Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Review (or two or three)

I read a lot of non-fiction, and yet I admit I struggle with not always finishing every book I start. And I'm equally as guilty of starting way too many books at the same time. But thanks to Katrina's Spring Thing Reading Challenge (do you really need the link, people?), I've finished more books than ever. Since they are non-fiction, which is not everyone's bag, I decided to lump a few short reviews together in one post.

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference by Philip Yancey - This is the first Yancey title I've read, and I was impressed. Far from being light and fluffy, Yancey tackles this sometimes confusing aspect of our walk with God with grace and humility. He intersperses each chapter with real life perspective on prayer by people from all walks of life. My takeaway from this book: learning to consider the prayer life of Jesus. If Jesus, the very God in flesh, was so dependent on the avenue of prayer to connect with his Heavenly Father, how can I possibly attempt to live a prayerless life? More than an art or discipline to be mastered, I've come to view prayer as the very breath of our life in Christ.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero - Imagine your spouse announcing one day, "I quit your church." That's the real life illustration Peter Scazzero uses to introduce his story. He was on an out-of-control treadmill, pastoring a large church and keeping up with the demands of church and family when his wife finally brought things to a painful halt with her bold announcement. God ultimately used that incident to reveal a life-changing truth to Scazzero: it's possible for one to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. Scazzero uses his own life experiences to elaborate on the factors that often prevent us from growing up emotionally, and he offers many helpful suggestions to help us bring our emotions into the presences of God and allow them to be transformed by his redeeming power.

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning - My sweet blogging friend Bev gave this book to me last fall, and it came highly recommended by her daughter Sarah. For some reason I opted to wait until the Spring Reading Challenge to dive in, and I did so without my usual 3-4 other titles in progress. From the very first chapter, Manning drew me in with his depiction of Christ's choosing to dine with outcasts and sinners. Little truisms like this dotted the pages of his humble appreciation for God's grace: "We fluctuate between castigating ourselves and congratulating ourselves because we are deluded into thinking we can save ourselves." Wow, if that didn't hit home with me. I came away from this wonderful book feeling like I'd just heard the gospel of grace for the first time.

Disclaimer: I've not always been a big non-fiction reader, and in the past considered myself rather shallow in that respect. One thing has helped immensely and that is learning to read slowly (I'm a very fast reader and always looking to stay one step ahead of the plot) and with a pencil in hand. Stopping to underline things and make notes has helped me develop a better appreciation for non-fiction. I try to read no more than two non-fiction titles at the same time, and lately have found myself going back to reread chapters or even entire books. I'm sure it's just a phase but I have enjoyed the books I've been reading.


Susanne said...

These were great reviews Dianne. I've been meaning to pick up the book by Phillip Yancey. He's also got a good one on grace, I've heard.

I'm the opposite of you. I actually finished my one non-fiction book on the spring list and am quite proud of myself! :v)

Connie Pombo said...

Thanks, Dianne, for those great reviews! If you ever get a chance, try to hear Phillip Yancey in person. Amazing! Did you know he was recently in a car accident and sustained some major injuries, but he is now back on the speaking circuit? Check this out:

I love your blog--I'll be back for more!



Katrina said...

Yes, great reviews. Since your mention of each of these, they've caught my interest, and they're all on my "someday" pile.

I tend to buy a lot of nonfiction, but have to really discipline myself to read them (and just starting them doesn't count!). I like your goal of having no more than 2 going at once -- I need to do that.

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

Don't beat yourself up about the non-fiction. I don't think it's a shallowness issue at all. In fact, I find non-fiction easier for me to read in spurts and bursts (instead of getting totally wrapped up in a novel), which is why I read more nonfiction at this stage in my life, I think.

I tagged you yesterday if you want to take a look.

mommy to four j's said...

Stopped by to say hi I love your blog Char

gail said...

You do so good reading nonfiction! We buy a TON of it but Don is the one that reads it, me just once in a while! He retains so much of it and I think part of it is that he reads it slow and underlines/takes notes in the margins...that way he has it to refer to when he teaches a class. I love to see his notes in his Utmost book!
These sounded good, thanks for the reviews.

Amy Jane said...

I've read a number of Yancy's works. like his stuff. Haven't picked this one up yet, though. Sounds like another keeper.

Have you read Frangipane's The Three Battlegrounds?

It's one of the most intriguing non-fictions I've ever read (and that's w/o having finished it-- I'm still working on it).

The emphasis I've taken away so far is the plain necessity of humility to get anything done.

It really challenges my mind.

That said (and to respond to your self-flagellation):

I think there's no shame (or there shouldn't be) in not-finishing a non-fiction.

After all, theree's only one scripture, so there's no reason for every book you begin to fit or apply to you.

I'm the sort of person who will put away a novel if it doesn't work or becomes a slog. I feel this about non-fic too (I'm done with college and "required reading").

After all (to modify a familiar verse) it was reading that was created for me, not me for the reading.

Susanne said...

btw, tagging you for a book meme

Islandsparrow said...

Dianne - I just finished Yancy's book on Prayer too - it was good. And you're right - you do have to read them slowly - and I always take notes.