Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Bunch of Book Reviews

I've been on a reading kick lately. Or perhaps I'm always on a reading kick! But I've enjoyed some good books over the past month and thought I'd share some thoughts.


The Shack: I wanted to see what all the hoopla was all about with this one, and brought it along for a plane flight. I didn't really want to like it, but did. I cried (on the plane, no less) as Mack, the main character, works through the horror of his daughter's kidnapping and murder, his rocky relationship with his father, and ultimately his own relationship with God. By use of a fictional story, the author does an excellent job of unpacking profound truths about pain (and why God allows it), the Trinity, and God's incredible love for His people. The way the forward and epilogue are written are misleading/gimmicky, in that the author alludes to the book being a true story. Further internet research (on theshackbook.com) revealed that it was, in fact, fiction. That side of things was a little disappointing to me, but overall I'd highly recommend this book.


The Almost True Story Of Ryan Fisher: This was a quick and enjoyable read, but was still able to pack a punch. It tells the story of an average nonreligious realtor who stumbles into Christian subculture and starts to enjoy some of the benefits. This starts to snowball and ends up with "Ryan Fisher" pastoring a large church, although he really has no use for God or Christianity. This is a satirical, sobering, and yet hilarious look at American Christian subculture, and it is written well. I thought the story dragged a bit in the middle, but overall it was an enjoyable, somewhat though-provoking read.

Multiple Blessings: Any Jon & Kate Plus 8 fans out there? I sure am! I'm a sucker for those cute kids and their frazzled parents. Unbeknownst to many fans of the popular TLC show, the Gosselin family are strong Christians - and they have a story to tell about God's work in their lives. This book tells the story of their family - the marriage, the infertility, the twins, and then the sextuplets. It is mostly told from the perspective of Kate (the mom) and how much God has taught her along the way. She talks frankly about the agony of bedrest, their original fears about the health and well-being of the babies, and the difficulty of living with very little privacy. She goes beyond this to point to God's provision and blessing at every turn, for for money (especially when her husband lost his job a couple of months before the sextuplets came around), volunteer help, and just grace to get through the day. This is a quick read, but not overly light. The book does a great job going beyond just the Gosselin's story but reveals a lot about God's faithfulness.

*Update: I forgot to mention this before, but this book won't release until October-ish. Save it for a fall reading list!

Summer At Tiffany: A light, fun, true story about two WW2-era girls who landed summer jobs at the glamorous Tiffany's store in New York City. The first women ever employed there, these two fearless girls from Iowa find themselves living on a tight budget and yet having the time of their lives. This book chronicles their summer adventures, from glimpses of the Judy Garland buying jewelry to meeting handsome soldiers to almost losing priceless pearls. Fun and funny! Thanks for letting me borrow it, Lora!

The Gospel Of Ruth: I saved the best for last! This is my favorite in this bunch. It is a serious, scholarly dig into the Bible's book of Ruth, but reads so easily it was almost novel-like. I've read Ruth, studied Ruth, and even read other books on the topic, but this book brought my understanding of it to a new level altogether. Carolyn Custis James does an amazing job of setting the cultural backdrop, which really puts the story into a different light than I've ever heard before. She challenges "traditional" views regarding submission, the role of women in God's story, and even what the book of Ruth has to offer.

This book tells the tale of Ruth - her pain, her courage, and her dedication to her mother-in-law Naomi - while still demonstrating that God is at the center of the story. Instead of focusing on the love story between Ruth and Boaz, James shows the relationships between them, as well as Naomi, in a completely different light. She reveals how their actions were risky, courageous, and deeply self-sacrificing, done out of love for and trust in God.

James, through examining the well-known story, seeks to answer the question, "Is God good for women?" Even poor, barren, widowed women in a patriarchal society? Can God still have a purpose, and see it through, for women in painful circumstances? Instead of trivializing pain and giving trite answers, the author delves into the sorrows of infertility and losing a husband, and even shares about her own pain. In a very seamless and authentic way, she then leads the reader to examine Ruth's story, where God's purposes prevail against all odds. This book met me at many levels and profoundly affected my trust in and understanding of God's purposes in my life.

7 comments:

Dave and Jenni said...

Wow, so many of those sound awesome. My summer reading list just went from 3 books to 6-7 just from one post! :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Buzz Stephens said...

Speaking of Judy Garland, have you checked out The Judy Garland Experience on Yahoo?
It is one of the most exciting Judy groups anywhere! The membership includes Garland family members and associates, film makers, authors, and fans of all levels.
There is always in interesting discussion going on, and they have one of the most amazing Garland photo sections anywhere!
There are also everchanging audio files, this week there is a recording of the 1998 Carnegie Hall Salutes Judy Garland event that features performances by Vicki Carr, Mort Lindsey, Lorna Luft, Jack Jones, Lea Delaria, Alan King, Robert Goulet, Elaine Stritch, and others. Other new files posted are more never heard before recordings of Judy on stage at The Talk Of The Town, and much, much more.
You will have to stop by and check everything out.
But I have a feeling that once you visit our little Judyville you may never want to leave!
Here is the link:
http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/thejudygarlandexperience/

Buzz Stephens said...

Speaking of Judy Garland, have you checked out The Judy Garland Experience on Yahoo?
It is one of the most exciting Judy groups anywhere! The membership includes Garland family members and associates, film makers, authors, and fans of all levels.
There is always in interesting discussion going on, and they have one of the most amazing Garland photo sections anywhere!
There are also everchanging audio files, this week there is a recording of the 1998 Carnegie Hall Salutes Judy Garland event that features performances by Vicki Carr, Mort Lindsey, Lorna Luft, Jack Jones, Lea Delaria, Alan King, Robert Goulet, Elaine Stritch, and others. Other new files posted are more never heard before recordings of Judy on stage at The Talk Of The Town, and much, much more.
You will have to stop by and check everything out.
But I have a feeling that once you visit our little Judyville you may never want to leave!
Here is the link:
http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/thejudygarlandexperience/

Kristen said...

Thanks for the great reviews! My reading list just increased as well :o)

Short Stop said...

I know I've said this before, but you write great book reviews. They're just so thoughtful and informative!

I love the book of Ruth. I bet I would love that book.

Annette said...

Hey Jess...just caught up on your blog after coming and going for the past few weeks. Love Messy Spirituality and what you're doing with the blog. Plan on a review from me...I was wanting to reread it anyway!

Lynn said...

Woo Hoo!!! I was just saying that I need some book suggestions. I did a lot of reading this year, but right now I am not reading anything. Nothing seems appealing...until now!!! Thanks!