Wednesday, July 23, 2014

$5 Sale at ChristianAudio.com

I've been giving Christian fiction a bad rap here lately, but I thought you might like to know that for one more week ChristianAudio.com is having a big sale on some of their Christian audiobooks.

Among the fluff are some classics such as Paradise Lost and Pilgrim's Progress. There are also three Wendell Berry titles. I'm getting Nathan Coulter because it's narrated by Paul Michael who did such a wonderful job on Jayber Crow. Take a look if you like inexpensive, clean audiobooks.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Michael O'Brien Quote on Stories

Because I appreciate a good discussion about children's literature and the value of fairy tales, I enjoyed Michael O'Brien's A Landscape With Dragons. He argues against most modern fiction for young people because it makes the macabre appealing. (This was written well before the vampire craze.) Fairy tales, says O'Brien, have bad dragons and good knights and children are very aware of the line between good and evil. Modern stories, on the other hand blur the lines between the two.

Our truest stories tell us who we are and where we should be going. They inform us about the nature of the enemy. They strengthen us for the journey. A badly flawed tale, on the other hand, can weaken and confuse it. It may even direct us into some very dangerous territory. (p. 102)

My favorite quote along this line will always be G.K. Chesterton's on dragons: Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell the children that dragons can be killed. (This is a paraphrase of the quote from Tremendous Trifles: "What fairy tales give the child is  his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon." 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Faith in Literature



After my rant about substandard writing in Christian romances, I thought I'd create a list of classics that skillfully portray the intense Christian beliefs of their central characters without nauseating the reader.

The Warden  by Trollope (my review here)
The Dean's Watch by Goudge (my review here)
Gilead by Robinson (my review here)
Cry, the Beloved Country by Paton (my review here)
Middlemarch by Eliot (my review here)
Jane Eyre  by Brontë (my review here)
Silence by Endo (my review here)

Marvin Olasky (in the June 28 issue of World Magazine) listed his ten favorite Christian fiction authors: Randy Alcorn, Don Brown, Tim Downs, Brian Godawa, Steven James, Ray Keating, John K. Reed, Randy Singer, Dave Swavely and Bret Lott. (I have not read ANY of these guys, but wonder if they lean toward more guy-friendly stories.)

Do you have any recommendations for novels (new or old) that show faith in God in a positive, convincing way?

(For more suggestions on faith in literature, the list of "100 Authors of Faith" at ImageJournal.org has always intrigued me. I've only read about a dozen of them so far.)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Kindle Deal on Unbroken

Challies.com has a reminder that Amazon has marked down Unbroken from $27 to $4.99. He also linked to the trailer of the upcoming movie. If, by any chance, you haven't read the book and would like to before seeing the movie, this is your chance.

Sherry at Semicolon has a nice link to a recent obituary video on Zamperini, the hero of Unbroken.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne

Several writers who are remembered as children’s authors also wrote books for adults. (Dr. Seuss, Russell Hoban, Frances Hodgsen Burnett, and A.A. Milne, to name a few.) Since I’ve been in the mood for mysteries this summer, I was happy to see Milne’s The Red House Mystery was a free download for Kindle.

Mark Ablett is a rich, spoiled bachelor whose only friend is his cousin, Matthew Cayley. Cayley runs Ablett’s estate and caters to his whims. Suddenly one day Ablett’s estranged brother arrives from Australia, someone dies, and the reader is left to figure out who did it and why.

I guessed some of the answers very early on in the book, but that did not diminish my enjoyment of this British mystery. The charm of the book rests on the character of Antony Gillingham, another wealthy bachelor who arrives on the scene just as the murder has been committed. He is a man who likes to experience life and has enough money to dabble in any profession that he likes. He’s been a waiter, a journalist and a shop clerk. And after becoming involved in the investigation, he decides to play amateur detective. His friend Bill Beverly plays Watson to Gillingham’s Holmes and their banter is spot on.

There is some mild swearing.  The English use the word “ass” in a way that we Americans do not. It’s almost a term of endearment when Beverly calls Gillingham a “silly old ass.” It reminded me of the way that Christopher Robin affectionately addresses Pooh as “silly old bear.”


It’s the perfect “cozy mystery” with delightful characters, witty dialogue and a murder with no gratuitous details. A good option for summer reading.

Friday, July 4, 2014

More Summer Reading Plans

I usually don't have time for magazines, but whenever the summer "Books Issue" of WORLD arrives, I drop everything and read it from cover to cover. It's luxurious to read about so many wonderful books in one spot. To be frank, most of the recommendations are for non-fiction, and I come away with only half a dozen "must reads," but I enjoy just knowing what books are available since I live in Brazil and can't keep up with the gazillions of books that keep coming out in the U.S.

I had heard some buzz about the book Mission at Nuremberg, which WORLD voted as "2014 Book of the Year," so now it's definitely on my list. It's the story of the U.S. chaplain assigned to the spiritual care of the Nazi officials who were condemned to death after the war trials. Sounds amazing.

Some of the 140 book recommendations were brand new, but many were of books written in the last few years. Here are the ones that grabbed my interest:

The Great War by Peter Hart - "a 522 page blow-by-blow history of World War One"
The Reason for God by Tim Keller (World's 2008 Book of the Year)
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Butterfield
Booked by Karen Prior (She wrote this to show "how reading Great Books drew her back to God.")
Faith and Reason by Swinburne (a solid, thorough introduction to philosophy)
The Great Books Reader by Reynolds
(These last two were surprisingly pricey, even for Kindle.)

Finally, author Larry Woiwode highly recommends Peavear & Volokhonsky's translation of War and Peace as the best version of "the best fiction novel."

Oh yes, and one more perk. My brother's book, Coming to Grips with Genesis, was mentioned on page 50!

Have you read any of these books? Any thoughts?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Our Culture, What's Left of It by Theodore Dalrymple

Theodore Dalrymple is the pseudonym for writer and retired prison doctor Anthony Daniels. He writes about the death of culture in England with the lucidity of a G.K. Chesterton or a C.S. Lewis (without, however, their Christian perspective). Our Culture, What's Left Of It is so non-politically correct that it had me gaping throughout. Whether he’s lambasting Princess Diana, D.H. Lawrence, or Virginia Woolf, or discussing the benefits of government corruption in Italy or the the inability of muslims to hold a frank discussion of ideas, Dalrymple’s clarity and verbal expertise will force you to rethink many common assumptions.

I kept wondering how he gets away with writing this kind of thing, yet at the same time wishing there was a similar American voice. Thanks to Corey at Ink Slinger for alerting me to this mind-stretching title. It was quite a divergence from my regular classic, cozy fiction choices, but worth the extra time and effort. Here are a few salient quotes:

On British society: To break a taboo or to transgress are terms of the highest praise in the vocabulary of modern critics, irrespective of what has been transgressed or what taboo broken. 

On the evil of political correctness: It does violence to people’s souls by forcing them to say or imply what they do not believe but must not question.... And what is political correctness but Newspeak, the attempt to make certain thoughts inexpressible through the reform of language?

On Shakespeare: He is a realist without cynicism and an idealist without utopianism.

On the sexual revolution: No one seems to have noticed, however, that a loss of a sense of shame means a loss of privacy; a loss of privacy means a loss of intimacy; and a loss of intimacy means a loss of depth. There is, in fact, no better way to produce shallow and superficial people than to let them live their lives entirely in the open, without concealment of anything.

Be warned. Although Dalrymple deplores the profanation of culture, he does not hesitate to show how far society has fallen by quoting those who are excessively crude.