On My Bookshelf:

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In the last several months I’ve happily reinstated my favorite pasttime: reading. For the past six years I’ve lived on a steady diet of magazines (for their brevity and peaceful pictures) and parenting books (for obvious reasons.) I love the feeling of losing oneself in a book, especially when the message moves me to live more fully. Here are a few books I’ve just finished, along with the reviews I’ve posted on my facebook visual bookshelf and the ratings I gave them. If you’ve read any of these or have a favorite book to recommend, I’d love to hear about it.

UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity  {David Kinnaman}  5 stars

Wow. This is a life changing book. It summarizes in a clear and concise way why people think of christians the way they do, and how we can change our ways, all supported by extensive studies by the Barna group. It encouraged me that if we became more like Jesus in our unconditional love and concern for those in need, our world and the world’s perception of christians, would be drastically different. I don’t say this often, but if you’re a christian and you haven’t read this, do it right away. It is the most influential christian book I’ve read in a long time.

 

Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity  {Keri Wyatt Kent}  5 stars

I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned Keri Wyatt Kent’s books in this space yet. She is my favorite Christian women’s author and several life changing books for me have come from her pen. This is yet another inspiring book from Keri Wyatt Kent. Rest provides biblical truths and avoids legalism in discussing why and how we can practice Sabbath even in our busy lives today. Instead of burdening the reader with a list of do’s and don’ts, she offers practical ideas from her own life and others for how to set apart a day a week as holy, different, and restful, not only because God made us to follow that weekly rhythm, but also because by honoring the Sabbath however we can, we honor him. It has been an inspiration to me, and my family has celebrated our first three Sabbaths since finishing this book. It’s not about denying ourselves of life’s fun for a day, rather it’s about enjoying the blessings of God in a purposeful way every week. A wonderful read.

 

Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids: Practical Ways to Create a Calm and Happy Home   {Naomi Drew}  4 stars

This is a really useful parenting book. It is based on the author’s 20+ years experience in pioneering curriculum for peacemaking and conflict resolution in schools, as well as her practice with families. It’s well written (I love the format with exercises throughout, and 17 keys to peaceful parenting, with lots of additional reading recommendations after each chapter) and backed by research, and has plenty of real life examples. I wish I owned it, but I did take detailed notes on several chapters about how to promote peace in the home.


The Shack  {William P. Young}  3.5 stars

This was definitely an entertaining read, and would be very appropriate for a gift to a friend who struggles with how God can be a good God when there’s so much evil in the world. The three “persons” of God were, I thought, represented well, and I liked how the author showed their fellowship with each other and their intense love for each and every human. As for the theology, most of it seemed fine, with the exception of the author’s idea that God did not actually sever fellowship with Jesus when he died on the cross (then why did the sky turn black for three hours and Jesus cry out to God asking why He had forsaken him?) and a very shaky and vague explanation of the road to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Overall (other than maybe convincing people that the road to heaven is wider than it really is) I didn’t think it was damaging to Christianity. If anything, it might help non-Christians see a better picture of the unconditional love of God than the picture they see through some Christians today. Sad, but true. 

 

Please Stop Laughing at Me: One Woman’s Inspirational Story  {Jodee Blanco}  2 stars

This book was just okay. The further and further I read, the more I wondered what antagonistic behavior on her part she was leaving out of the story. I do believe that intense bullying like this can happen and sometimes sadly goes unnoticed, but for her to make four fresh starts at different schools and end up the victim each time? Hmmmm…. Also she never said much about continuing the friendships she mentioned that she found with the nondescript regular kids because she was so caught up in trying to be in the popular crowd. Her writing about it made it seem like there were only 5 or 10 kids in her grade at every school she went to, and because she wasn’t in their popular clique her life was miserable. What about the rest of the kids in her classes? Although there is bullying everywhere, my school and teaching experiences didn’t mimic the kinds of schools she talks about at all.   


 

Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile  {Rob Bell}  3 stars

This book started out well…a great summary of the narrative theology (the story) of the bible and of God’s people. It is really thought provoking how he points out God’s continual rescuing of oppressed people throughout the bible. Although his writing style is annoying after a chapter or two (splitting up sentences onto different lines, using single sentences as paragraphs, basically trying to make the reader think that every thought from his head is earth-shattering) I would have given this book really high marks if not for the second section.

After reading the first section, I felt called to action as a Christian on behalf of the oppressed, as we are to be God’s hands in the world today. I assumed the second section would bring this point even further home, but instead, Bell goes onto a political rant against the U.S., our affluence, and our politics rather than an urge to God’s people. Where did this come from? Rather than criticize a country for its efforts to protect its people, why not chastise Christians who are certainly not doing enough to champion the causes of the oppressed? The focus of the book is completely lost in section two.

The concise epilogue is good, though, calling followers of Christ to save ourselves from “the empire of indifference and the exile of irrelevance.” Now THAT is truth. If Bell had laid the responsibility for reaching out to the oppressed onto the body of Christ rather than onto a political nation, the book would have been profound. After all, if Bell is counting on the U.S. to save the oppressed, then our country would get the glory. Shouldn’t Christians heed the call to save the oppressed so that God is the one who gets the glory?


Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time  {Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin}   2.5 stars

Well, technically I shouldn’t be able to review this book because I haven’t finished it, but since I don’t think I’m going to finish it, I’ll review it anyway. I LOVED the first part of this book. His compulsion to make the lives of those in a poor village in Pakistan better is inspirational. Maybe it’s because I always wanted to be a foreign missionary that I’m so drawn to books about Americans connecting with other cultures in meaningful ways. I zipped right through the first half of the book, but once the first school was built, I lost interest. It’s a wonderful story of humankind reaching out to one another, but there’s not much to pull you through to the end.

 

Living Artfully: Create the Life You Imagine  {Sandra Magsaman}  3 stars

This book was a thoughtful gift from a wonderful friend. I really loved the first section where the author explains that living artfully means sharing yourself through loving and thoughtful actions or art. I love the idea that we can express ourselves through putting extra thought into a home baked cake, or through painting a picture or writing a silly poem for someone. I never quite understood why I get so much satisfaction out of doing these little gestures for others, and she puts it quite simply: it is because I am sharing my love at the same time as I’m expressing my creativity. The end of the book offers lots of ideas for creatively sharing love with others or just ways to express yourself. Most of these were pretty standard (and some were quite cheesy!) but there’s definitely a wealth of ideas.

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6 thoughts on “On My Bookshelf:

  1. Wow!!! I cannot believe you’ve just read all of those books!! And thank you, thank you for the awesome reviews. I’ve been wanting to pick up a good book lately, but have had no inspiration or direction. There were a couple in there that I will definitely be checking out. Thank you, Linn!

    Amber
    XOXOXOXO

  2. I’m going to have to get the Peacedul Kids book. Seems all I’ve been reading lately is teen fiction for school. We like to read every book before we send them home with the kids to read. Right now I’m 1/2 way through Darkangel. It is a story af a girl kidnapped my a vampire. I’d give it a 3 out of 5 so far…

  3. i must put up a red flag about _the shack_ and i will go into detail tomorrow for you. for now, those thoughts “As for the theology, most of it seemed fine” and “Overall (other than maybe convincing people that the road to heaven is wider than it really is) I didn’t think it was damaging to Christianity.” – read what you’ve written there again. and really think about it. is it o.k. for people to think that the road to heaven is wider than it really is? it is very narrow. and few find it. don’t we want to make that very clear? so that more WILL find the narrow and TRUE way?

    • Thanks for your honest comments, Elizabeth. You’re completely right that the path to heaven is very narrow, and I would add that the only way there is through faith in Jesus Christ dying to atone for our sins. I would never recommend this book to someone as a textbook for Christian theology…only the Bible can be our true guide. I still think, as I said, that MOST of the (other) theology seemed fine, and if I had a friend who was struggling with how God could be a loving God and still allow tragedies to happen, I would still recommend this book to them. Of course, it would not stand alone as a guide to finding a meaningful relationship with God…it would have to come within the context of meaningful discussion about our need for a savior and how I could guide my friend to find that savior in Jesus. The author’s comments about God finding people on all religious paths is definitely true, but he stops short of explaining that what saves them is that Jesus is drawing them close to Him and bringing them to belief in their need for his sacrifice for their salvation. There is no other perfect lamb and sacrifice to cover our sin other than Jesus. Thank you for prompting me to clarify my comments so as not to confuse anyone.

  4. Linn, Karen (Whitecotton)here. I’ve been checking in a few times since Julie led me to your CozyLiving blog. I love your photos. Your boys look Hilts through and through! Anyway, have you read “Revolutionary Parenting” by George Barna? If not, pick it up. It’s a good one, insightful, challenging, and objective. I really enjoyed it, gleaned from it, and want to re-read it (which in my book means it’s a good book!) More later, Karen

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