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Steve Humphreys

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by James Follett
Edition: Paperback

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sadly, more turgid than swift, 12 Nov 2003
This review is from: SWIFT (Paperback)
Written in 1986, this thriller anticipates some present day technology and gets other thigs woefully wrong, adding to the difficulty in suspending disbelief already caused by the turgid and deliberate prose. James Follett is determined to leave nothing to his readers' imaginations, relentlessly describing action scenes and expounding in detail on motivation as a substitute for characterisation. Although the central plot is a reasonably good premise, villains are uniformly double-dealing sadists who have a secret soft spot, while the good guys try their best to do what they must despite conflicting emotions.

History of the Breast
History of the Breast
by Marilyn Yalom
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intruiging and insightful, 12 Nov 2003
This review is from: History of the Breast (Paperback)
As a man, I found this book fascinating and insightful. Coming from a background in psychiatry, I was familiar with many of the concepts and theories on which Dr Yalom bases her work, but I would nonetheless recommend this book to any non-specialist reader.
The book is divided into nine chapters, which are arranged roughly chronologically in terms of different understandings of the breast, from "primitive" fertility statues to present day advances in women's healthcare. This structure makes it easy to read and helps to introduce concepts in psychiatry and sociology which may have put off a casual reader had they been presented as givens in the first chapter. Unfortunately this also leads to the book's major shortcoming - many of the themes and ways of understanding the breast have persisted in one form or another throughout human history, and by the final third of the book I experienced a sense that the developmental structure had been stretched a little too far. Having said that, Marilyn Yalom has obviously worked hard to provide a cohesive overview of what is in fact an enormous topic.
The book brims over with factual detail, from seventeenth century Flemish tracts against exposing too much flesh to the frequency with which women in Shakespeare are, literally and figuratively, attacked in the breast. Certainly the first four chapters live up to the promise of the book's title. In the end, however, a better title might have been "A History of Perceptions of the Breast", with the bosom's epiphany as its form, function and entire history are claimed back by women.
I have read and re-read this book with pleasure and am grateful for the wealth of detail, and in the end I am reminded of a piece of graffiti, where someone had written "Women's bodies are their own" and underneath another hand had added "Yes but it's nice to share".

Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them
Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them
by John Ortberg
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.04

45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ever felt you weren't as good as everyone else?, 6 Nov 2003
If you've ever felt that you were probably the only person in the world who felt so messed up, or thought that people only liked you because they didn't realise how horrible you are inside, this is the book for you.
John Ortberg writes challenging books that also provide comfort for those who struggle along the way, and "Everybody's Normal..." is no exception. Starting from the theological concept of "depravity", Ortberg explains in an easy-to-grasp way that all human beings are like the goods in the "slight seconds" part of the store; we all carry an "as is" tag that means we have a fault somewhere. We can try to hide our faults by becoming high achievers and feeling superior to everyone else, often putting others down in the process, or we can withdraw into superficial relationships, never revealing ourselves for fear of how others will react.
However, this book suggests, there is another way, and so introduces the main theme of living in community. Much of the book is taken up with exploring what it means to live in community with others, and the attitudes and behaviour that genuinely make community a spiritually nourishing place. Again there is a clear theological base for this, with a discussion on the relational nature of the Trinity that presents an extremely complex idea in a way that fits in with the reader-friendly tone of the rest of the book.
While possibly not a book for those who have no knowledge of the christian faith - Ortberg refers to concepts and stories which he explains in simple terms, but still assumes his readers will be aware of them - this could easily be read by someone new to christianity who wants to make a difference in his or her life, as well as by a person who knows the in and outs of the faith and wants to be challenged afresh.
As the back of the book makes clear, this is not a self help guide that will help you to get along with all those dysfunctional people out there. John Ortberg is clear that we start from recognizing that we are as dysfunctional as the rest of them, and that God loves us, not in spite of our faults (or because of them), but because he longs for a deep and nurturing relationship with us. Yes, we need to change some of the ways we relate to ourselves, to others and to God, but the picture that this book describes of God's kingdom community makes it seem very worthwhile.

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