I read about 40 books in 2010. One of my goals was to read more female authors, I read 26 by female authors and 14 by males. I also wrote brief reviews on all of them, which you can read by clicking on the book titles below. My goal for 2011 is to read at least 31 books (20+11), this time with an emphasis on reading both female and ethnically diverse authors. Any good recommendations for books to read in 2011?
For those of us who are women and/or looking for the female experience in the biblical narrative, many times we come up short. The central figures of most biblical stories are males despite there being many female characters woven into the fabric of the entire biblical story. As a woman you begin to wonder what life was like for all the women who are mentioned. This novel is a refreshing story about what the first woman’s life may have been like. The author takes care to use actual historical information, with a certain amount of literary creativity, to create a picture of what the lives of this first family may have been like from the perspective of all the women of the family.
The style is much like that of The Poisonwood Bible with each female character taking it in turn to tell about formative events of the family. It uses the real dramatic version of the bible’s story of Adam and Eve to set the plot. I enjoyed this story very much and would recommend it to other readers.
by Mindy Fine
Last year I made it a goal to read 52 books in the year. No specifics on the books, authors, length or anything, just to read a book a week through the entire year. And I pretty much reached my goal (see the list at the end of the post). I realized in the last half week that I had miscounted and was a book shy, but what are you going to do. As a resort to my middle school english class days I wrote a brief book review each week on the book I read. For those who are interested, there’s a nice collection of book reviews here.
This year, I want to read the books I avoided last year, either because they were too long to finish in a week or too academic (read: boring). I also want to catch up on my reading of Geez Magazine and a few other noteworthy articles, essays and the likes.
I am entertaining the idea of doing weekly video book reviews on children’s books I think or worthwhile. You’ll get to watch my cute kid play peek-a-boo with the camera and I’ll mention what picture book we liked that week. Anyone interested? We’ll see, no guarantees unless there is a high demand.
My 2008 Book List (get authors and my recommendations here OR use the search bar in the top right to find my book review on each one):
Buy Buy Baby
Serving with Eyes Wide Open
White Man’s Grave
Jesus and the Disinherited
The God of Intimacy and Action
The Other Side of The River
The Paradox of Choice
The Heavenly Man
Playing for Pizza
No Future Without Forgiveness
Sheparding a Child’s Heart
The Manga Bible
The 4-hour Workweek
It’s a Bunny Eat Bunny World
Jesus For President
My Beautiful idol
The Church Ladies
Letters To a Young Teacher
The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture
When Friends Ask About Adoption
God for President
New Day Revolution
Oh Shit! It’s Jesus!
Come On People
What Does it Mean to Be Well Educated?
Rules for Radicals
The Great Brain
The Church of 80% Sincerity
Here Comes Everybody
The Dance of Attachment
Bird By Bird
war and terrorism
The Long Tail
Chicago: Never a City So Real
The Myth of Multitasking
I picked up the large print edition of Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (A trick for getting new releases from the library quickly, get the large print edition). Like all of Gladwell’s books, it was a thoroughly interesting read.
The basic premise is that we don’t become who we are simply by our own hardwork. It’s a case against our imaginary tale of the American Dream, where anyone with a work ethic can make it. Gladwell doesn’t say hardwork is bad or that those who are truly successful haven’t worked hard, but rather he points out the benefits and opportunities we’ve each had along the way. It’s a great collection of research and stories to make a case, in the end, for providing everyone with the types of opportunities that have brought about the success of so many in our country (hope that line made sense).
Anyways, this review is late in coming so I’ll conclude here and throw you some quotes and thoughts from the book.
Gladwell points out the effect of birth months as it relates to sports (taken from an extract in the Guardian):
Take ice hockey in Canada: look at any team and you will find that a disproportionate number of players will have been born in the first three months of the year. This, it turns out, is because the cut-off date for children eligible for the nine-year-old, 10-year-old, 11-year-old league and so on is January 1. Boys who are oldest and biggest at the beginning of the hockey season are inevitably the best. And so they get the most coaching and practice, and they get chosen for the all-star team, and so their advantage increases – on into the professional game.
A profound thought is that this same effect impacts schools and students performance. In turn we could respond appropriately. “Elementary and middle schools could put the January through April-born students in one class, the May through August in another class, and those born in September through December in the thrid class. They could let students learn with and compete against other students of the same maturity level.”
Another section talks about “Power Distance Index” (PDI) and attitudes toward hierarchy.
This statement is actually a quote from another person, Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede, who wrote in his classic text Culture’s Consequences,
“I actually saw the Dutch prime minister, Joop den Uyl, on vacation with his motor home at a camping site in Portugal.”
“The world could be so much richer than the world we have settled for.”
Somewhere along the way in doing this blogging thing something happened. Either my blog became popular, or more accurately, blogging became popular and recognized by businesses as a tool to sell you stuff. Regardless, the reality is that people want my to talk about certain stuff on my blog. Mostly, I get sent books and occasionally a DVD or CD. And, in recent months, I’ve let those items pile up and begin to gether dust on the book shelf (sorry!). However, I’ve took a look at a few and thought I’d give my brief thoughts and reviews. So, in no particular order…
NKJV Chronological Study Bible
I’m not particularly a fan of the KJV or the NKJV. If I remember correctly (and I probably don’t), the KJV is based on an outdated manuscript collection. Since the KJV came out, more manuscripts, older and more accurate to the original letters and books of the Bible, have been discovered. So, KJV while an ‘older’ more ‘traditiona’ translation, is actually not as ‘old’ and accurate as other translations that are based off of these other manuscripts.
That said, the Choronological layout of this Bible is pretty cool. It’s also pretty impractical if your planning on using it in any fashion other then a cover to cover read. Trying to find a passage from Psalms in it is next to impossible. The illustrations and study notes are interesting, but unimpressive. Lot’s of old school European paintings of Jesus, not a single depecition from any other ethnic history or origin. Seems to me that the textual translation isn’t the only thing that is stuck in an old mindset, the publisher was too. Over all I was unimpressed and while I definitely think there’s plenty of value to glean from the text, regardless of translation, I’d recommend you look for a different version.
(Didn’t realize that one was going to be so harsh. Sorry, but they don’t ask you to be positive when they send you this stuff, and that’s my honest opinion)
A while back I wrote an article about Fair Trade Footwear, and I mentioned TOMS Shoes. It’s basically a cloth slip-on, and when you buy a pair, a child who needs shoes gets a pair as well. Anyways, TOMS noticed some traffic coming their way from my site or something and they sent me a DVD about the last shoe drop (where they bring the shoes to the kids). I haven’t watched it yet. Then, they sent me this beautiful handmade cloth from Ethiopia. Both just gifts to say thank you for supporting TOMS Shoes. What I appreciate is that they recognize the importance of creating allies and advocates in their work. What I’m surprised by is that they haven’t addressed some of the questions that arose in the comments section on that post about the labor conditions where the TOMS Shoes are actually made. Maybe they’ll send me a pair, size 13, along with an explanation of the labor practices where they were made (and if you don’t have a good answer, I don’t want a pair).
One of the other ways I get stuff is through a program called Ooze Select Bloggers. They sent me a CD a while back by Evensong Rising. It’s a pretty interesting group. I’m terrible at music reviews, I’m not sure how to describe genres or anything like that. Supposedly they have a new kind of sound (according to others they are ‘ancient/future’ worship) but they seem like a typical praise band to me. I didn’t get to read through the lyrics too much, but there was one song I heard that I really liked, Rise Up (I’ll include the lyrics at the bottom of the post). Overall, I think they’re lyrics are a refreshing change. The group is fairly diverse, also a welcome change, and the music is at times unique. I’m still hoping for a more diverse music selection from the emerging church and neo-monastic crew, preferably some Hip-Hop.
That’s all I have time for. Definitely some more brief reviews coming at some point. But this is it for now.
Words and Music by Chris Sorenson
A world of darkness… People are scared
A world of hunger… People unfed
A world of anger… People in pain
A world of sorrow… People in need
We pray… Lord bring them light
We pray… Lord bring them food
We pray… Lord bring them justice
We pray… And we hear you say
You are my hands and my feet
You bring the hope that they seek
You build my kingdom so it’s
TIME TO RISE UP
Stomp out their hunger for Me
Kill all injustice for Me
You build my kingdom so it’s
TIME TO RISE UP
Our world is freezing… People unclothed
Our world in slavery… People oppressed
Our world is warring… People displaced
Our world is dying… People all thirst
We pray… Lord bring them shelter
We pray… Lord set them free
We pray… Lord bring them peace
We pray… And we hear you say
The Long Tail is another book in the vein of Sway, The Tipping Point, Freakonomics and many others. The byline: Why The Future of Business is Selling Less of More. Chris Anderson, the author, is the editor of a very popular tech magazine called WIRED.
The idea being that in our popular culture, for years, the way business, particularly music and movies, but also everything else, have been dominated by the Hits. In fact, you pretty much only heard of or knew of the hits, since prior to the internet there hasn’t been a great way to pass learn about the rest.
Anyways, the book is extremely interesting, but is a tiny bit on the academic, numbers, theories, side of things, rather then stories. Anyone who is in business or plans on being in business (of any kind really) should probably read this book.
The conclusion made is basically that there is a lot of room now for everyone, not just the blockbusters and platinum albums of the world. That we don’t need to be famous artist, or writers, or actors to have a place. There isn’t a good way for me to summarize all the different things he talked about, so I’d just recommend the book.
I will leave you with some quotes though:
The supermarket helped create the Middle Class. Its low prices freed up substantial funds for families to spend on cars, homes, education and other needs and amenities of life. As supermarkets proliferated in the 1950s and 1960s, they played a pivotal role in creating the American middle class. On the supermarket’s silver anniversary, President Kennedy said that the supermarket’s low-cost mass marketing techniques “. . . have enabled a higher standard of living and have contributed importantly to our economic growth.” -from Food Marketing Institute p. 45
On The Long Tail of warefare:
Traditionally, warfare (the ability to change society through violence) has been limited to nation-states (except in rare cases). States had a monopoly on violence. The result was a limited, truncated distribution of violence (a power law). That monopoly is on the skids due to three trends:
* A democratization of the tools of warfare. Niche producers (for example: gangs) are made possible by the dislocation of globalization. All it takes to participate is a few men, some boxcutters, and a plane (as an example of simple tools combined with leverage from ubiquitous economic infrastructure).
* An amplification of the damage caused by niche producers of warfare. The magic of global guerrilla systems disruption which turns inexpensive attacks into major economic and social events.
* The acceleration of word of mouth. New groups can more easily find/train recruits, convey their message to a wide audience, and find/coordinate their activities with other groups (allies).
The result: a long tail has developed. New niche producers of violence have flourished. Demand for the results these niche suppliers can produce has also radically increased. Big concepts (such as a struggle between Islam and the US), not championed by states, has supercharged niche suppliers like al Qaeda and its clones.
Because I’m interested in Wikipedia and wikis for InsideNorthside, I thought this was worth mention:
Is Wikipedia “authoritative”? Well, no. But what really is? Britannica is reviewed by a smaller group of reviewers with higher academic degrees on average. There are, to be sure, fewer (if any) total clunkers or fabrications than in Wikipedia. But it’s not infallible either; indeed, it’s a lot more flawed that we usually give it credit for.
Britannica’s biggest errors are of omission, not commission. It’s shallow in some categories and out of date in many others. And then there are the millions of entries that it simply doesn’t–and can’t, given its editorial process–have. But Wikipedia can scale to include those and many more. Today Wikipedia offers 860,000 articles in English – compared with Britannica’s 80,000 and Encarta’s 4,500. Tomorrow the gap will be far larger. -p.69
Regarding book sales (I never knew):
in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. The average book in America sells about 500 copies. In other words about 98 percent of books are noncommercial, whether they were intended that way or not. -p. 76
Interesting statement regarding our society being “post-scarcity” (scarcity being a basic economic principle):
And what is the motive force behind China and India’s rise if not abundant labor, allowing them to, in a sense, waste people? -p. 145
On the Blogosphere (words of Judge Richard Posner):
The charge by mainstream journalists that blogging lacks checks and balances is obtuse. The blogosphere has more checks and balances than the conventional media; only they are different. The model is Friedrich Hayek’s classic analysis of how the economic market pools enormous quantities of information efficiently despite its decentralized character, its lack of a master coordinator or regulator, and the very limited knowledge possessed by each of its participants.
In effect, the blogosphere is a collective enterprise – not 12 million separate enterprises, but one enterprise with 12 million reporters, feature writers and editorialists, yet with almost no costs. It’s as if The Associated Press or Reuters had millions of reporters, many of them experts, all working with no salary for free newspapers that carried no advertising.
On the internet making us more open minded:
Since nothing on the Web is authoritative, it’s up to you to consult enough sources so that you can make up your own mind. This [The Web] is the end of spoon-fed orthodoxy and infallible institutions, and the rise of messy mosaics of information that require—and reward—investigation. The sixties told us to question authority, but they didn’t provide us with the tools to do so. Now we have those tools. The question today is how best to use them without becoming overwhelmed by uncertainty. p. 190-191(ht. for typing)
Probably enough quotes for one book. Hope you enjoyed!
Looking for a quick and interesting read, I picked up Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, by Ori and Rom Brafman. In the vein of Freakonomics, The Tipping Point and others (don’t know what that genre’s called). The book proved thoroughly interesting.
The basic premise is that we are swayed to act irrationally by various external forces. By learning and being aware of them we can learn to make more rational decisions, though the reality is we our often affected so sub-consciously by these forces that they are hard to avoid.
Rather then summarizing the different Sways myself, I found an excellent summary over at JollyBlog‘s book review:
Loss aversion – this is a form of playing not to lose, making decisions in order to cut our losses, or avoid further losses.
Commitment – this is our tendency to hold fast to our course of action in the face of accumulating losses.
Value attribution – we attribute value to people or things based on quick impressions. In other words, if the right people like something we attribute greater value to that thing than if the wrong people like it.
Diagnosis bias – once we diagnose a situation we see the world through the lens of that diagnosis and all of reality conforms to our bias.
Fairness perception – we’ll often act against our own best interests if we feel that we are being treated unfairly. There is a cool experiment he talks about involving two subjects. Someone offers them a sum of money, let’s say $100. One person gets to divide it any way they want and the other person can decide to accept or reject that division. If the second accepts they both get the money per the division by the first. If the second rejects, they both get nothing. Most of the time the first person divides it 50-50, the second accepts and they walk away happy. But, when the first person makes an imbalanced division – let’s say he keeps $70 and offers the other $30 – in pretty much every case the second rejects it. In either case, whether it was a 50-50 or a 70-30 split, the second person would have come out to the good, but in the second case they rejected their own gain because of the fairness perception.
Altruism-Pleasure conflict – people will perform better for altruistic motives than for rewards. In other words, if someone does something for altruistic motives and then you come back and offer them a reward for doing the same thing, you will often find them losing motivation and/or performing worse. You gotta read that chapter to understand how it works.
Group Conformity – when in group settings, people tend to stifle their own opinions, often when their own opinions are patently correct and the groups are patently false, to go along with the group.
I’d recommend this book to anyone whose enjoyed any other books in this genre. It’s a quick and easy and interesting read. For some further insight into the subject matter here’s a video by the author about the book.
Now, some totally random tidbits that don’t necessarily give you a good overall view of the book, but might be interesting nonetheless.
Apparently LBJ was a pretty crazy guy…
“There’s a thin line between determination and intimidation and LBJ had no trouble skipping between the two. When he was elected to Congress, he’d call fellow legislators at all hours of the night, just to catch them off guard. Later, as president, during official White House meetings he’d shock and intimidate visitors by announcing a swimming break, taking off his clothes and jumping naked into the pool.” (p.33)
They did a study where a college class has a surprise substitute teacher. The students receive different descriptions of the teacher, an identical biographic paragraph except one line: “People who know him consider him to be a very warm person…” or “People who know him consider him to be a rather cold person…” After sitting through the class, hearing from the exact same professor, the students fill out a questionnaire. Those who had the “very warm” description described the teacher as such. Yet, students who’d sat through the exact same class but who’d received the “rather cold” description described the professor as “self-centered, formal, unsociable, unpopular, irritable, humorless, and ruthless.” One word difference completely changed their perception of the same person! (p.73)
The book also references studies challenging the effectiveness of SSRI’s (Prozac, Zoloft, etc)
“When it comes to SSRIs and children, only three out of the sixteen randomized control trials they had for kids showed a positive result. Only three out of sixteen. And of course there is also the risk of serious side effects.” -Dr. David Antonuccio, regarding research on SSRI’s (p. 97)
I just read through Terrorism and War by Howard Zinn, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to hear a brilliant mind on the current issues of war and terror. The whole book is just over one hundred pages and it’s in an interview format, as it basically is a compilation of a series of interviews Zinn gave around 2002, just after 9/11 and the Afghanistan war and just before the Iraq war. Zinn is a truly brilliant mind and I feel makes a decent case that war is simply not a useful tool anymore, period.
“I think there is a simple test of what concerns bin Laden, whether it is our democracy and internal freedom or whether it’s our foreign policy. And that simple test is: What side was Osama bin Laden on before 1990? That is, before the United States stationed troops in Saudi Arabia, made war against Iraq, and began its sanctions against Iraq. We were just as democratic and libertarian internally before 1990 as we are today. But Osama bin Laden was not offended by that. He was on our side — and we were on his side — in the fight to take control of the government in Afghanistan. The turning point for Osama bin Laden is very clear. It has nothing to do with democracy and liberty. It has to do with U.S. foreign policy. And that turning point came in 1990 and 1991.” p. 13
Speaking of alternatives to war…
The question always comes up about World War II: “What would you have done?” The answer is not an easy one, but it has to start off by saying, “I would not accept a solution that involves mass killing. I would try to find some other way.” The other way is not passivity; the other way is not acceptance; the other way is resistance without war. The other way is underground movements, strikes, general strikes, noncompliance. Even Hitler, in World War II, was at times successfully resisted in Denmark, in Norway, in Germany itself, by wives protesting the deportation of their Jewish husbands. Those methods of resistance don’t ensure a peaceful resolution, because the repressive forces are always strong. But they are means that are more proportional to the end, especially since they are means that are engaged in not by governments but by people, which is a very important consideration. With popular resistance, you have a greater assurance that your end will be attained than if governments are in charge. p. 23-24
On why he doesn’t call himself a pacifist…
I have never used the word “pacifist” to describe myself, because it suggests something absolute, and I am suspicious of absolutes. I want to leave openings for unpredictable possibilities. There might be situations (and even such strong pacifists as Gandhi and Martin Luther King believed this) when a small, focused act of violence against a monstrous, immediate evil would be justified. p. 25
A tidbit that was noted in the book:
According to an article in the Boston Review, “up to 35 million people-90 percent civilians-have been killed in 170 wars since the end of World War II. (Boston Review 24, no. 1, Gabriel Kolko, Century of War: Politics, Conflict, and Society Since 1914)
And I’ll finish with a final quote from the book, of Dwight Eisenhower, our 34th President:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.