"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

-C.S. Lewis

What we read has such an impact on us, and I am always on the lookout for something that will inspire me to be a better person. Here is a sampling of books that have been in the teetering stack sitting on top of what is rumored to be my bedside table.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Reclaiming Love: Radical Relationships in a Complex World, by Ajith Fernando

     Reclaiming Love is nothing short of an amazing book.  I so admire Ajith Fernando for the time and prayerful thought that he must have put into writing this book.  He takes the definition of love that Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 13 and turns these few words into an in depth look at what it means to truly love your neighbor as yourself.

     1 Corinthians 13 places great conviction on so many of us to be more loving.  But we all know it's not as simple as that.  Patience, kindness, perseverance, never keeping a record of wrongs - all of these things are not easy to achieve 100% of the time.  Many of us don't even feel that giving of ourselves in this manner is safe for our own self-worth. 

     Much to my delight, Fernando delves into each of these definitions of love in a way that stems from his years as a pastor and counselor.  He analyses their meaning in a way that is both academic and easy to understand. He then discusses how we can apply each of them in our daily lives.  This isn't a piece of fluff, either - Fernando goes into great detail.  The examples he gives are highly relevant to a number of situations - from personal life to family to work.

     I was especially impressed with his ability to reach out to people who are in recovery - as well as the people who work with them.

     This book is a jewel.  I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in becoming more Christ-like.  It's not a dust-gatherer - it's a book that a reader can return to time and time again.

Disclaimer:  I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Five out of Five Stars

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough

            Paul Tough's How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character is an eye-opening look at what causes students to not only attend college, but to graduate from college.  This book is a must-read for educators and parents alike.

           Reading this book, I felt like Tough was writing what I've been thinking for years.  Intelligence is certainly a key factor in student success, but it isn't everything.  We all know extremely intelligent people who have floundered through life, allowing drugs and other addictions to take the place of worthwhile pursuits.  And we all know less intelligent people who have done extremely well in their chosen fields. 

            What makes the difference?  Tough examines anecdotal evidence and research alike to come to the conclusion that it is character traits that cause people to succeed - not just at college, but in life in general.  These character traits aren't just morals like honesty and generosity.  They are things like stick-to-it-ness (grit), curiosity, and a strong work ethic.

            This book does not answer the question of how to teach people these traits.  But it makes a strong case that they can be learned.  Anyone who does not understand why education is so deeply linked to psychology will learn a great deal from this book.  It is a wonderful springboard for a vital conversation - what should we be teaching our children.

            Well done, Mr. Tough.  Someone finally said it!

Five out of Five Stars

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Barefoot Summer, by Denise Hunter

            Barefoot Summer, by Denise Hunter, is a book that I can recommend to anyone looking for a sweet little beach read.  It tells the story of Madison McKinley, a veterinarian who is trying to get over her brother's death by winning the regatta he had always planned to win.  There's just one problem - she's afraid of the water.  She turns for help to Beckett O'Reilly, a good sailor who also has a bad past.

            Naturally, a romance unfolds between them, and it's fun to read.  But the book stands out for me because it deals with grief and guilt in some very realistic ways.  It's also got a very good handle on the problems that can face an adult child of an alcoholic. 

            I'm always happy to see these kinds issues being dealt with in this genre.  Despite a million bumper stickers to the contrary, we are hopelessly of this world, and the world's problems don't disappear just because we're Christian.  This book tackles those problems in a way that doesn't detract from the entertainment value of the love story.

            I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a Christian romance that has emotional substance.  I'm looking forward to the next book in the Chapel Springs series.

            Disclaimer:  I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

            Four out of Five Stars