If I really want to track what I am reading, I really need to do these posts more often. I haven't done one since the beginning of the year!
Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer looks at the fundamentalist Mormon church. The stories of young girls being forced into pluralistic marriages with men three times their age (sometimes even with a stepfather or adoptive father who raised them) is appalling and shocking. There are stories of violence and even justifying murder through their faith. I realize this is not the story of the mainstream Mormon church. Just as you could find people who misinterpret the Bible and take their beliefs to an extreme that is not true of the majority of those practicing Christianity, this book is focusing on an extreme sect of Mormons. However, the book also discusses Joseph Smith (who is described as a charming but drug addicted, convicted con man) and the founding of the Mormon faith which is applicable to a greater majority of those professing belief in this religion. Krakauer combines history with current news reports and interviews with modern day fundamentalists (two who are convicted murderers). Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys religious history and can stomach a bit of graphic violence.
Too Good to Be True by Michael Horton was my book club's selection for May, and it is the only one of the year that I didn't finish...not because it wasn't worth reading but because I was 9 months pregnant, low on energy and brain cells, and unable to commit the mental energy required to process the theological truths it contains. Actually, there were several in our group that did not finish it (which is rare), but those who did said you NEED to read the end before you can evaluate it or really get the point. So, I will stop this review here until a time when I am better able to review this work.
I will confess, I was one of those who never planned to read the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. I saw and enjoyed the first three movies, but as the story continued to get darker, I couldn't see how I would benefit from reading them. There has been much controversy surrounding them in Christian circles (which is exactly why Patrick wanted to read them....he likes to find out for himself what all the hype is about). I took the road of just avoiding them. Then my book club selected the first book as one of our selections. I found it to be an enjoyable story that was extremely well written. Our discussion helped me to see that the series should not be discounted based on the magic and evil it contains (CS Lewis's Narnia series and Lord of the Rings both contain storybook magic). What matters is the worldview presented, and in these books, evil is clearly evil, and good is clearly good. The author does not try to paint sinful acts such as defiance, lying, or cheating to get ahead as acceptable or admirable. The "good" characters portray characteristics that we would all want our children to model.
Unless you have been living in a cave, you know they gist of what these books are about, so I will not bore you with a summary. I have read the first four so far, and I plan to read the last three. If you have read the series or have been avoiding it, I would love to hear your opinions and reasons.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a memoir worth reading. I love the review written by Brangien Davis on Amazon, so I will quote him rather than writing my own....
"Walls chronicles her upbringing at the hands of eccentric, nomadic parents--Rose Mary, her frustrated-artist mother, and Rex, her brilliant, alcoholic father. To call the elder Walls's childrearing style laissez faire would be putting it mildly. As Rose Mary and Rex, motivated by whims and paranoia, uprooted their kids time and again, the youngsters (Walls, her brother and two sisters) were left largely to their own devices. But while Rex and Rose Mary firmly believed children learned best from their own mistakes, they themselves never seemed to do so, repeating the same disastrous patterns that eventually landed them on the streets. Walls describes in fascinating detail what it was to be a child in this family, from the embarrassing (wearing shoes held together with safety pins; using markers to color her skin in an effort to camouflage holes in her pants) to the horrific (being told, after a creepy uncle pleasured himself in close proximity, that sexual assault is a crime of perception; and being pimped by her father at a bar). Though Walls has well earned the right to complain, at no point does she play the victim. In fact, Walls' removed, nonjudgmental stance is initially startling, since many of the circumstances she describes could be categorized as abusive (and unquestioningly neglectful). But on the contrary, Walls respects her parents' knack for making hardships feel like adventures, and her love for them--despite their overwhelming self-absorption--resonates from cover to cover."
For those of you who are Spurgeon fans, Bright Days, Dark Nights is a must read. A women's group at my church discussed this book chapter by chapter. Elizabeth Skogland spent years reading Spurgeon sermons, pulling out his thoughts on difficulties such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, and change. Spurgeon himself struggled through times of extreme emotional pain. This book is 90% quotes from Spurgeon, and 10% the writing of Skogland. Here are a few quotes from the chapter on anxiety...
"The Lord knows your troubles by His tender foresight before they come to you; He anticipates them before Satan can draw the bar. The Preserver of men will put His beloved beyond the reach of the arrow. Before the weapon is forged in the furnace and fashioned on the anvil, He knows how to provide us with...that which will turn the edge of the sword and break the point of the spear."
"Instead of forebodings and fears, there seems to me cause for hte brightest expectations, if we can only fall back upon the divine promise, and believe that God, even our own God, shall yet, in this very age bless us as he was wont to do in days of old."
"A certain class of persons are greatly gifted with the mournful faculty of inventing troubles...They feel certain about this dreadful thing and that, and fret accordingly. None of these things have happened to them yet, and in the judgment of others they are less likely to happen now than ever they were, but yet they convert their suspicions into realities, and torture themselves with them though they be but fancies..."