Eat This Book
The Bible has become a lifeline for me. It has pulled me away from dead-end ways of thinking and has given me new direction more times than I can count. It has kept me tethered to meaning and purpose, but it certainly wasn't always that way.
How The Bible Came To Be
Like most people, I grew up in a family that owned a hefty, king-sized, King James family Bible. Ours had a slightly padded beige cover with gold-embossed lettering and gilded-edged pages. It included wonderful artwork, maps and pages where you could insert details of your family tree. I enjoyed reading the names, birth dates and anniversaries that my mother had entered. It was obvious to me that the Bible was given special status, and although we rarely read it, I understood that the contents were revered and authoritative.
A Response To Heaven
Lisa Miller's 'Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife' gives us readers an extremely entertaining, educative and vulnerable exploration into the plethora of views regarding heaven.
Reader's Guide to After The Flood
Lovers of books often complain that they read too slowly and wonder if they will ever take the time and effort to master the The Art of Speed Reading. My difficulty is that sometimes--strike that--often I need to acquire the Art of Reading Slowly to integrate what I read.
The Broken Wall
People like WYSIWYG -- "what you see is what you get". There is something refreshing and straightforward about that idea, especially when people are so invested in image-control or in marketing their products which aren't what they seem. Even though transparency is good and safe, I enjoy the mystery of meeting a stranger whose nature is a puzzle that takes time to unravel. Markus Barth in The Broken Wall says that the book of Ephesians is an enigma, a paradoxical riddle.
"Wouldn't it be possible for some foolish person to try to argue that what took place was all a matter of chance and accident--that the bear was not sent by God?" These words echoed my own thoughts when I first heard about the book Shardik by Richard Adams. Then one day a friend told me about a photographer taking pictures of a bear when the bear suddenly reared up and started charging him. That shocking image of the rearing bear struck me.
Oryx and Crake
"That was a really disturbing book," the optometrist at the store said when I asked if she'd read 'Blindness'. I've heard people say the same thing about 'The Road' and 'Oryx and Crake'. It's true; these books are disturbing. They are dystopian novels, dystopia defined as "a state in which the conditions of life are extremely bad as from deprivation or oppression or terror." I wondered what it meant that these kinds of books have a category. Is this category chosen because of the author's despair? Or hope?
Wolf: The Lives of Jack London
Wolf refers not only to London's Alaskan adventure stories but also as an ever-deepening symbol of his life. Wolf implies that London's was a life of ravenous hunger. Wolf also alludes to London's dominant philosophy of life, evolutionary naturalism. It is a life of survival for those who adapt to their environments successfully and a life characterized by the violent struggle of tooth and fang.
I watched him carefully. He was one-handedly texting on an iPhone, with a laptop perched on his knee, one eye on the television. What was he doing? Was he talking to a friend? Playing a game? Hopefully writing an essay for school? Just hanging out with his parents watching a movie? I’d say, “none of the above.” He’d say, “all four in a perfectly harmonized multi-tasking way. Welcome to the Twenty-first Century, dad!”
The Return of the Dancing Master
In the prologue of Henning Mankell’s The Return of the Dancing Master, I thought I recognized a character from a recent TV movie called 'The Last Hangman', featuring the life and times of Albert Pierrepoint, I was wrong about the character's identity, but the move was a helpful template in disovering one of Mankell's crucial themes: impartial justice.
Introduction To The Psalms
The title Introduction to the Psalms: A Song from Ancient Israel by Nancy L. deClassié Walford belies the true value of this volume. The book goes far beyond the standard introductions insofar as the reader senses they are entering a multiplicity of psalm-shaping communities.
The Truth of These Strange Times
In Adam Fould's novel The Truth About these Strange Times we meet Howard McNamee, an everyman of the heart. On nearly every page lies the contention that heart is at the centre of our humanity. The questions: what is the heart? how do we judge the heart? and how do we repair it? are eloquently approached.
The Last Dickens
The Last Dickens was a great improvement upon the Poe Shadow; it was more akin to Matthew Pearl's first novel, The Dante Club. Both of these books are extremely well researched and tied to both the text and the tonality of the era in which they are set.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Once I got over the Dickensian style, especially the delicate china doll description of his woman protagonist, Rosa Bud, I was hooked. This sadly foreshortened-by-death novel reveals as much in its superb descriptions, including a humanly depicted dish set, that speaks to the reader, as it does in its plot.
Since his death in 1996 at the age of 64, there has grown what has been dubbed the "Nouwen phenomenon", as biographies have been written about him, and Nouwen websites, societies and centers all tend the flame of faith which burned
so brightly in his life. Though I had only ever read one of his books, I was drawn to reading about him in one of my favorite book genres - biography.
The Shadow Year
The Shadow Year chronicles the lives of three children living in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic mother and an absentee father during the 1960's. Despite their difficulties the children are creative and imaginative. Together in their
basement they invent a cardboard reconstruction of their hometown.
Like the line in Jerry Maguire, “You had me at hello,” Robert Solomon’s invitation to look with ‘awe and wonder’ at the unpopular topic of emotions had me from the start. I am probably not alone in confessing that when it comes to the emotions I often find myself at their mercy, lured by wanting to feel good or unraveling the reasons why I don’t, too often swept down the road towards a multitude of vices. Months after reading Solomon’s book a faithful friend encouraged me to take a second look at his approach.
Paul and the Thessalonians
Paul and the Thessalonians: A Tradition of Pastoral Care by Abraham J. Malherbe traces how the apostle Paul was influenced by and adapted the philosophic tradition of soul care for this first of his epistles. One of the reasons Paul wrote his letter to the Thessalonians was his worry for their spiritual well-being. When he was with them he had taught them to emulate him and to form bonds with him, like any teacher of philosophy would do.
The Go-Between God
It all started with a knock at the front door. I opened it to find an
eight-year-old aboriginal girl with a tousled hair asking me for an apple. What harm could it do?
I asked myself, as I walked to the kitchen to find her an apple. That interaction began a six-month
encounter with some of the kids of our inner city neighbourhood.
Heroes of History
Will Durant sees himself as a philosopher-historian meaning that instead of
just presenting human history as a dry collection of facts, he tries to see the meaning
and capture the essence in them. He puts many important events and representative people
into perspective and invites the reader to look deeply into history.
I Don't Believe In Atheists
After the first hour of reading Chris Hedges' I Don't Believe
in Atheists, my animus toward the new and very popular “fundamentalist”
atheists was sated. Like Chris, I have as much disdain for these pompous
ignoramuses as I do for narrow religious fundamentalists. Any wrongheaded
and stubborn opinion rooted in ignorance ought to repulse us. But after that first hour I was left with a desperate
question, “Where on God’s green earth did reasonable dialogue disappear
The Little Friend
I was furious. I knew I was right. People could be so pig-headed when they didn’t want
to see the truth. Every time I tried to remind them of what was going on, they would smile and disregard me.
In frustration I stormed through the office doors, determined to set the matter straight.
As I waited for the elevator, I heard myself think, “Nobody listens to me.” With a shock I recognized those words.
Charles Dickens, Engligh literature's unmatched character creator,
managed to conjure up the most romantic, sweetly sick, maudlin personality
ever to poke his tiny head into our Christmas celebrations. The Cratchit
dinner party with Tiny Tim's banal "What a goose, Mother!" is more than
enough to turn the cranberry sour on us. I imagine a much older Timothy
Cratchit would cringe hearing the tiresome family stories of his infant
self, as we all do when our parents, in a flush of narrative nostalgia,
show our naked-bottom photos to their friends.
The reason I picked Oliver Twist up in the first place
was a quite reasonable one - it was the end of the day and I'd heard
about it and how it was a classic. I was up to the the challenge. After
getting to about halfway through Oliver Twist by reading it in quirky
old-style British accents I was thinking "This is absolute bullocks,
I've lost my mind!" so with the help of my friends, I decided to listen
to it as accompaniment.
As a teen I loved hanging out in the small basement library of my church.
Retreating among the books before or after the service, I’d usually head
towards my favourite shelf - the one which housed the books by C.S. Lewis. His
clear and profound writing drew me more deeply into the Christian path and kindled
a hope that there was more to Christianity than what I heard in Sunday School.
Considering Lewis’ ongoing popularity today, I know I wasn’t alone.
Songs of the Gorilla Nation
I've just finished a great book called Songs of the Gorilla Nation:
My Journey Through Autism by Dawn Prince-Hughes. It is a moving book
offering excellent insight not only into the world of autism but also
the world of gorillas. Dawn is a woman born in 1964 who was diagnosed
with Asperger's Syndrome when she was 35. This is the same autistic
disorder that the boy in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
had, and while I could see the similarities between the two, it was
also interesting to note the different ways the disorder played out
When intelligent life is discovered in the Alpha Centauri system,
the Jesuits organize the first mission. Painstaking preparation and
a humility informed by centuries of cultural disasters, bring a crew
of priests and scientists to the planet of Rahkat, with Father Emilio
Sandoz at the inspirational helm. Emilio is a linguist, trained in reading
context and comparison. But when he is shown the sta'ka ivy and hears
about the process of hasta'akala where hands are make to look like trailing
branches of ivy, he doesn't understand the violent tension in the aesthetic
relationship between vine and wall. And so he has no other way to interpret
what happens than as betrayal. Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow
is a story is about understanding, how it is lost and how painstakingly
it is gained. It is a story of faith.
The Spiral Staircase
Karen Armstrong was drawn to give her life to God (against the
wishes of her parents) because she desired that union with God in prayer
that she had read about. She found anything but that. It was a time
of misery for her. She was too emotional and kept having seizures. These
seizures were later diagnosed as epilepsy but the superiors severely
chastised her for what they called "childish, emotional fits." She did
experience moments of deep connection during the singing of chants as
part of her training, but she never for a moment thought that was God.
She erroneously thought because music was human, it couldn't have been
Timebends: A Life
It is rare for me upon finishing a book to mourn its passing
no matter how good it is; I'm usually raring to plunge into the next
one. After all, the race is on in our home to read as much as humanly
possible, an "Amazing Race" of the mind so to speak. But the night when
I read the last page of Timebends, Arthur Miller's autobiography, I
felt sad. Many people describe books as good friends and I truly feel
I will miss Arthur Miller; his life and thoughts have definitely become
part of my daily life, if only through words on a page. Proof of this
was when I blurted out to Paul, "I think I'm in love with Arthur Miller."
He laughed, I laughed. But the funny thing is, it's kind of true. Not
that I want to leave Paul for someone who is pushing 90 but something
is evoked in the heart when you encounter a person's human vulnerability
without barrier, when ideas are expressed with a humility that only
comes from living a life that is bent on meaningful reflection and honesty…