Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Conversions by Craig Harline

Conversions: Two Family Stories from the Reformation and Modern America (New Directions in Narrative History)

Julie M. Smith: “R U there?”

Craig Harline: “Yes. Although I am still getting used to this ‘chat’ feature.”

J: “Can I ask you a teeny favor?”

C: “Sure. What do you need?”

J: “I need a book for my book group. And I know you are a super historian, so . . .”

C: “You want me to recommend a book?”

J: “No, silly. I want you to write one for me.”

C: “You want me to write a book for your book group!?!”

J: “Yes! Thanks! I have something very specific in mind.”

C: “You do?”

J: “Yeah. You know how you discovered that amazing daybook from the early 1600s and then wrote A Bishop’s Tale?”

C: “Yes . . .”

J: “Well, I know how you are always hanging out in archives, so I want you to find something new! Another undiscovered, once-in-a-lifetime find that is so rare other historians will scowl at your back when you stand in front of them in line for lunch at academic conferences. That’s what we need!’

C: “I can’t just . . .”

J: “OK, one thing, though. No offense, friend, but A Bishop’s Tale was a little uneven to me. Maybe that was your co-author’s fault, I dunno, but I didn’t love that book. This book, I want the writing to completely knock my socks off. I mean, really awesomely amazing out-of-this-world prose, like, more engaging than a paperback you pick up in the airport!! Knock it out of the park, man! No dry academic stuff here!”

C: “Julie, that’s . . .”

J: “What would be really awesome is if this 400-year-old lost book that you discover was written in code! And you cracked the code! And really dramatic stuff in it, like maybe about how his young guy sneaks away from home in the middle of the night . . . and his dad is a Reformed preacher . . . and, he’s running away to become Catholic! So his dad chases him down! And I know people in the 1600s didn’t normally do this, but what if he wrote all of his personal stuff down so we can really get a feel for what he was thinking and what he was going through . . . how about that?”

C: “Look, you can’t just . . .”

J: “And you know what else you need to do? We’re going to need a lot of background information because I don’t know beans about Reformation Europe, so you’ll need to put all that in, but don’t let it detract from the pace of the book. Work it in seamlessly, make it fascinating, but give me all of the background I need to put this dude in his context.”

C: “Julie, this is getting . . .”

J: “OOO! I just thought of something! You know what would make it even more awesome? Every other chapter should be about someone else’s conversion story! A Mormon! From modern America! And first he’s Evangelical, but then he joins the Church! And then--go for broke, my friend--then he discovers that he’s gay and leaves the church!”


J: “Here’s the thing, though--I don’t want to be hit over the head with parallels between my historical guy and my modern guy. I want them really subtle--that will give us a TON to talk about at book group. And sometimes, not so parallel, so we can think about what things change over history and what stays the same. The kind of thing where I think about the book CONSTANTLY, teasing out the similarities and differences between the two conversion stories.”

C: “I . . .”

J: “And you know what would be the icing on the cake? End with a riff on biblical interpretation, the history and theology of homosexuality, issues of tolerance, and the purpose and uses of history that is simultaneously provocative and faithful!”

C: “Wha . . .”

J: “OK, one final thing. I'd like a story from your own family history--and not some dusty boring archive story, but an Ensign-worthy-tear-jerker, pretty much a miracle, right up front to link everything in the book together.”

C: “Anything else?”

J: “Well, you’ll need to get it published by a major academic press, that’ll make me look good for choosing it for book group. Yale, maybe?”

C: “I’ll see what I can do.”

J: “THX!”

Note: While I have had the pleasure of meeting Craig, this conversation did not technically happen. But the result is the same.

Another note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book.

Cross-posted from Times & Seasons.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Elliot and the Goblin Wars by Jennifer Nielsen

Elliot and the Goblin War (Underworld Chronicles) I read this to Truman and Nathan. It is cute and funny, but it isn't going to change your life or anything.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Physics for Future Presidents by Richard A. Muller

Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines I read this to the boys and really liked it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Glittering Images by Susan Howatch

Glittering Images An oddly compelling combination of theological treatise, psychoanalysis, and wretched soap opera. I look forward to the next volume with a most guilty pleasure.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The American Story by Jennifer Armstrong

The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History I read this out loud to the boys (over the course of the year) and I really liked it. It's a nice collection of eclectic stories.

When I Lay My Isaac Down by Carol Kent

When I Lay My Isaac Down: Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances Semi-interesting devotional combined with fascinating memoir.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Next to Love by Ellen Feldman

Next to Love: A Novel Very strong start, slightly weaker finish, but overall a good read.

The publisher provided me with a digital review copy of this book.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell

Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile This felt pretty basic, but would probably be a good choice for someone who had never been exposed to liberal Christianity.

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake: A Novel Immensely satisfying. Highly recommended.

The publisher provided me with a digital review copy of this book.

Friday, August 05, 2011

The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths

The House at Sea's End (Ruth Galloway Mysteries) I thoroughly enjoyed this--a great mystery, witty writing, and nice historical detail.

The publisher provided me with a digital review copy of this book.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

In a Sunburned Country Funny and interesting.

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