Monday, August 1, 2011

Books for July 2011

Healing For a Broken World: Christian Perspective on Public PolicyHealing For a Broken World: Christian Perspective on Public Policy by Steve Monsma

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally, a book that I can recommend to my congregation about public policy and how to consider their responsibilities in voting!

I’ve been frustrated with the lack of clear and constructive guidance on this topic for a long time. Many American Christians misunderstand what it means to vote in accordance with the principles of their/our faith, and too often this leads to an inappropriate over-alignment with particular political parties, movements, or other “camps.” Before I read this book, I was dismayed at what was available along the lines of good biblical instruction on how to view civil affairs.

My only strong concern here: this title will be somewhat dated in a few years; even then, however, the illustrative examples will stand as good historical case-studies.

Otherwise, I strongly commend it. The author is knowledgeable about the subject, and offers much first-hand experience. Yet, he takes pains to conceal his particular biases when matters are more ambiguous, and presents only the more concrete biblical views.

A Prayer for Owen MeanyA Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very interesting book; I read it because of the strong recommendation of someone whose opinion I trust, and also because I am familiar with some of the author’s other work. I definitely liked it, but also found it to be a little weird.

It’s a good story, and quite well-told. The writing is top-tier stuff, and it reads very easily. While the storyline jumps back and forth between two points in the narrator’s life, the author handles this ably and the reader (this reader, anyway) isn’t confused by the shifts or why they occur.

The story itself has some stranger elements to it, and a couple of implausible aspects that, while woven well into the narrative, reduced the quality of the story a bit for me. Still, it’s an honest and realistic tale for 98% of the book, and an engaging one.

Shoeless JoeShoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another good, yet strange, book.

Naturally, I’ve seen the movie (Field of Dreams) based on this book, so when my friend Lee mentioned that it was available for free through the Kindle Store, I gladly downloaded it. It seemed like a good one to tackle while working out on the stationary bike and/or treadmill. And it was.

The movie gave me the advantage of being familiar, at least loosely, with the story, and I was pleased to see that the movie re-told the story pretty closely (leaving out a few key parts, of course, but surprisingly little in my opinion). That made for a faster read, I suppose, which is good because there were points where the book dragged a bit. The author had a couple of tangents that seemed entirely superfluous to me; perhaps an absolute hardcore baseball fan (like Lee!) might get them, but some of them I’m not so sure about even then.

Still, it’s a good story, and a fun one. A nostalgic, baseball-loving version of the “stickin’ it to the man” thing, with a few twists.

One thing I really liked: Ray’s relationship with his wife, Annie (which is barely a “B” story, but is still a consistent thread through the book) is a great portrayal of a wife who is so devoted to her husband and loves him well, in spite of how bizarre or off-the-wall his dreams and ambitions seem to others.

One thing I didn’t: the reverence for baseball in this book, at times, approaches religious zeal— even asserting at one point that salvation is found in the idea of baseball! It’s not that I’m uncomfortable with religious zealotry in books, or even that I’m inherently troubled by misplaced religious fervor; neither of those are necessarily bad. But I guess the reverence for something as, well, untranscendent as baseball seems like a waste of religious energy to me. Don’t get me wrong— I love baseball, and I “get” the transcendence that the author was/is trying to portray about baseball: that it is one of the few consistent things through the last half of American history, that it is something that can connect fathers and sons when other things can’t, etc. But even in light of these, Kinsella’s take was too much, I thought.

But I liked the book, and the zealotry only showed up occasionally, and only one scene were it went over the top— so I would recommend it to anyone who likes baseball.

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment