Saturday, July 29, 2017

July Reading List

I have three books this month I really enjoyed and two for which I have very mixed feelings, but mostly I didn't like.  Both of those were by the same author.

The first book I really enjoyed was Mountain Top by Robert Whitlow.  So I had apparently read this book before, back in 2007. Usually once I get a ways into a book I start to remember it if I've read it before, but I didn't remember this one at all. I really enjoyed it, though. Robert Whitlow writes about the law scene, but he also has a lot of the supernatural in his books. In this particular book, a pastor who had formerly been a lawyer and who still has his license, takes on the case of an older man who dreams dreams that have meaning. Taking on this case pro bono results in trouble at his church, but becomes a life-changing experience for both him and his wife. It is really a story of renewal and revival.

The second book (and third, but I didn't finish the third one) was The Color Purple and The Temple of My Familiar both by Alice Walker.  is one of those books I've heard a lot about, so when I saw it free on Kindle I decided now was my chance to read it. So, I'm going to go against the flow here and say that I don't understand all the accolades this book gets. On the one hand, Alice Walker is a good writer and she definitely tells a story that needs to be told, a story of abuse and of anger. However, there was so much about the book I was uncomfortable with: too many sex scenes, approval of homosexuality (though you could see how Celie would be uncomfortable in relationships with men), and sleeping around. Those things I could actually understand as a real picture and a story that needs to be told. But the whole pantheistic view of God .... enjoying the color purple in nature is god, etc. I think many reviews I've read point out how Celie found God; but I think you'd have to say she found a god. So, if you read this, be touched by the story, but please don't let it inform your theology! I also tried to read The Temple of My Familiar, but I COULD NOT get into it at all. I almost never don't finish a book, but three chapters in and I was done. I just gave up on it.

The third book was Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace by Jan Johnson.  The Songhai people have a proverb that says, "One foot can't follow two paths". This is the theme in Jan Johnson's book, Abundant Simplicity. She encourages us as believers to have a "single eye". What is my focus in life, my goal, my aim? If that aim is to live a life that is glorifying to God and treasuring a relationship with Him, then we need to live simply so we don't focus on all the stuff we have, on all the junk we need to take care of, on all the ways we are trying to impress or to please others. Though Mrs. Johnson gives suggestions of ways to live simply at the end of each chapter, she also says that how you choose to live simply will differ from how others live simply and will differ at different times of your life. For example, simplicity may involve having only one car. But if only one car means hours of inconvenience for somebody in your family, then maybe having two cars will actually contribute to simplicity. Mrs. Johnson gives a lot to think about and my big take-away from the book was learning to ask myself three questions: What do I want? What do I REALLY want? What am I longing for?  I highly recommend this book, but I'll be the first to say that you need to already be at a certain point emotionally where you are ready to give up clutter, confusion, and chaos. If you thrive on those things, maybe this book isn't for you. 

The other book by Alice Walker I read was Possessing the Secret of JoyPossessing the Secret of Joy came bundled with The Color Purple and The Temple of My Familiar, but I am treating this as a separate review. Again, Alice Walker tells a story that needs to be told: that of female genital mutilation. However, the way the story was told was not appealing to me, mainly because the author was all over the place. Each chapter was told by a different character, which was fine, but I could not figure out where they were or what was happening. The story didn't seem to follow a logical progression. In the end it finally made sense, but it was hard getting there! Ms Walker's pantheistic theology is again seen in this book: "Was woman herself not the tree of life? And was she not crucified? Not in some age no one even remembers, but right now, daily, in many lands on earth?" "Religion is an elaborate excuse for what man has done to women and to the earth." If you want to learn more about FGM, go ahead and read this. Otherwise, I don't really recommend it. (By the way, FGM is practised among some groups in Niger, but not among the Songhai.) Ironically, this book left me depressed, not possessing joy!  In fact, I'm not sure who in this book ever possessed joy.

The final book was Saving Grace. I enjoyed this book. I think it was a bit long and wordy in places and could have been tightened up, but for a first novel published when the author was only 22, I think overall it's outstanding. I'm looking forward to reading more books written by Ms Phillips and I am hopeful that her writing style will get better and better. The story itself was good, but it did take until past the middle of the book for the plot to get to the point where you couldn't put the book down. I do recommend this book! 

Happy reading!


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