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Mr. Kevin Hargaden (Maynooth, Ireland)
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The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few
The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few
by James Surowiecki
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.77

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Trust The Crowds On The Wisdom of Buying This Book, 6 Dec. 2006
Following on from books like Blink and Tipping Point and the infuriatingly readable Freakonomics, this is a book that intends to make economics cool. That is a more difficult task than even my job; to make theology interesting!

Surowiecki has a very good stab at it. This book is filled with counter-intuitive examples of group behaviour that do a very fine job of making the author's point for him- an aggregated decision made by a large group of people on average produces a result better than the best decision made by the best individual guess.

The reason I'd only give it about 7 out of 10 is really very subjective. He draws out inferences constantly that refer to the free market. I am not certain that the collection of case studies he shows justifies the argument he mounts. Really what bothered me about the book was that it sometimes read like paean to western capitalism and that grates on me. So the book felt like it dragged. It need not grate on you and even if it does, I wholly recommend it- its a very well written, fascinating account of a phenomenon that will raise your consciousness.


The Original Jesus: The Life and Vision of a Revolutionary
The Original Jesus: The Life and Vision of a Revolutionary
by Tom Wright
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As Fine As An Introduction As You'll Find, 4 Dec. 2006
This is a book to accompany a BBC series made in 1996. As a result the layout of the book is painfully dated. It is all side panels and clashing colours. But fashion concerns aside, the content of the book is a great introduction to the work of Tom Wright and indeed, to the reality of the historical person Jesus of Nazareth.

Wright, in his typically readable manner, lays out the difficulties with the pious reading of Jesus offered by mainstream Christianity over the last 100 years or so while tackling the arrogance of academics who wish to reshape Jesus after their own image. Instead, what comes out as the end picture is a thoroughly Jewish prophet, of whom there is plenty of reason to think he is the Messiah.

There is a great guide for further reading at the end, some great graphs and timelines, a couple of brilliant Wright-isms- all in all a very accessible introduction to this fascinating subject.


Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood & The Story of a Return: v. 1 & v. 2
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood & The Story of a Return: v. 1 & v. 2
by Marjane Satrapi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.88

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique insight into Iran, 19 Nov. 2006
I am not typically a big fan of graphic novels but the work of Joe Sacco took my breath away when I was in college so it was with glee and expectation that I took this book up.

Its superb. Comics are considered juvenile. I am utterly convinced, as a result of this book, that the graphic novel is a great vehicle for discussing the most serious and sombre of topics. The contrast between the simple drawings and the complex events they represent create a balance so that you can read the saddest things without being weighed down.

That having been said, the moving tale of an independent young woman's maturation in and out of post-revolution Iran moved me to tears at some points. I have an insight into the country that countless documentaries or news articles about President Ahmadinejad or Ayatollah Khomeini couldn't give me.

I strongly recommend it to everyone. It will be an eye-opening education.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 23, 2016 11:24 PM BST


Christ The Lord: Out of Egypt (Christ the Lord 1)
Christ The Lord: Out of Egypt (Christ the Lord 1)
by Anne Rice
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £8.99

24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My first Rice book, 15 Nov. 2006
This is the first Anne Rice book and honestly, I only bought it because its subject matter (Jesus) is of particular interest to me. Anne Rice novels would not be my bag, usually.

But this is a really very good novel. It does what a Rice novel ought to do- it sucks you in and gets you turning those pages. But it does so on the back of the most fascinating content you could hope for- the childhood of Jesus. It amazes me that we so rarely mine the New Testament for creative inspiration but maybe it will come back into vogue now.

It will give people, Christians and non-Christians, a grasp of the drama involved in the events of Christmas. Often people find the New Testament flat and boring- the ancient biography genre they are written in can seem remote and arid. Its a good thing then to read novels like this to get a sense of:

a) Just how plausible and coherent the whole thing is

b) Just how fascinating a story it really is

c) Just how relevant it can be for life lived today.

She explains herself really well in two post-scripts at the end and that would be a better jumping off point for interested readers than I could ever offer. If you are interested at all in ancient history, the origins of Christianity, the validity of Christianity or just good rip-roaring, easy to read tales, then I strongly recommend this.


To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father
To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father
by Donald Miller
Edition: Paperback

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Miller Magic continues, 12 Nov. 2006
The fourth Don Miller book deals with the challenges of growing up without a father. That is not a topic that is directly relevant to me; I grew up with an outstanding role model in my father. But it is as readable and as relevant to every reader as the other three. He is a terrific writer, unique I think today in his ability to relate faith winsomely and in the language of ordinary people. Maybe the trick is that he talks about faith by talking about the things of real life- sex, money, girls- with genuine honesty. Particular gems were his reflections on how sin builds a calloused heart, his guiding metaphor of the mentor-less adolescent elephants, his description of the sanctity of sex in terms of currency markets and when he writes about relationships generally. The guy brings a lot to the table. Everyone should read him. I still hate the American Christian preoccupation with gender roles and the myth of the emasculated male that undergirds so much of the writing in this area....


Reading the Bible for the Love of God
Reading the Bible for the Love of God
by Alan Reynolds
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointing, but only because I expected so much, 12 Nov. 2006
I initially bought this book thinking that it would serve as an excellent recommendation to make to our congregation for our monthly book club. But it turns out that the book that tries to throw out the idea that the Bible is a book to be studied by the academics trades in an intellectual currency far beyond the reach of Mr. Joe Average.

I love the view that Reynolds offers that the Bible is not a book that we read but instead the book that reads us. Historically Christians did not come to the Bible to learn something new but to become something new. This holistic theology, which is in the best sense "Biblical Christianity" permeates the whole book and I found real joy in thinking about the ideas he presents. For example, until 500 years ago, no one had their own copy of the Bible and yet we assume that private daily devotions are the cornerstone of the Christian life. If that were the case, we had to wait 1600 years before there more than a handful of mature Christians.

His thoughts on evangelism and worship and doubt are all great. I just wish it was presented a little bit simpler, with a bit more of the Yancey and a bit less of the Peterson. That way I know I could recommend it with glee to my whole church.


Gilead
Gilead
by Marilynne Robinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arguably the best novel I read this year, 12 Nov. 2006
This review is from: Gilead (Paperback)
Oh what a masterpiece! My silly wife didn't believe that the diarist who is our guide to the small town with Gilead written on its water-tower was a man. He was too gentle and girly, she thought. I'd love that to have happened to me- that by the time I was 77 I would have the sensitivity of an average lady. What transformation that would entail!

The 77 year old Rev. Ames writes a long letter over the course of a couple of weeks to his 7 year old son, to teach him some things he won't be able to now that he is about to die. In the process, Robinson shares page after page of deliciously turned phrase and profound wisdom by the cartloads. She has obviously been saving it up in the 419 years since her last book.

Whomsoever you are, read this freaking book.


So, Who Is God?: Answers to Real Questions About God
So, Who Is God?: Answers to Real Questions About God
by Robert Willoughby
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.99

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Aimed at kids, ideal for everyone, 12 Nov. 2006
Its a lighter read than many of the books I buy but this is a classy little publication. Answers to all the most important questions ranging from "How Can God Be My Father?" to "Are there three Gods or one?" and most pressingly, "Does God love my pet rabbit?"

Seriously though, reading this kind of thought-through children's book can often be the most positive use of your time. I mean, CS Lewis was right- there is no such thing as children's books. There are just good books and bad books. This is a very good book. It reminds you in language that is simple and concepts that are basic just what Christianity is all about. That is especially useful for people like me who pretend they understand what Barth or Aquinas was on about.

Recommended to everyone. A great gift for a niece or nephew. A pretty good evangelism resource for your hyper-skeptical friends (slipping past the dragons at the door with cartoons!). An invaluable reality check for theology students. Its super.


Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace
Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace
by Miroslav Volf
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern essential, 14 Sept. 2006
I'd spent a few weeks back in college ploughing through Volf's profound Exclusion and Embrace so when I heard about this book I placed my order in advance.

I wasn't disappointed in any way. This book is eminentally readable but not less deep than Volf's other books. Its written in clear, jargon free language so I would happily share it with non-Christian friends. It is appropriately vulnerable as the Croat theologian shares from his own experience. Most importantly, it clearly illustrates again the radical heart of Christianity in the Grace offered by Jesus. The Conversation With A Skeptic at the end of the book is excellent.

I heartily recommend it to every reader.


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