7 Mini Book Reviews

Books I’ve read since moving to Georgia, between unpacking, painting and such.


My Losing Season, by Pat Conroy

Conroy is probably my favorite writer. Reading him puts me in a bubble. I’m understood. This may say bad things about me, since he writes about dysfunctional families. But he has a rare ability to articulate thoughts and emotions that merely lurk around in my subconscious. This book is a memoir of his senior season at the Citadel and while it’s driven by his experiences on the court, it’s really about finding an identity and learning to be who he has become as a writer.

Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, by Ross Douthat

A meticulously argued examination of the American church’s recent poor relationship with culture. Douthat argues that the current spiritual crisis in our country is not a crisis of unbelief but of bad belief – the heresy of half truth. He puts most church positions into two camps: Accommodation, or those who continually attempt to reshape their theology to match changing cultural trends, and Resistance, or those who attempt to hold to an unchanging faith.

A conservative Catholic, Douthat targets a variety of beliefs including prosperity and social gospels in an effort to exhort the church to return to orthodoxy (literally, “right belief.”) The book is fascinating throughout but at its best when recounting the church’s relationship to culture.

The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe, by Elizabeth Eisenstein

I have yet to finish this fascinating, abridged and more accessible version of Eisenstein’s tome on the press as a change agent. The advent of the printing press is the plumb line by which I base my theories on changing communication systems and the advent of the digital age. I recently outlined a book on the future of the church in the digital era, but writing it will come after I finish writing my current book and do much more research, including completing Eisenstein and (finally) reading Shane Hipps.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell

I’ve loved standing in the bookstore and reading Gladwell excerpts, so I finally bought one. Bummer – I got bored quickly. Only made it through the first two chapters, and felt like I’d absorbed the whole thing. Apparently a bunch of reviewers felt the same way.

A Syllable of Water: Twenty Writers of Faith Reflect on their Art, by Emilie Griffin, ed.

If you’ve ever read Madeleine L’Engle, and you enjoy the art of writing, whether you practice or not, you’ll enjoy this collection of essays on the writing process. It’s a Christian book without being a “Christian book.”

Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose, by Constance Hale

A pithy review of writing technique with some great examples, it’s a good refresher with some nice tips for improving my craft.

The Short Stories, Ernest Hemingway

I like to keep a variety of books going, including trade non-fiction, contemporary fiction, and classics. I previously read most of this book, which I picked up at the Hemingway Museum in Key West, Florida, in 1997. But it’s good to return to the master of the subtext. Many writers lose me in flourishes, which are self-indulgent or at best dismissive of the reader. I love language but believe choice is more powerful than volume.

Books in my queue line, waiting to be read:

Light in August, by William Faulkner. Conroy loves Faulkner. I embarrassingly haven’t read any. This one is on Modern Library’s list of the best novels of the 20th century and is next on my list.

11/22/63, by Stephen King. Haven’t read a King book in probably 25 years, so we’ll see.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand. In 2010, my worship team and I invited author Ron Hall to speak on his bestseller Same Kind of Different As Me. I’m in a different church now, but we’re doing the same thing again, this time with 95-year old Louis Zamperini, the subject of this book and an upcoming feature film from Universal.

A Visit From the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan. Won a bunch of awards in 2010. I keep pushing it back down the queue line.

The Corrections, by Jontahan Franzen. I loved his second book, Freedom, but haven’t had the bandwidth to pick this up yet.