Michael Lewis has a knack for taking a subject I either know nothing about or care nothing about and make it readable, somewhat understandable, and ofMichael Lewis has a knack for taking a subject I either know nothing about or care nothing about and make it readable, somewhat understandable, and often thrilling. He did it with baseball with Moneyball, football with The Blind Side, and now High Frequency Trading (HFT) on Wall Street with Flash Boys.
The book primarily focuses on the efforts of a few men (and yes, they are all men) to make the stock market a more ethical and fair place. When they saw how HFT was encouraging predatory behavior on the part of banks and brokers against investors, they created a new stock exchange that was built to take away the advantage of HFT’s level the playing field for all investors.
There are large sections of the book that completely lost me. Despite the author’s best intentions, I couldn’t track with all the technical minutiae of the inner workings of the stock market.
But it is in the human element of a story where Lewis is at his best. He dives deep (maybe too deep— more on that in a minute) of how a small group of programmers, brokers, and puzzle solvers built a system that could revolutionize Wall Street. He talks about their motivations. Many of them had personal stories of 9/11 and how it changed their perspective on what they were doing with their lives up to that point, and what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives. There was a clear line between the good guys and the bad actors.
This is why they make movies out of Lewis’ books. Many times I imagined how Flash Boys could play out on the screen. It would be like an Ocean’s 11 movie, only instead of a ragtag bunch of criminals scheming to get rich, it would be about a ragtag bunch of Robin Hood’s who scheme to give to the poor.
And that was part of the problem. There were long stretches of dialogue between the group members as they were building the system that Lewis couldn’t possibly know. I listened to the book on audio, so I haven’t seen a hard copy. I don’t know if there is an authors note or “based on w true story” disclaimer or a “note on sources” page. It was as if Lewis switched back and forth between investigative journalism and screenplay writing. Not that I didn’t love the screenplay. I just wonder how true the story actually is.
This has been a great companion to Wilson and Waggoner’s “A Guide to Theological Reflection,” because what Joel has done with this book is provide anoThis has been a great companion to Wilson and Waggoner’s “A Guide to Theological Reflection,” because what Joel has done with this book is provide another model for theological reflection. Tracking closely with the “hero’s journey” framework Joseph Campbell introduced in “The Power of Myth,” with a generous helping of personal experiences and a side order of pop culture references, Joel shows how we can “connect the dots” of our own journey to understand what God is doing with the bigger picture.
The book is worth the price you pay for it just for the quotes alone. Joel throws off GK Chesterton quotes like he’s memorized his complete works (for all I know, he has). Some gems:
“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered; an inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
Joel also gave me the second half of a proverb I had only ever heard the first part of:
“When the student is ready, the teacher appears. But when the student is really ready, the teacher disappears.” This is the model for disciple making.
“Experience is NOT the best teacher. Evaluated experience is the best teacher.” This is mentoring.
I loved this book. And I loved the audiobook, narrated by Joel. It’s a quick read that should nevertheless be read slowly....more
I’m not too proud to admit that the reason I picked up this book is because I got obsessed with the musical “Hamilton.” Once I heard the soundtrack, II’m not too proud to admit that the reason I picked up this book is because I got obsessed with the musical “Hamilton.” Once I heard the soundtrack, I first read Chernow’s biography of Hamilton, the basis for the musical.
Then, I read Chernow’s biography of Grant because I loved his writing.
Then I re-read McCullough’s “John Adams” because I already had it, and because I loved Hamilton.
Then I re-read Godwin’s “Team of Rivals” because I wondered what it would have been like if Lin-Manuel Miranda had made a musical out of it instead of Hamilton.
All of which led me to read Meacham’s magnificent biography of Jefferson. Because, you know, he’s in Hamilton.
The point is, it doesn’t matter why someone chooses to read history. Just read history. Maybe you think pop culture is a lowbrow motivation. Fine. I’ll own that. But rapping “Cabinet Battle #1” in my car with the volume full up made me want to understand the ideological feud between Hamilton and Jefferson, and by extension between Federalism and Democratic Republicanism.
So, the book itself: it balances Chernow’s and McCullough’s work wonderfully. Hamilton is not the saint/martyr Miranda makes him out to be. Adams is not the fat and final gasp of a dying political party. Jefferson is not the villain/dilletante.
Jefferson in particular modeled intellectual curiosity, philosophy balanced with practicality, and civility in a way that I long for modern presidents to imitate. What a difference it would have made for one recent president in particular to have studied history. At the very least, maybe he would have thought twice before suggesting he belonged on Mount Rushmore alongside (or instead of) Jefferson. Or maybe not. But one can dream.
In the opening epigraph, Meacham quotes something John F Kennedy said when he was welcoming Nobel prize winners at a dinner at the White House. JFK said, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” For the next 500 pages, Meacham demonstrates why that wasn’t just a presidential one-liner. If anything, it was an understatement....more
My favorite of the IX Marks series so far. Smethurst writes with a sense of humor I don’t usually associate with these guys. I really enjoyed the sectMy favorite of the IX Marks series so far. Smethurst writes with a sense of humor I don’t usually associate with these guys. I really enjoyed the section on the history of deacons. But I think the heart of the book is the stories from all over the world of high functioning deacon ministries. That was inspiring. I also appreciated how he handled the arguments for and against female deacons. He is generous to both sides of the issue, honest with his own POV, but doesn’t try to sell you on it. And he goes back to the well of church history to quote various church fathers from Origen to Spurgeon on the issue. And while he may have cherry picked the quotes that supported his position, I was frankly surprised at what those men had to say on the subject. I would like all my deacons to read this book. ...more
I love Bob Goff. He is on my list of people I would most like to have dinner with. If whimsy and winsomeness were spiritual gift, he would be off the I love Bob Goff. He is on my list of people I would most like to have dinner with. If whimsy and winsomeness were spiritual gift, he would be off the scale on any inventory that included them. One reviewer on this site said that this book was thin on substance, and anecdotes would end with some vague self help advice about being distracted, and that the anecdotes themselves were not very interesting. He’s not wrong on the first point, but I couldn’t disagree more about the stories being uninteresting. I loved every one of them.
Maybe Bob should do a massive anthology of all his books and call it “Bob’s Big Book of Illustrations for Speakers, Preachers, and Teachers” Strip away all the conclusions or attempts to tie them together, but have a huge and extensive topical index in the back. ...more
This novel started off slow, but wound up being a life affirming, profound story of living the life you have instead of grieving for a life you think This novel started off slow, but wound up being a life affirming, profound story of living the life you have instead of grieving for a life you think you could have had if you made different choices. A woman decides to end her life after a terrible day. She wakes up in a library with an infinite number of books, each book representing a life she could have lived given different decisions. Guided by a kind librarian, she pulls out a book and falls into that life.
The story is basically “It’s a Wonderful Life,” only if Clarence had shown George how his life would have been different if he had gotten to do all the things he had wanted to do. Also if George Bailey had been a philosophy major and Clarence a quantum physicist.
The book suffers from an excess of exposition— if the cardinal rule of storytelling is “show, don’t tell,” then “The Midnight Library” breaks it. And it probably could have ended at any one of the last eight chapters and still tied up all the loose ends that mattered. Still, by that point I liked the main character so much that I didn’t want to say goodbye to her just yet, so I was okay with it.
Overall, this was ultimately a beautiful, high concept story. Someone is going to make a movie from this, and it would be one I would want to see....more
This was one of my favorites of 2022. Trevin (who, full disclosure, is a personal friend) makes a convincing argument that orthodoxy expands our worldThis was one of my favorites of 2022. Trevin (who, full disclosure, is a personal friend) makes a convincing argument that orthodoxy expands our worldview, rather than limiting it or diminishing it. In the acknowledgements, he expresses the debt he feels to GK Chesterton, but I see a whole lot of CS Lewis in his writing as well. Lewis's great gift to the church was to express profound truth through simple analogy. Trevin has the ability to do the same thing. I didn't think it was possible to have feelings of thrill and wonder and adventure in a book that references so many ancient church fathers, but I have a renewed appreciation for Athanasius and Augustine as a result of reading this book. ...more
A funny, tragic, moving, and mostly redemptive story of a woman’s search for healing and reinvention after her life blows up. Cheryl’s adventures on tA funny, tragic, moving, and mostly redemptive story of a woman’s search for healing and reinvention after her life blows up. Cheryl’s adventures on the Pacific Crest Trail alternate between flashbacks to her childhood, her mother’s death, her self-destruction of a good marriage (for no clear reason), drug use, and the most gut-wrenching description of putting down a horse I’ve ever read. She is a winsome, likable narrator, and I found myself rooting for her to complete her journey. ...more
Another unnecessarily tragic story about a very talented, very funny, very good-looking human being for whom all the stars aligned, but whose self loaAnother unnecessarily tragic story about a very talented, very funny, very good-looking human being for whom all the stars aligned, but whose self loathing and insecurity drove him to the kind of self-destructive behavior that is only possible for the super rich, super famous, and super entitled. I’m sorry Matthew Perry’s mother and father split up when he was nine months old. I really am. But I can point to a dozen people in the church I pastor who have had far more tragedy in their lives, with far fewer advantages, who haven’t blown up their colon. I get that addiction is a disease. I really do. And it’s great that he has realized that helping people can fill the emptiness inside that vodka and Vicodin and Oxy can’t. But not everyone has seven million dollars to spend on rehab. And those who do not seem to have come to the same conclusion with a lot less self-pity. Oh, Chandler. Could you BE any more self absorbed? ...more
I loved the first quarter of it, which was about insanely talented musicians being professionals. Honing their craft, studying their influences. It waI loved the first quarter of it, which was about insanely talented musicians being professionals. Honing their craft, studying their influences. It was a tribute to artistry.
Unfortunately the remaining 75% is about talented musicians going insane. Once cocaine, heroin, hedonism and the God complex took over, they stopped being professional. Got sloppy with their craft. Always under the influence. It was a tribute to excess.
And it was just tiresome. The drama became wondering when Peter Grant was going to die. I already knew when Bonham was. He was buried on my fourteenth birthday in 1980. But there was no downward spiral for him. He was introduced as out of control, and he just stayed that way.
They were mean, they were narcissistic, they were selfish, and they didn’t give a rip about their fans. I always wanted to see zeppelin, but it seems now like it was a less than 50-50 bet that they would have been worth seeing. The only consolation is that ticket prices weren’t the second mortgage that they are now. Having just spent a truckload of money to see the Eagles on their 2022 Hotel California tour (which was amazing) I don’t have a lot of respect for a band that had so little respect for that kid who dreams of seeing them all his life, like me.
The whole thing just made me sad. Truthfully, it made me lose a whole lotta love for Zeppelin. ...more