Saturday, August 02, 2008

Books read in August 2008 (9)

1. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

It is rare to find a non-fiction book that is as gripping as a good thriller. This one is in the cannot put it down genre. It is such an amazing story that if written as fiction it would have been beyond belief. Here is a woman who goes from communist Somalia to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Germany, Holland and America. She becomes Dutch and nearly loses her citizenship. In the process she is in part the cause of the fall of the government of The Netherlands. Several times she nearly loses her life. She is accorded the highest security protection ever after her friend is murdered in the name of Islam. After 9:11 she renounces her faith and becomes the infidel of her title. She insists that the real Islam is not the religion of peace but the motivator of terrorists. She has devoted her life to exposing the Islamic mistreatment of women. Her description of her own genital mutilation and that of other Somali women is horrific reading. But as well as this horror and that of the disintegration of her country as Siad bare fled, there is delight here. Her innocent description of her marvel newly arrived in Europe is beautiful. She asks how can these counties of unbelievers run so well with polite and helpful police? If Islam is so right and superior, how come Islamic countries like her own are in such a mess?

She is compassionate and caring to her family which forces her into marriage against her will and then disowns her. She becomes a Dutch MP only to be forced out of her new home by Muslim hatred. She exposes the folly of multiculturalism, the liberal Western folly of thinking Islam and democracy are compatible. She is a brave woman. Pity about the atheism.

2. Eccentric California (Bradt Travel Guide Eccentric California) by Jan Friedman

A fun guide to where most Americans think most of their nuts are to be found. As a friend of mine says, 'North American is tilted in such a way that everything loose slides to Southern California." Entertaining, but not any way as good as Eccentric London.

3. Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life by Colin Duriez

Duriez has produced an eminently readable and true biography of the great Christian apologist, a breath of fresh air after the ramblings of Schaeffer;s son last year. This is no hagiography. The man is portrayed warts and all. His temper and depressions are told. From humble and unlikely beginnings in a working class home with no art, music or philosophy the development of young Schaeffer is traced. We see him growing up to be a man of determination, a passionate Christian convinced he is called to be a pastor. Romance, marriage, theological studies and three pastorates are described before the young family come to Europe as missionaries to children, They has a passion for evangelism and for truth. The latter had led to being part of a harsh separatist denomination which they were eventually to leave. Schaeffer was determined to communicate truth with love. In Switzerland, without any planning in that direction, young people started to come to the Schaeffer home as a place where honest questions were answered on the simple basis that Christianity is true. The remarkable growth of L'Abri is elated and the publishing and films too. Duriez gives good outlines of the teaching in the earlier books. he also tells of the influence of Van Til and Dooyeweerd( via Rookmaker) as well as his meeting with Barth. The spirituality of the Schaeffers is at the centre of this story. Their hard struggles are related in the years before fame came. I found this a gripping read, with new information on the life of a great man who influenced the author and many others of us. I only found one innaccuracy. A second work was omitted from Schaeffer's collected works, his writing on baptism.

4. Reinventing English Evangelicalism 1966-2001 by Rob Warner

Why do people churn out doctoral theses and think they will make decent books? I presume this is a thesis. It reads like one, full of sociological and theological jargon. It is not a book that communicates well to anyone outside academia. His thesis is that English evangelicalism has grown apart in recent years. The conservatives are out of touch with modern reality and are exculsivist sectarians. The future is with open evangelicals who are prepared to change doctrinally and in other ways. En route we have a new word Calverism, that produced by Calver's leadership of the Evangelical Alliance. Evangelicalism is analysed and measured by the development or otherwise of the EA, Spring Harvest, magazines, Bible reading notes, Alpha, Keele, Nottingham etc. Doctrinal statements are examined over the years to see where there has been change.The author shows considerably less objectivity than one usually expects in a thesis. His sypathies are with post-modern evangelicalism. He is often scathing about those who are more conservative and innacurate in his use of hypercalvinist. He should know that this term has a specific definition as does not mean and does not equate with the people he is often describing. If he really wants to communicate to a wider audience a more popular rewriting is needed.

5, No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay

I found this thriller hard to put down. It sets off slowly and one is more than half way before the pace quickens. I think it is an original plot which perhaps weakens with the twist at the end. On reflection, by the end it seems a somewhat implausible story but it holds one's attention. What spoiled it for me was unnecessary bad language from the narrator, especially from someone who is an English teacher.

6, Eccentric London (The Bradt Travel Guide) by Benedict le Vay

This is the best guide book I have ever read though I confess I have not used it as a guide to any of its walks in London. It is a most entertaining guide to London and its history. it is informative, funny and witty. At times it has some astute comments, especially concerning Princess Diana. The author is a journalist and writes very well. I shall be looking for more of his work.

7. Only the Best Will Do: Eddie Stobart Story by Noel Davidson

This is a book more about Eddie Stobart the man than the huge eponymous company. It tells of his humble farming beginnings and the start of his business flair, trapping and selling rabbits when meat was in short supply during the second World War, Central to the story is Eddie's Christian faith and witness. The development of his business is recorded but not the growth to the huge transport company of today which appears to have been done by his son after the father retired. Eddie sought to apply Christian ethics to his work right from the time he started as a teenager running a threshing machine. it is a remarkable story of hoe God honours those who honour him.

8. Africa Bible Commentary: A One-volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars by Tokunboh Adeyemo

From Africans for Africa, an excellent one volume bible commentary. Non-africans too will benefit from its insights. With African cultures being closer to the ancient world than is the West today it gives a different perspective from the usual commentators. Very good value for the price.

9. The Lost Child by Anne Atkins

An interesting novel with a strong pro-life message. I found it a bit hard going at first. The story seemed to jump between unrelated people. In the end it all comes together but I was well through the book before I realised what the link was. I think this is more a story for the female reader rather than having male appeal. With its classical allusions it is the work of an erudite author.

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