Saturday, March 31, 2012

Books for March 2012

How We DecideHow We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I believe the author set out to respond (indirectly) to Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, as he argues throughout the book (in a style somewhat similar to Gladwell’s, at least insofar as it makes its points through a series of interesting and well-told stories that illustrate poignantly the premises of his collective argument) that our emotions play a huge and subconscious role in our decision-making. If that is the case— if his aim was to undermine Gladwell’s perspective— then he didn’t quite accomplish it, in my mind.

If, however, his goal was simply to explore the role of emotions in decision-making, he did this well overall. There were times when Lehrer’s worldview and religious (or irreligious) perspectives obscured his argument, and most of the time these seemed unnecessary to me; he could well have made these points without such references. And he also goes a bit too far in arguing the power of emotions in the decision-making process, without fully justifying the lengths he takes it. But overall Lehrer’s points are well-made and well-taken.

Southern BiscuitsSouthern Biscuits by Nathalie Dupree

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A great book on baking biscuits— which, for me, has always had a mystical and somewhat untouchable quality to it. These two authors paint a picture of biscuit-baking that is both inviting and approachable. The lengthy introductory material gives a great overview of what makes a good biscuit, what can cause them to be difficult to make, hints on getting started with success, and encouragement about the patience and commitment it will take to become a good biscuit-baker!

What follows, of course, is a host of tested and proven recipes for biscuits of all sorts, and for all levels of experience. I can’t wait to try my hand at some of these.

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I reviewed these three books earlier on the blog

God and FootballGod and Football by Chad Gibbs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fun, easy read that hit on an important topic and hit it well.

The inherent issue addressed by this book— stated clearly in the title, the tension between football fanaticism (especially in the Southeastern Conference, but in many other football conferences and many other sports as well) and the Christian faith— is an issue that I’ve recognized for years as a central struggle, or at least something that should be a central struggle, for Christians who are also sports fans. The problem is, how to address this without adopting a sanctimonious tone?

Chad Gibbs does a great job of that in this book. He is a self-confessed football fanatic, as well as a professing Christian, and the need for re-evaluation of this tension is entirely self-directed. The whole book chronicles his personal quest to find a proper balance of these things, and is held forth as one man’s story rather than a prescriptive pattern. Along the way, Gibbs encounters many others who share his struggle, and some are more helpful than others in working out a more balanced view— but none of them are presented in a judgmental light. Indeed, Gibbs is quick to acknowledge where some of those, whose circumstances would be significantly greater struggles for him, have found a way to handle it in a manner that he’s not sure he would have the capacity for.

I really like Gibbs’s writing style; he is witty and sometimes ironic, usually in a self-effacing way, and he is honest and vulnerable in his delivery. This book makes me eager to read more of his work.

I am torn in rating the book, because on the one hand I wanted more application, more prescription to emerge from this journey that the reader accompanies Gibbs upon; while on the other hand I wrestle with whether more prescriptive application would be either possible or appropriate. In the end, I suspect that anyone reading the book will find sufficient personal relevance to see themselves within its pages without the need for overt prescription. It is close, but somehow not quite there, in deserving a fifth star.

View all my reviews

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