Monday, January 25, 2010

Book Review: Listen

Wow! This book was hard to put down.

If you're looking for a great suspense story with a thought-provoking message, you'll want to read Listen.

The story takes place in Marlo, once voted the Best Place to Raise a Child in the United States. Yet, suddenly, someone is posting the word-for-word private conversations of Marlo's citizens on the internet for everyone to read. And people are becoming angry and hurt and vengeful as a result.

Trying to solve the mystery of who is doing this, how, and why are Damien Underwood and his best friend, Frank Merret. Damien is the op-ed and crossword puzzle writer at the paper, trying his hand at investigative reporting for the first time. He has a wife and two teens. Frank, a policeman, is like an uncle to the Underwood teens, a close friend of the whole family.

As the story unfolds, we learn more about the Underwood family and Frank, their relationships with each other and with various people in their communities, their histories and how those have influenced who they are at the time of the story—and thanks to the mysterious web site, they all learn more about each other, too.

Throughout the book, Gutteridge weaves a message about the power of words and of humanity's need to learn to withhold judgment, stop talking, and listen. She helps us to further understand that point and apply it to our own lives with a few pages of worth-thinking-about discussion questions following the story. I highly recommend this book.

Thank you, Tyndale House, for sending a complimentary copy of Listen for me to review.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Book Review: Dug Down Deep

Holiday events and a killer sinus infection literally destroyed my workout routine last month. I've been trying to reestablish it, but my attempts have been disheartening. As I start to run, I realize there's no way I'm going to reach my goal—my usual running distance. So I stop and promise myself I'll try again another day, some day when I feel stronger.

I've finally realized that's not going to work. I won't feel stronger unless I run! I need to temporarily let go of that original goal—what I had been able to do—and go back to shorter, easier workouts, reestablishing a foundation of stamina and strength.

Sometimes Christians need to do this spiritually, too. We get caught up in the busyness of life and lose track of what we believe and why and why it led us to live the way we live, to do the things we do. Without that foundation, our actions lose meaning and we become disheartened. Life gets hard, and we get confused.

Dug Down Deep guides Christians to reestablish this foundation. In this book, Joshua Harris explores the basics of the Christian faith, clearly explaining why we believe what we believe and why it matters. Avoiding issues that divide Christians by denomination, he focuses on the essentials of Christianity—who is God, why do we need Jesus, how is a person saved, what does the Holy Spirit do, why do we go to church and what is the Church, what is sanctification, and what's the Bible all about? Harris breaks it all down so that it's easy to understand and apply. He shares his own struggles, lessons he learned from significant mentors, and his father's amazing testimony—all to help us understand, to help us dig down deep.

I highly recommend this book! I think every pastor and ministry student should read it as a model for explaining these concepts to their congregations. New Christians will benefit from the information that will help them to lay a strong foundation for their new life. Other Christians can use it as a tool for explaining their faith to others and for strengthening their own understanding. And I especially recommend it anyone who is just plain curious to know what Christianity is all about. Harris explains it so well; there's something you need to read in this book.

This was book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Book Review: The Gospel According to LOST

When my husband and I were browsing through a local bookstore a few weeks ago, we stumbled across a whole series of books devoted to the religious ideas of popular sci-fi/fantasy movies and TV shows. Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica—even Spiderman! We laughed and laughed. We didn't buy any of those books, but then Thomas Nelson offered this one for review. I was just too curious.

And it was a fun read.

It isn't really the Gospel according to LOST—it's the Gospel for the lost. At the end of Chapter 3, author Chris Seay says, “But the Lost narrative is uniquely intertwined with the Judeo-Christian story, and the beauty of Christianity is found in its unyielding proclamation that no one is beyond redemption—not even a torturer, murderer, or con man.” If Seay could visit the Losties, as he calls them, he'd tell them they don't have to stay lost.

Through the lives of the characters, Seay discusses several of the philosophical ideas the program explores every week. He also shows how our culture wrestles with these same concepts regularly. Then he points us to some of the biblical answers to LOST's and society's life questions. Sometimes he's very profound.

I would caution the reader not to take it too seriously, though. I wasn't comfortable with Seay's comparisons of some of the characters to Christ. The people on the island are lost and in need of a Savior; I don't think any of them are that savior. And without a conclusion to the series, Seay is speculating just like other viewers. He's just done a lot of speculating and has written his theories into a book.

But Seay is right about the show itself. It makes the viewer think about life's deep issues. Seay helps his readers to think more deeply and to consider what God's Word has to say about each topic that comes up. Fans of the show will enjoy this quick, yet thought-provoking read. Even if they disagree with Seay, the resulting wrestle of thoughts will appeal to them for the same reason they like the show. The discussion goes on as Seay adds his voice.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Book Review: The Male Factor

The Male Factor by Shaunti Feldhahn contains the results of extensive research through surveys and interviews meant to help working women understand and, therefore, work more effectively with the men in their workplaces.

While Feldhahn does present some interesting and useful information in the book, most of it focuses on the research. The first two chapters, for example, are devoted to how she conducted her research and why. After that, each chapter starts with a rule, perception, or belief held by men about how people should conduct themselves in the workplace. Feldhahn spends a lot of time explaining how her research led her to believe that this is what men are thinking and gives many examples from her survey and interviews to make her point, but she spends very little time explaining how women can use the information productively in order to be more effective in their jobs. In other words, the book tells women what Feldhahn discovered, but leaves them almost entirely on their own to figure out what to do about it.

She does explain how and why men and women perceive things differently and how this can lead to a woman inadvertently doing something in the workplace that can hurt her career. She also gives hope that in some places, men's perceptions are changing, so they recognize the value women bring to the job just by being who they are.

The book focuses almost exclusively on the high-powered, white collar, competitive, fast-track work environment, however. If a woman is in a position where she is competing for promotions, raises, bonuses, and partnerships, Feldhahn's conclusions may be useful to her. Other women may glean some insight from the book, but would probably find a book that covers a broader application range more useful.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.