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Wrong! 101 Reasons Why You Should Never Listen to Anyone

G. R. Howard. Rockwelder, $9.99 trade paper (242p) ISBN 978-0-9972373-4-4

Howard’s immensely charming, fascinating, and reassuring debut collection of assessments and aphorisms proves that critics are consistently terrible judges of talent and insight. Stuffy and pessimistic “experts” said Thomas Edison was addled and unteachable, George Gershwin had no musical talent, the Gettysburg Address was silly and forgettable, Ty Cobb was choosing a useless career, the Mustang had an amateurish design, there was no market for television, Rudyard Kipling was a hack writer, Steve Jobs would destroy Apple, no one would visit the Grand Canyon, and Citizen Kane was dull. Even Margaret Thatcher predicted there would be no female prime minister in her lifetime. Thankfully the inventors, entertainers, and visionaries on the receiving end of these criticisms were persistent in their pursuits. Howard goes through the not-so-encouraging early years of such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey, William Faulkner, Robert Goddard, Mohammad Ali, Louis Pasteur, and Winston Churchill to show that the best revenge is to simply prove the critics wrong. Original, entertaining, inspirational, and, most of all, encouraging, this book is great for anyone in need of a pep talk. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 11/11/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Here I Walk: A Thousand Miles on Food to Rome with Martin Luther

Andrew L. Wilson. Baker/Brazos, $17.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-58743-305-4

Wilson, pastor and columnist for Christianity Today, presents the story of a modern-day pilgrimage he and his wife, Sarah, a scholar at the Institute for Ecumenical Research in France, took in 2010 to retrace the walk that Martin Luther made from Germany to Rome in 1510. The idea for the walk stemmed from a conversation he and his wife had during their time in graduate school. The story follows the Wilsons across a good swath of European territory starting in Strasbourg and ending in Rome at the Scala Sancta. Wilson tells a fairly mundane story of bad weather and missed connections with his parents who are providing a kind of pilgrimage support and mobile babysitting service for the Wilsons’ young son. Despite bewailing divisions within Christianity, both historic and modern, the Wilsons make free critiques of the Catholic landscape they walk through, condemning the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, for instance, on the basis of aesthetics rather than considering what the church might represent to believers and what role it might play in their community—which would have been disrupted by Lutheran theology. With all the ingredients in place to make a thoughtful narrative, it’s a shame so little is done with the rich source material. This work never finds a pace, wandering somewhere between historical analysis, travel diary, and spiritual testimony to Wilson’s own personal Lutheran belief. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 11/11/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Hidden Christmas

Timothy Keller. Viking, $20 (154p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2165-9

In this great gift book timed for the Christmas season, Keller takes readers through various Bible verses that describe the Nativity in order to explain its power, supplying ample historical context to drive home its teachings. It is easy to imagine this book as a sermon he might give to Redeemer Presbyterian Church (the church he founded in Manhattan) on a Sunday in December; this is a book for believers, and the reasoning he applies to the examined passages should be intellectually persuasive to his audience. He answers, for instance, questions about the Immaculate Conception by examining verses in which Mary and Joseph show their faith after first displaying skepticism. Keller doesn’t cheerlead, but he provides encouragement when he speaks of the sacrifices it takes to truly believe and during his arguments in favor of Biblical inerrancy, because Christmas isn’t simply one of the Christianity’s “very special” episodes, after all. In this slim volume, Keller achieves his pastoral goal of teaching Christmas’ most important message—“God alone has the life, truth and joy that we lack and cannot generate ourselves”— and in doing so, provides solace for those who seek it. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 11/11/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Awakening from the Daydream: Reimagining the Buddha’s Wheel of Life.

David Nichtern. Wisdom, $15.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-61429-005-6

Nichtern updates the traditional teaching aid of the Wheel of Life in this approachable, practical guide to Buddhist practice. The Wheel contains images of the six realms we can inhabit including the addictive, stultifying pleasure of the god realm, through the constantly shifting human realm, or the unceasing pain of the hell realm. Although traditionally thought of as modes of reincarnation, Nichtern describes the realms as mental states that we move between, sometimes quite rapidly. He clearly and briefly describes how each blocks our path towards enlightenment but also contain unique possibilities. He also provides concise and easily implemented meditation practices for coping with the negative effects of each and includes a basic guide to karma and advice for finding a spiritual guide. The work does feel slightly shallow at points, and could be more heavily illustrated as the Wheel is a visual representation. Nichtern’s warm tone and gentle encouragement make this straightforward, clear, and current introduction to Buddhist thought and practice an ideal starting place for those seeking any type of mindfulness. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 11/11/2016 | Details & Permalink

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