Category: Things I am thinking

  • The Imagination Chamber

    The Imagination Chamber by Philip Pullman

    My rating: 1 of 5 stars

    Publishing this as a hardback book is an astonishing insult to Pullman fans. The price might be fair if the book was full of text but it is over half empty. And what Pullman offers his readings seems to be little more than some paragraphs that were cut from other books. A more appropriate offer would have been simply to put up a series of blogposts for anyone to read and comment on. This book is a massive misjudgement by all involved, even if it breaks even. I feel conned.

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  • James

    James by Chris A. Vlachos

    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Vlachos has produced a very straightforward exegetical guide. He provides just enough help to guide the reader. He studied under Moo so tends to take similar lines. As usual in this series the homiletical suggestions are very elementary – don’t buy it for sermon prep!

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  • Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I read this as background to the musical (which Lin-Manuel Miranda used as his base). Perhaps longer than I needed, nevertheless for the most part the book is very readable and rarely takes for granted historical background knowledge.

    Chernow is definitely a fan of Hamilton, and there are regular pauses to marvel at his brilliance, but the reader also has a sense that in the latter phase of his life the author is exasperated by his subject; not least in his pursuit of the final duel.

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  • Making Faith Magnetic:

    Making Faith Magnetic: Five Hidden Themes Our Culture Can’t Stop Talking About… And How to Connect Them to Christ by Daniel Strange

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    This book is well written, and full of great illustrations. It’s case is that there are five themes that regularly resurface in people’s lives, that are best answered by Jesus. So far so good. However despite regular restatement the five themes are not sharp-edged or (I find) precisely defined. Although perhaps it is in the nature of this kind of book but it is ‘too good to be true’ that the themes are directly addressed in 5 I am sayings from John’s Gospel. Nevertheless the book does provoke thinking about what are the questions that Christianity is answering today.

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  • Galatians: Commentaries for Christian Formation by N.T. Wright

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Tom Wright takes the reader through Galatians painstakingly interpreting it from his ‘fresh perspective’. On the whole I think his understanding brings light to a letter that see foreign and harsh. He is always to read, if rather exhausting.
    Some caveats:
    There is a lot of Wright here compared to Paul. To explicate the text there are long introductions to each section – Wright reworking the way we casually read Paul
    Consequently it is almost impossible to ‘look up’ a verse, or get a quick view of a paragraph, there is so much introductory material.
    At a key point he relies on Teresa Morgan’s understanding of ‘faith’, I do not know how accepted her work is. A large part of re-reading Galatians, away from classical ‘justification by faith’ depends on Morgan’s reading.
    I am not sure if this is what the editors wanted to launch a commentary series ‘for Christian formation’, but if a reader picked up for ‘Spiritual Disciplines’ or devotional thoughts they are going to be disappointed. The ‘Conclusion’ sections are too general, and read like afterthoughts.

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  • 1 Thess 2:1-2

    We beg you, sisters and brothers, 
         about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ 
                    and our being gathered to him
    not be to be easily shaken from  your understanding
    nor alarmed because of a spirit,
                                                      or a word
                                                      or a letter (seeming to be from us)
    to the effect that the Day of the Lord has come.

    Take from us,
    O God, all pride and vanity,
    all boasting and self-assertion,
    and give us the true courage that shows itself in gentleness,
    the true wisdom that shows itself in simplicity,
    and the true power that shows itself in modesty.

    Charles Kingsley

  • 2 Thess 1: 11-12

    Also in this 
    we pray constantly about you,
         that our God might count you worthy of (his) calling
    and may complete
                          every desire arising out of  goodness
            and (every)  work born out of faith
                                      in power. 
          that the name of our Lord Jesus
    might be glorified in you, 
                    and you in him, 
    according to the grace of our God and Lord,
    Jesus Christ.

    O thou, who art the light of the minds that know thee,
    the life of the souls that love thee,
    and the strength of the wills that serve thee;
    help us so to know thee that we may truly love thee;
    so to love thee that we may fully serve thee,
    whom to serve is perfect freedom.

  • Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Burkeman has written about ‘to do lists’ before; the emphasis in this book is on Mortals. His title makes the point clearly – we have on average a lifespan of 4000 weeks.

    I warm to the author because he is not taken in with the fake promises of time management gurus, indeed he highlights how they make false promises because they in different way assume we can master time, and our lives are limitless. Although he does not refer to stoicism in the text and there are a wide range of sources for his quotations, he does advocate a modern stoicism / Buddhism; accept your limitations, be concerned about what you can affect, enjoy this moment…

    As such this is well and good. This may well be the best and most rational philosophy for atheists.

    I am not entirely convinced that we should abandoning hope, and looking for a ‘deeper’ meaning to our short lives. It does not seem to me that the public will take kindly to ditching hope or purpose.

    I certainly do not think that for all his reading (Brueggemann – did he really read him?) of Christian authors that he has grasped the extra dimension of understanding our lives as gifts to be used well for God’s purposes. And that someone (God) really does care about what we do, and wants to say ‘Well done’ good and faithful servant’.

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  • Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    This book centres around the author’s (half unbelievingly) progress to being the US memory champion. Along the way he various memory techniques and subjects – although this most definitely not a how to guide. He sees clearly that the ‘Memory Championship’ events are only an approximation of real life and that being able to memorise multiple packs of cards is of little practical use. For those who watched the C4 TV programme with Ed Cooke, it is amusing to hear more about him.

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  • Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    This is very much a sequel to the Magpie Murders and probably needs to be read after that one. As in the first book a ‘contemporary’ murder in the novel is matched to a ‘fictional’ murder from a crime book written by Alan Conway, a character in both Horowitz novels. Conway’s book is contained in this one. As a result there are two plots and two sets of characters, which requires the reader to pay attention. One can only admire the skill of an author to write such a complex novel!

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