Tag: nonfiction

Book Review: What They Meant for Evil, by Rebecca Deng

 

what they meant for evil
Image belongs to FaithWorks.

Title: What They Meant for Evil
Author:  Rebecca Deng
Genre: Nonfiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

One of the first unaccompanied refugee children to enter the United States in 2000, after South Sudan’s second civil war took the lives of most of her family, Rebecca’s story begins in the late 1980s when, at the age of four, her village was attacked and she had to escape. What They Meant for Evil is the account of that unimaginable journey. With the candor and purity of a child, Rebecca recalls how she endured fleeing from gunfire, suffering through hunger and strength-sapping illnesses, dodging life-threatening predators-lions, snakes, crocodiles, and soldiers alike-that dogged her footsteps, and grappling with a war that stole her childhood.

I cannot imagine the strength it takes to go through something like this…and to not just survive but thrive! I love how the story is told through Rebecca’s eyes at the age the events happened. This gives the story even more impact. While the things she went through are horrific—and the idea that untold numbers also experienced the violence and pain of this same war—her determination and accomplishments are very inspiring!

Rebecca Deng is one of the Lost Girls of Sudan who came to the U.S. in 2000 to escape the violence and war that had plagued her country for years. What They Meant for Evil is her story.

(Galley courtesy of FaithWords in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Upset the World, by Tim Ross

upset the world
Image belongs to Gateway Press.

Title: Upset the World
Author: Tim Ross
Genre: Nonfiction, Christian
Rating:5 out of 5

Following Jesus is not a safe course of action, it can upset your life and others. How does He do that? Through random acts of kindness, unexpected encounters, or a friendly stranger. Upsetting people can break down barriers and build relationships.

Pastor Ross teaches you how to:
Create a new ordinary of relating to others
Practice listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit’s voice
Learn how to do everyday evangelism
Love everybody (even people who disagree with you)
Change the way people think about Christianity

Upset the world with the message of hope and the love of Jesus Christ.

From the very first time I heard Pastor Tim speak—when he was still on staff at Gateway Church—I’ve loved his dynamic way of speaking. His presence is vivid and dramatic, and he dares to say what you’re thinking out loud.

This book is filled with stories and anecdotes of his experiences and he doesn’t urge his readers to take big leaps of faith—just the next small step forward in their everyday lives. His tone is conversational and relatable, and his love for Jesus and people shines through on every page.

Tim Ross is the pastor of Embassy City Church.

Book Review: Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify, by Carolyn Holbrook

tell me your names
Image belongs to University of Minnesota Press.

Title: Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify
Author: Carolyn Holbrook
Genre:   Nonfiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

Carolyn Holbrook’s life is peopled with ghosts—of the girl she was, the selves she shed and those who have caught up to her, the wounded and kind and malevolent spirits she’s encountered, and also the beloved souls she’s lost and those she never knew who beg to have their stories told. “Now don’t you go stirring things up,” one ghostly aunt counsels. Another smiles encouragingly: “Don’t hold back, child. Someone out there needs to hear what you have to say.”

Once a pregnant sixteen-year-old incarcerated in the Minnesota juvenile justice system, now a celebrated writer, arts activist, and teacher who helps others unlock their creative power, Holbrook has heeded the call to tell the story of her life, and to find among its chapters—the horrific and the holy, the wild and the charmed—the lessons and necessary truths of those who have come before. In a memoir woven of moments of reckoning, she summons stories born of silence, stories held inside, untold stories stifled by pain or prejudice or ignorance. A child’s trauma recalls her own. An abusive marriage returns to haunt her family. She builds a career while raising five children as a single mother; she struggles with depression and grapples with crises immediate and historical, all while countenancing the subtle racism lurking under “Minnesota nice.”

Here Holbrook poignantly traces the path from her troubled childhood to her leadership positions in the Twin Cities literary community, showing how creative writing can be a powerful tool for challenging racism and the healing ways of the storyteller’s art.

Carolyn Holbrook has accomplished wonderful and amazing things—not the least of which is raising five children on her own and earning a doctorate. She encountered obstacles, prejudice, and sexism, and overcame them all, and her story is empowering, uplifting, and inspiring.

Some parts of the book bogged me down a bit, as they seemed repetitive or jumped around in time and/or subject. I felt that lessened the impact of Holbrook’s message as it allowed the reader to become distracted. I know this is an essay collection ranging over 25 years, so to an extent it’s understandable, but it’s still a distraction for the reader—and some people stop reading as soon as the author loses their interest.

Carolyn Holbrook created SASE: The Write Place; she’s a professor of creative writing and has won awards in her work for the arts. Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify is her newest book.

(Galley courtesy of University of Minnesota Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: How to Have a Better Relationship with Anybody, by James Hilt

how to have a better relationship with anybody
Image belongs to Moody Publishers.

Title:  How to Have a Better Relationship with Anybody
Author:  James Hilt
Genre:  Nonfiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

You can have a better relationship with anybody—God, your children, your spouse, or friends. The answers for how to do so are found in Scripture. Counselor James P. Hilt has helped hundreds of people who wanted healthier, happier relationships with his principles derived from the insights of Scripture. He will help you:

Identify and get rid of problems that separate you from others
Stop feeling bitter and resentful
Listen more effectively
Become more patient
Celebrate others more readily
Feel more satisfied in your relationships

Study what the Bible has to say about relationships, apply these healing truths to your life, and discover the remarkable difference it can make. Christ’s love can flow unhindered through your life. Don’t put up with disconnection and resentment any longer.

This was an insightful read that offered both insight and tips that were feasible and doable (Not far-fetched and almost laughable tips for those of us just trying to live our lives and keep all the balls in the air.). The voice was relatable, like talking to a friend, not preachy or condescending, and it incorporated biblical principle and scripture into anecdotes from the author, making it feel even more like sitting down for a chat with a friend that has a little more experience than you.

James Hilt is an author and a counselor. How to Have a Better Relationship with Anybody is his newest book.

(Galley courtesy of Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: My Name is Tani…and I Believe in Miracles, by Tani Adewumi

my name is Tani
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  My name is Tani…and I Believe in Miracles
Author:  Tani Adewumi
Genre:  Nonfiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Tani Adewumi didn’t know what Boko Haram was or why they had threatened his family. All he knew was that when his parents told the family was going to America, Tani thought it was the start of a great adventure rather than an escape. In truth, his family’s journey to the United States was nothing short of miraculous—and the miracles were just beginning. 

Tani’s father, Kayode, became a dishwasher and Uber driver while Tani’s mother, Oluwatoyin, cleaned buildings, while the family lived in a homeless shelter. Eight-year-old Tani jumped into his new life with courage and perseverance—and an unusual mind for chess. After joining the chess club in his public school, Tani practiced his game for hours in the evenings at the shelter. Then he began competing in the ultra-exclusive chess clubs of New York City. And winning—again and again. And then, less than a year after he learned to play, Tani won the New York State chess championship.

I enjoyed this story a lot—from the terror in Nigeria to finding hope in New York. I’ve never learned how to play chess, and the idea of an eight-year-old being so good at it is mind-boggling to me. What I found even more inspiring, though, was the family’s faith and positive outlook, no matter how desperate their circumstances. Truly an inspiring read!

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Golden Flea, by Michael Rips

the golden flea
Image belongs to W.W. Norton & Company.

Title:  The Golden Flea
Author:  Michael Rips
Genre:  Nonfiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

For decades, the Chelsea Flea Market on the west side of Manhattan drew shoppers seeking treasures in booths crammed with vintage dresses, ancient swords, glass eyeballs, Afghan rugs, West African fetish dolls, Old Master paintings, and more

Writing with a beguiling style that has won praise from Joan Didion and Susan Orlean, Rips introduces the Flea’s lovable, oddball vendors, including the Haberdasher, who only sells to those he deems worthy; the Art Dealer, whose obscure paintings often go for enormous sums; the Troubadour, who sings to attract customers; as well pickers and collectors of every stripe. As Rips’ passion for collecting grows, and the Flea’s last days loom, he undertakes a quest to prove the provenance of a mysterious painting that might just be the one.

The Golden Flea was so far outside my normal reading taste that I’m not even sure why it caught my eye—and I LOVED it! I was intrigued from the very first page, and I ended up being totally captivated. (Except the fetishes. Those were just gross.) Rips’ writing brings to life vibrant people and a colorful setting—in a completely unexpected place. The characters are quirky but fascinating, and I was sad to realize the Chelsea Flea Market and its inhabitants are a thing of the past.

Michael Rips is an author, lawyer, and supporter of the arts. The Golden Flea is his new book.

(Galley courtesy of W.W. Norton & Company in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Becoming Sage, by Michelle Van Loon

becoming sage
Image belongs to Moody Publishers.

Title:  Becoming Sage
AuthorMichelle Van Loon
Genre:  Nonfiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 

For the last several decades, Western churches have focused the bulk of their resources on the early stages of discipleship—children’s Sunday school, youth group, college ministry. These are all important, but we’ve neglected spiritual growth in the second half of life. In fact, an outside observer might think that after the growth of the college years, the goal is simply to coast through the rest of your Christian life. The book explores what the unique challenges of midlife can teach us about Jesus and how to think about everything from church, friends, and family, to money, bodies, and meaning.

I found Becoming Sage to be a thought-provoking and intriguing read, and it addresses a topic that seems prevalent in many churches:  the focus on family and children that seems to occupy a prominent place in church life. But what about after the children have left home? What then?

Becoming Sage explores the topic in depth, without castigating the church, which I found refreshing and hopeful

Michelle Van loon blogs, writes, and speaks about spiritual life formation. Becoming Sage is her newest book.

(Galley courtesy of Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: I’ve Seen the End of You, by W. Lee Warren, MD

i've seen the end of you
Image belongs to WaterBrook.

Title: I’ve Seen the End of You
AuthorW. Lee Warren, MD
Genre:  Nonfiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

Dr. Lee Warren, a practicing neurosurgeon, had seen enough cases of glioblastoma to know when he diagnosed the patient, that he’d seen the end of them. With a 100% fatality rate, he knew how it was going to end. But that never stopped him from praying for his patients, even as he knew there was no hope. Even as he experienced doubts about just what God was doing. Even as he asked Why, God? It wasn’t until Lee faced a personal tragedy that he finally came to the end of himself—and rekindled the hope that had been hiding in the darkness for so long.

I’ve Seen the End of You was an incredible read! I don’t normally get enthralled in nonfiction, but I could not put this book down! Dr. Warren’s raw honesty about his fears, his questions, his grief resonated with me, and the strength it must take to face such seemingly hopeless cases every day with a prayer and an offered bit of hope is inspirational and uplifting. For anyone going through any kind of tragedy, this is a wonderful read!

Lee Warren is a brain surgeon, inventor, Iraq War veteran, and writer. I’ve Seen the End of You is his newest book.

(Galley courtesy of WaterBrook in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Ten Years a Nomad, by Matthew Kepnes

ten years
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Ten Years a Nomad
Author:   Matthew Kepnes
Genre:   Nonfiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

After finishing college, Matt Kepnes realized he wanted more out of life than a boring 9-to-5 job. So, he quit and spent the next ten years traveling the world. They say the first step—out the door—is the hardest, but for Matt, traveling was easy. It was home. Now Matt writes and blogs about traveling, inspiring people all over the world to follow his lead.

This is more than his cheap-travel tips. Ten Years a Nomad is an introspective look at travel, a life lived traveling, friendship and relationships, and home. I enjoyed reading this immensely and would love to visit some of the places Matt has traveled.

Matt Kepnes is a traveler and a writer. Ten Years a Nomad is his newest book.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Chosen for Christ, by Heather Holleman

chosen for christ
Image belongs to Moody Publishers.

Title:  Chosen for Christ
Author:  Heather Holleman
Genre:  Nonfiction, Christian
Rating:   4 out of 5

Most people spend their lives in search of something:  marriage, career, prestige, a better job, more education…but these things we plan on often leave us frustrated and searching for more. What if we started living as if we were chosen for a person, Jesus Christ, instead of a plan? A calling is about more than a plan. Turn that old way of thinking on its head and embrace your true identity.

Chosen for Christ is all about embracing your identity as being chosen by Christ—and what that really means for you and your life. This book was both inspiring and uplifting and gave me a whole new way to think about things. An excellent read!

Heather Holleman is a wife, mother, college teacher, and author. Chosen for Christ is her newest book.

(Galley provided by Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)