Truly a classic! The characters are fascinating and well drawn, and I think Fitzgerald has put his finger on a still-timely portrayal of American soci...moreTruly a classic! The characters are fascinating and well drawn, and I think Fitzgerald has put his finger on a still-timely portrayal of American society, with its search for identity and its aspirations of fame and achievement. This book is a great combination of outstanding writing, lots of action, and deep ideas that warrants repeated readings. If you haven't picked it up since high school, be sure to put it back on your reading list. (less)
Classic. It's hard to believe this was his first book. The characters are rich and the action is compelling. Jack Ryan is one of the great protagonist...moreClassic. It's hard to believe this was his first book. The characters are rich and the action is compelling. Jack Ryan is one of the great protagonists. He does his best to do what's right, but the decisions aren't easy and the wisdom isn't trite but hard won. There are a few places where the narrative bogs down, but this is still an outstanding book. Well worth the read.(less)
The Wise Man's Fear is the second volume ("Day Two") of the Kingkiller Chronicles, an epic trilogy of books by Patrick Rothfuss. Like the first volume...moreThe Wise Man's Fear is the second volume ("Day Two") of the Kingkiller Chronicles, an epic trilogy of books by Patrick Rothfuss. Like the first volume, The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1), this second book follows a young red-haired archanist named Kvothe. It begins with him studying at the University, in subjects like artificery, sympathy, and naming. But at the close of the term, he sets out to see the world, and to hopefully get a patron. A friend has set up an opportunity on the other end of the known world, with a wealthy Maer Alveron. So Kvothe sets out, and his journeys occupy much of the rest of the book, first as he learns to navigate the courtly culture in Vintas, then hunting bandits in the untamed Eld. He has a remarkable encounter with the mythic Felurian and spends a few months in the lands of the Fae, and also spends a few months learning the advanced mercenary culture and the way of the Lethani among the Adem, before rescuing two young girls from bandits on his way back home. That's all to say it is a relatively action-packed book with some interesting changes of scene.
This second book continues fascinating trajectory begun in the first volume, developing the main characters and the world they inhabit. Kvothe continues to become an engaging, complex, slightly dark protagonist, and he makes for a sympathetic yet also mythic "hero." The book suffers a bit from the oft-noted "middle-book slump," but not too much, and it continues to showcase Rothfuss's immense talent. The change of setting often makes for an interesting variety of scenery and plot, but it occasionally bogs down a little. And the main "mystery" that seems to be driving the books, a tandem of the questions of how Kvothe ends up as a rather hum-drum inn keeper in a backwards town and of how the major conflict with the Seven will resolve, are both moved forward some, but often seem to get lost in what almost seem like asides, or at least interesting facets too fully explored (case in point is the sheer amount of time spent in the world of the Fae with Feulrian, which adds some important detail as well as some mythic depth to the world and to Kvothe's character, but which goes on for maybe a few too many pages). As with the first volume, I enjoyed this one and look forward to the series' conclusion in the final book. Rothfuss has constructed an expansive story-world, and I look forward to entering it again.(less)
Thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy. This book is the first in a new series by the prolific author Stephen Lawhead. The concept is a relativel...moreThanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy. This book is the first in a new series by the prolific author Stephen Lawhead. The concept is a relatively intriguing one: London-resident Kit Livingstone sumbles on a "Ley line," an invisible portal between different universes of our multiverse. He is apparently possessive of some faculty that allows him to do this. And things get immediately stranger when he meets his great-grandfather, who helps him understand this new ability and this trans-universe travel. Soon he, and separately his casual girlfriend Wihlehmina, are off on adventures in other times and places. Wilhelmina ends up in 17th century Prague, and her storyline is a fun one, as she develops as a character and learns to navigate life in a different time and culture. Kit, meanwhile, is thrust on his own adventures in London and elsewhere. And as the story develops, we learn that there are forces for good and evil competing to track down the pieces of a mysterious map that holds important keys for navigating the ley lines.
There are the bones of a good story here, as well as some fun parts to this book. But overall it was really lacking in compelling characters and action to drive it. I was hoping for more from Lawhead, but he hasn't yet delivered. I hold out some hope for future volumes in the series, to see where he takes the action and how he develops the characters, but I'm not in a big hurry to get to them. If you read this one, know that it's only the beginning of the story.(less)
I loved this book. Alister McGrath is one of the most distinguished scholars in the evangelical world. He spent 25 years teaching historical and syste...moreI loved this book. Alister McGrath is one of the most distinguished scholars in the evangelical world. He spent 25 years teaching historical and systematic theology at Oxford University and is now head of the Centre for Theology, Religion & Culture at King's College, London. He also holds Doctorates from Oxford in both historical theology and molecular biophysics. And he has also written broadly at both an academic and more popular level, focusing especially on historical theology, the interplay of science and theology, and most recently of a Christian response to the New Atheism of Richard Dawkins and others. This all means he is ideally placed to comment in this present book on the importance of theological thinking and the importance of careful consciousness of the traditions of the past as living voices for the church today. The first half of the book is a series of investigations into the sources and methods of theology and an application of these methods to a couple of important theological questions--the role of ambiguity in faith, a Christian understanding of nature, and the role of apologetics and its relation to theology. The second half of the book is a series of essays engaging with important issues in our current culture from a historically oriented theological perspective. These essays focus on two main issues, the proper relation between science and theology and the (closely related) possibility of a robust Christian response to the new athiesm of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. And it is here that this book especially shines. McGrath's readable and lucid descriptions of how science and theology may be fruitfully related are outstanding and point in far more fruitful directions than are often assumed to be possible when the relationship is thought to be one of conflict instead of "reasonance" as McGrath describes it.
This book is a series of lectures given in 2008-9. This gives them a timely feel, as he addresses contemporary issues, and it also give the book a nice conversational and approachable tone. But, unlike many volumes of lectures, these have been been carefully reworked so they cohere nicely and smoothly and are well-annotated with relevant citations. This book demonstrates again McGrath's amazingly wide reading across historical and contemporary theology, philosophy, the natural sciences, sociology and literature, though he wears this learning lightly. His prose is always clear, and he makes his points efficiently. In all, I really loved this book. It was enjoyable to read and reinvigorated my passion for theology, even as it presented helpful directions for cultural engagement in our postmodern and post-Christian world.(less)
If you have watched any Nova or National Geographic specials on pretty much any facet of the Old Testament over the past few years, it very quickly be...moreIf you have watched any Nova or National Geographic specials on pretty much any facet of the Old Testament over the past few years, it very quickly becomes obvious that a rather stark historical minimalism is dominant in the scholarly world, or at least the scholarly world they feature. And this could be dismissed as just media bias, but a similar minimalism is also quite prominent in the OT academic circles and is evidenced in many introductory OT textbook. So what in the OT is historical? The Bible certainly treats the major characters and events in the OT as historical, and it builds its understanding of God and his character from God's acts in history (God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the exodus). So if the OT was entirely made-up history, a fictional construct from after the exile to give a rag-tag band of people an identity, that would have pretty profound implications for how we understand God and how we understand the Bible.
K. A. Kitchen, an emeritus professor of Egyptology at Liverpool University, takes these questions head on, as he systematically looks at the historicity and plausibility of the OT writings in their historical contexts. The book is a detailed era-by-era investigation into the Biblical text (sometimes point out that what we assume the Bible says isn't actually what it reports), cultural settings, archaeological discoveries, and documentary and inscriptional evidence from the Levant and the surrounding world, in order to see whether the Bible's historical record fits with, and often intersects with, the history as it can be understood from outside the Bible.
The book is filled with detail. It is 500 pages of discussion of the evidence and the various approaches to its reconstruction along with careful evaluation of how the historical and archaeological data coheres with the Bible, along with another 150 pages of notes, diagrams, and indices. That's all to say, he deals with all of the major issues that arise out of this wide-ranging subject matter. This mountain of detail and discussion is made easily navigable by its good organization, helpful use of charts, and its concise summaries at the end of each chapter.
Kitchen's careful conclusion is that the minimalism so prevalent in the academy and in popular scholarship today is merely a relic of past assumptions now eclipsed by the evidence. He concludes his investigation of whether the Biblical writings were composed entirely within the postexilic period (400–200 B.C.) or whether they reflect their purported historical settings by asserting, with regard to the divided monarchy, exile, and return, that the Bible's accounts of these periods "show a very high level of direct correlation (where adequate data exists) and of reliability." And, concluding on what can be said of the historicity of the accounts before the united monarchy, when direct evidence is more difficult to find, that "the Hebrew founders bear the marks of reality and of a definite period." Thus, he concludes that the Bible's historical accounts make sense in the times that they purport to represent, and don't give evidence of a postexilic invention so popular in academic circles. I must also say that while Kitchen's study is indeed detailed, it is also entertaining, as he shows a warm and sometimes scathing humor as he looks at historical evidence or at rival historical reconstructions. The book was enjoyable to read, and is a very helpful push back against the minimalism that can begin to erode Biblical faith. It certainly isn't the last word on any of these matters, but it is an important and substantial tome that will need to be reckoned with. And if you're not ambitious enough to dig in to all of the data, selective reading of especially important topics and careful reading of all of the introductory and summary materials makes for a good overview of the relevant materials.(less)
Longenecker provides an informative and in-depth survey of the major background issues to the study of Romans. It is basically composed of the materia...moreLongenecker provides an informative and in-depth survey of the major background issues to the study of Romans. It is basically composed of the material you'd expect to find in the intro of a commentary, but at greater depth. There is some repetition between the chapters, and some of the book could have been tightened up through more smoothly relating the various chapters to one another. It also seemed that his discussion interacted most with sources that were at least a decade or more old (at one point he refers to an article from 1997 as "recent"), though he does selectively draw on some recent studies. But his conclusions are well-reasoned and balanced. There isn't much that is earth-shattering. But I found one of his foundational insights rather fruitful. In his discussion of the recipients, he surveys Roman Christianity, and one of the assertions he makes is that, much like the Judaism in that city, the Roman Christians would have had a close connection with Jerusalem. This is fruitful because it means that it would not have only been ethnic Jews who may have held the law in high regard and may have held a key place for it in the plan of salvation. This insight comes up in a number of chapters and helps reread some of the evidence for what Romans is about in a fresh light. There is definitely much of benefit here, and it certainly whets the appetite for the full commentary (to which he defers discussions repeatedly). In all, a nice volume by a wise scholar. (less)