book review! what’s your worldview?

If you decide to stay with the raft and see if anyone notices your signal fire, turn to page 19.

If you decide to leave the supplies and explore the jungle with the captain, turn to page 34.

Look familiar?

If so, you probably read Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books like I did!  The stories were quite often off-the-wall, but it didn’t matter, did it?  They were just fun!  They didn’t have to be perfect literary gems to be completely engaging.

The book I’m reviewing, What’s Your Worldview? is written just like a CYOA book.  Only in this case, the consequences of wrong decisions are linked to eternity.

The premise: The author, James Anderson, presents a series of questions, each followed up by a page or so of explanation to make sure the question is really understood.  After making a decision (e.g. “I believe there is objective truth” or “I believe there is no objective truth”) the reader turns to a certain page — either another question, or a description of what his or her worldview probably is.  Although the author does have a distinct worldview (just as everybody does) he writes from a fairly neutral point of view.

My perspective: I loved the simplicity and ingenuity of this book.  It also really allowed me to understand other worldviews in a deeper way.  It’s one thing to learn about them, it’s another to read a book as if it is addressed to you, the holder of the worldview, and be enlightened about the positives and negatives of said worldview.  It was a fun, fast read that only took me one evening to test almost all of the different possible paths.

Just like CYOA books were sometimes more fun than high-quality, this one has some flaws despite brilliantly conceived.  The writing style was a bit too casual for me.  It read more like one of my blog posts than a theological exploration.  Which is fine..if you like books that sound like my blog posts.  My second disappointment was that Anderson didn’t really leave me feeling happy with any worldview.  My worldview is already firmly in place, but if it hadn’t been, I would have walked away from the book thinking, Well, I guess none of these choices work all that well.  He brought up huge negatives for all of them.  I understand that he didn’t want to be so dogmatic as to alienate casual readers, and he had a tough call to make in how he approached his own worldview.

My recommendation: I don’t personally think this book is well suited for evangelistic attempts.  I would never hand this book to a non-Christian and expect them to be persuaded towards Christianity.  I would recommend this book for middle, high school, and college aged young people who maybe were raised in a Christian environment but aren’t entirely sure of what they believe.  I also feel this would be a great resource for anyone who ministers to younger people, as it gives a very concise overview of popular beliefs, written in a modern, easy-to-read way.

What was your favorite CYOA book?

book review! the hiding place

I can think of no earthly reason why I haven’t read The Hiding Place sooner.  For years, I’ve heard snippets of the story, walked past the book as I peruse the biography section of my local library — I’ve even checked it out once or twice, only to leave it unread.  Why?!

Maybe I thought that the bits and pieces of the story I knew were just about all there was to Corrie Ten Boom’s life. Whatever the reason for my hesitation was, I finally read The Hiding Place last month and I was overwhelmed by the beauty of Corrie’s faith and the honesty with which she addressed her own struggles.

The premise: I would divide Corrie’s story into three parts.  In the first part, she describes her life in Haarlem, Holland, in the early 1900s.  Though far from idyllic, she describes a happy and peaceful home where she will stay for nearly her whole life.  Corrie is already an older adult when World War II breaks out and the second passage of her life begins.  She becomes a worker in the Dutch Underground and shelters Jews who are in danger from the invading Nazis.  Finally, in the third part of her story, she is imprisoned for her “crimes” where she suffers…and finds continuous evidence of God’s merciful hand on her life.  There are no boring parts in this story.  There are no pages of preface that can be skipped.  Corrie and her co-authors have insightfully woven her story into a big-picture view of life where everything is significant.

My perspective: Corrie Ten Boom was an amazingly strong, faithful woman, and I was challenged by her godly example.  However, Corrie was also very human, and she is commendably honest about her feelings of doubt, fear, unforgiveness, anger, and so forth.  She manages to address both her faith and her fear without lapsing into preachiness, and The Hiding Place is just as engaging and interesting as it is beneficial.  I stayed up into the morning hours reading several times, desperate to know what happened next.

My recommendation: I would recommend this book almost without reserve.  Christians and non-Christians alike have been inspired and engaged by the story.  Whether one is a lover of history and biography or not doesn’t matter — this is an easy, fast-paced read.  My one caution would be for younger readers.  Although Corrie is never gratuitous with her description of the horrors that take place during her imprisonment, the realities are still very harsh.  I think this book would be appropriate for most children 12 and up; younger children and children who are particularly sensitive might benefit from reading it with a parent’s guidance.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Don’t miss out on this book like I did for so long!

What is your favorite anecdote about Corrie Ten Boom?

book review! twelve unlikely heroes

I love people.

I love reading about people, too.  My favorite nonfiction books as a child were always, always biographies.  Now I find that biographies are more than just interesting.  What better way to learn about life than to read about how people live?  That’s why I chose to read Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur.

The premise: John MacArthur describes and discusses the lives of twelve Bible heroes whose lives at some point seem to be heading in a direction that is anything but heroic.  The heroes are Enoch, Joseph, Miriam, Gideon and Samson (addressed in the same chapter as a kind of juxtaposition), Jonathan, Jonah, Esther, John the Baptist, James, and Mark and Onesimus (addressed in the same chapter because of common themes).

My perspective: The balance of informational text and personal application/discussion is great.  Pastor MacArthur is clearly knowledgeable about Bible history and does a great job selecting the most relevant and interesting facts to discuss.  I really loved everything about the book except for one thing: the writing style.  For some reason, I found it very difficult to get through.  I can’t explain it, since, as I said, the balance of the text was great and the material was totally engaging.  I would leave this issue to personal preference.

My recommendation: Something I really appreciate about this book is that it could be read both by a seasoned Christian and by someone relatively new to the faith.  The text never assumed that the reader had a lot of background knowledge, but it also was willing to dig deep into factors most people have never heard of.  My only drawback with this book was the writing style, and that’s completely a personal opinion.  It’s a great read that is both amazingly educational and inspirational.

Twelve Unlikely Heroes, available from Christian Book Distributors.

My favorite chapter was on Joseph — probably because he’s my favorite Bible hero!

Who’s your favorite Bible hero?

book review! the screwtape letters

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to read an “improving” book every month this year.  By “improving”, I mean a book that will help me to grow in my walk with God in some way.  Some of the books I plan to read are biographies of respect Christians, others are theological books.  This month I read The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis.

Even though my blog title comes from a C. S. Lewis quote, I’ve only read The Magician’s Nephew, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and now The Screwtape Letters.  I honestly wasn’t sure whether or not I would like Screwtape.  Well, I did, and here’s why.

The premise: The book is a satirical set of “letters” from a demon (Screwtape) to his nephew, a recently graduated demon.  Screwtape counsels his nephew in the strategies of how to prevent his subject from converting to Christianity — as well as how to deal with a converted Christian.  Ultimately, the letters delineate the pitfalls of proclaiming Christians, the temptations of life, and thoughtful perspectives about how evil works in the world.

My perspective: The Screwtape Letters was a fairly easy read, which made it both enjoyable and a great vehicle of information and ideas.  I felt convicted, enlightened, and challenged.  I don’t know that there were any ground-breaking theological thoughts, but the style of the writing made them come alive in a new way.

My recommendation: I would recommend this book highly to almost any reader.  My one caution would be that since this is a satire, it could be confusing for younger readers or new Christians.  (However, this was my first time reading a satire of this length and I found it fairly clear.)

The Screwtape Letters, available on Amazon.

Enjoy and be challenged by this great literary work!

What books, if any, written by C. S. Lewis have you read and enjoyed?