7 Short Book Reviews

Read by request:

I have to credit Eugene Peterson for his persuasive endorsement. It propelled this book into a national bestseller.  I don’t, however, share his evaluation.
The Shack tells an emotional tale of a family hit by tragedy and the road to healing afterwards.  Many readers connect with the emotion at a deep level. That makes it dicey to criticize the book.  The problem with the book is its theology.  It is outside orthodoxy.  Here is a review worth reading.

If I wasn’t a Christian I would love Three Cups of Tea.  What Greg Mortenson accomplished in establishing dozens of schools in Pakistan is truly remarkable.  As a Christian, however, I cannot swallow the pluralism and pragmatism (and I realize that I’m not representing all Christians in this statement). 

Mortenson sings “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” one night while he fights to stay alive; later he kneels and prays to Allah.  I think he would do anything to help the poor including praying to any god(s). He is a secular savior.  A friend remarked, “It’s just a great story – it’s not a spiritual journey.”  But isn’t all of life a spiritual journey? 

World War I reading:

Each title in this series is a phrase from a WWI poem. The storyline follows an English family of four grown siblings: a mum/housewife, a chaplain, a spy, and a young woman who drives an ambulance in France.  Perry, a convicted murderer at age 15 who later became LDS, doesn’t shy from hard questions.  Where is God in all of this?  What am I capable of doing?  How do we go on?  I don’t think Perry is up to P.D. James as a mystery writer, but the books engaged my interest.

Not an easy book to process, All Quiet on the Western Front is valuable as a first person account of a German soldier.   It is hard not to become numbed by the horror in the trenches, in the hospitals, and back at home.  I’m glad I didn’t read it in high school.  I don’t think I had the maturity to handle it then.

As I was reading about WWI, I often wondered what the trenches look like today.  Stephen O’Shea, author of Back to the Front: An Accidental Historian Walks the Trenches of WWI made a walking tour of the 500 mile Western Front.  I found this opinionated travelogue and macro history an absorbing read.  O’Shea used a term new to me — war p*rn — to describe displays of  photographs of atrocities.  Quote: “Munitions are this region’s marble, a mineral resource that is available in limitless quantities.”  Word Bird find: Artesian = from Artois    

Easily the best book in today’s post, The Zimmerman Telegram displays Barbara Tuchman’s great skill as a historian and writer.  This book answers the question, Why did Woodrow Wilson lead the United States into WWI?  I never knew Pancho Villa was bankrolled by the German government.  This intrigue of diplomacy, spying, code-breaking, and politics reads better than any spy novel or thriller I’ve ever read.  Highly recommended.

Albert Marrin is an author I hold in high respect.  The Yanks Are Coming makes a great text book for studying the role of the United States in World War I.  The many pictures, maps and other illustrations are excellent complements to the prose.  The limited scope of the book doesn’t tell the whole story of WWI so I wouldn’t recommend it as the only source of info on The Great War.  My son and I both enjoyed reading it. Highly recommended.




8 thoughts on “7 Short Book Reviews

  1. Thank you thank you thank you for being a woman of discernment, especially in regards the The Shack. I am sick to death of people swallowing whole this stuff for the emotion of it. I know of Christian College profs who have suckered for this book. I love you Carol!!!!!! hugs big time in sc. The second book was actually recommended to me by a non-Christian friend. Thank you for keeping me from wasting my time with that one as well.

  2. You are not alone in disliking The Shack. My Dad hated it :My summary criticism of the Shack is that the author apparently thinks that Christ came to take away our pain rather than to deal with our sin to make us presentable to God. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away (not our pain) but our sin”.http://www.donholmes.blogspot.com/

  3. Carol-I haven’t read The Shack, but have followed the media blitz about it, and have read what seem to be discerning reviews. Tim Challies’ review especially was very in-depth, and he came to the same conclusion that you did. What has bothered me the most is that whenever I bring up my concerns about the book, the responses I hear are along the lines of “But if it makes someone “feel” closer to Jesus, what’s wrong with it?” This seems to be one more step in a long pattern of “feeling-based evangelicalism” – and it drives me crazy! I’ve seen the book at so many friends’ houses, and it makes me cringe every time, but I’m tired of saying something and then getting branded as a “legalist” or someone “not open to the work of the Holy Spirit.” Sigh.My sister has been talking about the Perry series for a while now – I’m going to have to pick them up.I’m listening to The Pacific and Other Stories right now – you were right, the reader is truly amazing!Carrie

  4. I like the way you’ve done this.  So often, I struggle to write a review of a book and I these mini-reviews is something I may try to do in the future.We’re supposed to be reading Three Cups of Tea for one of my book clubs.  I haven’t started it yet- but I think I may have similar issues that you have.I was hoping to suggest All’s Quiet… for another book club reading.  Some of these others look like they may be equally good.

  5. Hi Carol,  I felt the same about Three Cups of Tea.  But the book made me all that more enthused to support Classical School of the Medes and know more about what God is doing through those schools in Iraq.  Sherry

  6. Having read the first 40 pages at your house while i was there, I can also recommend the last book. I’d have finished it if I hadn’t run out of time!I haven’t read The Shack yet but plan to, so will withhold my judgments. I’ve heard both sides of the argument, so am well informed, anyway.

  7. when all around me reads a specific book i hesitate to read it … i hesitate to read the shack… i have the same hesitation with many of today’s Christian novels…i prefer icing on cake.

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