11.05.2007

Let the reading begin!

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Hello my fellow book and culture lovers. Another blog you say? Why another voice among the voices of the more experienced masses? Because I love books and I sometimes like culture. Not only that, but where some might choose their blog to only attack and criticize the culture, I hope to be fair and have an open dialogue with my readers. Yes I believe people will read! (you're reading this aren't you??) More so, I want to show that Christians can intelligently engage the culture. As Mark Driscoll has written, we must seek to engage culture by Receiving what is there by God's common grace, Reject what is sinful, and Redeem the rest. Hopefully my book, movie and music reviews will be of help to you in your understanding of culture. Maybe I can get you to read a little more as well.

So where shall I begin? I'm currently reading through many books for school, fun and just general entertainment. I did want to begin by sharing some ideas on how to judge a book before your read. Since many of you may be Christian, I will jump ahead and focus on how to get a feel for religious book.
1. Amazon!
If you are like me, you spend time on Amazon.com just browsing to see what's around, what's coming up, and what people generally think of books you either just bought, or are about to buy or read. Read the reviews. Does it have one, two, five stars? Do the reviews seem fair? Are there an recurring problems mentioned? Many theology books are notorious for having bad binding. Are you better off buying it used? I might add Tim Keller has a great book coming out called The Reason for God: Faith in an age of Skepticism. It looks good. John Piper has a book dealing on the New Perspective on Paul that has a lot of buzz too.
2. Personal endorsements
Who blurbs the back of the book? Blurbs are the endorsements given to an author by other recognized authors, personalities etc.. this one can say a lot or a little. I once thumbed through a book that was endorsed by Donald Miller. He is the author of "Blue Like Jazz" which many of you know is an emergent manifesto. I may read it at some point to see what the hoopla is about, but suffice it to say he makes many bold statemetns about the church that border on the dangerous. I almost put the book away, but it turned out to be a great book on how to do church discipline today. If I could remember the title of said book i'd recommend it! Of course, seeing well known, respected leaders recommend a book helps. But you must go deeper still. Does anyone who's opinion you trust like the book you are about to read?
3.Tabel of Contents
Yes, at some point you have to pop open the book and read what the author intends to communicate (you knew you were going to at some point) Is there a structure? What are the headings? Is there an apppendix? If it has a sripture index, does it have a lot of scripture mentioned? How long is the book? Who gets mentioned a lot in their bibliography or endnotes? I'm reading a book that has a lot of end notes referencing Carl Jung-it's still a somewhat decent book, but now I read it with caution.
4. Publisher
Who published it? I'm not too happy with Zondervan now that they are cashing in on the Emergent movement with an Emergent line of books. This doesn't mean that all Zondervan books are bad. And yes, to be fair some Emergent books are decent (sometimes). If anything Intervarsity Press is guilty of publishing many questionable books (the openess of God anyone?) Where as a company like Crossway is known to publish Reformed authors. Ditto for Christian Scholars Press and P&R Publishing.
5. Time
What year was this published? If this is older than a decade, their info maybe outdated. But, there are those few books that stand the test of time, so don't hold onto that too hard and fast.
6. Author Info
Who is this person that you are about to let into your thoughts? Thanks to today's world, you can find a ministry website for almost all christian authors. Just be careful that their book isn't just an endorsement for even more (and more expensive!) material from them. What school did they go to? What is their testimony? What school do they teach at? Have they made controversial statemtents in previous books? Is their church a good place? Do they have a blog? Are there incriminating pics of them with Lindsey Lohan?
7. Your own interest
Why do you want to read this? What is it that you need to know? Some books need only a quick glance and a read through a chapter or two to get whatyou need. Others demand a lot of time, and are worht every hour of reading. Pray, reflect, but for goodness sake tell people. We need to have more open discussions about books.

Later on I will write about how to read a book. Suffice it to say, my uncle once told me that you don't let books affect you. The only one that should affect you is the Bible. You must take a wait and see approach to books. That can be very hard if the book is really good. More on this later. Oh yes I expect you to tell what you think ofmy somewhat sage advice. Go ahead, I dare you.

7 comments:

  1. Frank, looks good bro! I am excited. I knew this would be a natural fit for you.

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  2. Spell check would be worht a try. ;)

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  3. Frank, I'm looking forward to reading your posts. You are very insightful on many issues regarding Christianity and culture. I eagerly look forward to following along with you on your blogging adventure.

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  4. Alright! Let the reviews come pouring forth!!

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  5. i think you would really enjoy the new book Brown Like Coffee at brownlikecoffee.com

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  6. There is a new book our church is going to read called "Culture-making"

    I Have read nothing but good things about it, however all the endorsements are questionable to me, (doesnt mean its bad) just questionable.
    I wonder how a man that (from what I have read) can say anything about "culture" with out stepping outside suburban America, this book seems to only apply to this culture but looks like it might get shot down any where outside of this.

    How ever since I have not read it I can not back this statement up, it is just an initial observation, though i do look forward to reading the book, I wonder how a christian is to make culture for an unbeliever to live in when we have to stand on scripture, though our culture is not to an inclusive club, this should be interesting to see how Andy says we have both.

    Has anyone read this book?

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  7. Travis,
    Thanks for stopping by. I would say you're right, these culture books seem to focus only on here (and now but I don't know to what extent that is good or bad). At least one good recommendation for Crouch's book comes from Tim Keller, who's book "The Reason for God" gets my high endorsement. I think I should have also added that in conjunction to reading the book you pick, you should read another book by a well known respected author. D.A Carson in his new book "Christ and Culture Revisited" asks the very question you're asking. Early on, he asks if C.S Lewis would have written the same things had he been born under oppression in Cambodia. He then goes on to explore how we should be in culture as Christians. I have yet to finish that book, but I would recommend you read both books. I would also recommend getting in touch with my friend Jonathan Chan at jonathanhochan.wordpress.com (his blog) He has read Crouch's book and I think he blogged about it. I will read it soon too and tell you what I think.

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Thanks!