Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Book Review: Earthen Vessels

Earthen Vessels by Matthew Lee Anderson was a disappointing and frustrating book for me. I chose it for review because it sounded similar to a previously reviewed book that I truly enjoyed. Anatomy of the Soul taught how our brains and souls interact and was a fascinating read. Earthen Vessels was supposed to tell why our physical bodies matter to our faith.

If I hadn’t made a commitment to read the book for review, I would have closed it right after the preface. Anderson’s tone is arrogant and he makes no attempt to write for the average reader, even joking at one point about how the use of one word he chooses doesn’t even belong in a book you pay less than twenty dollars for. According to the back cover, Earthen Vessels sells for $14.99.

Because I’d promised to read the book, I continued to read—and absolutely loved the first chapter. I underlined all kinds of things and hoped the rest of the book would continue in that way. But it didn’t—not consistently. Anderson devoted the whole first page of the second chapter to telling readers what he believes is wrong with Precious Moments figurines. (I think he was taking them too seriously.)

He also turned his focus away from faith to evangelicalism. I don’t know why. I wasn’t looking for a book that told me how evangelicals consider physical bodies from a different perspective than other Christians might or for a comparison and contrast of evangelicals and Gnostics. This book was to tell why bodies matter to faith.

Though the book made some interesting points and had some value, I don’t think I would have missed much if I’d closed the book after reading the preface. It isn’t one I would choose to recommend.

Bethany House Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

1 comment:

  1. Janet,

    Thanks for reading what you did and for the review. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the book and that you felt like it was a "bait and switch" with my thoughts on evangelicals. That's my home, and my hope was to address them primarily but in such a way that both draws from other traditions and, I hoped, added something as well (I interacted, for instance, some with John Paul II in the chapters on sexuality). I'd note that in many of my chapters, evangelicalism provides the entry point, but the latter parts are (I think) more constructive in nature and less directly about evangelical engagement with the body. I might have missed the mark on being broader than evangelicalism, but it was not for lack of trying!

    I also clearly failed in my attempt at writing for the "average reader." I'm still learning how to do that, and the experience of this book is teaching me a lot.

    At any rate, thanks for reading what you did and taking the time to offer your critical feedback. I appreciate it.

    Best regards,

    Matt Anderson