2013-2014 Book Reviews

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Well, now that the summer is out, I am going to start logging the books that I read during the “school year” in here.  Since I’m not a student anymore, it feels a bit strange to call it the school year, but I don’t know how else to describe it :).  Also, I’m looking forward to being able to read books for pleasure that I actually want to read all year for a change 🙂

Book 20: The Hour of Sunlight By: Jen Marlowe and Sami Al-Jundi

Pages: 368

Sami Al-Jundi is a Palestinian man who shares his story as one who was arrested defending his rights, spent years in various prisons where he matured and grew in his political ideology, and later became an activist for an organization encouraging dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian children known as “Seeds of Peace.”  Al Jundi’s is a gripping tale of how youthful idealism can go dangerously wrong and how ignorance can wreck havoc in a society.

 

What I like about this book is that it provides a backdrop, one way of interpreting the crisis in the Middle East, as told in the personal story of one man and his family. It ushers in the daring possibility to courageously hope and persevere. Yet, it does not serve as justification for violent actions against a seemingly “giant” enemy. Rather, a healthy responsibility is taken on behalf of the unfortunate circumstances created and furthered by one side with a genuine request for the other side to accept that same level of responsibility.

 

Gripping, personal, and honest. I give this book 4 stars out of 5.

Book 19: Madame Guyon (Autobiography)

Toted as one of the best loved Spiritual writers of all times, this book is a classic which will inspire you to live out the Christian life regardless of its costs.  It’s moving and has good lessons.  I recommend everyone read some good spiritual classics like this one.

Book 18: Images of Pastoral Care By: Robert Dykstra

An overview taking into consideration the major writings of several well known pastoral counselors and chaplains, a nice collection to any pastor, chaplain, counselor, or student’s library.  Get to know your strengths and weaknesses as a pastoral counselor and get to know the history of how chaplaincy has evolved over time.

Book 17: I Am Troy Davis By: Jen Marlowe and Martina Davis-Correia

A gripping tale of one man’s innocence despite a system deeply pitted against him from the start, join Troy Anthony Davis on his death row experience that lasted over 20 years.  Get to know him as a person, get to know the circumstances surrounding his arrest, and see for yourselves how the death penalty pits two innocent families against each other.  Highly recommended.  For a longer review you can read mine at: http://www.peacenext.org/profiles/blogs/i-am-troy-davis-an-exploratory-book-review and at https://debdebbarak.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/i-am-troy-davis-by-jen-marlowe-a-book-review/

Book 16: Wounded Healer By: Henri Nouwen

This book is quite a bit different from Nouwen’s other books in that it is less reflective and more philosophical/theological.  In this writing, Nouwen seems to take on a character which is closer to C.S. Lewis than his general persona as he explains the problem of loneliness in our generation and how a minister is a lonely person ministering to other lonely people.  I did like it, but I think I would more likely pick up his more reflective books which talk about his personal experiences and about L’Arche.  I found this book a bit heavier and harder to get into than some of the other books he writes.  It’s certainly not a fast read.  It’s short, but if you truly want to digest what he is saying it would probably take some time.

Book 15: Heaven is For Real  By: Todd Burpo

When four year old Colton Burpo faces an emergency appendectomy, he is miraculously brought to heaven and verifies this claim by telling his parents what they were doing in different parts of the hospital.  As the years go on he reveals more and more about what he saw and experienced in heaven articulating Biblical truths in a way that is very unusual for a four year old.  I’m always a bit skeptical of these types of books although I have read several of them.  The interesting thing about this book, though, is that unlike the other books which suggest that the person died and was brought back to life, Colton never died but rather said that God took him in order to comfort him.  I am not sure where I stand theologically with a book such as this, however, it does offer hope and I suppose that is the most important thing.  It’s definitely not heretical, so if someone offers hope and consolation why not allow for it even if I may not see eye to eye theologically with all that is shared.

Book 14: Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus By: Dr. John Gray

This book discusses the different ways men and women think, speak, and relate to one another.  Although written from a secular viewpoint, it is very clean and hopeful for all couples.  Although focused primarily on couples/married people, this book also provides a helpful outlook in even how we will relate to male/female friends and co-workers.  There are a few things that I have taken from this book that I want to put into practice even though I’m still single. 

Book 13: Men are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti By: Bill and Pam Farrell

This is a book discussing the different ways men and women think and how we can compliment each other in marriage and work hard to make our marriages work.  I appreciated this book because it did teach me a few things about how men think and helped clarify how I feel and think by putting it into actual terms.  I also really liked that it was written from both a male and female perspective and that it is a Christian book.  The parts that I didn’t like as much are the fact that it was very gender stereotypical and that it was geared almost entirely for married people.  I was looking for something more helpful in day to day life or dating, but this book didn’t really provide that.  On the other hand, I’m sure that reading it while still single will probably provide some valuable insights down the road and may save me from a few arguments. 

Book 12: Becoming By: Miriam Martin

This is a devotional book about trusting God and how God provides for us.  It’s full of short personal stories, Scriptural insights and reflection questions. 

Book 11: Hinds Feet On High Places By: Hannah Hurnard

This is one book that I never get tired of reading.  I’ve read it countless times, but it still remains one of my all time favourites.  It’s a beautiful allegory about how God transforms our lives and reminds us of His infinite love for us.  If you haven’t read it yet, you should 🙂 

Book 10: 5 People You Meet In Heaven By: Mitch Albom

For many years I have been a fan of Albom’s, especially his book Tuesday’s With Morrie.  In this short novel, Albom shares a gripping tale of what heaven is like.  It is inspirational and filled with good lessons, but it is fiction.  I found it a thrilling read that was hard to put down.  One light-hearted and heavy at the same time.  One that I wouldn’t over think, but also that has deep lessons to think about.  I would rate it 3 stars out of 5.

Book 9: The Ragamuffin Gospel – The Visual Edition  By: Brennan Manning

I read this book several summers ago when our book challenge was just starting up.  I’m home for the holidays now so I decided to pick it up and re-read it.  I was struck once again by Manning’s uncanny ability to write, his descriptions, and the visual appeal the book had.  It was a very simple message of grace, but also a challenge for social justice and love.  I would rate it 4 stars out of 5. 

Book 8: Befriending Life – Encounters with Henri Nouwen (Edited By: Beth Porter)

This book recounts several stories – some lighthearted and funny, some serious, some profound, about people at L’Arche Daybreak (and a few others) who spent time with Henri Nouwen as a friend, Spiritual director, and fellow assistant.  Stories are written both by other assistants, students of Henri, and people with developmental disabilities.  I appreciated this book because it gave me new insights on some of the core members and assistants I work with, however even though it did talk about Henri’s flaws, in many ways it seemed to be almost overbearing.  Henri was a very special person, however, he was only a person.  I appreciate what this book was trying to do, but in some ways it left questions about how people actually interacted with him when he was alive because it’s so easy to say such things about a person you hardly even know once they have passed away. 

Book 7: Why Does God Allow Suffering? (M.D. Examines) By: Dr. Brad Burke

This book was similar to Yancey’s – it was written primarily from a medical viewpoint (rather than emotional crises, etc).  Dr. Burke gives some solid evidence for why we should still maintain faith even when our world is shattered and he also writes with compassion and with a certain realness.  This book is one in a series so that made it a bit hard to follow at the end when he drew on other books he had written which I haven’t read yet, but all in all, it was a fast, easy read with crisp and clear language on each page.   

Book 6: Where’s God When It Hurts?  By: Philip Yancey

This book has been on my reading list for quite some time.  It’s a story about the problem of pain from a physical/biological point of view.  It is brilliantly written and addresses some of the major questions that people ask about suffering and why an all powerful God would allow disease and disaster.  It is uplifting,and  inspirational, but also realistic and down to earth.  A quick read in terms of length, but not without much depth and thought provoking questions/discussions. 

Book 5: Son of Hamas By: Mosab Hassan Yousef

Son of Hamas is a gripping tale about an extremist Islamic group and a young man who risks everything he has to come to Christ and expose the secrets of Hamas.  Yousef is a brilliant writer, courageous thinker, and also a very humble man who has truly put Christ first in his life regardless of what it has cost him.  While I may not agree with his theological angle on everything, the insider story of Hamas is terrifying, suspenseful, and written very honestly.  Yousef leaves no stone unturned in his autobiographical journey and challenges readers in the Western church to truly reach out to the Muslim people for Christ without fear of offense.  Highly recommended.

Book 4: Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal By: April Yamasaki

This has been a book that I have been reading for quite some time, but that I only got around to reading recently.  It’s written by one of the Mennonerds that I blog with, April Yamasaki.  It’s a very easy and simple read about our Spiritual life.  In this book Yamasaki helps us to recognize ways that we can carve out time in our Spiritual lives for God and gives simple suggestions for things we can implement into devotional times.  Yamasaki suggests that we need spaces in our lives to take a rest, an intentional pause, whether that is taking a nap, going for a walk, or meeting with a Spiritual Friend.  She also offers many helpful questions, journal prompts, and resources for further exploration into the Word.

Book 3: Finding Our Sacred Center By: Henri Nouwen

This is a very short book about Nouwen’s pilgrimage to France.  It talks about how he encounters God, himself – his own fears and dreams, and the Bible while drawing from his Catholic roots.  It’s written more as a reflective journal than as Theology, but he can’t avoid the fact that he’s a Theologian at heart.

Book 2: Home Tonight By: Henri Nouwen

This is a sequel to Nouwen’s first book on the Prodigal Son written primarily about Rembrandt’s painting which I have already reviewed (back in August).  This book does repeat some of the material from the last one, but it also is much richer in exegesis and shares more personal stories . Nouwen also includes a list of Spiritual disciplines at the end of each chapter to help bring us more in touch with the Scriptural text.

Book 1: The Reason I Jump By: Naoki Higashida

This is a very short and fast paced read written from the perspective of a young teenage boy who has autism.  In this book Higashida answers questions such as “Why do you run away?” and “Why do you flap your hands?”.  It gives some good perspectives into the life of someone with autism which is helpful for me because I (unfortunately) don’t know that much about autism and I work in a field where it would be important to know more…

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