More or Less: A Generous Orthopraxis

Review of More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff ShinabargerIs your closet overflowing? Do the contents of your storage area threaten to overwhelm anyone unwise enough to peek inside? Does your junk drawer need a junk drawer? If so, Jeff Shinabarger’s More or Less might be the book for you.Shinabarger is a man on a mission—a mission to find out just how much is ‘enough.’ Through a series of creative experiences, he and his family/friends/acquaintances explore t … [Read more...]

Swamplandia! Should Remain a Short Story

Review of Swamplandia! by Karen RussellAlthough Swamplandia! somehow stole one of the three finalist positions for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, the book lacks the strength to compete at that level. It is a simple exile-and-return story of a family.  The only element that might keep readers interested would be Karen Russell’s ingenuity in crafting fun sentences and a fantastical world where a child’s perspective and reality meld into one.Swamplandia! spins a tale about the Bigtree c … [Read more...]

Rambling Through a Classic Western

Review of Warlock by Oakley HallThe sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. (Deut. 28:23)For a Western, Warlock is a ridiculously complicated book. In one sense, it is a novelization of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and the Lincoln County War. In another sense, it is the story of Marshall Clay Blaisdell in his quest to keep law and order without becoming a criminal himself, as told through the eyes of the townspeople. In yet another sense, it is the story of the bl … [Read more...]

The Sense of an Ending: Meditations on Memory and Self-Deception

Review of The Sense of an Ending by Julian BarnesThe Sense of an Ending is a novella by Julian Barnes that explores the limits of memory and how memory affects defines us. Published in 2011, it won the Man Booker Prize in October of that year. Often, The Sense of an Ending reads more like a compilation of philosophical one-liners or paragraphs that make you sit there and ponder about abstractions, rather than a story. But Barnes’s craftsmanship lies in his ability to keep readers turning the … [Read more...]

How to Murder Sin

Review of The Mortification of Sin by John OwenThis is one of the most challenging books I have ever read. Every Christian would benefit from reading this book: no one would profit from skimming it. Read this book, but do so slowly. Turn the page only after the previous one has worked its way into your soul. You will otherwise gain only a superficial intellectual familiarity with Owen’s argument and callous your soul to the challenge and reward of God’s work in your life.The nature of tha … [Read more...]

Doctrine is for Living the Christian Life

Review of The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction by Sinclair FergusonSinclair Ferguson’s The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction, along with John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied, are my top two picks when recommending an introduction to systematic theology for folks without prior exposure to theology. I’ve read The Christian Life at least five times in the context of using it as a discipleship tool. The underlying argument is that theology is critical to living the Chris … [Read more...]

‘On the Road’ to Nowhere

Review of On the Road by Jack KerouacWhen I moved to D.C., some friends and I started a book club. Our goal was to work our way through the classics of English/American Literature and read the books that everyone else seemed to have read in high school or college. Books which, for some reason, had never actually wound up on the required reading lists for any of our classes. At the top of that list was Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957), which was supposed to be a classic and was included on se … [Read more...]

Chasing the Orgastic Future with Jay Gatsby

Review of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe first time I read The Great Gatsby, I was high on codeine—recovering from surgery—and had vivid hallucinatory dreams of the green light every night for a week. Almost twenty years later, the trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s forthcoming screen adaptation is making the rounds, and I see that Luhrmann was also on drugs while making the film. Somehow this seems appropriate.The Great Gatsby (1925) did not win the Pulitzer Prize or any other presti … [Read more...]

The Romance of the Noble Savage: The Deerslayer

Review of The Deerslayer by James Fenimore CooperFive white people are holed up in a floating cabin in the middle of a lake and surrounded on all sides by woods infested with hostile Huron Indians bent on murder, rape, and pillage. A tense game of cat and mouse ensues as intricate as chess: maneuvering for advantage, night raids on campsites, kidnappings, negotiations, ransom, and, yes, scalping.This is The Deerslayer (1841), a classic of 19th Century American literature. Despite its … [Read more...]

Lots of Stupid Christians

Review of The Democratization of American Christianity by Nathan O. HatchFor as long as I can remember, I’ve been addicted to the bandwagon. Consequently, here is my contribution to the ongoing Schaeffer’s Ghost discussion of the intellectual state of modern Christianity. If you’ve missed it, Paul Miller started with a post discussing why Christians are stupid. He then followed up with a follow-up (appropriately enough) about how Christians have gotten smarter. Most recently the discussion ha … [Read more...]