Reviews: May 2012

This is my round-up of reviews for this month.  I’m only reviewing on this blog what is required to be reviewed here as a condition of the books being provided to me.  (Other reviews are on Amazon as The Art of Steering and on websites including The Good BookStall and The Christian Marketplace.)

Leonard Sweet, I Am a Follower

Sweet’s book, I Am a Follower, was one which I chose because of my interest in leadership.  In an attempt to debunk the idea of leadership, Sweet hits on the idea of followership and, more specifically, ‘first followership’.  I’m just not sure of the point of this and am not convinced that there is an arguable difference between being first follower and leader: all I can say is that I rather suspect that such a distinction depends on how you define leadership and I am not sure that I support Sweet’s definition!

Yet I recognise that in writing this book Sweet is trying to react against much which has become current in writings on leadership and I did consider the book to be quite interesting with a lot of valid reflections by the author.  I particularly appreciated the questions at the end of each section which encourage deeper reflection; I think that, in many ways, these were the most valuable part of the book as they provided stimulus to some further thinking.

I must admit to struggling with Sweet’s writing style.  I have since read a couple of other books of his and realised that this is not specific to I Am a Follower but is true for me across the board: I find the style a little too disjointed and bumpy to hold my attention.  This disjointedness also seems to extend to the book’s structure: it comes in four parts (headings for these parts are place, way, truth and life), but I am not entirely sure how these parts differed from one another in any notable way.  The endless subheadings also did not help my sense of the book’s overall direction.  However, to be fair to Sweet at this point, I was reading an e-copy of his book and perhaps I would have felt differently about the whole feel of the book’s structure had I been reading a hard copy.

All of this leads me now to a confession.  I am lost somewhere in the last part of the book.  It’s almost unheard-of for me not to finish a book but, having read almost all of this one, I lost the will to finish it a few months back.  Perhaps this time the lack of motivation to finish the last few pages has been exacerbated by a frustration with the e-book format in this particular case; it is certainly not only due to the content, although that too has played its part in my reluctance.

Honest opinion?  I think you might have to try it for yourself.  In hard copy!

I received a free copy of this book for review from BookSneeze.

Christine Caine, Undaunted

In Undaunted, Christine Caine writes a combination of memoir and spiritual exhortation.  She tells the story of God’s part in her life and of the lessons which she learned through her various struggles, including the discovery of her adoption, early years of abuse by men outside of her family and a later miscarriage which occurred much later during married life.

At times, I found the content a bit too ‘preach-y’, although the book was generally well-written and engaging.  I think a newer Christian would really enjoy it and it is certainly potentially very helpful in its implicit teaching about God’s concern with the whole of life and his presence in suffering as well as joy.

I received a free copy of this book for review from NetGalley.

Marcia Moston, Call of a Coward

What if your husband returned home one afternoon after a mission trip with the conviction that God was calling you to serve in Guatemala?  And what if you had known that he was going to say that because God has told you the same thing while he was away?

Moston recounts the disruption to her middle-class lifestyle as she and her family move to Central America to serve God in a way that she had never expected.  She also tells of all that follows as they end up leaving Guatemala and move to serve God in yet another completely unexpected context.

I enjoyed this book.  It encouraged my faith and reminded me that when God calls a person to something he walks with them in it.  This is a great Sunday afternoon read!

I received a free copy of this book for review from NetGalley.

Wayne Cordeiro, Sifted

Sifted is a popular-level exploration of what it means to be faithful when surrounded by trials and disappointments.  It focuses particularly on Cordeiro’s experiences as a church planter and is written with the help of Francis Chan and Larry Osborne and their contributions are interspersed throughout Cordeiro’s text.  There were elements of this book which I found quite helpful and encouraging at a time when faith was difficult; although there is nothing here that could not be found elsewhere in Christian writing, this is nevertheless a book worth reading, in part for the heart, character and wisdom of the author, which are apparent from the writing.

I received a free copy of this book for review from NetGalley.

Nathan Miller, Out of Deception

This true account of the deception of a young Amish man, Wil, and his family tells of a charismatic leader called Wilbur Lee Eash and the cult which he forms around him.  Written in the first person from Wil’s perspective, this book tells of his confusion about the nature of faith and particularly the truth of the gospel as Lee Eash twists it beyond recognition.  What begins as a freeing description by Lee Eash of salvation by grace in the place of the legalism of the particular Amish community in which Wil and his family were participating descends into the demented ramblings of a madman who eventually denies the resurrection of Christ and believes that he alone has the true revelation.

Although the story is a sad one with much ensuing pain for Wil and his family, this is also a story of hope as Wil, and eventually many of his family members escape the control of Lee Eash and his cult and discover the truth of a gospel of grace for themselves.  The book is engaging and I was able to read it in an afternoon.

I received a free copy of this book for review from NetGalley.


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