Archive for the ‘ Book Reviews ’ Category

Book Recommendation: The Shack

On my main website, I have annotated lists of recommended books (check those out if you haven’t yet). Every so often, I like to use this blog to let you know what’s worth reading.

William P. Young’s The Shack has been out now for over a year. I had heard of it previously, knew it was a bestseller, but also that some people considered it controversial. Busy as I am, and needing to read other books for courses, etc., I didn’t rush to buy it. This past week, I finally made that decision. It was a good decision.

The writing is top-rate. The opening chapters, which tell of a terrible family tragedy, grip you from the start. Then a note comes from God (hang with me here) inviting Mack Philips, who has lost his youngest daughter to a murderer, to return to the scene of the murder.

Once he does, the whole tenor of the book changes. Young leads us from the details of everyday life into a world where spiritual realities overwhelm the senses. Along the way, Mack argues with God (portrayed quite creatively by the author), has to learn what forgiveness and relationship are all about, and emerges a transformed person. This is not formulaic. It is designed to make you think. You may disagree with some of his doctrinal points or his portrayals, but any disagreements I had are merely quibbles in comparison with the truths that come alive in his pages. Any book that stirs within the reader the desire to see God face-to-face has a lot to commend it.

Character, plot, style—they all come together here realistically (even in the fantasy-like portions) and persuasively. If a book points people to the essence of the Christian faith, and does so in a manner that makes one think anew about the nature of the God-man relationship, it is worth your time to read.

The Forgotten Man: A Recommendation

Every so often I like to recommend a book. I’m about halfway through The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression by Amity Shlaes. Although I haven’t yet completed it, based on what I have read up to now, and on the numerous positive reviews of the book, I am confident I can recommend it without concerns that I will have to retract that recommendation by the time I have finished it.

Some of you, I know, may be reluctant to tackle a book dealing with the Depression. All that economics, all that . . . well . . . depressing stuff! Shlaes, though, manages to cover all the “stuff” in a most interesting way by focusing on people.

She carries forward the stories of a number of individuals—both those who worked for the New Deal and those who suffered from it—so that you don’t feel as if you are bogged down in an economic treatise. In effect, she personalizes what some authors have turned into impersonal events. She tells a good story. History should be a story about people who are affected by the times they live in.

Her storyline is that the New Deal did not accomplish what its defenders claim it did—it most assuredly did not bring the nation out of the Great Depression. The old liberal mantra that FDR ended the Depression has been under siege for quite some time, and deservedly so. Recently, President Obama commented [and I’m paraphrasing here because I cannot find his exact words] that there is no debate on the effectiveness of the New Deal, indicating that he believes it was a success. If he truly believes there is no debate, he is woefully uninformed.

The Forgotten Man makes it clear that the debate is real, and that the weight of the evidence is against the liberal interpretation. Some of you, before buying the book, may want to read a few reviews. Here is one that is quite good. I encourage you to peruse it and check out others. I trust you will be convinced that this is a worthwhile read.

Lincoln Book Recommendation

Whenever I read a good book, I’d like to pass on a positive review. Last week, I commented on Lincoln, as his 200th birthday was upon us. I am presently reading Harold Holzer’s new Lincoln book (Holzer is a LIncoln scholar and a fine writer), Lincoln, President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter, 1860-1861. It is fascinating.

What did Lincoln go through, what did he have to deal with, as he awaited his succession to the presidency? From November 1860 until his inauguration in March 1861, he was virtually powerless to make policy or to stop the secessions of Southern states. Holzer’s book takes you into Lincoln’s mind and details his activities during this crucial period in American history. What’s more, the writing makes you feel as if you are reading a novel. Even though I know the outcome, I find myself eager to know what is going to happen next.

So, even if you are not a Lincoln admirer (which is really a sad situation), I heartily recommend that you read this book. It will be difficult to find a tyrant in the newly elected president as he prepares to shoulder the burden of a nation coming apart at the seams.