Eventually, her inner child won out and the author began to renegotiate her fundamentalist understanding of Jesus.
This is a wonderfully written story that reflects the stifled girlhood many of our sisters have experienced in fundamentalist American. And best of all, it’s funny. The author has a sharp edge to her wit which caught me off guard several times resulting in laugh-out-loud reading. Great book for summer time. Makes you think about gender inequity in the church, yet it’s presented with brilliant narration and spiced up with just the right amount of zesty humor. Loved it.
WRITING TO CHANGE THE WORLD– an inspiring guide for transforming the world with words
by Mary Pipher
My blogosphere buddy Tracy Simmons
emailed me a few months back and recommended this book to me. I immediately ordered based on that recommendation, and especially because I am familiar with the author’s previous books. Reviving Ophelia
is Mary Pipher’s best known book, a classic on the struggles adolescent girls are up against. I’ve read it once and intend to read it again this summer, now that I am parenting my own adolescent daughter (the first time I read it from the perspective of my own adolescence).
Anyway, back to her new book. Writing to Change the World is an encouraging book filled with writerly insights and wells of wisdom. Pipher is not only a gifted psychologist but also a very capable and skilled wordsmith. This book gives writers like me the hope we need that the words we put out there can be helpful to making the world a better place. I have many of her phrases and passages underlined in this book. Many of them are worthy of becoming pithy sayings on placards. Maybe I’ll make some to post up around my writing cave for inspiration. Here’s a few:
- …effective change-agent writing has an intuitive sense for the profound and momenteous in the person or culture. They anticipate when there will be an interesting turning.
- Good writing astonishes it’s writer first.
- Ephiphanies cannot be scheduled, but they can be invited.
If you are a writer or blogger or know someone who is, this book is a great big Writing Workshop of Encouragement and Inspiration to keep writing for all the right reasons. It’s a keeper for my bookshelf for sure.
ok. That concludes my Blogger’s Digest of book reviews for today. I have a whole ‘nother peak of a mountain of books calling me to explore them. For sure I will be doing that all summer and fall and winter and then next spring. I’m like many people. A perpetual reader. And books, whether in print or digital form, will always be a part of my life.
***so what have you been reading lately? what books do you intend to read over the summer? inquiring minds want to know!
Did this post resonate with you? Pass it on!