Archive for the ‘Nonfiction Review’ Category

Review of Eager to Love, by Richard Rohr

Friday, February 26th, 2021

Eager to Love

The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi

by Richard Rohr

Franciscan Media, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2014. 294 pages.
Review written January 27, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Ever since I read Richard Rohr’s book The Universal Christ, I’ve also been reading the daily meditations he sends out from the Center for Action and Contemplation. This book explains the Franciscan tradition and Christian mysticism. He looks closely at Francis of Assissi’s life and teachings as well as those that followed him – and focuses on what that can mean for Christians today.

It’s hard for me to describe this book, except to say it’s lovely and uplifting. I’m not sure I fully grasped all the implications. I’ll write out the very beginning, to give you some of the flavor:

Francis of Assisi was a master of making room for the new and letting go off that which was tired or empty. As his first biographer said, “He was always new, always fresh, always beginning again.” Much of Francis’s genius was that he was ready for absolute “newness” from God, and therefore could also trust fresh and new attitudes in himself. His God was not tired, and so he was never tired. His God was not old, so Francis remained forever young.

There are always new vocabularies, fresh symbols, new frames and styles, but Francis must have known, at least intuitively, that there is only one enduring spiritual insight and everything else follows from it: The visible world is an active doorway to the invisible world, and the invisible world is much larger than the visible. I would call this mystical insight “the mystery of incarnation,” or the essential union of the material and the spiritual worlds, or simply “Christ.”

Our outer world and its inner significance must come together for there to be any wholeness – and holiness. The result is both deep joy and a resounding sense of coherent beauty. What was personified in the body of Jesus was a manifestation of this one universal truth: Matter is, and has always been, the hiding place for Spirit, forever offering itself to be discovered anew. Perhaps this is exactly what Jesus means when he says, “I am the gate” (John 10:7). Francis and his female companion, Clare, carried this mystery to its full and lovely conclusions. Or, more rightly, they were fully carried by it. They somehow knew that the beyond was not really beyond, but in the depths of here.

In this book, I want to share with you one of the most attractive, appealing, and accessible of all frames and doorways to the divine. It is called the Franciscan way after the man who first exemplified it, Francesco de Bernardone, who lived in Assisi, Italy, from 1182-1226.

This isn’t a book of history, though it does tell the reader much about the teachings of Saint Francis and his followers. But the approach is talking about how we can incorporate these ideas into our own lives. It’s ultimately a challenging and uplifting book, and at some point I want to read it again and see if I can absorb more of it.

At its heart, this is a book about getting better at loving. Here’s a paragraph from a chapter specifically on Francis that shows where the title came from:

If your only goal is to love, there is no such thing as failure. Francis succeeded in living in this single-hearted way and thus turned all failure on its head, and even made failure into success. This intense eagerness to love made his whole life an astonishing victory for the human and divine spirit, and showed how they can work so beautifully together.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Bibliostyle, by Nina Freudenberger

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Bibliostyle

How We Live at Home with Books

by Nina Freudenberger
with Sadie Stein
photographs by Shade Degges

Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2019. 272 pages.
Review written November 28, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Here’s a book for book lovers to drool over, a book that makes me feel so much better about my book hoarding habits!

This is a coffee-table book with large, lavish photographs – of other people’s extravagant personal book collections. And between profiles of home libraries, there are interludes with photos of notable book stores.

This volume is written by an interior designer, so the focus does lean toward the look of the home libraries and how they fit into the design of the homes. But she also does talk with the owners and we hear about the types of books that they own and cherish.

The Introduction to this wonderful volume reveals that creating it was a labor of love. Here’s how that page ends:

In choosing our subjects, we were not merely interested in the beautiful and perfectly curated rooms, the most extensive collections, or those shelves filled only with rare first editions – although there’s plenty of beauty on display. This book is not about unattainable libraries, any more than it is about perfectly decorated homes. Rather, it’s about the power of books to tell stories, in both the literal and figurative sense. As we found repeatedly, surrounding yourself with books you love tells the story of your life, your interests, your passions, your values. Your past and your future. Books allow us to escape, and our personal libraries allow us to invent the story of ourselves – and the legacy that we will leave behind.

There’s a famous quote attributed to Cicero: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” If I suspected this before, I know it now. I hope you’ll find as much pleasure in discovering these worlds as we did.

There’s a wonderful international aspect to this book, with personal collections from places as far flung as Mexico City, Los Angeles, Paris, Lisbon, and Isle of Wight. The features are gathered into sections titled “The Sentimentalists,” “The Intuitives,” “The Arrangers,” “The Professionals,” and “The Collectors” – but what you have consistently are shelves and shelves of books woven into people’s homes and lives. Oh, for a built-in bookshelf like the ones found in these pages!

I began by reading this book slowly – looking at one personal library per day, but there were lots of holds and I had to turn it back in. So the next time it came to me, I was more purposeful about getting through it – but it was still a delight. I may have to purchase my own copy. And the next time I get someone to help me move, I could show them this book and say, “See, my book hoarding could be a lot worse!”

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Art of Bible Translation, by Robert Alter

Friday, February 19th, 2021

The Art of Bible Translation

by Robert Alter

Princeton University Press, 2019. 127 pages.
Review written February 9, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

This book will be fascinating to people who are interested in the Bible and people who are interested in language and literature. Written by a Hebrew scholar, this book tells me about aspects of the Old Testament in the original language that I had no idea were there, having only read English translations. It gave me a new appreciation for the artistry in the original and how the different types of texts – narrative, poetry, and prophecy, are different from one another.

In short, I didn’t realize how much of an art Bible translation is. This author gave me new appreciation for that.

In the introduction, he explains what brought him to Bible translation and finishes with this section:

Through all this, then, I have developed a sense that my translation, whatever its imperfections, has begun to serve a cultural need for English readers interested in the Bible. That in turn has given me confidence to seek to explain in these chapters why central aspects of literary style in the Hebrew Bible have to be addressed in English translation, within the limits imposed by the disparities between the two languages, and to attempt to make clear what is lost in the failure to address the enlivening and determinative role of style in the Bible. In the chapters that follow I will try to explain how syntax, word choice, rhythm, sound play, word play, and diction are artfully deployed in the Hebrew and why, whatever challenges all these aspects of style pose, they need somehow to be reflected in translation. All this may throw some light on what should be involved in translating the Bible, and perhaps it will also convey some sense of the literary artistry of the biblical writers. Although the impetus for this book was definitely an attempt to consider the challenges of translating the Bible and how they might be met, the topics discussed ended up involving both proposals about literary translation and a general overview of the principal features of style in the Bible. As I have noted, no such study really exists, and that in itself is a symptom of the problem that these chapters seek to address.

I have to admit – I had never before thought of the Bible as ancient literature. As he points out, modern translations work to make the meaning clear, but to do that, they work on sounding like something that could be written today. He points out literary devices used in the original language that make the Bible more beautiful as a piece of literary art written in ancient times.

For example, in the chapter on Dialogue, the author points out, “What is noteworthy is that the Bible provides a remarkable early precedent for novelistic dialogue.” Works of literature like the Iliad and the Odyssey had memorable speeches, but they aren’t about dialogue telling a story. Sometimes translators don’t even present the conversations as dialogue. He talks about aspects of the way language is used in dialogue that isn’t always reflected in translation.

Here’s how Robert Alter concludes his introductory chapter. It conveys his love for the topic and the way the task of translation is indeed an art form:

Hebrew prose narratives, as I hope these examples have suggested, manifest great subtlety and complexity in their literary shaping, and the same is abundantly true, in somewhat different ways, for biblical poetry. This artfulness, which cannot be separated from the religious meanings of the texts, sometimes can be conveyed effectively in English; sometimes an English solution can be found that to a degree intimates the stylistic strengths of the original, though imperfectly; and sometimes, alas, the translator must throw up his hands in despair because there seems no workable English equivalent for the stylistic effects of the Hebrew. In the chapters that follow; I will try to isolate five of the principal aspects of style in the Hebrew that I think a translator should aim somehow to reproduce in English. The aspiration may seem quixotic, but even a distant approximation of the literary art of the original is preferable to ignoring it altogether.

I consider myself a student of the Bible, but this whole book presented new ideas to me, and I thought it was fascinating. I immediately ordered myself a copy of Robert Alter’s translation of the book of Psalms, and will probably end up ordering the entire Old Testament. I’ll grant that there is a narrow audience for this book, but for those within that audience, like me, it’s completely fascinating.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Try Softer, by Aundi Kolber

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

Try Softer

A Fresh Approach to Move Us out of Anxiety, Stress, and Survival Mode – and into a Life of Connection and Joy

by Aundi Kolber, MA, LPC

Tyndale Momentum, 2020. 245 pages.
Review written September 21, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Standout:
#5 Christian Nonfiction

I love the idea behind the title of this book. Here’s the author’s explanation from the Introduction, when her therapist supervisor John asked her if she could try softer instead of trying harder:

I’ve got to be honest: At first blush, John’s suggestion didn’t sound like an awesome option – because what did it even mean? All I had ever learned was how to try harder. If I didn’t push, everything would be terrible; everything would fall apart. The suggestion that there could be another way made my body feel tense with anger, a reflection of my twelve-year-old self – a girl riddled with the toxic stress of trying to keep everything together while her home life was constantly imploding. Sure, John, “trying softer” sounds nice, but trying harder is how you survive.

At the same time, I had to face the facts: Trying harder wasn’t really working for me anymore. The strategies I had been using my entire life – hustling, overworking, overthinking, and constantly shifting to accommodate the dysfunction that surrounded me – they had kept me alive, yes, but now they were taking their toll. I felt less in control, not more; worse, not better; weary, not wise. The danger from my past was gone, but the patterns remained – and they were keeping me from being able to be truly present and pay attention to what matters most.

The day that I sat with John in his office totally changed the trajectory of my life because John was right: Pushing isn’t always the answer.

Dear reader, there are truly times when the best, healthiest, most productive thing we can do is not to try harder, but rather to try softer; to compassionately listen to our needs so we can move through pain – and ultimately life – with more gentleness and resilience.

The author does speak as a Christian, but more than that, she speaks as a therapist, so I don’t think you have to be a Christian to appreciate the insights in this book. She tells us her own life story along the way, and weaves in concepts and techniques from therapy.

Toward the beginning, she talks about Big T Trauma and little t trauma and how the patterns we set from dealing with either one of those continue to affect us and are even held in our bodies. She talks about brain science and how both kinds of trauma affect our brains. She talks about attachment theory and how our attachment style affects our relationships. There are exercises to go with every chapter to help you grasp the ideas.

But after the background and the groundwork, the rest of the book is dedicated to practices to help us try softer, to help us be gentler with ourselves. She helps us to pay attention to and value our own bodies and our own emotions, to silence our inner critics, and to learn resilience.

She finishes the book with a prayer for the reader, and the last paragraph gives you an idea of what she’s trying to help you with in this book:

I pray you remember to be gentle with yourself as you grow, knowing condemnation never leads us onward but instead stunts the process. May you courageously continue on and move forward in your own story. And when you are weary, may you never – no, never – lose heart. May you know in an experiential, personal, and transformational way that the One who has called you is faithful.

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Source: This review is based on a book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

The Hidden Life of Trees

What They Feel, How They Communicate

Discoveries from a Secret World

by Peter Wohlleben

HarperCollins, 2016. 7 hours, 30 minutes.
Review written September 25, 2020, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#6 General Nonfiction

I finally read this book by listening to it on an eaudiobook. I had read the Young Readers’ Edition, Can You Hear the Trees Talking?, which includes the general ideas presented here, along with glorious full-color photographs.

On audiobook, the narrator’s pleasant voice and British accent makes for a nice listening experience, though I don’t absorb facts as well by listening as I do by seeing. Still, this was just as fascinating as the children’s version, with many more interesting details.

I learned more information about how the forest is connected through fungi in the soil. Trees can even feed other trees that are in distress through the fungi. I learned about how trees communicate through scent – by producing chemicals – and through the fungi. I learned that trees can learn and how “mother” trees train their children to grow slowly at first, and how that helps them to live longer lives. I learned how the forest is interconnected and it’s actually a disservice to trees to clear out old rotting stumps. I also learned that they have discovered stumps cut down centuries before that are still alive because their neighbors feed them. And many other fascinating details like that.

This did make me look at forests with new eyes. Trees are living things and although their ways of communicating and learning and adapting are completely different from ours, scientists are learning that they do these things. And Peter Wohlleben is particularly skilled at passing on that knowledge.

He also has some theories about how walking in the forest makes us feel good. It turns out that’s more true in a healthy forest. It made me want to run out and walk in a forest right away.

Now that I’ve started, I’m going to read more of his books.

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Review of The Earth in Her Hands, by Jennifer Jewell

Monday, January 25th, 2021

The Earth in Her Hands

75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants

by Jennifer Jewell

Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 2020. 324 pages.
Review written September 22, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#5 General Nonfiction

This amazing and beautiful book features seventy-five plantswomen who work in a multiplicity of jobs, mostly jobs I didn’t even know existed before reading this book, and serve plants and the earth in some way.

The format is consistent for all the featured women. On their opening spread in this generously-sized book, one page is filled with a picture of them among their plants. There’s a quote from the subject next to the picture. The text of the feature begins with “Her Work,” telling what she does. Then either “Her Plant” or “Her Landscape” featuring a plant or landscape that’s special to her. The bulk of the feature is the next part, “Her Plant Journey,” which goes into the next spread, giving an outline of her life story and how she came to her current work and the things that excite her about what she does. The second spread has another, smaller picture. The features finish off with “Other Inspiring Women,” a list of women whose work has inspired the featured woman. And yes, some of those are featured, too.

The women are listed alphabetically rather than by type of work, but there’s such a wide variety of work, that approach probably wouldn’t have worked anyway. Some jobs are a little more traditional – nursery owners and farmers, photographers, artists, and writers. There are many horticulturists, gardeners, botanists, and landscape architects. But then we’ve got the owner of a houseplant shop in New York City, seed savers, and collectors, floral designers, garden directors, educators, advocates, herbalists, a soil scientist, a plant pathologist, and a horticultural therapist. And that doesn’t express the many aspects of these jobs that I learned about in these pages, each woman bringing love and passion to what she does.

Also amazing are how these women are located all over the world. Yes, the majority live in the U.S. or the U.K., but there are also women featured from India, Japan, Canada, and Australia.

This is a beautiful book. The photos of the women on the large, glossy pages usually highlight flowers, or maybe some lovely landscape or setting. I read the book usually one feature per day (I confess I had this book out from the library while we were closed for the pandemic so I had extra time.), and it made me want to get out there and do something with plants – at the very least got me noticing plants more on my daily walks by my lake and taking more close-ups of flowers.

This is in the adult section of the library, but I think putting this book into the right teen’s hands might set someone on the path of working with the earth, because it opens your eyes to all the possibilities.

For me, I found that sitting and spending a couple minutes reading one of these features was guaranteed to put me in a peaceful mental state, like taking a deep breath.

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Source: This review is based on a book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Grace Saves All, by David Artman

Monday, January 18th, 2021

Grace Saves All

The Necessity of Christian Universalism

by David Artman

Wipf & Stock, Eugene, Oregon, 2020. 147 pages.
Review written January 5, 2021, from my own copy purchased via amazon.com
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 in Christian Nonfiction

I am amassing quite a collection of books about why Christian Universalism is biblical and why it makes sense and why it paints a picture more worthy of God. This is another wonderful addition to that set.

One thing I liked about this one was that I read it in the year it was published, and the author has read almost all the same books I have read – they are even listed in the back as “Recommended Reading” and are cited in many different places. (And I got a few ideas for additional reading.) He even listed all the ones I’d read in the last year, so he’s as up-to-date as I am.

And each book takes its own approach. This book takes the approach of looking at Grace, and I found that lovely. Here’s how the Introduction begins:

Grace is amazing. About this all Christians agree. Yet nearly all forms of Christianity put significant limits on grace. Those forms of Christianity which proclaim that grace alone actually saves typically don’t believe God gives grace to everyone, while those forms of Christianity which proclaim God gives grace to everyone typically don’t believe grace alone actually saves. Is the Christian understanding of grace necessarily divided between these two grace-limiting options? Must grace either be that which saves alone but doesn’t go to all, or that which goes to all but doesn’t save alone? Or, is there another way? Can one be a Christian and understand grace to save alone and go to all? Can one be a Christian and believe salvation by grace alone is for everyone?

I will argue here that being Christian does not require one to limit either grace’s power or scope. It’s quite possible, I will contend, to be Christian and to believe grace is God’s way of finally saving everyone. Grace can be understood to be God’s remedy for all human sin, not just part of it. Grace can mean God perseveres with us until we’ve all seen the light and freely responded in faith. Grace can mean God is with us not just if we get things right, but until we get things right. How long it takes for us to get things right is not the primary issue for God. Whether it happens in this lifetime, or in the age to come, or in the ages to come after that, is not what really matters. The primary issue for God isn’t how hard it will be for us, or how long it will take us. The primary issue for God is our final return home. And, like the father of the prodigal son, God will be vigilant until we all make our way home from the far country.

Even though I will be arguing here that everyone will finally be saved by grace alone, what we do still matters very much. We each still have our part to play. And neither will I be downplaying the consequences of sin. We are granted terrifying freedom to bring tremendous misery upon ourselves and others. What we do matters greatly. But no matter what we do, God’s grace can be understood to include God’s commitment to be with us, even in the form of judgment and hell, until we eventually see the light. I will argue that God’s perfecting love is continually with all of us, through whatever hell may be necessary, until all of us are finally healed and home. What makes grace truly amazing is God never giving up and never failing – God being able to save even those for whom there is apparently no hope. I maintain that it’s possible to be a Christian and to have this understanding of grace.

Unfortunately, most people don’t know it’s possible to be a Christian and to believe grace is God’s way of ultimately saving everyone. They don’t know where to find biblical evidence for this understanding of grace. They don’t know this way of understanding grace was common in early Christianity. They wrongly assume they can only be Christian if they also believe God will not, or might not, save everyone. Through this book I hope to help correct these false impressions and assumptions.

As with all the other books I’ve reviewed on Universalism (see the list on the side of this review page), this author fills the book with biblical references supporting what he says. Universalism is biblical! He also spends a whole chapter talking about how the early church supported Universalism. Universalism is authentic Christianity!

The author calls this kind of belief about grace the Inclusive approach. At the start of the main text, he lays out a five-point biblical framework for this approach:

1. God is a loving parent to all.

2. God sincerely wants to save all.

3. God, in Christ, covers the sin of all.

4. God is sovereign over all.

5. God will be all in all.

This book sums up Christian Universalism simply and clearly in a way that’s easy to understand. Plenty of biblical support is cited, and the author finishes up with his own story of how he came to this view, so it’s got a personal touch as well.

I liked reading this book to have one more clear argument in favor of Christian Universalism. But above all, I was happy to read it because it glories in the amazing inescapable grace of God that indeed saves all. Praise God!

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Jesus Undefeated, by Keith Giles

Sunday, January 10th, 2021

Jesus Undefeated

Condemning the False Doctrine of Eternal Torment

by Keith Giles

Quoir, Orange, California, 2019. 193 pages.
Review written September 30, 2020, from my own copy, purchased via amazon.com
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #1 Christian Nonfiction

I’ve been a Universalist since 1998. I believe that God is going to save everyone. I do believe there is a hell, but that it doesn’t last forever, and is for correction. Just as terrible experiences in this life sometimes are what it takes to set us right. At the time, I came to that view from reading George MacDonald and the New Testament, but at first I didn’t know of any living Christian who agreed with me, which was a lonely feeling.

But over the years, I’ve found more and more writers who agree with me, including many alive today! I’ve studied the Scriptures and feel more and more confident that this is the most consistent way to interpret the New Testament, and the most in line with the meaning of the original language. I even learned that this is what the early church of native Greek-speaking people believed, and that it wasn’t until Augustine, who didn’t speak Greek, that the majority view changed and eternal punishment was popularized.

So I am now firm in my beliefs about this, but I still enjoy reading new books about universalism as they are published, because they simply make me happy. This is truly Good News! God the Father truly loves everyone, and reading about that makes me happy.

Each book also brings something new to the discussion. People interested in learning more about universalism can start with any of the books I list on the side of this review. This one would make a great starting place, presenting the alternatives and why universal reconciliation fits with Scripture. I like the way he also quotes many of the church fathers to make his case.

There are basically three views of hell you can get from the New Testament – Eternal Suffering, Annihilation (Conditional Immortality), and Universal Reconciliation (Patristic Universalism).

But what if all three views were “Biblical”? What if all three views based their doctrine on the “clear teachings of Scripture”? What if they were only affirming certain verses in the Bible that conformed to their view and had developed elaborate explanations for why those other verses didn’t teach what they appear to teach?

Well, I’m here to tell you, I think that all of those statements above are essentially true. Because, after looking at all three views, I can tell you that all three are certainly Biblical, (meaning they base their teaching on the Bible), and all three views assume to take a “clear teaching” approach when it comes to the verses that support their view (while arguing that opposing verses require more discernment to understand).

Obviously, either one of them is the correct view, or they are all wrong. But, they cannot all three be right. Hopefully we can all agree on these points.

So, I will fully admit that – whatever view you embrace – you must make a decision to accept a certain set of verses as authoritative and to dismiss another set. Neither of these three Christian views of Hell are iron-clad. Someone can always say, “But what about this verse?” and you will either have to explain why that verse isn’t saying what it appears to say or admit that you don’t know what it means, while you still hold tightly to the view you’ve decided to embrace.

To be fair, the Christian church took over 500 years to even attempt to divide over this teaching.

That’s from Chapter 2 of this book, “Always Three Views.” Keith Giles goes on to show us the main verses supporting each of the three views, but then why he thinks the strongest case is made for universal reconciliation.

I think my favorite chapter is “The Fruit of Universalism,” because it reflects the joy that’s come into my life since I adopted this view. Here’s a bit from that chapter:

The more I’ve studied the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation, the more I’ve started to notice something about those who embrace the view: they tend to be more loving and accepting of those who are unlike them.

Maybe it’s because when you realize that everyone is equally loved by God, and that God is really intending to bring everyone to repentance, and that, one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will gladly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, well, you kind of relax and enjoy being alive.

See, instead of seeing people as “saved” or “lost,” and grouping everyone you meet into the “Christian” or “non-Christian” category, you may start to see people as simply people.

Not only that, but you also begin to see them as God sees them. You slowly recognize that everyone you meet – regardless of their beliefs or spiritual condition – is someone who is dearly loved by God. You also start to understand that everyone you meet is indeed your brother or sister, and you realize that we all have the same Heavenly Father.

This really starts to change the way you treat other people. It starts to bear good fruit in your life. It even makes it easier to love others as Christ has loved you, without conditions or strings attached.

Eventually, you begin to recognize that God loves everyone much more than you could ever love them; even your own family members who may be far from faith in Christ at the moment. You start to realize that God has a grand design in motion to draw everyone to Himself, eventually. We get to take part in that, if we can learn to abide in Christ and collaborate with the Holy Spirit in this process. But, we can also enjoy a newfound sense of ease with this process. Because now we’re not fighting the clock or worried about closing the sale. Instead, we’re trusting in God’s ultimate victory which is inevitable and unstoppable.

I hope that some find this excerpt intriguing. When I first realize what George MacDonald was saying, I didn’t think I could believe universalism because the Bible didn’t teach it – but MacDonald clearly thought it did, and he had studied the original Greek text. So I do appreciate that Keith Giles shows the reader that there is strong evidence that indeed one day in Christ all will be made alive.

JesusUndefeated.com
KeithGiles.com
quoir.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Keep Moving, by Maggie Smith

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

Keep Moving

Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change

by Maggie Smith

One Signal Publishers (Atria), 2020. 214 pages.
Review written November 6, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 General Nonfiction

This is a book I wish I’d had when my husband left me and my life was falling apart. But ten years after the divorce was final, these words still encourage me greatly. I expect I will buy copies of this book to give as gifts in case I ever have friends in tough situations where their expectations for what their life was going to be crumble. Even in the present, reading these words keep me moving. I’ll be posting lots of quotes from it on my Sonderquotes blog.

The bulk of this book is inspirational encouragement on each page, finished by the words – on every page – “KEEP MOVING.”

Here’s an example:

Focus on who you are and what you’ve built, not who you’d planned on being and what you’d expected to have. Trust that the present moment – however difficult, however different from what you’d imagined – has something to teach you.

KEEP MOVING.

Here’s another:

You are not betraying your grief by feeling joy. You are not being graded, and you do not receive extra credit for being miserable 100% of the time. Find pockets of relief, even happiness, when and where you can.

KEEP MOVING.

There are three main sections: Revision, Resilience, and Transformation. Within each section, in between these inspirational sayings made to be quoted, we’ve got pages here and there of smaller text, giving us the context of when the author had to deal with loss, in more than one way.

She began this book by writing daily goals for herself as her life was falling apart — and she kept going.

After writing this review, I decided to buy my own copy so I can come back to it again and again. Every day I’m reading a page to encourage me and keep me moving.

SimonandSchuster.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Know My Name, by Chanel Miller

Monday, November 9th, 2020

Know My Name

by Chanel Miller

Viking, 2019. 357 pages.
Review written October 3, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #1 General Nonfiction

Know My Name is a memoir by the victim in the famous case where she was raped while she was unconscious on Stanford campus by a member of the swim team. He was found guilty and then given a light slap-on-the-wrist sentence. Chanel wrote a letter as Emily Doe to her rapist that was published on BuzzFeed and went viral and touched hearts and lives across the world. (I love the little detail that Joe Biden wrote to her after reading it and said, “I see the limitless potential of an incredibly talented young woman – full of possibility. I see the shoulders on which our dreams for the future rest.”)

Chanel Miller is an incredibly skilled writer. She takes the story of her own rape and explains its terrible impact on her life. She doesn’t excuse it. She doesn’t take it lightly ever. She explains that it impacted her life every single day since the event and will continue to impact it. She points out the many, many failures in the system that made things worse for her. She explains how wonderful it was that her life was saved by two Swedes who happened to bicycle past and took the time to save her. But she gets all her readers wondering what would have happened if they hadn’t come along. You’d think with such witnesses, it would be an easy conviction, but it wasn’t. Not easy in any sense at all.

And yet she leaves us with hope. Her letter, which is included at the end of the book, touched lives across the world. Her book cover design represents the Japanese art of kintsugi, “in which pieces of broken pottery are mended with powdered gold and lacquer, rather than treating the breaks as blemishes to conceal. The technique shows us that although an object cannot be returned to its original state, fragments can be made whole again.”

I checked out this book after I’d already learned I was going to be a panelist for Young Adult Fiction and Speculative Fiction for the Cybils Awards, but I thought I’d read it slowly, a chapter at a time and just draw it out. Instead, I ended up binge-reading it to finish it the night before Cybils nominations opened. Even though I knew what happened, the book ended up being impossible to put down. She makes you understand how it felt to be violated in this way and how difficult it was to put her life back together and go on.

I’m going to finish this review by quoting her final paragraphs. I’m not giving anything away. Most of you will have heard of her story. But I’m quoting her to show how powerfully she brings hope to victims everywhere, and to people everywhere who ever wonder what their own lives are worth.

I began this story alone as a half-naked body. I remembered nothing. There was so much I did not know. I was forced to fight, in a legal system I did not understand, the bald judge in the black robe, the defense attorney with narrow glasses. Brock with his lowered chin, his unsmiling father, the appellate attorney. The obstacles became harder, I was up against men more educated, more powerful than me, the game rougher, more graphic, serious. I read comments that laughed at my pain. I remember feeling helpless, terrified, humiliated, I cried like I’ve never cried before. But I remember the attorney’s still shoulders as guilty was read. I know Brock slept ninety days in a stiff cot in a jail cell. The judge will never step foot in a courtroom again. The appellate attorney’s claims were shut down. One by one, they became powerless, fell away, and when the dust settled, I looked around to see who was left.

Only Emily Doe. I survived because I remained soft, because I listened, because I wrote. Because I huddled close to my truth, protected it like a tiny flame in a terrible storm. Hold up your head when the tears come, when you are mocked, insulted, questioned, threatened, when they tell you you are nothing, when your body is reduced to openings. The journey will be longer than you imagined, trauma will find you again and again. Do not become the ones who hurt you. Stay tender with your power. Never fight to injure, fight to uplift. Fight because you know that in this life, you deserve safety, joy, and freedom. Fight because it is your life. Not anyone else’s. I did it, I am here. Looking back, all the ones who doubted or hurt or nearly conquered me faded away, and I am the only one standing. So now, the time has come. I dust myself off, and go on.

I recommend many books. Let me urge you to read this one. It will leave you with more compassion than you had before, and with more power, and more hope.

chanel-miller.com
penguinrandomhouse.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/know_my_name.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?