July Books

With getting more situated and settled at our new home and the rest, I have been able to return a bit to my reading.  I am thankful for that.  Here are my brief thoughts (not necessarily a full-blown review) on the books that I completed reading during the month of July.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.  Much like Hosseini’s previous book The Kite Runner, this book takes place in Afghanistan.  This alone is a great reason to read these books, as they can give more understanding into the land in which so many of our soldiers continue to fight against the Taliban and radical Muslims.  Of course, these books would not be as popular or worth the reading if the literary elements were not up to par.  In that regard, I very much enjoyed the story and the author’s construction of the plot, characters, and timing.  There were several times I was absolutely captured by one of his descriptions of an event or feeling, most often when he employed the use of metaphor.  The final reason I found this book worthwhile reading stems from my reflection on the religion of Islam, particularly in comparison with Christianity.    I do not know the author’s intent in this regard, though the book seemed to draw a large distinction between radical Islam (especially as practiced by the Taliban) and Islam in general.  Whether there is an apologetic in play or not, I still walked away from the book thankful that the Lord (Yahweh) is merciful and His mercy is displayed through the life & death of Jesus Christ.  This is in stark contrast to Allah who is said to be merciful, but there is no guarantee of that mercy – even if you are faithful in practicing the five pillars of Islam.  In this regard, the radical and the moderate muslim are in the same boat – without assurance of mercy or pardon.  Again, this was more my reflection, rather than something overtly present the book.  For the two previous reason, I would recommend the book, though it takes place in the real fallen world and some elements of plot and character reflect that.

Cult of the AmateurHow blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today’s user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values by Andrew Keen:  I picked this book up while browsing at the library and decided early on that I would either not actually read it or liked it.  Well, I did read it and liked it to a degree.  The great majority of the book is dedicated to illustrationg how the Web 2.0 is changing our culture and our institutions (e.g. newspapers, reliable news outlets, the arts) and not for the better.  What surprised me was how strongly Keen advocated for values that have seemingly been chucked out the window in our so-called “post-Christian” culture.  Keen spoke of the devaluing of truth and basic morality (such as the idea that stealing is wrong, still) and showed how those values have been disregarded or ignored in our brave new world.  Keen is convincing to a degree, though he never provides a convincing apologetic for how things were in the past or for thsoe values that have been lost.  My major disappointment with the book was with the pittance of recommendations on alternatives or ways to use what we have and improve upon it.  Keen spends a woefully small and last chapter on this topic.  In that way, the book felt like one big complaint with exhibits A-Z.  That said, it was interesting and possibly a cautionary work.

Crazy Love by Francis Chan:  I listened to the audiobook version of this book (compliments of christianaudio.com) during my commute (all of ten minutes or so) and found much worth thinking upon and much that challenged and/or encouraged.  I appreciated that the audiobook was read by the author – there are any number of audiobooks that I have not listened too because I did not like the voice of the reader.  That was not the case here and it made me confident that the reader’s inflection fit with the author’s intentions – since they are the same.  I think the strength of this book is in the first three chapters where Chan describes who God is and how we tend to relate to Him in the wrong ways or on the wrong plane.  What was lacking for me (a result of listening rather than reading?) was a clear outline or structure to the whole book.  Of course, that may very well be intentional, as the book felt a little like stream of consciousness.  Could also be the result of listening in chunks.  After the first three chapters, Chan spends most of the rest of the book challenging luke-warm Christianity.  Hopefully, Chan was not just preaching to the choir, but reaching some of the scores of cultural Christians that fill our churches.  That is not to say that I wasn’t challenged or that true believers wouldn’t be, but I would hope that the message of the luke warm would reach the luke warm.  I think it should also be noted that Chan was not legalistic, rather presented the love and  grace of God in the Gospel.  Overall, a very good book and my issues may be more related to the context of my reading/listening, rather than the book itself.

The Narrows by Michael Connelly:  It had been a while since I had read a Bosch detective book by Connelly.  As usual, I found this book to be engaging and entertaining.  At the same time, it didn’t really cause me to reflect upon anything more deeply either (Connelly’s books have in the past).  That said, I did enjoy this one just on the basis of it being a good detective story.

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