Saturday, December 4, 2010

Books for fall 2010

The "bad news is that I haven't done a very good job of keeping track of books I've read lately. The good news is that I'm using a new (to me) service called GoodReads that will clean up my reviews a bit. I'll make use of GoodReads's sharing tools to post reviews here.
Books I've read fairly recently:
Agnes, Daughter of William the Baptist or The Young TheologianAgnes, Daughter of William the Baptist or The Young Theologian by James M. Chaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was the “sequel” to Chaney’s William the Baptist: annotated edition, and follows Agnes, one of William and Dora’s children who wishes to be admitted to the Communion Table for the Sacrament. Like William the Baptist it is written in a dialogue style, and it is very readable.
Agnes is not quite as good as William, which may explain why it is so hard to find a copy. Still, it is a good book and worth the read, if you can find it!

Acts of the Apostles (Mind Over Matter Series)Acts of the Apostles by John F.X. Sundman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A good, fun read. After a somewhat complicated start, this one will draw you in and keep you interested.
I read it as an ebook; I'm not sure if it is available in print. It reads well as etext, which seems a bit fitting given the subject (though it feels a little dated, set in the mid-90s). There were a few annoying artifacts which I am pretty sure are the fruit of using Smashwords, not poor editing. But overall, it was well laid-out and flowed well in iBooks.

A Guide to Biblical Commentaries & Reference WorksA Guide to Biblical Commentaries & Reference Works by John Frederick Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is unlike any I have seen: while D.A. Carson and Tremper Longman both have offered similar bibliographies and surveys in the past, neither was as thorough nor as detailed as Evans. Furthermore, both Carson and Longman (understandably) focused on only one of the testaments.
Evans’s A Guide to Biblical Commentaries & Reference Works is the most comprehensive survey of commentaries around. It is very up-to-date, even including commentaries released in the second half of 2010. And it is extremely useful, offering guides for students of the Bible from every level.
Any seminary or Bible college student, pastor or ministry worker, or even professors who interact with the Bible will be grateful for this as a ready-reference.
(Full disclosure: I work with the ministry that publishes this volume.)

A Visit from the Goon SquadA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I didn’t finish this book, but I’m done with it, at least for now. I read a little more than 50% of it.
This is a strange book. It’s more of a collection of short stories, with the characters in the stories loosely connected to the characters in the other stories. It jumps around in a historical timeline with no evident rationale, and at the beginning of each chapter (which is actually a new short story) you’re disoriented and lost for a few paragraphs. There are some sections that are frank about adult ideas, but very little that is explicit.
Still, it was a reasonably good book (the part I read). I put it down for a few weeks, and when I came back to it I was completely lost. I didn’t start over, but I did have to work to regain a sense of who was who. After a couple of tries, I simply lost interest. I think a good bit of the reason why was that I had very little invested in the characters, as I had encountered each of them only briefly in one or two stories.
I think the writer is clever with much of what she does here, and this might be a great book for a vacation or holiday when it could be read straight-through over a few days.

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