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The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Thoughts On Following Jesus, Amish Romance, the Daniel Plan, the Tebow Effect, and the Odds of Finding Your Soul Mate
The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Thoughts On Following Jesus, Amish Romance, the Daniel Plan, the Tebow Effect, and the Odds of Finding Your Soul Mate
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A funny and thought-provoking ramble through our cultural oddities, March 6, 2014
In The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, Stephen Altrogge takes on a wide spread of cultural issues, both serious and silly. He covers everything from fad diets to Christian celebrities to politics. He has the rare gift of being able to be both genuinely funny and genuinely profound. I particularly enjoyed his take on what the popularity of Amish themed romance novels say about our culture. I also really appreciated his perceptive comments on the idea that we all have a "soul mate" we have to find.

It was a great read so I'm hoping there will be more collections of essays from Stephen Altrogge in the future.

Preparing Your Teens for College: Faith, Friends, Finances, and Much More
Preparing Your Teens for College: Faith, Friends, Finances, and Much More
by Alex Chediak
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.21
62 used & new from $4.62

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great guide to equipping young people to thrive at university, February 28, 2014
We all want the university-bound young people in our lives to succeed, whether they are our own kids, teens we teach or have leadership responsibilities over or just younger people we're friends with. We want them to not only be academically successful and get a good job at the end, but to flourish in every aspect of life. Problem is, it can be hard to know where to start helping them. I know I have a bad habit of unloading lots of assorted facts and ideas about university life on unsuspecting prospective student friends!

Preparing Your Teens for College addresses that challenge by providing a comprehensive guide to equipping teenagers to thrive at university.

There's lots to like about this book. One of those things is that it takes a balanced perspective on the challenges of being a university student. It is clear and frank about the ways that students can get themselves in trouble on many different fronts (inc. academically, financially, relationally, spiritually) but doesn't descend into panic or the lazy cliches that often accompany discussion about student life. This is particularly refreshing in a Christian book given the way some Christians talk about secular/public universities.

Another thing I really appreciated about this book is that it isn't about trying towards control teens to the "perfect" outcome tiger mother style or about striving for grades above all else. Instead, there's a big emphasis on helping teenagers explore their options, make good decisions and learn to exercise responsibility in all areas

I was also pleased to see a positive stance towards the liberal arts and towards non-bachelor degree programs such as apprenticeships and associate degrees in the book. These can all have a very valuable role to play in developing well rounded and employable people but often get overlooked or even scorned.

One thing to note about the book if you are outside America is that some of the advice is based around aspects of American educational culture, university structures and educational financing options that aren't applicable in other countries. That said, there is still more than enough in the book that is internationally applicable to make it worth your while if you're not in America.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 7, 2014 12:04 PM PDT

Found in Him: The Joy of the Incarnation and Our Union with Christ
Found in Him: The Joy of the Incarnation and Our Union with Christ
by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.86
65 used & new from $6.38

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good overview of the importance of the incarnation and union with Christ, December 19, 2013
Union with Christ is a theological idea that has tended to not get a great deal of attention in the past. That’s unfortunate because its an idea that appears quite often in the New Testament and one that has big implications for how we relate to God. Thankfully that neglect is starting to be rectified. In addition to a number of academic level works, Rory Shiner published a brilliant book about it earlier this year, Desiring God has announced a conference on the topic and Elyse Fitzpatrick has recently released an good book on the topic called “Found In Him: The Joy of the Incarnation and Our Union with Christ”

Found In Him takes the really helpful approach of looking at union with Christ together with an in-depth look at the incarnation and humanity of Christ. This section on its own is helpful because it unpacks a lot of why it matters that Jesus lived as fully human for so long rather than just dashing down out of heaven briefly to save us. In the context of this book it was especially helpful because it also served to set a good foundation for the discussions in the second half of the book on union with Christ. The second section provided a reasonably clear explanation of the union with Christ, although I felt bordered on overusing the metaphor of marriage. The book made a strong close with an explanation of how our effort and being good relates to the ideas in the book.

The book was well structured and clear enough to follow. However, I found the writing style didn’t quite work for me. The writing was often a bit more over descriptive and slow to get to the point than I would have preferred. Don’t let that put you off reading it though- you may find the style works well for you.

Overall verdict: Recommended. It would do all Christians a lot of good to ponder the truths laid out in this book.

The Olympians
The Olympians

4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting perspective on Olympic history, November 2, 2013
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This review is from: The Olympians (Kindle Edition)
The Olympians presents a fascinating journey into Olympic history through stories of participants from Olympic games from as far back as 1928. I found the articles featuring athletes from the earlier Olympics particularly interesting as they show how dramatically developments in technology and the professionalisation of elite sports has changed the Olympics and the lives of those who participate

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem
Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem
by Kevin DeYoung
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.53
92 used & new from $4.33

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile exploration of the deeper causes of busyness, November 2, 2013
It would be easy at first glance to assume that Crazy Busy is just another book bemoaning the busyness of modern life and handing out helpful tips on how to work less hours, tame your schedule and get through your emails quicker. In many bookstores there is big selection of such books and the blogosphere has even more to say about the topic.

Certainly there is some good advice in the book, but this book stands out for going deeper into the underlying spiritual and emotional roots of the problem and how we can work on addressing them. These include things such as feeling kids must be involved in everything possible if they aren’t to fall behind in life, pride about how much we can achieve and neglecting to get enough rest. The book also covered the role of digital distractions in busyness and misplaced priorities was particularly convicting.

He finishes his exploration of the issue with a helpful summons back to dedicating time to spend with God, both because it is what we should be doing anyway and because it helps other things in life fall into place a bit better. Towards the end of the book he also makes some useful clarification about the tiredness and schedule demands that can come from following God’s calling and the unhealthy busyness most of the book has dealt with.

Although the analysis is at times uncomfortably convicting (in a good way) , it doesn’t descend into feeling preachy as DeYoung shares plenty of his own failings and a bit of humor. Neither does the book drag on even though undoubtedly volumes could be written on the topic. The chapters are fairly short and the whole thing is only 3 hours in audio (128 pages in print).

Regardless of whether you think you are crazy busy or just a little bit busy, I recommend you read this book. You’ll likely come out understanding your own behavior more clearly and better equipped to keep your priorities in order.

Holy Is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present
Holy Is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present
by Carolyn Weber
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.44
65 used & new from $0.47

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tales of faith in normal life told with truth and beauty, September 16, 2013
There is a lot that's being said these days about doing dramatic radical things for Jesus. That has merit, but sometimes it is good to read of what it means to live faithfully in the midst of normal life. Carolyn Weber's new book Holy is the Day explores finding God in the normal things of life with incredible beauty, wisdom and intelligence.

Carolyn's first book, Surprised by Oxford, tells the story of discovering Christianity and meeting her husband while an international student studying literature at the historic Oxford University. Holy is the Day picks up later in the story as she navigates pregnancy, facing the challenges of being a Christian employed in academia and moving home to Canada. As in her first book, the stories are vividly and beautifully told. As cliche as it sounds, reading her story made me feel like I was there amidst it all.

The book also shines for the depth of the theological reflection, something I think she has grown even more in since her first book. She articulates a lot of big and thoughtful ideas while still maintaining beautiful prose. I was particularly struck by her reflections on how the difficult challenges of working through the aftermath of trauma. This is definitely something that could use more and better discussion among Christians.

I strongly commend this book to you. I hope it is widely read because it has much truth and beauty to communicate.

One Forever
One Forever
by Rory Shiner
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic exploration of a big idea, September 10, 2013
This review is from: One Forever (Paperback)
There isn't that many talks I would say changed my life but Rory Shiner's talks on union with Christ at an Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students conference a few years ago did. It wasn't a big, blinding moment of epiphany, but the introduction of a set of ideas that began to seep into how I thought about living as a Christian, changing me for the better. So I was rather excited when I heard that Rory was elaborating on these ideas in a book.

The idea of union with Christ or being "in Christ" does at first glance sound a bit obscure. Other than Rory's talks, I don't think I've heard it preached about much. But, as Rory points out in the book, it's an idea the New Testament commonly uses to describe what it means to be a Christian. The big idea is that by being united to Christ in his death and resurrection, the victory over sin and death and the new life that he achieved is ours too. If that sounds a bit hard to get your head around, don't worry because in the book Rory explains it strikingly well.

I think there is a couple of audiences this book can be particularly helpful. One is Christian who have fallen into feeling like Christianity is about what they do. There is quite a few books coming out these days that address such tendencies, but I think this angle is quite a helpful one. The book also has some evangelistic potential. While some of the concepts might require a bit more knowledge that some seekers would have, there are some really fantastic illustrations and metaphors that could be very useful when explaining the gospel.

It is only a short book (less than 90 pages), but there is so much good stuff in it. No matter how much or little theology you think you know, my recommendation is that you read it, followed by reading it again a few more times.

The Leap Year Project
The Leap Year Project
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting exploration of alternative ways of learning, July 20, 2013
The Leap Year Project is an interesting exploration of alternative ways of learning. In this case it was a year full of month long projects at different companies and organisations around the world.

Although for most people it won't be practically or financially viable to spend a year fully devoted to such projects, I think it is still good food for thought. Lots of people default to undertaking expensive traditional education without properly considering whether there might be outside the box possibilities like some of the things Victor did that would suit their learning goals better.

The book also included the stories of other people trying their own leap year projects. These were helpful, but many of them could have benefited from being a bit longer and putting them between the main chapters of the book broke up the flow of the narrative a bit.

Overall, a thought-provoking read for those keen to learn and grow.

101 Secrets For Your Twenties
101 Secrets For Your Twenties
by Paul Angone
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.48
56 used & new from $7.45

5.0 out of 5 stars Good advice for the realities of 20 something life, July 14, 2013
Most people seem to have some idea of how their 20's will work out. Usually it involves some blend of relational milestones, career achievement and impact making.

But what happens when things don't work out as planned?

That's where Paul Angone steps in with his book 101 Secrets for Your 20's. As you can probably guess from the title, the book is made up of 101 ideas about living well in your 20's even when your dreams aren't coming true. Some of the secrets are funny, some are serious and it covers a wide variety of the craziness that's often encountered at this life stage.

There are a few things I really liked about this book.

One was that it is the right kind of positive. Some books are an annoying, grating positive that sound like a cross between a bad graduation speech and an inspirational bumper sticker. This isn't one of those books. It is hopeful and encouraging while avoiding the platitudes and acknowledging the realities of life.

Another thing I really appreciated was in the book was its encouragement to not go it alone but to seek community and help. That is not necessarily something that gets enough focus in our individualistic society. I was particularly happy to see the emphasis on putting deliberate effort into developing meaningful friendships (secret 70) and pushing through the awkwardness to get professional mental health help if needed (secret 7).

I think the thing I liked the most about this book though was that it made me feel less alone. It is easy to look at other people who seem to have it all together (and have the Facebook photo albums to prove it) and wonder if you are doing something wrong. It is incredibly reassuring that other people find post university life disorientating, hard or disappointing sometimes but still find a way to thrive even though things didn't play out as they planned.

Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams Into New Beginnings
Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams Into New Beginnings
by Sheridan Voysey
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.85
82 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A brave and beautiful book, May 28, 2013
Normally it takes me quite a while to get through a book. I read reasonably fast but usually have a lot of books on the go that I'm dipping in and out of. Resurrection Year by Sheridan Voysey was different- although it is not a particularly short book, I finished it in an afternoon. Part of that was due to curiosity- I was a big fan of the radio show Sheridan used to host and had been rather sad when he left to move overseas so I was interested to know where life had taken him since. Part of why I finished it so quickly is that he writes so beautifully and compellingly. The pictures he paints of important moments in his journey are so very vivid.

But, more importantly, the book drew me in and kept me reading with its honesty and insightfulness about the realities of living as a Christian in a broken world where bad things happen and sometimes good things stay out of reach. Sheridan tells with unflinching honesty the story of he and his wife's struggle with infertility and learning to rebuild their lives as it became increasingly clear that they would not be able to have a child. In the Christian subculture we tend to emphasise stories that follow the standard testimony formula of things were terrible, then God intervened dramatically and then we got what we needed/wanted and things were awesome. Sometimes things work out like that and we should be thankful, but what about when they don't? It is so common for things to just not resolve for even the most faithful people. We don't tend to talk about those stories because they aren't easy to tell but they really need telling.

Another important thing that drew me in as I read the book was the idea of deliberately seeking new starts in the wake of broken dreams. For Sheridan, that meant moving to Europe so his wife could pursue some of her dreams, even though that would have a negative career impact for him. While the idea of doing something dramatic after hard experiences is not that uncommon, what makes Sheridan's story one to learn from was that it wasn't about self indulgence but a very deliberate effort to work through spiritual issues, to seek the good of his wife and to find meaningful new direction.

Resurrection Year can't have been an easy book for Sheridan to write but I'm glad he did. It is a beautiful, brave book that helped me and I think will help many others. I really encourage you to get it.

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