Archives For *Brief Reviews*


Comfort to the Wounded

A Review of

Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better
Brant Hansen   

Paperback: W Publishing Group, 2015
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Reviewed by Katherine Hiegel

There’s no such thing as righteous anger, according to Brent Hansen.

Really? Was this, I wondered, another trite “feel-good-because-love-wins” book? I’ll admit it: I started out skeptical. As a matter of fact, I found myself feeling a little indignant by Unoffendable’s entire premise. I recognized the irony of that, so I decided to go into the book with an open (albeit discerning) mind. And my findings were surprising.

Ultimately, Hansen builds a plausible and compelling case by using Scripture and, especially, the example of Jesus as his guides.

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A People in Exile?

A Review of 

The Church in Exile: Live in Hope after Christendom
Lee Beach

Paperback: IVP Books, 2015
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Reviewed by Ben Simpson



The 2015 season of HBO’s Hard Knocks featured the NFL’s Houston Texans. During an episode, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, a man of enormous size, strolled into the Texans’ locker room wearing only a pair of cutoff overalls, boots, and a cowboy hat. His teammates noticed, and laughed. Why? Wilfork’s appearance was remarkable, garnering immediate attention. Wilfork’s message, “Make sure we compete today. It’s all about competing.”


The claim that the church of today is in exile, particularly in the North American context, has an effect like Wilfork’s choice of wardrobe. Lee Beach has made just such a claim. The Church in Exile: Living in Hope After Christendom (IVPAcademic, 2015) argues that those in North America now exist in a post-Christian world, and faithfulness to Christ must now take on a new shape. Beach is a member of the faculty at McMaster Divinity College, a pastor, and Canadian resident, offering lessons learned in his context which he believes will increasingly apply to those ministering in the United States.

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A Window into Baptist life

A Review of

Baptists in America: A History
Thomas Kidd and Barry Hankins

Hardback: Oxford UP, 2015
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Reviewed by Theron St. John

Geroge Santayana is credited with saying, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In other words, learning from history is not simply recollecting what has happened in the past; learning from history also gives consideration to the present and future. This pertains to not only American history or history of civilizations, but it involves church history, specifically Baptist history. Indeed Thomas S. Kidd and Barry Hankins have compiled such a work, Baptists in America: A History. They understand the importance of history for the church. In the book, they take the reader on a tour, sharing how Baptists were outsiders who became insiders to only become outsiders again. Their work on Baptist history in American can be summarized as extensive within the Baptist denomination and faithful to the events in the history of the denomination.

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The Source of all Genius
and all Music and all Poetry

Review of

The Small Books of Bach
David Wright

Paperback: Wipf and Stock, 2014
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Reviewed by Gina Dalfonzo


If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, perhaps the fear of Bach is the beginning of a true love and appreciation of music. The word “fear” may be even more appropriate here than in the original biblical context. I can’t speak for the professional musician, but the amateur musician like myself approaches Johann Sebastian Bach with a sense of awe bordering on—or rather, crossing the border into—profound intimidation.

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Allowing Grace to Move us Forward
A Review of 

Seeking Surrender: How My Friendship with a Trappist Monk Taught Me to Trust and Embrace Life
Colette Lafia

Paperback: Sorin Books, 2015
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Reviewed by Paul D. Gregory
Our lives are filled with numerous starts and stops, ups and downs and thrilling and devastating experiences. For most of us, the view from the summit is sublime and easy to negotiate. However, how do we handle the disappointment and loss that invariably arrive at our doorsteps? Some are able to quickly adept on their own, while others spend days, months and yes, sometimes years, learning how to survive the valleys. For many of us, the challenges life throws at us can be overwhelming, shattering our beliefs in friendships, family, as well as God.  Colette Lafia’s book entitled Seeking Surrender: How My Friendship with a Trappist Monk Taught Me to Trust and Embrace Life beautifully tackles these issues.
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Work and its Discontents

A Review of 

Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure
Nancy Nordenson

Paperback: Kalos Press, 2015
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Reviewed by David Clark
Nancy Nordenson’s most recent book, Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure, contains a collection of elegant lyric essays. Nordenson’s brooding but engaging meditations explore the character of faithful work through an exposition of numerous disquieting questions, questions that fail to admit to easy answers. Author and critic John Berger once compared the successful essay to an outstanding drawing. “The artist attempts to render what is before him by imagining what is behind, drawing what can’t be seen.” Finding Livelihood seeks to understand what is “behind” the human task of earning one’s daily bread.

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How to Live a Writer’s Life
A review of

On Being a Writer
Ann Kroeker and
Charity Singleton Craig

Paperback: TS Poetry Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Sarah Lyons
My writing desk at the moment is, unfortunately, nowhere to be found. Well, that might be slightly misleading since the desk itself hasn’t moved. But every possible surface is covered with something—piles of paper, photographs in frames, and pieces of clothing pushed to the side or draped over the chair.
I feel embarrassed because my room is actually in pretty good condition, organized in that constantly-unsettled young adult way. It’s just the desk that’s impossible to navigate. I don’t even know what’s on it anymore. And I’m embarrassed because that says my writing life is slowly getting choked out.

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TomOrrIn Love of Place

A Review of

Tongue to the Anvil: Poems
Thomas Alan Orr

Paperback: Restoration Press, 2014.

Reviewed by Sarah Lyons


If left on my own, I find that I tend to be very demanding when reading poems. I’ll read them in handfuls on a whim, but not carefully—it’s the casual, uncommitted kind of reading with eyes sweeping from one line break to the next without really ‘catching.’ I’ll skim. I’ll find myself in love with the idea of poetry, and yet not actually interested in the sometimes bare realities of it.

With this habit ingrained in the back of my soul, I brushed my hands over a few pages of Orr’s work. And I paused. And then I read the poems again.

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What Makes a Hero a Hero?
A Brief Review of

The Former Hero: A Novel
Jeffrey Allen Mays

Paperback: AEC Stellar Publishing, 2014
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Reviewed by Alicia Smock


Superheroes have become a big part of today’s pop culture. Not only do these supernatural beings wear the fun colorful garb and represent honor and justice like the heroes of the 20th century, but they are also developing deeper meaning. People everywhere — whether readers, viewers, gamers, etc. — are witnessing superheroes dealing with inner conflicts, not always being able to save the day, and even, sometimes, dying. But aren’t superheroes not supposed to fail? Aren’t they always supposed to fly in, beat the villain, and save the day? Jeffrey Allen Mays has taken this concept and has written a philosophical masterpiece that really makes readers think about what it means to be a true hero in his debut novel: The Former Hero.


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Poverty and Hunger
Beyond the Clichés

A Review of

Under the Sour Sun: Hunger Through The Eyes Of a Child
Elmer Hernán Rodríguez Campos

Paperback: Live Solidarity Media, 2015
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Reviewed by Tim Hoiland


I’m sure you know the line: “They have so little, but they’re so happy!” How many times have you heard a variation of that? How many times have you said it yourself?


The truth is, for those of us who live on more than $2 a day – that is, for everyone who reads the Englewood Review of Books – it is decidedly difficult to talk about poverty without the conversation quickly devolving into cliché.

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