Monday, January 31, 2011

Mini Reviews (Part 2)

Here are a few more mini book reviews - one from a book I just completed on the weekend, and the others from books I read later in 2010.

Tea With Hezbollah (Ted Dekker & Carl Medearis)

This book chronicles a journey of discovery that the two authors took through the Middle East, with stops in such unlikely places as Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudia Arabia and Syria, in hopes of answering the question of whether Jesus' greatest teaching to love your neighbor as yourself, and his story of the good samaritan had any relevance in the Middle East today.  I had high hopes for this one, knowing of Dekker's skill as a storyteller, and having read Medearis' excellent "Muslims, Christians, and Jesus."  Unfortunately the book mostly fell short.  It was an interesting dialogue, with some good questions, but was slow, lacking story telling.  The most compelling part of the book, a story about a young woman named Nicole, turned out to be a modern sort of parable, concocted by Dekker, and in this, his skill as a storyteller shone.  However, discovering that the story of Nicole was a parable, at the very end of the book, was disappointing, and felt like a deception, thanks to the way it had been presented, woven through the very real dialogues of the authors.  I can't decide if I'd say that this was worth the read or not.  I'm not sorry I read it, and it certainly added to my thoughts on travel, Islam, the middle east, and even terrorism, but it did fall significantly short of the hopes I'd had for it.

The Silver Chair (C.S. Lewis)

The Silver Chair has long been my favorite of the Chronicles of Narnia, and Jill Pole amongst my favorite of the various children the series depicts.  I would be sold on the book for a scene in the first few pages alone - a scene discussing thirst and truth, and one which is well worth the price.  But I love The Silver Chair for it's themes of light and darkness, for it's idea of journeying, for the ways it depicts deception disguised as truth, for it's discussion of how easy it is to become distracted in our focus.  I honestly can't say enough good things about this one!

Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile (Rob Bell & Don Golden)

This book was another disappointment.  I'd loved the "Jesus Wants to Save Christians" sermon series that Bell preached several years back, and I'd loved both of Bell's previous books, "Velvet Elvis" and "Sex God", but "Jesus Wants to Save Christians" fell short for me.  Within days of finishing the book, I felt like I couldn't tell you what it was about, or whether it had important things to say - to me, this is a sign of less than stellar communication.    Looking back, I feel like it raised some important challenges for the western church, but I'd be hard pressed to define or repeat those challenges without actually opening the book and turning to find the bits and pieces I'd marked as I read through it.  Not really a recommended read, though I would be curious to listen to the audio version, as I've often found that the more stale written parts of Bell's work come alive when he is reading them and giving them a life and voice.