Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Review: December 1941, by Craig Shirley

Craig Shirley's "December 1941: 31 Days That Changed America and Saved the World" is a powerful account of the days leading up to, and the days immediately after, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and subsequent entry of the United States into World War II.

This 500+ page book (600 if you count the notes) has a very simple format: it devotes one chapter to each day of the month of December 1941. The chapters describe the events of each day, either directly or indirectly related to the coming war.

Of all the things I learned, I was especially surprised that, prior to December 7, the mindset of many Americans was not in favor of the United States entering the war. We are used to such things regarding the Vietnam war and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the image we tend to get of 1940's America is that of solidarity. In fact, the national mood changed quite a bit as of December 7, but even then, it wasn't a case of undisputed unity.

The stories and information in "December 1941" are excellent. I received a copy of this book for free for review purposes, with no obligation to deliver a positive assessment. Still, I highly recommend it for anyone interested in history, especially World War II buffs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Heroes and Villains of the Bible--A Book Review

"Heroes and Villains of the Bible" is aimed at kids about the same age as mine: tween to early teen. The content of the book is right in line with the title. There are 50 stories, each about a different person in Scripture, and each clearly defined as a hero or as a villain. The first two, God and then Satan, are obvious. Some others in ensuing chapters are equally obvious: Moses, David, Daniel, Females are not to be left out, either: Esther gets a chapter devoted to her heroism, and Delilah is one of the villains.

Each chapter has high-quality illustrations which, at first glance, appear to be photographs. The text in each chapter is straight from Scripture (International Children's Translation). No extra narrative is given.

Interestingly,  there are a few lesser-known characters which receive some focus. Probably the most notable are Potiphar's wife and Herodias. I'm torn about the inclusion of these two in this book. On one hand, it's a good thing that more obscure characters are mentioned, as it helps the reader get beyond the best-known bible stories. However, both of these stories have sexual elements to them. My 10-yr-old, who read through this book in one day, has been made aware of the birds and bees, but his 7-yr-old brother has not, yet wants to read the book that his bog brother is reading. So be aware of that going in.

With that one caveat, I recommend "Heroes and Villains of the Bible" to anyone with kids in that general age range. We're going to be using it in our family's bible time every now and then.


Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Book of Man, by WIlliam Bennett: A Review

When I saw the title and brief description of "The Book of Man", and noted it was written by former politician William Bennett, I had zero interest. I later saw a clip of him promoting the book, and the short clip consisted of him complaining. He complained about feminism. He complained about the emasculation of men. He even complained about the fact that a woman was taking over as CEO of Hewlett Packard. Or maybe it was IBM.  At any rate, I'm not a big fan of complaining, especially professing Christians complaining that the world is against them and their values. So my interest in the book went to less than zero.

But then, by chance, I went back and read a more thorough description of the book. I found it wasn't 500 pages of one man's complaints about cultural changes. It is, in fact, nothing like what I thought. The Book of Man is a collection of essays, observations, true stories, and anecdotes about men. About the character of a man. About how the bar is raised for men. About how a man can best benefit those around him, starting with his wife and children, but extending far beyond that.

This isn't the type of book to be read straight through, although you certainly can choose to do so. To me, it's more of a coffee-table book; something you can go back to and take in small bites, as needed. I'm finding parts that I would love my sons to read. Others for my daughter to read, to help her know that she needs to have high expectations for any man who wants to be part of her life.

My take: my complete misunderstanding about what The Book of Man is about almost kept me from enjoying an excellent read. Now that I have it and have gone through it, I highly recommend it. One doesn't need to be a Braveheart-loving, feminist-hater to benefit from this book.

I only hope that the publisher (Thomas Nelson, who provided me a free review copy through their Booksneeze program) will find a way to communicate what this book is really about. I'm guessing I'm not the only one who didn't get it the first time around.


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Envying the Rich and Famous

I just read a comment by someone who expressed disgust at the opulence displayed by a Barbra Walters interview of a rich celeb who came from humble beginnings. Apparently that celeb should have given his wealth to charity. While I admire the good intentions of that comment, I also have some problems with it. My response:
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Hannah, I just re-read your comment. I’m not sure which specific wealthy persons were interviewed by Walters in the TV program you are referring to. But your disgust with their opulence got me thinking. Not having seen the show, I’m going to guess that what you mean by opulence. If I am wrong in the details, it doesn’t really affect my main point, so please follow me.

Rich celeb “X” buys large LA-area mansion. It needs work, so he hires contractor “A”, who employs Employees B, C, and D to come do the work. They knock out walls, put up sheetrock, install cabinets, apply paint, etc. Meanwhile, X also hires E, a 19-yr-old male who’s working his way through college, to handle the outside work in the garden, lawn, etc. for the estate. Finally, X hires E’s older sister F, who’s a single mom, to handle housekeeping duties.

While we judge X for spending his new-found millions to have much more house than he needs, we decide, on X’s behalf, that he should instead donate the bulk of his money to charity.

X refuses to take our advice on how he should spend his money, and the beneficiaries of his decision are A, B, C, D, and F, who are hard-working people who make normal wages and feed their families with those wages. Also benefiting is E, who will be the first college graduate his family has ever had.

I point this out not to say that materialism is a positive characteristic. But neither is short-sightedness, and certainly, neither is judgmentalism. For every yacht, chandelier, or indoor bowling alley owned by a person of wealth, there are hard-working people who are able to put bread on the table.