Book Review: 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Quick, easy read; short (just over 200)

Summary
Pretty self-explanatory; Reinke lays out 12 ways he believes your smart phone (and social media) are impacting you. The book is, unsurprisingly, broken into 12 chapters – addicted to distraction, ignore flesh and blood, crave immediate approval, lose our literacy, feed on the produced, become what we ‘like’, get lonely, get comfortable in secret vices, lose meaning, fear missing out, become harsh to one another, lose our place in time. There is also a preface and an intro called ‘theology of technology’, as well as a conclusion on how to live with a smart phone and an epilogue.

My Thoughts
I was torn on exactly how to rate this book, it is one of those times where I’d like to give a 4.5, but ultimately, if you haven’t read anything about the impacts of smart phones/social media or you haven’t read about those impacts from Christian perspective, I think then it is a must read. If you’ve read a few of these, it is worth putting on your list.

Overall, Reinke has given us a broad survey into the issues with technology/social media. The strongest aspect of the book is that he himself is a big advocate and user of technology. So, you have someone who is appreciates and enjoys the different media (though, somewhat amusingly, he doesn’t appear to know the origins of Snapchat), who also understand the dangers, while not wanting to let it go. I appreciate his honesty and preservative in that way.

The book is a good way to get a taste of the issues. Reading it, you might be left feeling a little wanting, as almost every chapter could be it’s own book. As I mentioned, it is broadly researched and he pulls from many sources and people. I had not heard of some of the ‘Instagram models’ who quit and pulled away. I’ve seen the research on how often people check their phone and the impact of Facebook on happiness and well being, but I had seen a response or commentary on these impacts from a distinctly Christian viewpoint.

I found much of the book to be fascinating, but I have to confess that I viewed much of it as an outsider. I’ve never been on Facebook (despite being in college when it started, when it was only for college students), I occasionally use twitter, and I still don’t really understand the point of Instagram. I also dislike starting at a glowing blue screen, and really only carry a phone when Mrs. MMT insists. However, the friend from whom I borrowed this book found it impactful and Mrs. MMT is actually attempting to modify some of her habits after reading.

While I couldn’t always relate, I do empathize with people who struggle in the ways depicted in this book and the book finishes strongly with suggestions on how to live with your smart phone and social media. I think the practical tips could be of value to many people. Realistically, if you have ever wondered if you use your phone/social media too much, or if it is negatively effecting you, then it probably is and for you this might be a book to add to your list or a must read.

Book Review: The Big Sort

The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Quick, easy read; moderate length (300+)

Summary
With increased mobility, the country to more and more choosing to live in areas of like-minded people. This has the effects both of intensifying our own beliefs and not knowing anyone else with ideas different from ours. This has had profound impacts on our national politics. The book is divided into four parts – The Power of Place, The Silent Revolution, The Way We Live Today, and The Politics of People Who Live Like Us. Each part is broken into three chapters each. There is also a great intro, if you are in a library or can find a book store, it’d be worth your time to go head and read at least this chapter.

My Thoughts
You might think the title is a riff on the largely known book and popular movie, the Big Short; I did, but actually, this book was written almost a year ahead of it. I have no idea if the titles are independent, or if the short was a play on the sort.

The basic premise of the book is that we are in fact living in more and more like communities and that this change is bad for us. We live increasingly with people just like us. That is fairly easy to prove, based on census data, voting data, and surveys. What he spends much of the rest of the book showing, is that this separation leads to negative consequences. For instance, social psychology of groups/tribes (as chapter three is called). Experiments showing people are more likely to have the extreme view than individuals – attempting to show you belong. On scale of 1-10 on how liberal/conservative someone is, the group average may by a six, but when they all get together or have to make a joint decision, that response ends up being an eight.

So, you have this odd case where the decision or policy of the group ends up being further on the spectrum than most of the individual members. Then you end up with the corollary, that you can’t imagine another person have the opposite view, the view that is different from the group. This is exacerbated with the sorting of our communities so that one might not even come into contact with someone of a different political belief.

He also writes on the move in marketing to focusing on tribes. He describes two white women that advertisers had previously seen as the same (age, income, gender, ethnicity), but now targets them differently, mostly based on political views. One particularly interesting chapter to me, he looks at church growth and the focus and the seeker sensitive movement as people try to reflect an audience or attract a specific group. His point with these two chapters is that the sorting into smaller and specific groups is impacting every aspect of our life.

It has even influenced the way we watch TV, there are rarely discussion on anymore, they also have to be combative and argumentative, to draw ratings. Somehow, we take that to be the correct way to act in public. He has a funny reference to ‘your fired’ to show that people would rather watch abrasive personalities than anything constructive. Personally, this is why I’ve stopped watching most sports coverage. I used to watch my shows on ESPN, but they have adopted the model where the yell over each other in disagreement, but I just find that too obnoxious.

Overall, I think Bishop proves his thesis. Clearly, our communities are sorting and (as the book is over 10 years old) we’ve already moved past some of his concerns and things are worse than predicted. It would be really interesting to have a follow-up after the 2020 Census and Presidential Election. The writing is good, the author is a writer and it shows. The writing is quick and often funny. The only issue I have is that it becomes fairly redundant. He will cite a study in one chapter, or even go into it in detail, and then in a later chapter, cite it again and describe it as if we don’t know what it is. The book has the feeling of multiple independent articles compiled together. This is likely more on the editor/publisher than the author, but it does start to feel a bit tedious.

I should caveat this review somewhat with the point that I have a degree in geography and a masters in city planning, so I was very familiar with many of the studies and ideas in this book. Also, as I previously had an academic interest in this topic, it may well not be as popular or interesting to a wider audience. I say you should put this on your list, but that would be if you already have a deep interest in politics, particularly in the idea that we are polarizing ourselves, or popular geography. If not, maybe grab it if you decide you are looking for something about it.

Book Review: Irresistible

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Moderately easy, medium (300+) length

Summary
The subtitle is a pretty good summary of the focus of the book. Our technology is being developed at high levels to keep us coming back. However, it seems more of the book is focused on behavioral addiction as a whole than on technology specifically. I think this tactic actually makes pretty good sense, because of the popular conception of the word ‘addictive.’ Obviously, you won’t go into withdrawal from technology, the way you would from cocaine, however, when used, both ignite the same part of your brain.

The book is broken into three parts – What is behavioral addiction and where did it come from, the ingredients of behavioral addiction (or, how to engineer an addictive experience), and the future of behavioral addiction (and some solutions). The first and last part have three chapters each, while the middle has six. There is also a prologue and epilogue.

My Thoughts
As I mentioned above, the subtitle (likely written by an editor) focuses on technology, while the book (just look at the part and chapter names) is more focused on behavioral addictions and what they are, and then how smart phones/tablets/computers and social media/actual media/apps/games effect people. In some cases the companies themselves are aware of behavioral addictions and how they work and actively employ them. Alter starts the book with the damning contrast in the 90 minute speech by Steve Jobs about the greatness of the iPad and then his biographer learning that he does not allow his kids to have one.

The book has multiple examples of what the technology addiction looks like, but I’ll just point our a few here. Maybe the most pivotal one in history was the addition of the ‘like’ button on Facebook. This is what led to the massive growth of what used to be called social networking, now called ‘media’. Obviously, people are starting to learn more and more about the dangers of Facebook in particular, with their tailored news that almost helps grow ideas that are false and certainly promotes things that are more combative. When people see likes, it is a dopamine hit, the same as cocaine. It’s also a good reminder that when a ‘product’ is ‘free’, then really you are the product and they make money selling you.

I could go on with that, but I want to point out two other milestones – Netflix and the automatic playing of the next show, and the ‘endless’ scroll. I remember, years ago now, all of sudden everyone was talking about ‘binge-watching’ TV shows. It became so popular the word eventually became an adverb and people treated it like a normal way to behave.  Have you ever wondered why? That’s when Netflix started just automatically starting a show when you finished one. You had to opt out of watching.

Now, if you, like me and most humans, think you are hard working and fairly intelligent, you are wrong. Humans are incredibly lazy and easily manipulated. My favorite example of this is two countries that speak the same language, boarder each other, and have similar cultures, but one donates organs at a rate in the 80’s, while the other’s is in the 20’s. What is the difference? One auto enrolls you on your license, the other you have to opt in. That’s essentially 60% of the population that can’t be bothered to check a box, either way.

Of course, the companies know these things. They don’t want you to have to back out of the episode and do the ‘work’ to watch the next. If all you have to do is sit, they’ll have you for hours. It’s called ‘removing the friction’. Another example of this is endless scroll. On sites like Reddit, there used to be pages, and you’d scroll down through maybe 20 items then hit the bottom of the page, then you had to click next page. They, and others, have removed this, so that you can scroll in perpetuity. I noticed this a few months ago with ‘new Reddit’. I didn’t know why, but I’d be reading/scrolling, then look up and an hour had past. After reading this book, I switched back to ‘old Reddit’ and deleted the app together from my phone.

Alright, this has gone far too long for a regular review, but I find it endless fascinating. The book is littered with interesting/terrifying examples such as this.  He also writes well, very quick and accessible for a professor. To keep it at a lay level, it becomes a little redundant at times, but I don’t think that is too negative. If you have any interest in behavioral addiction or the impact of technology on your life, you need to put this book on your list.

2019 Reading Challenge

As I recently posted, I beat my goal for 2018 in terms of number, but didn’t really read all the books I wanted to read. So much so, that I am going to straight up cute and past a good bit from last year’s goal. Once again this year, I plan to lower the number of books I plan to read, this is partly so I can make sure I get to the books I really want, and because some are fairly long, but also, and I may post about this a bit later, but I plan to interact more with each book. With that taken into account, my goal this year is 20 books this year.

20181227_1444391.jpg

I currently have 14 of them on the mantel in my living room to remind me to focus on actually getting these books done. You can check out my Goodreads 2019 Challenge page if you like list form, it actually shows 16, because I added three commentaries, but I may not read word for word, two of them, and am only counting one towards the challenge. After these 14, I have three other books (stretch goals I guess) that I’d like to get to, time permitting and somewhat depending on what review books seem incredibly interesting and what the library has available that I have requested, more on those below. The books are as follows:

Non-fictionGödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, at 822 pages, this is the second biggest book on my list for this year and one of my top five life goal, big book, non-fiction books to pick up. As Sprout just turned four, I’ve added Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less

Biography/autobiographyA Full Life: Reflections at Ninety was on my list the last two years, but I didn’t make it to it, so I’ll stick it back on this list.

Fiction – After reading The Fall of Hyperion and Endymion (Hyperion), the sequels to one of my favorite books from 2017, Hyperion, I plan to end the series this year with the final book in the Cantos, The Rise of Endymion (Hyperion) At 864 pages, Anna Karenina, will be my biggest book this year and the third longest single volume fiction book I’ve ever read. Rounding out the fiction section will be a collection of stories from one of my favorite authors, Stephen King, Just After Sunset: Stories.

Christian-y type books – Only four books are planned in this category this year, though this categories tends to be the largest due to ARC books and loans from friends. Knowing God is a classic at this point, but I haven’t yet read it.

Commentaries, Theology, and Language – Because two 800 page books won’t take me long enough, I’m also picking up two more 600+ page books. First, I want to get back into finishing Bavnick so I have Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, on the list with the ridiculous hope that I will actually make it to the even longer (912 pages) Volume Four. Second, my church is a doing a 40+ week study on Mark, so I’ve picked up The Gospel of Mark (The New International Greek Testament Commentary, and will likely skim the Tyndale and Bible Speaks today commentaries as well, but I don’t think I will count them towards the challenge.

Finally, for something different in this new category I just made up, I’m attempting to gain an understanding of Biblical Greek. For that I’ve chosen Greek for the Rest of Us: Using Greek Tools Without Mastering Biblical Languages.

None of the books in this category will be read all at once, but studied or read-through, throughout the year. I’ll use the commentary as we move through the sermons and go in and out of Reformed Dogmatics, probably after each major subject. I’m not entirely sure yet how to study the Greek, but likely either a few days a week for the year, or every day for a few weeks/months. Maybe there will be some guidance in the book itself.

Devotional – I’ve typically read a whole year devotional, such as My Utmost for His Highest (my review), but this year I’m going back to the whole Bible with the M’Cheyne reading plan, which I’ve written about before. The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It  looks like another great and challenging book from Peter Enns. Both Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (Resources for Changing Lives and Speaking Truth In Love are pretty well known in Christian Counseling circles, so I’d like to check them off the list.

Stretch Goals – So, I have 14 books on the list, which leaves six others unplanned. These will most likely come from review request, a book someone lends me, or if one of the books on my long library list becomes available. However, if that doesn’t come through, and I finish the previous 13, I have a few other plans. One is to read another book on church history. I’m torn on what I’ve heard is the best in Christian history – Church History in Plain Language or I may start another 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power Vol. 1: The Age of the Early Church Fathers (Grace Publications), which is the first in a four volume series (I’d love to hear from anyone who has read either or has a suggestion as to which would be better).

I’ve also had Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy on my list from 2017 and 2018, but also didn’t get to it. This book and the history one are obviously somewhat long, and can be dense, so another book I think I want to get to is The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, which is a book I bought for Mrs. MMT a few years ago on the advice of MxPx front man Mike Herrera. Finally, as a pair, I was given a book that reviews a Christmas Carol from a Christian perspective, and as that is one of my favorite all time stories, I’ll read the story then the review together and then respond to both.

That’s it. Hopefully I’ll tighten down and actually get to the ones I wanted this year. Feel free to share goals or insights on any of the books in the comments.

20181227_162320.jpg

2018 Reading Challenge Review

I met my goal of 30 books this year. Actually, I surpassed it with 37 (that is 11,167 pages according to Goodreads, if you like that kind of thing). That being said, reading over what I wrote I wanted to read, I feel like I’ve failed. I had 13 book specifically listed, but only read six of them. I guess I’ll try to carry on those attempts next year. You can see my Goodreads 2018 Challenge page here, if you want them in list form.

I said I was going to do less review books in 2018, but instead ended up doing 16, 13 of which were Baker, one was Crossway, and there were two new publishers I that had never sent me books before. That is probably the main reason I didn’t get to the actual books I wanted. It is interesting to ‘challenge’ yourself, when really it was supposed to be a list of books I wanted to read. Instead, it turned into a goal of reading X number of books. Also, I enjoy getting free books, but the more I requested, the less I enjoyed. I’ll have my 2019 Challenge up in a bit, but this year I want to focus on specific books, and will likely due far fewer review books, especially from Baker.

My longest book, and an unexpected addition was The Stand. I added it because of the PBS Great American Novel contest. I also started taking Sprout the library every other Saturday, so I grabbed a few random books that I didn’t have on my shelf, all of which were non-fiction. I only read a few other novels and was short on fiction this year. I read three devotionals, where were all decent, but I really didn’t read any theologically intense books, something I plan to change in 2019. I also had a few commentaries on the list, which is something I’m unsure should count towards the challenge.

Overall, the 2018 Challenge was a mixed-bag, I met my goal as far as numbers go, but didn’t really hit all the books I wanted. Oh well, as always, I’ll try to do better next time.

Top Posts of 2018

The end of the year is always a good time to look back over the past 365 calendar days of your life in general, but is even better for a lowly blogger, because it gives you fairly quick and easy post. So, with that, my top most read posts in 2018:

  1. Book Review: Sapiens
  2. Biblical Studies Carnival 150
  3. Book Review: The Imperfect Disciple
  4. Book Review: Disciplines of a Godly Man
  5. Book Review: We’re Pregnant
  6. Book Review: Believe Me
  7. Book Review: Practicing the King’s Economy
  8. Book Review: Darkness is My Only Companion
  9. Book Review: Spiritual Disciplines for a Godly Life
  10. Book Review: Four Views on Hell

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see Sapiens once again leading the pack (despite being published over two years ago), as it is led last year and is my all time viewed post since I discovered that WordPress gives me stats. As I’ve said since then, I’ll write a follow up soon.

My second and final Biblical Studies Carnival was the only non book review post in the top 10 (one of only three in my top 25, my post on Trump and the Supreme Court was 17th this year, and the picture from my 10th Anniversary was 21st).

Only four of the book review posts were actually written this year – We’re Pregnant, Believe Me, Practicing the King’s Economy, and Darkness is my Only Companion – inexplicably all coming in a row. So, that’s half of my top read being actually written in the year, I have no idea if that is common or not, but it sounds about right.

The next five most popular actually written this year included the above two non book review posts and three book reviews – Fall of Hyperion, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, and On Pills and Needles.

By all reasonable logic, if I want this blog to grow (which I do), I should do more book reviews, however, as I’ll discuss in a few weeks with my reading goals, I will have less book review coming this year and plan to write on a few more random topics. One of my writings on Thessalonians came in at 34, while my Money in Marriage ranked 37. I’ll have more on this in a later post, but I plan to do more writing and less reading in 2019.

So, that is it for 2018. I appreciate everyone who has read or commented on my posts. Thanks for playing along, I’ll try to do better next year.

 

Book Review: Shalom in Psalms

Shalom in Psalms: A Devotional from the Jewish Heart of the Christian Faith

My Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – Longish (about 350 pages)

Summary
The subtitle more or less gets tells you what you need to know about this book. The intent is to be a devotional on the Psalms from Messianic Jews.  However, there are no days (40, 365, etc) or actual dates (a year in the Psalms). It is just a Psalm and then a devotional/commentary that follows which is written by one or two (usually Seif and Blank) of the authors. The goal of the devotional is to get to the Jewish roots and understanding of the Psalms, and to that end, the authors us the Tree of Life version(TLV) of the Bible; for which Sief and Blank are translators.

My Thoughts
The TLV is an interesting version, you can check out their website to read about their driving principles. Some are fairly innocuous, using Yeshua instead of Jesus (or Miriam and Jacob, instead of Mary and James). Though, when you don’t change all names, it leads to the feeling of that guy that studied abroad and now over pronounces the few words he knows. Likewise they use Adonia for LORD/YHWH, and use a few other words such as Shalom, which are somewhat familiar, though others I did not know and they never offered and translation note or explanation. This seems like a major oversight if your goal is to bring this view to those who don’t already know. Looking around their site I could ascertain whether their translation was literal or dynamic equivalent, though I suspect it was the latter. Overall the translation seemed readable and understandable, with the few exceptions of untranslated words.

As for the devotional part, it isn’t quite there. There are two problems (ish), the first one being, that often this worked more as a light commentary than devotional. I know the line can blur, and I actually prefer the commentary type more, but that isn’t always what people are looking for. Not necessarily a problem, but something for which to be aware. The second, much bigger issue is that the book is not broken into any type of daily format. They could have tried to fit it into 365, or picked some other random number (40, 200, etc.), but instead just offered their devotion/commentary after each chapter. So, that means one morning you may read a Psalm that is a few lines with maybe a paragraph of devotion. Then a week or two later, you’ll read Psalm 119 (the longest verse in the Bible, longer than books such as James or Ruth) followed by pages of commentary.

Again, this can work fine as a commentary, but a devotional is really set more for the 5-20 minute a day framework. This really fails as that model, which wouldn’t be such a big deal were it not for the subheading. If you are expecting a 10 minute morning devotional, broken into nice segments, you aren’t going to get it. Depending on the day, I would read two of the Psalms with both devotionals, if they were short (thing the 80’s and 130’s) or for longer ones, sometimes I’d read just the verse, then come back the next day and read the commentary. Overall, I think it worked to something like 200 or so days, which works fine if you have  Lent and/or Advent devotional to though in as well.

Overall, I enjoyed it, but the format should have been different. If you know that going in and plan to work around it, it can work well for a devotional. If you really like the Psalms, or are just looking for something different in a commentary, or especially if you are looking for a Jewish (or at least modern Messianic Jewish) perspective it is worth picking up.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Five Marks of a Man

Five Marks of a Man

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Quick, easy, short

Summary
Just as the title says, the author lays out what he sees as the five distinctions of a man. They are that men – have a vision, take a minority position, are team players, work, and are protectors. The book is broken into sections for each mark, each of which is four to six chapters for a total of 24, plus a ‘how to read this book’, an intro, a conclusion, and finally what he calls an epilogue, but is basically a sales pitch for a camp he runs.

My Thoughts
Writing a book about what it means/is to be a man is problematic. It would be a life goal of mine to write a book for men, but first, I’m not a very good writer, and more important, I think it is basically impossible. Broadly speaking, there are two major errors that, as much as I hate to do this, generally fall on the liberal/conservative spectrum. On the liberal side there is a tendency to downplay or even dismiss the uniqueness of men (this is likely why there are few books from this side), which is neither physically, biologically, or Biblically accurate. On the conservative side you have a the hamming up of things like football, trucks, and Braveheart. While these are all things I enjoy immensely, they having nothing to do Biblical concepts. In reality, that is all marketing.

This book falls, obviously, into the later category. A few examples before I move on to what was good about the book: seemingly the ability to do push ups related to your level of manliness; apparently having a cat is feminine so he makes it clear that not only does he have a dog (which I guess is manly?), but that it is big (extra manly?); camping outdoorsiness also equals manliness (though he isn’t nearly as bad as Eldredge); and most egregiously, the shotgun out on the counter for the guy who wants to date his daughter. Good Lord help the insecurities of these men.

I cannot fathom feeling it necessary to bring my shotgun out when Sprout starts dating. What is the implication? That I want to scare you for some reason? That I will literally kill you? The dating(ish) chapter, in the ‘protector’ section, was so bad that I considered downgrading my rating. He goes on to say that later he took out (for a meal) a guy who wanted to date his second daughter. He talked with the young man about relationship and sex and his daughter, apparently. I find that a little weird, but maybe it is alright, except for one thing, there is no mention what so ever that he had any discussions with his son. Not even a parenthetical, ‘as I told my own son’. Nothing. No indication that he has ever discussed dating with his son. Now, maybe I’m too cynical and as it is a book for men, maybe it is implied that he did, but I don’t think so. That leaves me with two possible explanations, one, overly cliched writing on manliness stereotyped manliness lead him to just not include it in the book. Two, he proved various liberals, atheist, and other antagonistic to Christianity to be correct in that he only cares about the virginity/purity of his daughters and his son can do whatever he wants. This is incredibly problematic and frustrating.

Men, we have to do better than this cliched nonsense. When we do this we look like a bunch of jackasses. There is nothing Biblical about point a gun a teenage boy who wants to date your daughter, it makes you an idiot (check out our governor elect for more info). If you believe in tying sex and marriage together you need to talk to your own son as well as your daughter (her lady brain can handle it, I promise).

No, back to the review. While that particular chapter was garbage, or a terribly failed attempt, I still like the book for one very major reason – the entire premise is that the opposite of a man, is a boy. Yes, the Tome appears to fall victim to many cliches of supposed manliness, but he never contrast the masculine with the feminine. It is a terrible error for us today to think that what it means to be a man is to simply not be a women. With a three year old and two more on the way, I will need to buy a van. Recently, someone told me not to drive one, because women drive them. No, boys drive unnecessary trucks (what I had before my daughter was born), men drive what is best for their families and don’t concern themselves with what boys think they should drive. What women may do has nothing to do with it.

I really appreciate his focus on this aspect, because I think it is true. Now, I don’t think every one of his points lines up perfectly, or maybe some points just need a qualification. For instance, a man might often take a majority opinion, you don’t take minority opinions just because. So, maybe some clarifying language would be nice, if I’m going to pick some nits.

The strength of the book probably comes in the two sections on team players and work. Maybe the former being the best. He really challenges men to show affection to other men, to have close friends, and to connect with community. I believe that is something that is extremely important, especially in our disconnected world today. He shows how (basically after WW1), men stopped loving each other and bought into the lie of the ‘lone wolf’. He has a great point about wolves being pack animals and single ones would likely die quickly. But we believe that being men means being alone, and especially not sharing our lives with other men. This is clearly not even Biblically accurate (he points to David and Paul and the way they wrote about their relationships with other men). I was personally challenged in this section of the book, and I think others will be as well.

Overall, the book is pretty good. Most men will get a good deal of helpful info, though you can probably skip the section on protector, except the finance part. I also believe these books have to be graded on a curve, because they are so hard to pull off. The lazy cliches and over the top stereotypes are just too easy. With that in mind, if you have an interest in working with men or men’s ministry, area man, a husband, a father, or are raising a man it is worth putting on your list.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Book Review: Fake or Follower

Fake or Follower

My Rating – Probably not worth your time

Level – Easy, short/moderate in length

Summary
This is another book that is hard to summarize. In her intro, the author tells the story of being confronted with what matters in life due to the death of her mother in law. Of course, on of those things is whether she is a legitimate follower of Jesus. The following 10 chapters really are more of a collection of loosely connected essays than a defense or story arc related to her title or thesis. This is likely more on the editors than it is in on the author.

Her first chapter, Refuse to Fake it, generally follows this idea and has very solid critiques of modern American Christianity. Other chapters criticize our ‘misplaced loves’ and overuse of social media versus actually living in community. Unfortunately, many of the other chapters seems scattered and disconnected, partially because the basis of much of what she wrote seemed to be autobiographical.

My Thoughts
I was torn on how to rate this book, and eventually lowered it as I tried to write out a summary. This is mostly due to the massive gap in theological agreement between us. She appears to be fairly far out on the Charismatic spectrum. In the book she claims to see visions and have dreams sent by God, including receiving direct revelation from God. This is problematic theologically that is beyond the scope of a book review, but it does seem to inform much of her thought in the book.

Another problem I have is her use of Bible ‘translations’. I had thought The Message was on of the worse one to use, but she also uses the The Passion, which I had never heard of. Neither of these are actually translations. The Message at least tries to convey the original thoughts; albeit in dumbed down/’modern’ language. The Passion is similarly a paraphrase, but instead of being written by someone who at least knows Kiona Greek, it comes from someone who claims Jesus came into his room and breathed the spirit on to him and he has ‘downloaded’ his version.

Though, as I said above, I do enjoy many of her points, especially on community and the kind of cultural Christianity that is prevalent in America, the theological implications and issues are too much to ignore. You could likely find most her salient points on her blog, or by other writers who similarly criticize and challenge us. Overall, the book probably isn’t worth your time.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Grace in the Valley

Grace in the Valley: Awakening to God’s Presence When He Feels Far Away

Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – medium length, reads a little slow

Summary
It is hard to summarize this book as it was not what I thought it would be. I was expecting more of an exposition of Psalm 23. I knew it wasn’t a true commentary, but this was pretty far off from what I had anticipated. The book is kind of a mix of autobiography, sermon, and exposition more or less on Psalm 23, but almost more focused on David, overall.

The book is broken into 11 chapter plus an intro and afterward. Each chapter is titled with what he plans to focus on and then correlates(ish) to a particular section of Psalm 23 (e.g. chapter 2, Does God Recognize You? and the Lord is my shepherd). 

My Thoughts
I’m not entire sure what I think about this book. Overall it was pretty good. There were some valuable insights and the writing style is solid, though he lacks conciseness. I would have preferred more exposition and less autobiographical details. While some related, others seemed shoehorned in. I had a few theological issues with some of the more Pentecostal aspects of his story, but that doesn’t cause the rest of the book to suffer.

The biggest flaw in the book was likely that he failed to meet his subtitle. His central argument is that the valley and green pasture may be the same place. I wasn’t entirely convinced by his argument. Regardless, he doesn’t really address God feeling far away, unless you think that bad things happening and God feeling far are perfectly correlated, instead of each happening independent of each other. Further, I think the book lacked both focuses on grace and the ‘awakening God’s presence.’ Overall, the book was alright, the strength being when he did dig into the Psalm, but he didn’t make that the focus or majority of the book. The content didn’t really match the title/subtitle, which in his defense might have been the editors fault, so it wasn’t quite what I wanted, but it could be worth it, if you are looking for something.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.