Book Review: The Bible

Title: The Holy Bible 
Authors: 40+ men over 1500 years  
Genre: Non-fiction  
Publisher: God  
Release Date: 1535 
Pages: 1,200ish

 

Simply filling out the specs I’m picking a fight. My choice to label The Bible non-fiction communicates:

  1. Ignorance to secular scientists (Gah! Join the 21st century!)
  2. Intolerance to other religions (god wrote our book too)
  3. Combativeness to atheists (your god is what’s wrong with this world).

All that, over genre. No wonder the reviews are either 1. mocking or 2. pertain to the version and/or ergonomic design. No one reviews The Holy Bible for substance. Enter, me. 🙂 …little ole nobody gonna review God’s letter to humanity.

Authorship of the Bible is attributed to some forty bearded men and God. Hand-in-glove is the way it’s described, the men being God’s gloves. I personally struggled with accepting the Bible as written by God. Here’s how it went down, an analogy because I love literary devices:

I was tired. This chair looked really comfortable, but I didn’t trust it. I’d been warned against chairs: they were fine for decoration, but one didn’t actually sit. That was taking things too far. But like I said, I was tired of standing, and the chair looked cozy. How could I know whether or not it would hold? Might there not be a sharp spike just under the upholstery? I was taught in school about chairs; People like Jim Jones and Jim Baker sat in chairs (a murderer and a thief, respectively). But I’d lately learned some great people sat in chairs too. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. I scrutinized my chair from all angles. I asked other chair-sitters how they liked their chair and did it hold? Everything one could do to ascertain the soundness of this chair, I did. Except, I would not sit.

Talking with a chair-sitter one day*, she asked, “Don’t you believe this chair will hold you?”

I said I didn’t know.

To my surprise, she said, “Then we’re done here. There is nothing more I can do for you until you decide to sit in the chair.” I thought she was going to convince me about the chair. No, the only way to know for sure was to sit. She left. I got desperate.

I wanted the comfort of the chair, so I made a conscious decision to trust it. This was a leap in my faith. I had read the Bible before, as a work of literature like Dante or Shakespeare. Now I would read it as the answer to my question: why am I here? I would trust what it had to say. They call it the trust of a child. If you’re new to the Bible you have a decision to make before you open it. Is it or is it not Truth? Pontius Pilate famously asked, “What is truth?” It is not enough to ask. One must pursue truth like a lover.

A pursuit is not a meandering stroll or a meme search. It’s not a glance or a nap or an infusion. Think, stalker.

This image may help (warning: literary device #2): imagine you’re digging for buried treasure. When you’re digging, you sweat. You grunt. You’re not having much fun sometimes, but you’re convinced there’s something worth it, so you keep on digging. You want the treasure more than you want to rest. You throw up a prayer or a curse for your aching muscles, but on you press. This is how the Bible can be. Before you even open it, you must believe there is treasure in those pages. Proverbs 24 advises: seek [wisdom] as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures. 

Post-hole-digger

Not that there aren’t strategies. One can dig for treasure with her bare hands (not recommended). One can use a spade (better). Or one can use a post-hole-digger. Here is your complimentary Bible post-hole-digger:

  1. Start with the book of John in the New Testament. I didn’t listen to this advice and began with Genesis– digging with my bare hands. Thing is, the Bible is also a sort of ledger of Jewish history. There are verbose lists of family lines and architectural instructions and how-to de-germ people and/or your dwellings. Lots of sifting to get to the treasure. I should have listened, story of my life.
  2. As you read, write down questions or observations. One of my husband’s observations was the following insult: “…whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matt. 5:32b) Here was God, it seemed to my husband, rebuking him for his willingness to marry a single mom, adopt her baby girl, and love her as his own. Some people would’ve shut the book then and there or tossed it out the window. But my husband believed there was something worth pressing for, so he kept at it.
  3. Watch expectantly for God to answer your questions through His Word, through “random” people, and through “coincidental” events. Make one small step toward Him, and He will run to you.
  4. Record what happens.
  5. After John, read the other gospels and then the rest of the letters of the New Testament.
  6. Read the Psalms, one-a-day as you do this whole exercise.
  7. You will most likely find yourself undone at some point. The Bible is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) It pierces your heart to be convinced God suffered and died for you. Head knowledge is not the same as heart. We can read about Syrian refugees, but only pictures seem to enter the heart.

This is what happens when you pursue faith. If a human photographer can capture a moment that so awakens our compassion, imagine what God can do if you fix your eyes upon Him.

Trusting the Bible is like sitting in that chair. What I didn’t realize until I sat, was that this wasn’t just some stationary chair in a heavenly lounge. I found the chair to be that of a co-pilot, in the cockpit of some marvelous engine that has taken me places I never would have imagined. I don’t mean exotic earthly places, though I’ve been to those as well. The Bible, my faith, my Lord, the friends and family He’s given me, the meaningful whole that is my life– have taken me to emotionally beautiful places.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matthew 13:44

Usually I rate books numerically according to readability and merit. Because I consider the Bible to be outside the realm of ordinary books, I would not dare assign it a number. None is high enough.

But read it, I challenge you… and the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7

*The can-I-trust-this-Bible? conversation happened with a lovely woman who shared her faith with me, Debbie Spink. I remember being stunned she didn’t try harder to convince me the Bible was true or cajole me or debate with me. Her dismissal made me realize I wanted peace more than I wanted to win a debate. After I stewed for several months and gulped down the New Testament several times over, I met with her husband, Pastor Ken Spink. He fielded my gazillion questions and/or objections to the Christian faith.

Book Review: Outliers

3228917Outliers: The Story of Success

by Malcolm Gladwell
Non-fiction Hardcover, 309 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

I grabbed this off the classics section of my library on a whim. I’m not sure how it got shelved in the classics section, except to think that some brilliant educator realized Outliers should be required reading for anyone with a pulse.

 

Exaggeration? I’m known for it. But not this time.
The sort of books I take on vacation are strictly page-turners. I don’t want to feel like I’m working while I’m reading. I do enough of that at home.

 

Some people take worky books on vacation as a sort of counterbalance, like the man in the hot tub next to me reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. You could jack your car on The Fountainhead. Some people just can’t relax… but we had a nice discussion until the chlorine and heat had melted away several layers of my skin. Over the course of the week, I saw him in the same hot tub, and noted his steady progression through the literary behemoth.

 

Even on cruises, gossip abounds. Apparently, the Ayn Rand reader garnered a reputation. As in, people avoided his tub for fear he’d opine in their personal space for inordinate amounts of time, apparently bad taste on vacation. I thought he was nice enough.

 

Tangent, but ever-so-timely: sharing an opinion is dangerous business. At best, people will avoid you. Unconvinced? Wear a Make America Great Again hat through the streets of San Fransisco, I dare you. Dress in a rainbow-colored toga and stroll through any rural Texas town. Let me know if you don’t find yourself staring down the business end of a homemade AR-15. We’ve devolved. The idea of mutual respect in the face of differing opinions is not the status quo. How did this happen? Trump. He did it. Just ask anyone.

 

Alas, Outliers doesn’t solve the world’s problems, but it is a book anyone, of any political/religious/socioeconomic status could read, enjoy, and be better for the time spent.

 

The moment I began to read, the premise– what makes us successful, the supporting evidence, and the artful storytelling all conspired to suck me in. “Listen to this…” I’d say to my husband, and I’d quote whole swaths of text as we lounged by the pool. So intriguing were the connections Gladwell made, so sensible yet revelational. Smack your hand on your forehead revelational. Did I mention this was non-fiction? I did, but it bears repeating. A page-turner non-fiction book. Holy cow.

 

This is my first review ever, and I’m realizing I’ll probably only “review” books I want everyone on planet earth to read. I’m like a cheerleader for team Outliers, and I’m not even giving you substance. I’m like Donald Trump. It’s gonna be great. Believe me. Really great. Huge. 

 

But really– have you ever wondered what’s the difference between greatness and garbage? All things being equal, that is.

Take J. Robert Oppenheimer and The Radioactive Boy Scout. Both built dangerous nuclear devices. The boy scout at age 14 and Oppenheimer at age 38. One was arrested and the other commended by the governing bodies of their day. The Radioactive Boy Scout does not appear in Outliers (but it’s another must-read for scientifically minded young people or anyone interested in the lengths to which inspiration can take us); however, Outliers would show, systematically yet with flair, the reasons why one genius is stymied and another exalted. We don’t build our own stairways to heaven. Our thighs burn on the way up, but we climb stairs provided to us by a Las Vegas blend of social and cultural constructs. Personal grit, while important, is one of several factors to success.

…so Malcolm Gladwell effectively argues.

Readability: 5 out of 5
Merit: 5 out of 5

 

Coming in 2017… Not Your Average Book Reviews!

img_1036The trouble with book reviews: subjectivity. Two people can read the same book and opine in wildly different directions. A friend of mine posted that The Brothers Karamazov was her favorite book ever. Ever. Now I respect my friend, but even if I didn’t, ever is a pretty convincing review. Add to the ever– she is the only person I know on planet earth who has her own legit library. Floor to ceiling books, antique books, collectables, classics, reference items. She knows books, ok? Oh, and she wrote one too.

Of course I got me a copy of The Brothers Karamazov and dived in like it was the Crystal Palace pool.

As of today, Brothers is my gold standard for #1 on my readability scale. #1 means reading it felt like slogging through a mosquito-infested swamp. That was until I closed it, forever. Which means I can’t rate its merit. (I do intend to try again later and will update if I get a different result or find my pain tolerance has increased.)

How dare I not finish a classic, right? Let he who finished Moby Dick unabridged be the first to cast a stone. I did finish all three torturous inches of Anna Karenina and Atlas Shrugged, either of which could prop a sagging foundation. My subjective slant is that I enjoy a book for the sake of escapism entertainment, but prefer one that also makes me smarter.

I’ve been considering adding book reviews to my blog… well, since I began it, but always shied away because I don’t relish ripping into a living author, especially a novice. A painter can hang his pictures, but a writer can only hang himself. I keenly feel that sentiment by Edward Dahlberg and will not be responsible for any noob author suicides… JK… sort of. So, if you write and breathe and are not on the New York Times bestseller list, I probably won’t review your book.

There are two important aspects to any book: readability and merit. Bestsellers need have only one of the two. Guess which. Great works of literature need only have one as well. My students can readily tell you which. Every once in a while, a book embodies the highest levels of both readability and merit.

Every book I review will really be two reviews, as outlined below.

Readability Scale (fun factor)

When I read this it feels like:

1 – Slogging through a mosquito-infested swamp. The Brothers Karamazov, Moby Dick

2 – Canoeing through same. A Tale of Two Cities, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

3 – A stroll in the park: not a thrill, but mildly pleasant. The Scarlet Pimpernel, Frankenstein

4 – Cruising on I-71. The Ravenant, Watership Down

5 – Aliens abducted me and I’m rocketing away from earth. Unbroken, The Hiding Place

Merit Scale (and it will make you smart, too)

1 – I could either read this or watch MTV– the net effect would be the same. Apocalypse

2 – At least I’m not watching TV. Treasure Box: A Novel

3 – I’m shopping at the thrift store– unearthing a gem or two out of the dust. A Tale of Two Cities

4 – Many pearls of understanding and perspective. Soundly profound. Atlas Shrugged

5 – Should be required reading for entrance into heaven. The Screwtape Letters

An example of a book high on the merit scale and lower on readability would be Atlas Shrugged (readability: 2, merit: 4). An example of a book high on readability and low on merit would be anything published after 1960. JK… sort of. If you’re interested in a fun book, look to readability. If you want to upload a fresh perspective of the human condition, look to merit.

If you stayed with me to this point, can I shamelessly beg you to leave your favorite-ever book in the comment section? For the truly daring, would you be willing to submit your favorite fun book and/or your favorite makes-you-smarter book? I’d be ever so grateful and will definitely read it, maybe review it. 🙂