Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Seattle Walk Report

by Susanna Ryan

This one is waiting room material that is worth checking out. It's an "illustrated walking tour through 23 Seattle neighborhoods." Apparently it's a printed sequel to a popular comic on Instagram. In it, our guide, named Seattle Walk Report, presents a walking plan for various neighborhoods and drawings of various things observed on that route--from landmarks to sidewalk trash. The art is cute and amusing. But it also gets repetitive if you try to plow through the whole book in one or two sittings. Instead, I suppose, I should have gone out and taken a walk between chapters.

LibraryThing link

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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Unbelievers

by Alec Ryrie

Western culture has tended to look at history as a linear story, assuming that it has a beginning and an end. So when we look at the state of religion in the West--the decline in church membership and rise of secularism in the public square--folks tend to assume that this is a new development in an ongoing story. (and that's regardless if they think it's a step toward utopia or armageddon) In Unbelievers, Professor Ryrie surveys the history of unbelievers* since the Reformation--where many would put the starting point of secularization--and comes to the conclusion that the decline of religion in the West is not an innovation. Western society has always had those who question and/or reject Christianity, usually fueled by either anger or anxiety. The book presents excerpts from their stories. It's not an exciting read, but it wasn't boring, either. Most refreshingly, it also wasn't a panicked or condescending account, like one might read in some of the articles that are floating around the internet today. Professor Ryrie treats his topic with calm and compassion. 
_________
* in the limited sphere of Christianized Western Europe and its colonies

Check it out.
LibraryThing link

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Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Strong Towns

by Charles L. Marohn, Jr.

I was trying to think of a metaphor to describe the topic of this book. The one that popped in my head was, "Turn the car around, we're going the wrong way." Which is ironic since Mr. Mahron decries car culture in this book. Strong Towns makes the case that America has screwed up. For thousands of years humanity has worked out systems of living together, putting together functional cities, towns, and villages by trial and error. After World War II, the United States, awash with wealth and technology, tried something new and started growing our communities far and wide. The problem has now arisen, however, that the new and shiny needs some maintenance and the money's not there. The new infrastructure is a poor foundation for creating the income needed to maintain a decent life. The solution, according to Mr. Marohn, is not to find more wealth somehow and throw it into further growth. Rather, the direction we should be heading is back to what has worked: smaller, walkable, and more personal communities. Communities that build slowly and small, communities that require people to invest themselves in it. It's an interesting concept. The road to that goal looks like it won't be fun. But it does sound like it might be worth it.

Check it out.
LibraryThing link

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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Kindred

by Octavia E. Butler

How come I have never heard of this book before? I've been a fan of time travel stories since I started reading science fiction, yet somehow I only heard about this 1979 novel almost 40 years after it was published. (And how the heck has it been 40 years since I was a teen? But I digress...)

Kindred is the tale of a Dana, a 26 year old African-American woman who suddenly vanishes from her home in California in 1976 and finds herself in Maryland in 1811. She never discovers why or how she has traveled back in time and space, but she does figure out that she's linked to a person back then. She's forced to navigate life on his plantation, a place where the color of her skin puts her danger. Her status as a strange "guardian angel" shields her in the beginning, but the cultural forces of oppression and exploitation are powerful. How long before they overwhelm her?

I really enjoyed the story. Ms. Butler crafted a believable tale--once you pretend that time travel is a possibility--filled with complex characters. While there's one or two moments when Dana's knowledge of the future comes in handy, for the most part she's lost in a strange place. She rises to the occasion, and learns to function in that society. Now that I know about this book, I have to add it to the other time travel novels on my shelf.

LibraryThing link

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Saturday, November 02, 2019

Amos

by R. Reed Lessing

Another good volume in the Concordia Commentary series. The book of Amos is one of judgment, condemning the ancient kingdom of Israel for their injustice and calling out their hypocrisy. There are a few calls to repentance in there, but in the end God says He'll bring down the judgment. Dr. Lessing walks the reader through the text, showing the literary methods Amos used to communicate the message and--this is a Concordia Commentary after all--showing how the book points toward Christ and the working of forgiveness and justice through the cross.

Check it out!
LibraryThing link

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Dignity

by Chris Arnade

This is a first for me--a thought provoking coffee table book. Chris Arnade is a writer, photographer, and former Wall Street trader. He lives in what he calls the "front row" of America. Years back he started walking in an "unsafe" neighborhood where he began to meet and speak with folks from the "back row" of America. It was a different world than his, and the experience made him see the front row in a new light. This led him to see out back row communities in other parts of the country and, eventually, led to this collection of photographs, anecdotes, and musings on the social divide in our country. There are a lot of opinions about the divisions in our society and what to do about them. The problem is when one voices opinions about other people without really knowing them. The best solution to that, of course, is to go talk to them. Second best would be to hear their stories. Dr. Arnade shares a taste of that and gave me a chance to examine my own world and opinions. (and, let's be honest, prejudices) It's a book definitely worth checking out, except maybe for those readers who only want the other side to go away.

LibraryThing link

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

by C. S. Lewis

This may be the book I've reread the most in the last 20 years. (Excluding the Bible, that is.)
First read in the Summer of 2002.
Then read in June of 2007.
Last read in August of 2011.

Still on my shelf.  
LibraryThing link

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