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Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark

Addie Zierman. Convergent, $14.99 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-60142-547-8

Blogger Zierman (When We Were on Fire) boldly reveals her struggles with faith, isolation, and depression in this memoir about packing up her minivan and taking her children on a two-week road trip from Minnesota to Florida. Having lost her connection to her Christian faith, Zierman decides to outdrive her troubles by visiting friends, giving book readings, and doing publicity interviews. The writing can be insightful and painful to read—"Imagine opening your Bible and finding it to be a concrete slab in your lap"—as her struggle to avoid internal darkness seems to permeate all her thoughts. These same obstacles make the memoir relatable, though, as she must balance her own internal turmoil with the needs of her children. At times, Zierman's attempts to wring drama from the mundane events of a well-planned publicity trip read as overwrought—as when she frequently alludes to her "complicated history" with men, then describes a visit with an old flirtation that remains platonic as "a victory over the flesh"—but the main story here is her renewed search for faith, not the promotion tour. Zierman's trip down South and back into the light, filled with refreshing, life-affirming moments, will satisfy readers looking for a partner in spiritual strife. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/12/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Amazing Truths: How Science and the Bible Agree

Michael Guillen. Zondervan, $18.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-3103-4375-2

Religion and science aren't as different as we believe, Guillen (Can a Smart Person Believe in God?) argues. The former science editor for ABC discusses 10 questions that would seem to divide science and faith, showing instead that they often aren't far apart. Similarities can be found when asking questions such as "Was Jesus a man or god?," "Was the Earth created in a Big Bang?," or "How does time work?," by considering the laws and fundamental truths that have stood the test of time yet still lead to incomplete answers, Guillen proposes. To approach the gap between what can be submitted to empirical testing and what we believe without concrete evidence, Guillen explains different topics from biblical and scientific perspectives. Each chapter concludes with a section titled "What Does It Mean to You and Me?" in which he sums up his points to find common ground between science and religion. Can faith and science ever reach total agreement? Probably not, he writes, because science has effectively taken God out of the equation. Nevertheless, Guillen articulates how bringing faith into scientific study can reinvigorate inquiries into life's deepest mysteries. Agent: Wes Yoder, Ambassador. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 02/12/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Renovate: Changing Who You Are by Loving Where You Are

Leonce B. Crump, Jr. . Multnomah, $14.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-60142-554-6

Crumb, lead pastor of Renovation Church in Atlanta, Ga., believes that modern "transient" society has eroded Christians' sense of place. Only by reconnecting with their communities can they "reflect the glory of God." He begins the book by explaining concepts of rejuvenation found throughout Christian scripture, unpacking the opening of Genesis and concluding with the resurrection of Jesus and his promise of earthly renewal in Revelation. Seeing many believers as distant from the problems of world, content to concentrate inwardly, Crumb advocates an active approach to God's word: "We have to be scripturally reprogrammed to see every day and every act as one that holds redemptive potential." To make his ideas more personal, Crumb concentrates on Atlanta, with all of its benefits and scars, as his example of how to serve the needs of community. He details his own journey playing for the Atlanta Falcons, realizing his calling as a church planter, and bringing spiritual renovation to the city through the example of Christ. He explains that ministry requires taking ownership of both the congregation and the place of worship. For Crumb, individuals can achieve a do-over no matter where they reside, no matter how many failures they have experienced, and no matter how far they've fallen. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Revelation: A Search for Faith in a Violent Religious World

Dennis Covington. Little, Brown, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-0-316-36861-2

Deftly interweaving personal tragedy with reporting forays into brutal conflicts, Covington (Salvation on Sand Mountain) delivers a superb, fast-paced memoir. During his own spiritual crisis, Covington determines to discover "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." In pursuit of answers about his own faith, Covington first travels to Juarez, Mexico, where he interviews a street preacher who takes in mental patients amid drug-cartel violence as well as the city's citizens who bury the horrendous number of murder victims. Eventually, he heads to the Middle East in search of Kayla Mueller, a 25-year-old Baptist aid worker from Arizona who was kidnapped by ISIS in Syria. Swiftly sketched scenes of illegally crossing the Turkey-Syria border take readers into war-ravaged hospitals and refugee camps. Traumatically, Covington suffers a head injury from a vacuum bomb that leaves him with lasting brain injuries. He visits Mueller's parents to decipher how their understanding of God has changed as a result of their daughter's abduction by terrorists with whom their government will not negotiate. Reflecting the bleakness of the conflict in the Levant, Covington never finds Mueller, but headlines record her disturbing fate. What Covington discovers about Mueller's final weeks, when faced with seemingly impossible circumstances, rekindles a long-lost spark in his dark night. Covington's memoir is an essential, human account of the violent reactions to religious plurality in an increasingly polarized world. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Brain Injury

Alan Cooper. Exile Editions (IPG, U.S. dist.; Canadian Manda Group, Canadian dist.), $22.95 trade paper (456p) ISBN 978-1-55096-482-0

This memoir recounts the personal, painful story of a survivor of a traumatic closed brain injury. Prior to a 1981 car accident, Cooper held top management positions, was a gifted musician, and was a talented orator in demand for speaking engagements. Tragically, his injuries were incorrectly diagnosed and treated, which made a terrible situation far worse. Personality changes contributed to broken relationships with his family and co-workers and created obstacles to getting help from health care and legal professionals. More than 30 years later, as a new chapter at the end of this updated edition of his 2006 book outlines, he is still fighting for justice. Despite his impairments, Cooper has abilities to communicate that many people who suffer brain injuries lack, and he hopes the book will help brain-injured persons and those close to them better understand the range of faculties that can be affected. It's a difficult read. The book bears marks of the author's injuries stylistically and in its structure, which shifts back and forth from past to present with a narrator who seems at times unreliable, but that is part of what makes it a valuable book for anyone who lives or works with a brain-injured person. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Science of TV's 'The Big Bang Theory'

Dave Zobel. ECW (Legato Publishers Group, U.S. dist.; Jaguar Book Group, Canadian dist.), $17.95 trade paper (424p) ISBN 978-1-77041-217-0

This is an ideal book for fans of The Big Bang Theory who want to understand what the science-minded characters are talking about. Zobel, who wrote for the syndicated radio show The Loh Down on Science for seven years, breaks down the complicated science discussed on the show into simple explanations for the average person. Characters Leonard, Howard, Raj, and Sheldon work in physics and engineering, but Zobel does not focus on explaining the work they do. Instead, he discusses the offhand references in the characters' conversations and uses quotes from their dialogue as introductions to each chapter. The diverse topics include phosphorescence (from Sheldon's declaration that he wants a glow-in-the-dark ant farm because their best work occurs at night), how a potato can power a clock (arising out of a visit with Professor Proton), and gravity (sparked by Sheldon's observation that Penny's hulking ex-boyfriend is disrupting the local gravity field). Zobel's humor and references to the show make this an entertaining and informative read for anyone interested in science. (July)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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More than Honey: The Survival of Bees and the Future of Our World

Markus Imhoof and Claus-Peter Lieckfeld. Greystone (PGW, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $22.95 trade paper (161p) ISBN 978-1-77164-099-2

In light of disastrous declines in bee populations in the early 21st century, this book uses the bee and its relationship with humans to ask whether humans are a part of nature or only seek mastery of it. The authors consider the bee, the production of honey, and the ways people around the world partake in this process. The book, based on Imhoof's 2013 documentary of the same name, does discuss how bees fly and the secret of their amazing navigational skills, but the main focus is on interactions between humans and bees. The authors interview large-scale operators, beekeepers, breeders, and scientists. Readers meet John Miller, who owns 15,000 bee colonies, which he transports across much of the U.S. from North Dakota to California .depending on the season, to pollinate crops for profit. In China, Zhang Zhao Su works as a human pollinator because there are no bees left in northern China to pollinate fruit trees due to the use of pesticides. Enhanced by beautiful color photographs of bees, this examination of the troubled relationship between humans and bees is a fascinating and educational read for anyone interested in the fate of both species. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves

Adam Levin. PublicAffairs, $24.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-61039-587-8

In this alarming book, Levin, a consumer advocate and founder of the consulting agency Identity Theft 911, warns about the prominent dangers of identity fraud in the increasingly digital world. Levin details the numerous ways in which individuals can "get got," citing several real-world examples, such as the ramifications of a seemingly harmless photo of a Target employee that went viral after a customer tweeted it. He explains how information is ripe for the swiping by criminals who make stealing identities their full-time job. Levin's proactive and (mostly) practical approach to combating what he considers the inevitable includes the "Three Ms": minimize your exposure, monitor your accounts, and manage the damage. He breaks down common types of identity theft sources—credit card scams, data breaches, social media posts, healthcare fraud, and even so-called "smart TVs"—and concludes that "when it comes to the security of our data, we are all in the same state of emergency." Appendices make up nearly one-fourth of the book with true stories of fraud and a glossary of scams. If Levin's objective was to convince readers they will become victims of identity theft, mission accomplished. This isn't as much a solution-based handbook as it is a primer on the potential dangers and what's at stake. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Charles Williams: The Third Inkling

Grevel Lindop. Oxford Univ., $34.95 (464p) ISBN 978-0-19-928415-3

Williams was overshadowed in the years following his death in 1945 by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien—fellow members of the Oxford-based literary group the Inklings—but he gets his due in this exhaustively researched biography from Lindop (Travels on the Dance Floor). Williams's formal education ended at 17, but he read omnivorously and rose rapidly at Oxford University Press from proofreader to editor. A tireless workaholic, Williams also wrote novels, plays, essays, tracts, and reams of verse in his spare time, much of it steeped in Christian theology and concerned with the relationship between the spiritual and the sexual—what he referred to as "the Church system and the love system." Williams's complex, original vision brought him to the attention of Lewis in 1936 and made him a perfect fit with Lewis's circle of fellow academics and writers. Lindop does a masterful job of relating Williams's expansive bibliography to his intellectual passions and his messy personal life, which was frequently complicated by platonic love affairs with the young female coworkers he mentored. Readers interested in learning more about a writer whose work was highly regarded by T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden, among others, will find Lindop's book an informative and accessible introduction. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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A Splendid Savage: The Restless Life of Frederick Russell Burnham

Steve Kemper. Norton, $29.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-393-23927-0

Journalist Kemper (A Labyrinth of Kingdoms) admirably resurrects the larger-than-life figure of Frederick Russell Burnham (1861–1947) in an account chockfull of adventures that feel ripped from dime-store novels. Burnham was perhaps the greatest scout of his age—one whose courage, discipline, and strength of character were celebrated in newspapers and inspired the founding principles of the Boy Scouts—but has been all but forgotten today. He came of age during the last days of the American frontier and trained in the ways of the Apache scout. Burnham ventured from the Klondike to Mexico to Southern Africa in a constant cycle of boom and bust, seeking a great fortune or, failing that, a great escapade. The most remarkable thing about Kemper's account seems to be Burnham's uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time, consistently serving as a minor player in history's unfolding: he served in the Boer War, prospected in two separate gold rushes, and turned down an invitation to join Roosevelt's Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War. Kemper is well aware of his subject's racist and imperialist tendencies—attitudes he finds common for the time—but in Burnham he also sees an essential American spirit and a paragon of a bygone model of manhood. Illus. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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