These are my minimalist book reviews. Only those rated 4 or 5 stars. See my Goodreads profile for more.
2017/05/27 Changing Lenses: Restorative Justice for Our Times - Howard Zehr ★★★★★ (Loved it)
In a world where “justice" is usually pursued as retribution, deterrence, and revenge, we sorely need this change in perspective. Howard gives us visions for how we can engage in justice in more restorative and transformative ways; where we care for the needs of the victim, the community, and even the offender; and where we can help heal the harms that perpetuate injustice. Far before I even completed this book, I knew it would be on my “must-read" recommendations list.
I almost gave this five stars. This book (really, more like several books bound together!) was a delight to read. The two things that keep it from a five for me is just how male-power-fantasy-wish-fulfillment it gets as it goes along, and how much more it endorses the “some times you just gotta murder some folks" even though the “hero" gets more and more effective conflict resolution options aside from murder. There are hints with (let’s call it) the “Butterfly Tree" that maybe these two problems are going to shown to be weaknesses, in the end.
2017/04/26 The Irresistible Revolution, Updated and Expanded: Living as an Ordinary Radical - Shane Claiborne ★★★★ (Really liked it)
This book is essentially autohagiography, but in the service of a call to discipleship and healthy theology. The thing I value so much about Shane and the new monastic movement is their rejection of the either/or camps of limited Christianity. I’m simply going to share a few quotes to give you a taste of that:
"Our battle then was against a private piety that limited religion to only personal matters, then compromised faith in a tragic capitulation to the economic, political, and military powers that be."
“[M]any of us find ourselves estranged from the narrow issues that define conservatives and from the shallow spirituality that marks liberals."
"If all I did was feed people each week, I’d start to grow weary if I wasn’t doing something to address why people are hungry."
"While most activists could use a good dose of gentleness (after all, it is a fruit of the Spirit), I think most believers could use a good dose of holy anger."
"Let’s be known not just by what we are against but also by what we are for."
"I believe in changing systems and structures, but I also believe in hanging out with real people. When we work only on policies without hanging out with real people, we get tired. And if we are only bandaging people’s wounds without doing something about the systems running them over, we start to burn out. That’s why we give people fish, and also teach people to fish, and then also do something about who owns the pond."
"Charity workers need to also have a vision for justice. And justice workers need to keep their feet on the streets of injustice."
"So often we separate things that were never meant to be separated. Faith and works. Saving souls and feeding bellies. Jesus and justice. The Great Commandment and the Great Commission."
"Love God and love your neighbor. It’s one thing. They cannot be separated. Like two sides of a coin. Or two blades of the scissors—they only work together."
“[T]he Great Commission sends us into the world not just to make believers but to form disciples."
This was my first introduction to the Pern science fantasy books. This book was way ahead of it’s time, and a wonderful tale of a young woman’s adventure.
It’s a shame that this is out of print, but I hope you can find I used copy. This is a delightful and engaging young reader’s fantasy that doesn’t insult the reader's intelligence.
Despite the annoying lack of quotation marks, this is an incredibly-written and powerful book. I recommend the narrated version, if you have trouble with the lack of punctuation.
Jaden Touissant is a bright and fun kid who wants more options to learn! Fun kids book.
Le Guin weaves magic with her words. This is a wonderful take on sci-fi in which she explores work, societies, and beliefs. Our means are our ends.
This book is Content Warning: almost everything. And yet, I was consistently enthralled by the humanity in the midst of depravity. The writer has a way of poetry in the way he describes things, giving it a tone I have never felt in another book.
2016/10/30 The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction - Matthew B. Crawford ★★★★ (Really liked it)
While I don’t agree with the whole argument of this work, it was a joy to read and had a lot of valuable commentary and reflections. Particularly, I agree with the idea that we should be aware of the reality of an “attentional commons." #AdFree2016
Great ending, with a lot of excellent details you won’t get in the movies. Heavy use of heroic tropes.
Incredible anthropology of debt, trade, money, and the social systems that relate to them. Remarkably non-polemic, and avoids writing prescriptions until a very general open-ended (and Biblical!) one at the end. Thus, if you are “afraid" of this book, you need not be. Socioeconomic terms are often loaded, but Graeber has done a marvelous job avoiding that, here. There is truly only one contentious one, and he introduces his usage well: when he says “communism" (particularly “baseline communism"), he simply means something like “mutual aid", not all the trappings we associate with the term. Thus, for example, when he says “communism of the rich" he is referring to their ability to close ranks and help one another.
#2 in the series, and still excellent. Incredible intertwining character stories. Feels like playing a historical-fantasy Burning Wheel game.
I’m late to the game, but really enjoyed this book, enough that I’ve put the hardback on my wishlist, because I’d like to return to the examples and example language for discussing the different issues.
I’d been meaning to read some Le Guin for a while, and finally got around to it. Quite glad I did. Like many books, lately, I listened to this one. Harlan Ellison was the narrator, and was excellent at giving it life. This is not your traditional masculine power fantasy. It has a great story arc, wonderful imagination, and a bittersweet poetry to it. I will definitely be going for more. (Looks like all six books will be coming together in an illustrated single volume in 2018)
Finally got around to reading and finishing this. Going into it, I was aware this book was in conversation with Nihilism, but reading it felt like a direct conversation with Nietzschean nihilism. Of course, this does not make sense since this work supersedes that. It’d be interesting to look more at the history of those developments and their timeline.
Highly recommended. This is a short read with no fluff but ample poetry: I went through this in one sitting, and was even “reading" (audiobook) at a much lower speed than I normally do. Really good. I don’t share Coates’s atheism, but his stories certainly make it relatable.
A great “anthropology storytime" looking at why Eurasian-based civilizations were the colonizers and conquerors. The author makes too many assumptions about the future (thinking too small about the capabilities of globally-connected technology), but the exploration of the past was highly interesting.
A very short, very good, exploration of the nature of bullshit. One of the key insights is that lies and truth operate in the same space and in relationship to each other, but bullshit sits outside, indifferent. This, then, is analogous to the relationship between morality, immorality, and amorality. The author notes, however, that we tend to more tolerant of bullshit than lies, and leaves the explanation of this to the reader. (Let’s talk about it!) This, to me, is one contrast in the analogy, then, for when we become aware of a person’s amorality, we are more concerned than with a person’s immorality. (Perhaps because we believe those immoral behaviors can be changed.) I’d love to discuss this very short book with you, if you read it!
This was my favorite Harry Potter so far. This is also the first one where there is tons of stuff that didn’t make it into the movies. Rowling did a great job making me feel furious about Umbridge.
The latest (but not greatest) in the Harry Dresden series. Any stories which have the Denarians and Knights are great, and I think Butcher handles this sort of thing in a much more fair and interesting way than other fantasy works.
2016/05/06 Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon - Kim Zetter ★★★★★ (Loved it)
Hot on the heels of following US government-led dirty kinetic wars, this book covers digital ones. This is brilliant coverage, and shares a number of technology and security topics in a way that the layperson will appreciate. The coverage of the various ethical questions is faithfully handled. Highly recommended.
Excellent reporting on how the US government (and their mercenaries) have declared perpetual war, fueled conflicts, and targeted noncombatants around their world, including their own citizens.
Like Mistborn, strong characters, intriguing layered mysteries, and excellent world building. Also like Mistborn, waits to pile on the Mormonism until you are good and hooked on the story.
Imagine the Song of Ice and Fire series, but without the fantasy, plodding & waiting, glorification of villainy, or constant death of main characters. Excellent intertwining historical drama.
@druhart helps us understand how deeply embedded and oppressive racial hierarchies are, and how authentic church is a solution to the problem
This is a children’s adventure book that’s not about killing enemies. How refreshing!
Despite not being fine writing, this type of story is right in my sweet spot for psychological thriller horror. It's like The Cube, but for teens, and with an ending that reveals too much and not enough.
Unlike most dystopian literature, Lowry gives us a vision of the future that doesn’t immediately seem horrible, and the story benefits greatly from it.