"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March Books

I can't believe nearly 1/4 of the year is over!  Here is the list of books I finished in March. 

Hard To Believe by John MacArthur-- this is a book my brother had and thought I might like to read. It's subtitle is "the high cost and infinite value of following Jesus."

I liked the chapter where he talked about Luke 4 when Jesus spoke in his hometown synagogue.  He concludes by asking if we see ourselves among the poor, prisoners, blind and oppressed who need Jesus (see pg. 68-69)

"Many people hear, but if you examine your life and it's all hearing and no doing, don't deceive yourself into thinking you're a Christian."  (pg. 109)

I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish -- I absolutely loved this book although it made me cry!  Dr. Abuelaish describes his life growing up in Gaza, raising a family (and losing his wife and three daughters) and practicing medicine and how he has worked to bridge the divide between Palestinians and Israelis. I admire his attitude incredibly much! My Facebook friend Aisha recommended this book after hearing him speak in the Seattle area. I put the book on my Amazon wishlist and got it for Valentine's Day.  Many good things worth sharing, but I really loved this from one of the final chapters. He spoke against the disease of hatred and urged people to get over their ignorance by asking questions, learning from others and perhaps discovering we are more alike than we are different. (see pg. 229)

To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian by Stephen E.Ambrose has just under twenty chapters and each deals with a different topic of American history or the author's life in his writing of American history.  Mr. Ambrose shares areas where he maybe was taught one thing and taught it in his own history classes as a university professor yet how over the years of reading and studying and researching and writing,he has at times changed his mind on a variety of topics.  In the book he often referred to other books he'd written so a critic could say this book was an advertisement for his other books whereas I chose to look at it as "if you like this topic and want to read about it much more thoroughly, you should check out the book I wrote on this topic."  And I was fine with that. 

For instance, he shared a chapter on our founding fathers - how impressivie Thomas Jefferson's writings were, how high his IQ yet how George Washington, to him, was the best US President.  He didn't have the writing skills or IQ of Jefferson, but he had something that rallied the people behind him yet didn't let it go to his head. Washington rejected being made the King of America and set the precedent for our limit of 2 consecutive terms in the Presidency.  Ambrose noted how much he admired Eisenhower and was chosen by Eisenhower himself to write about his papers. Instead Ambrose wrote the former President's biography.  He recalls how much he despised President Nixon. Not just for Watergate, but because Nixon always felt very self-serving to Ambrose. Yet when he was asked by a publisher to write the biography of Nixon- and declined immediately - he was challenged by the one who asked him to write it, so he dedicated a full decade and wrote 3 volumes on the man. And the books weren't 300-pages each. More like 750-plus pages each!  

I was especially interested in his thoughts on the American Indians because he and his family lived among them and became friends with many of them. He told a couple of stories about those times and Indian culture that fascinated me.  I now want to read his book on this topic to learn more about the Plains tribes.  He wrote a chapter on the transcontinental railroad and the hard work and teamwork involved by those men who built it.  I was enthralled by facts of the Pacific fight of World World II and how hated the Japanese were, how "dirty" they played even in war.  Since I've been alive, Japanese goods have been so outstanding and I've always thought of them as friends that hearing how they fought to the last man and were willing to die for their Emperor (whom they thought was a god) amazed me!  It reminded me a bit of some radicals today who won't surrender because they believe dying in the cause of God (which God's cause miraculously happens to be their cause no matter how hateful and despicable) will give them instant paradise. Another example is that in the European war, medics wearing a cross on their arms were rarely targets of enemy fire. In Japan, they learned quickly that that made them more of a target to the enemy.   

I was thankful for the efforts Theodore Roosevelt made to conserving some areas of the US for the future generations to enjoy. Otherwise we may not have many of the national and state parks because people would have stripped them of trees and probably had a strip mall or parking lot there by now.  The chapter on the D-Day Museum in New Orleans touched me as well as the talks Mr. Ambrose would have with WW II soldiers both here and abroad. He even made friends with a German soldier (from WW II) after a British soldier introduced him and assured Ambrose they were friends.  I also liked the chapter on Vietnam.

The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs -- great book; see previous posts for more details

Lilla's Feast by Frances Osborne -- A library book that says it's "a true story of food, love, and war in the Orient." The author shares the life of her great-great grandmother who was born to British parents in China and later married and lived in India, Kashmir and Britain. After her husband, a British officer, died in a shipwreck, she remarried and went back to live in China where she was a prisoner when the Japanese invaded China during World War 2.  I enjoyed learning how British people thought and acted back then!

Loved this quote:  "the past is another country, people do things differently there."  -- L.P. Harley  (pg. 116)  The author was talking about children of British parents during this time (early 1900s).  It was very common for parents living in various parts of the British Empire to send their children home for schooling. Many children rarely saw their parents from the ages of 5 until their schooling ended. Wow.

Rabbi Jesus by Bruce Chilton is a library book promising "an intimate biography" and "the Jewish life and teaching that inspired Christianity" from the cover. Eh, I wasn't enthralled though I vacillate on congratulating myself for having finished it and condemning myself for having wasted part of my life reading it.  On the plus side, I enjoyed some of the cultural tidbits shared.  It's always interesting to learn of ancient times.  On the downside, am I wrong for feeling blue when an Anglican priest believes Joseph to be Jesus' biological father after having met Mary, hitting it off so well with her that they sleep together and have a baby?  A priest who talks of Jesus being a follower of John the Baptist - learning from John in the desert - and being so obsessed with purity that when the woman with the issue of blood touches him, it's with horror that he cries out "who touched me?!" A priest who declares that Jesus put hardship on his family with all his feasting and that his family could hardly keep up and reciprocate on all these meals.  That Jesus brought shame to his family - with all that eating with questionable people.  Jesus was made out to be embittered by society's rejection of him for his questionable paternity.  The author even makes note of his "bipolar tendency."  Oh, and Jesus led a group of zealots in overturning the business going on at the Temple. He gave the agreed-upon signal and the followers let loose. Remember the murderer Barabbas?  He was one of the followers who went a little too far. 

Christianity According to the Bible -- Ron Rhodes seeks to "separate cultural religion from biblical truth." I've had this book for a while and started it nearly 18 months ago and finished the last bit this month so I could finally say it was finished.  The author speaks of creation, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, angels, the Bible, Satan, prophecies and end times among other topics.

The Good Daughter by Jasmin Darznik is a memoir of her Iranian mother's "hidden life."  I found this at the public library and enjoyed reading about her mother and grandmother's lives in Iran leading up to the revolution which brought Jasmin and her parents to California.  It was very interesting reading about another country through the lives of ordinary people.

Where God Was Born by Bruce Feiler -- In this book the author takes "a journey by land to the roots of religion."  He uses mostly the Exile and Prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible and goes to Israel, Iraq and Iran. I enjoyed learning about these countries including the section on Zoroastrianism and the previous people groups who lived in these places centuries ago.

Inside Islam -- compiled chapters by about 15 different authors; see previous post

As for politics, the gulf governments offered their people a bargain: We will bribe you with wealth, but in return let us stay in power.  It was the inverse slogan of the American revolution -- no taxation, but no representation either.

Baghdad Without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia by Tony Horwitz -- a collection of anecdotes from this journalist; I've come to realize I really enjoy these types of books because I learn quite a lot about various cultures and odd experiences or maybe not so odd, but things that seem odd through western eyes; this book was published 20 years ago so it was interesting to compare Tony's experiences to what I know about these countries today.

Some things I liked: Tony's adventures in Yemen; buying a shrub of qat and joining some guys for a chewing party - made him feel part of the group amongst a country who was surprisingly indifferent to foreigners (unlike Egypt); seeing all the weapons available for sale in Yemen; meeting Yemeni Jews and reading Hebrew to them to "prove" his own Jewishness; the hospital cases in Yemen were crazy; the Tamil guy on the boat ride in the Persian Gulf curious about the truthfulness of American men and women living together before marriage "how are they then virgins when they marry?" ; travels in Iraq during Saddam's rule to report on the Iran/Iraq war and later during the invading of Kuwait; travels in Iran; the sad situation in Sudan; the visit to the science museum and seeing all the dead animals due to lack of funds for their food; much more

India and the Awakening East by Eleanor Roosevelt a memoir of her travels published in 1953.  About half the book deals with India with the remainder touching on her brief stops in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan, Nepal, the Philippines, Indonesia and the Khyber Pass.-  see previous post


Lat said...

I like the qoute on Hard to Believe, about 'all hearing and no doing'.It's about having an active faith.

Really interesting topics you chose to read this month! Reading the reviews alone has piqued my interest to read them! Thanks for sharing!

Wafa' said...

Have i told you how much i miss your blog :),

i loved the list of books you share with us and i loved these mostly:-

-Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish
, i love such topics :)

-Lilla's Feast by Frances Osborne

-The Good Daughter by Jasmin Darznik

-Baghdad Without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia by Tony Horwitz

All of them are going into my wish list. Thanks for enriching my world :)

Susanne said...

Lat, glad you enjoyed the reviews. Yeah, quite a variety this month. :)

Wafa', I miss your comments and hope you are well. But I'm glad to see you here for this one. Yes, I think you would enjoy those books. Of those four Lilia's Feast would probably be my least favorite, but it still had many interesting parts.

Becky said...

Oh my gosh, you read so much and they all sound great!

Thanks for sharing :)

Also, that book with the Anglican priest... yeah I can understand why you'd be unhappy about that, I feel unhappy about that! lol

Susanne said...

I'm glad you could understand me on this. :) Thanks, Becky!