Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

Gareth HigginsDreaming Freely about a Better World

A Feature Review of

Cinematic States: Stories We Tell, the American Dreamlife, and How to Understand Everything*

*(Mostly. But Not Really. But Sort Of.)

Gareth Higgins


Paperback: Burnside Books, 2013.
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Reviewed by Brett David Potter

 

Film is oneiric. When we all sit together in a darkened room, fixated on the flickering shadows dancing on the luminous silver screen, we engage in a kind of collective dreaming. As film theorists have pointed out, it’s Plato’s cave without anyone standing up to interrupt the show.

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Mikhail ShishkinOver the Depths of the Sea

 

A Review of

The Light and the Dark: A Novel
Mikhail Shishkin

Hardback: Quercus Books, 2014
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Reviewed by Meghan Florian

 

Those readers who appreciate the great Russian novelists of the past cannot, I would argue, deny that these author’s works are often a vast undertaking. In length, number of characters, variations of names, depth of thought, and reflection on the human condition as the writer understands it — authors such as Fyodor Dostoevsky ask a great deal of their readers (just as they did of themselves as writers, it seems to me). Those who are willing to sit with such works, to read slowly and ponder the narrative long after they’ve gone cover to cover with the book itself, can never quite be sure what they’ll find.

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Philip YanceyGod is on the Side of the Sufferer

A Feature Review of

The Question that Never Goes Away

Philip Yancey

Hardback: Zondervan, 2014
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Reviewed by Julie Lane-Gay.
 
It only takes a glance at the New York Times to remind us that tragedies happen frequently.  Even on days without plane crashes and bus station bombings, we see accounts of children killed in war and actor’s suicides.  Some of us find ourselves asking God almost daily, “Why did you let this happen?”
 
Philip Yancey’s slim new volume, The Question that Never Goes Away, is his answer, written after spending countless hours alongside those directly affected by Japan’s 2011 earthquake, the Civil war in the Balkans and Connecticut’s Sandy Hook School Massacre. If ever there were people to speak credibly about the “Why?” questions, and a scrupulously truthful writer to record their answers, these are they.

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Kimberly K. SmithAn Unexpected Hybrid: The Environmental Agrarianism of Wendell Berry

A Review of

Wendell Berry and the Agrarian Tradition: A Common Grace

Kimberly K. Smith

Paperback: UPress of Kansas, 2003
Newly Released in Paperback!
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Reviewed by Sam F. Chamelin

 

With the establishment of every new farmer’s market and urban rooftop garden, the marriage of agrarianism and environmentalism becomes more an assumption than experiment.  In a different era, concerns about issues such as GMO’s and topsoil erosion would be considered divergent and unrelated subjects.  Increasingly, we see these topics related to one another in critical ways, and there is a deep hunger for communal living in an intentional place. Much of the enthusiasm for these movements can be attributed to the inimitable pen of Wendell Berry.  In Wendell Berry and the Agrarian Tradition:  A Common Grace, Kimberly K. Smith offers us a thoughtful roadmap to Wendell Berry’s environmental agrarianism.  If, in the 21st century, we assume an easy combination of these divergent DNA strands, it is because of Berry, as Smith notes, “If Berry’s ecological agrarianism doesn’t look particularly innovative to us, it is because he makes the marriage of agrarian and environmental though seem so natural that we assume agrarianism always implied ecological sensitivity – or that ecological sensitivity always implied support for family farming.”

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Jamie JanoszGlue that Holds Us Together

A Review of

When Others Shuddered: Eight Women Who Refused to Give Up.
Jamie Janosz

Paperback: Moody, 2014.
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Reviewed by Mark Eckel

This review originally appeared on the reviewer’s website, and is reprinted here with permission.

They prayed with prostitutes.  They confronted gangsters.  They entered tawdry saloons. In each place, with each person, they sang, preached, celebrated, and applied scripture.  From the first page, I—a man—wanted to be like these women.  But as Jamie says, they were “ordinary,” folks just like me and you.  Jamie’s real interest is not simply to tell you their story, but to live their story.  Jamie Janosz has given us this, her storied thesis, in her good work When Others Shuddered: Eight Women who Refused to Give Up (Moody, 2014).

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Chang-rae LeeA Dystopia… Or Not?

A Feature Review of

On Such a Full Sea: A Novel

Chang-rae Lee

Hardback: Riverhead, 2014
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Reviewed by Philip Zoutendam

Dystopian. That’s what got me to the bookstore for this novel. Good novel, very good novel, even excellent novel, and I can wait for second-hand or maybe even a library copy. But a dystopian novel—some future world falling apart for being too tightly held together—will get hardcover price from me. (Which is why I have a hardcover box set of The Hunger Games, though I couldn’t bear to finish them.)

 

A curious thing about this particular “dystopian novel”: there is no doubt, from the first chapter, that it is an excellent novel, but there is a lot of room to question whether it actually is a dystopian one.

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Monette ChilsonIs Yoga an Acceptable Christian Spiritual Practice?

A Review of

Sophia Rising: Awakening Your Sacred Wisdom Through Yoga

Monette Chilson

Paperback: Bright Sky Press, 2013
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 Reviewed by Christine Sine

This review originally appeared on the reviewer’s blog. We reprint it here with permission.

 

Is yoga an acceptable Christian spiritual practice? That is one of the questions that will arise for many of us as we read Monette Chilson’s new book Sophia Rising: Awakening Your Sacred Wisdom Through Yoga.

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Kenneth PetersonA Love Story at Day’s End

A Review of

Prayer as Night Falls: Experiencing Compline
Kenneth Peterson

Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2013
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Reviewed by Scott E. Schul

 

Author Kenneth Peterson has an eclectic biography: music teacher, software engineer, early music enthusiast and Benedictine oblate. Perhaps not surprisingly then, his book Prayer as Night Falls: Experiencing Compline is similarly eclectic. One might appropriately categorize it as equal parts history, memoir, travelogue, theology, and music theory.

 

But at its core, Prayer as Night Falls is a love story – one which slowly builds and evolves throughout Peterson’s life and that builds his faith, binds him to God and connects him to a remarkable “cloud of witnesses” within the Compline Choir in which Peterson regularly sings.

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Susan VanZantenA Call to Christian Cosmopolitanism

A Feature Review of

Reading a Different Story: A Christian Scholar’s Journey from America to Africa

Susan VanZanten

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2013
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Reviewed by Tim Høiland

 

There has been much talk in recent decades about the shift in the center of gravity in global Christianity from the west and the north to the south and the east, and books like The Next Christendom by Baylor historian Philip Jenkins have brought the conversation to a popular level. Indeed, the numbers are indisputable. While churches in much of Europe and North America have seen declining and stagnating attendance levels, respectively, the pattern does not hold elsewhere in the world. Rather, throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America there has been a remarkable degree of Christian dynamism and numerical growth, especially in Pentecostal and charismatic churches.

 
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Robert CollsA Window on the Truth

A Feature Review of

George Orwell: English Rebel

Robert Colls

Hardback: Oxford UP, 2013
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Reviewed by Taylor Brorby
 
George Orwell was nothing if not contradictory. As Robert Colls points out in his latest book, George Orwell: English Rebel, Orwell “was what they used to call a ‘Socialist’. He shared also some attitudes to life that used to be called ‘Tory’.” But, as Colls highlights, Orwell’s contrariness goes even deeper—he was a privately educated (scholarship-funded) student who chose to decline attending Cambridge; he joined the Imperial Police, going to Burma, though he disdained British imperialism; he was thoroughly British, though he swore no allegiance to his homeland. Orwell, in many ways, was the precursor to another of Britain’s more famous sons, Christopher Hitchens.
 
Colls’s book deftly illustrates a rather conflicted man: Orwell left no major body of work, though his works play a large part in literature and political science classes, and, as a result, leave him without classification—is Orwell a satirist? Polemic? Allegorist? Essayist? Novelist? Since Orwell lived in no narrow genre, his mind lives largely in many areas of scholarship.
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