Friday, February 9, 2018

My Review of "How to Be a Perfect Christian"

The Babylon Bee's How to Be a Perfect Christian:  Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual Living brings the satirical style of The Onion into conversation with Christian culture -- and the product is hilarious.

This book is a satirical look at what passes for cultural Christianity, particularly in America.  There's plenty of humor and sarcasm to go around here, and I love the chart that gauges the reader's progress toward "spiritual perfection" at the end of each chapter.  What some readers will miss, sadly, is just how much genuine Christian faith you glimpse in these pages, even while poking fun at the sacred cows of that cultural embodiment of the faith. 

I've been a fan of The Babylon Bee's website for a long time.  This book did not disappoint.  In fact, it was a real treat!  (And the free coloring page on p. 115 is totally worth the price of the book!)

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review here.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

My Review of "Open to the Spirit"

Scot McKnight's Open to the Spirit: God in Us, God with Us, God Transforming Us explores one of the most misunderstood and underrepresented beliefs of the Christian faith these days:  The Holy Spirit.  Who is he?  What does he do?  What difference does the Spirit make in our everyday lives?  McKnight explores those questions with all the depth of a New Testament scholar while also making sure what he says "meets the road" in the lives of everyday believers like himself.

It's a must-read for Christians.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review here.

Friday, January 5, 2018

My Review of "L'appart"

David Lebowitz's L'appart: The Delights and Disasters of My Paris Home is a tale of the miseries and woes of buying and renovating a home in Paris.  In spite of his attempts to convince readers how much he still loves Paris -- when describing being able to run down the street for a freshly made baguette or getting to know the ruggedly handsome man at the little cafĂ© close by, for example -- Lebovitz peels off the plaster to reveal a Paris beyond tourism.  Lebovitz's stories shimmer with despair, distress, and regret, but he nevertheless embraces life with all its flaws in the city he loves.

It was, overall, a depressing little book, whose only real redemptive value are the genuine French recipes scattered throughout.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review here.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

My Review of "Shaken"

Tim Tebow's Shaken: Fighting to Stand Strong No Matter What Comes Your Way is written for young people to find a better way to live.

Using examples from his own tumultuous career, Tebow encourages readers to stay focused on their dreams, fight negativity, and stand up for what is right.  And while the resource is focused on Christian principles, the lessons concentrating on hard work, determination, and kindness hold universal appeal. Tebow additionally draws upon examples of other young people who have faced adversity -- cancer, limb amputation, and organ failure -- as cases of how even in the most desperate situations, one can refuse to fall into self-pity, anger, and depression.  Tebow's easy, plainspoken style will give young fans the feeling that he is speaking directly to them.  Biblical examples range from the steadfast endurance of Job to the selfless courage of David facing Goliath.  Other stories include references to Michael Jordan and Albert Einstein.  Tebow's candid talk of his struggles with dyslexia and anger further humanize him.

This is an excellent book for older children and young adults.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

My Review of "The Power of Meaning"

Emily Esfahani Smith's The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness is a ground-breaking book in positive psychology that argues against the importance of happiness for the good life, and in favor of finding meaningful as a fulfilling, good life.

Like many self-help books, this one uses empirical studies, abundant anecdotes and wisdom gleaned from various writers and philosophers to support the idea that four "pillars" can give life meaning:  Belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence.  These pillars "are central to religious and spiritual systems, and they are the reason why they historically conferred (and continue to confer) meaning in people's lives".  Smith found these pillars emphasized in her own childhood, growing up in a Sufi community whose members did not doubt the value of their own lives.  But even without the bulwark of religion, individuals can build their own pillars.  No matter what work one does, even menial jobs, "when we reframe our tasks as opportunities to help others, our lives and our work feel more significant".

While I doubt that everyone will be convinced, this is not a book to be overlooked.  In the process of struggling throughout it, there are epiphanies for what a "good life" can mean in every reader's life.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

My Review of "To Light a Fire on the Earth"

Robert Barron's To Light a Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age offers one of the sanest, most sage voices of Catholic teaching a chance to demonstrate, yet again, that reason and faith properly belong together.  That truth, beauty and goodness are noble pursuits.  And that both of those things properly inform the evangelical mission of the Church in our postmodern, skeptical age.

I've been a "fan" of Bishop Barron for a long time.  His ministry in YouTube videos alone staggeringly reflects on the faith once received and in dialogue with the wider culture (he quotes Bob Dylan -- a lot!).  This book looks at both Barron's life and his philosophy behind "proclaiming the Gospel in a secular age".  It is the result of twenty hours of interviews conducted by John L. Allen, Jr., who is an acclaimed Catholic author and journalist.  I was really looking forward this book -- and it lived up to my expectations!

What you'll find in these pages is a picture of what a life of friendship with Jesus really looks like.  And it can't help but transform your own friendships with others and with Jesus.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

My Review of "How to Find Love in a Bookshop"

Veronica Henry's How to Find Love in a Bookshop:  A Novel is a fun-filled read about a young woman takes over her father's bookshop and discovers its importance to its small-town clientele.

Emilia Nightingale is called back to her childhood home in the English Cotswolds when her father, Julius, is on his deathbed.  Emilia makes a final promise to her father that she will look after the bookshop that has been his life's work and, following his death, sets about trying to fill his role at Nightingale Books.  Through an outpouring of affection from the town's residents, Emilia realizes that Julius was a beloved fixture of the community, and she has big shoes to fill.  She also sees how integral the bookshop has been in facilitating relationships throughout the town.  As she refamiliarizes herself with the village of Peasebrook and its people, six different love stories begin to unfold, all of which are somehow connected to the bookstore.  Unfortunately, Emilia quickly learns that her father was more of a bookworm than a businessman.  The store has amassed tremendous debt over the years, and Julius' habit of selling books at deep discounts has not helped.  Complicating matters further, a local real estate developer is pressuring Emilia to sell him the shop.

Henry is able to create one obstacle after another for Nightingale and her bookshop.  At the same time, this is a beautiful novel that explores all the ways in which love takes forms.

I received a free copy of this game from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review here.