Sunday, December 31, 2006

Conflict and Community in Corinth by Ben Witherington

I'm feeling a little guilty for reading so much Witherington lately instead of getting a broader variety of sources, but I just like him so much. This is another great title.

1-2 Corinthians by Craig Keener

This was a little skimpy compared to the depth of commentary that I am used to. However, I've had people ask me for a good 'first commentary' and now I can recommend The New Cambridge Bible Commentary.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I've never fallen in love with a narrator's voice as quickly as I did this one--the fact that Death is the narrator probably tells you something about me. This was as excellent book--highly recommended.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel

Mogel attempts to base child-rearing on Jewish principles. This serves as a useful corrective to our child-obsessed (but, paradoxically, child-neglecting) culture. But her execution leaves a lot to be desired. I often sensed that she said what she wanted to say and then mined 3000 years of Jewish tradition for a quote to support her viewpoint. She was also maddeningly vague: Yes, we all agree that kids need reasonable limits (who would argue with that?) but what precisely should those limits be?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hebrews: A Commentary by Luke Timothy Johnson

I'll try not to let my general distaste for the epistles color my feelings toward this commentary: it was solid if not enrapturing.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

Ranking as one of the very best books I have read in a long time, Johnson makes the 1854 cholera epidemic in London fascinating. His wry humor, good storytelling, deft elucidation of the big issues, and great details make this one highly recommended.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Reminiscences of an Octogenarian by Bruce Metzger

Bruce Metzger is the main man of twentieth-century textual criticism of the Bible; this volume had a few interesting anecdotes in it, but was otherwise simultaneously too scanty and burdened with numbing detail.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Letter of James (Anchor Bible) by Luke Timothy Johnson

This was a pretty good commentary; definitely the best of the three that I read. My esteem for the ABC series increases, but I am still annoyed by their decision to cram references into the text instead of into notes.

James (Word Biblical Commentary) by Ralph Martin

I've tried to like the WBC series because people I respect like it, but I just don't like it.

The Epistle of James (NICNT) by James Adamson

The NICNT is one of my favorite commentary series but this one wasn't that good, perhaps because it is so old--almost my age!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Best School Year Ever by Barbara Robinson

I read this to the boys because it is the follow up to the absolutely delightful Best Christmas Pageant Ever. But this was lame.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Group: Six People in Search of a Life by Paul Solotaroff

I never would have picked this up--I only own it because some doofus from shipped the wrong book to me and then told me to keep it. I decided to give it a whirl before I got rid of it and . . . it was fabulous. The author played fly-on-the-wall for a year at a group therapy. The stories are fascinating. The best part, however, is the surprise twist at the end (which then changes the tenor the reader's impression of everything that came before) but I don't want to give it away . . .

Monday, December 04, 2006

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

I read this out loud to the boys. They really enjoyed it but it didn't do much for me.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

At first I thought that this book was going to do for time travel what Twilight did for vampires. But about half way through the story kind of sputtered and by the end I was just vaguely annoyed.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

I normally like Bill Bryson quite a bit, but I think he shot himself in the foot by writing a book that is, to paraphrase, true except for the parts that aren't. It wasn't as funny this way--it was just mindless.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Mummy Congress by Heather Pringle

Exceptionally intriguing, The Mummy Congress ranks as one of the best books that I have read this year. It reads more like a collection of essays on different topics, all somehow related to the practice of mummification. I honestly don't want to describe it too much for fear that I won't do it justice, but I will say that her picture of Chilean women digging through handfuls of sand for pigment with which to paint their deceased children seven thousand years ago will probably be with me for a long time. Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dr. Spock: An American Life by Thomas Maier

It is hard to overestimate Dr. Spock's influence--he taught all those hands how to rock the cradle. Maier's book did an excellent job of exploring his life and exploding the myth of his "permissiveness" (which I had always believed accurate but now see as a political attack raised not by his book but by his opposition to the Vietnam war before it was cool). Maier deftly elucidates the failures of Spock's personal life in a way that makes him seem not a hypocrite but rather a flawed man. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

Didn't live up to the hype ("Best mystery of the decade"--Stephen King) and was kinda vulgar. Ugh.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate diCamillo

I read this to the boys and we all adored it--a book nearly perfect in every way. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Young Joseph Williams Trilogy by Dean Hughes

I read these to the boys because they were the only juvenile historical fiction about Church history that I could find. They weren't that good: the plots plodded, the characterization was flat, the writing was lame. The third volume was slightly better in that it took on some heavy issues of Mormon culpability in Missouri (my five year old knows about Danite excesses now), but I still can't recommend these.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

I needed some mind candy on Sunday; this fit the bill.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Death in Belmont by Sebastian Junger

When the author was a baby, the Boston Strangler worked in his home. (Fortunately, his mother ignored his invitation to join him in the basement.) This book is fascinating (and, of course, unpleasantly graphic at certain points)--nothing like a good mystery.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

To me, novels either "work" or they don't: they either succeed in creating a world--or they don't. This one worked and it was a joy to read even though the topic was horrific and the details graphic. (The only sour note was the revelation at the end of the rector's character.) This is the kind of book that would lead to excellent book group discussions (although it might have a smidge too much sex and violence for some book groups). Recommended.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Erik Larson is one of my all-time favorite writers: Isaac's Storm and The Devil in the White City rank along with Thunderstruck as three of the best non-fiction books I have encountered. I did think the pacing was a little off on this one, but it was still very good.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Hmmm. I'm not sure about this. It was a quick read, it kept my attention, it was funny and horrifying. I'm still playing around in my mind with the ending. I may need to get back to you on this one.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Gospel According to the Simpsons by Mark Pinsky

This book was pretty lame. Very little analysis--just plot summaries from The Simpsons.

Orrin Porter Rockwell by Harold Schindler

This book is an excellent example of what I consider to be an overriding problem with early Mormon history: every source is either Mormon or virulently anti-Mormon. Schindler makes liberal use of some of those anti sources in this book and so I found it difficult to determine how likely the various reports of Rockwell's evil deeds were. He was more myth than man and I can't say that I trust all the stories of his nefariousness. At the same time, he wasn't a choirboy. This was an interesting read, but it was also almost as frustrating as I find historical fiction since I just couldn't decide what to believe.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach

I loved Roach's first book and this one was equally weird and wonderful. She explores all sorts of paranormal phenomena in a light-hearted, Dave Barryesque sorta way. Recommended.

Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark

We read this because we were covering Peru in history; the boys liked it but it didn't do much for me.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The United States of Arugula by David Kamp

This was a good history of the creation of "American food" over the last fifty years--not life-alteringly good, but good.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Uh-Oh by Robert Fulghum

What's not to like about Robert Fulghum?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ten Circles Upon The Pond by Virginia Tranel

This was a very unusual, very successful memoir by the mother of ten children. She managed the mix of day-to-day details, life-defining moments, and reflections on faith and feminism in a masterful way. Recommended.

Monday, October 16, 2006

La Bella Figura by Beppe Severgnini

I loved this book because my husband surprised me with it after he heard an interview with the author on NPR. The content was mediocre, but surprise books from the dh are my brand of flowers.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendehlson

This was fabulous--a sort of Holocaust "Roots" but a narrative of discovery instead of a fictionalized account. Words fail me with this one to some extent, but his meditations of life, memory, place, family, and history are pretty amazing. The fact that he was able to discover so much information about his lost relatives is even more amazing. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament

Book Cover

It looks like a coffee table book but it reads like top-notch scholarship.

I read this to the kids this week; it was good but not outstanding. I was amazed at how difficult the vocabulary was for a children's book and figured that for sure my kids would lose interest when they couldn't follow the story, but they hung in there and said they really liked it. Go figure.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Great Plague by John M. Barry

This was disappointing. The 1918 flu epidemic is a fascinating story, but this book gets lost in the personal histories of the scientist who were on the front lines. I was surprised, since Barry's Rising Tide was fabulous.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Brief Notes

This weekend I read:

Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service

Isaiah for Airheads by John Bytheway

The Ten Virgins by Emily Freeman

The first isn't really the kind of book you review and the second two fall under "if you can't say something nice . . ."

Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith

I read this out loud to the boys and we all loved it--what a treat.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Yearning for the Living God by F. Enzio Busche

This was pretty good-it had some excellent and some unusual moments. Not the best GA biography I've ever read, but certainly worth the time.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Ack. This was a trainwreck. I didn't think anything could live up to Twilight, but this wasn't even in the same ballpark. Ack.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Honey Thief by Elizabeth Graver

This book was average in a mediocre sort of way.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Twilight by Stephenie [sic] Meyer

This is way high on the list of best books that I have ever read. The strange thing is: I cannot really figure out why. I wouldn't say that the writing was extraordinary, the plot was somewhat predictable, and did I mention that it was about vampires? But there was something about this story that just sucked (ha!) me in. I think the vampire backdrop serves as an extraordinarily good metaphor for teenage angst--maybe that was it. In any case, this one is highly recommended.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Intuition by Allegra Goodman

This is an excellent novel: an engaging story with interesting thoughts on science, gender, politics, etc. Recommended.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris

Bah. This is the second time that I have gotten hundreds of pages into a biography of Theodore Roosevelt only to decide that I hated it (despite a few interesting anecdotes).

I suppose TR just isn't my guy.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood by Gregory Prince

This didn't do a whole lot for me; I'm not entirely sure why. I ended up just skimming most of it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg

I'm not sure how I felt about this: the plot was loopy and meandering, but the characters were somewhat endearing. Eh.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Twelve Little Cakes: Memoir of a Prague Childhood by Dominika Dery

This was a good story; I wouldn't bet the farm on every anecdote being 100% accurate, but this was an enjoyable read despite my slight distrust of the author.

The Book of Revelation by G. K. Beale

At over 1200 pages, this was a good commentary. If it had had an excellent editor and 700 pages, it would have been a great commentary. In other words, it was a little flabby.

The Book of Revelation by Robert Mounce

This book has confirmed my suspicion (after doing Leviticus and parts of Ezekiel as well) that NICOT/NICNT is the single best commentary series around. This title was great--amazingly concise and yet filled with great stuff. Recommended for anyone who wants to study Revelation.

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