Saturday, September 29, 2012

When Helping Hurts

by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

I picked up this book in the hope that it would have some advice on the eternal question of what's the best way to respond to a panhandler. Of course, I didn't find a pat, easy answer. What I found instead was a book geared more towards those in church leadership whose congregations wish to offer collective aid to the poor. The authors do a very good job of presenting a holistic view of ministering to the impoverished, pointing out that poverty is more than just material wealth but also extends to the social and spiritual realms. A person helping out the materially poor can often find those same people ministering to his or her own spiritual poverty. The book encourages a Christian to be aware and repent of their own weaknesses as they seek to help others in their need, lest the wealthy person's spiritual or social poverty cause harm to those they want to help. So while I didn't get "the" answer, I did get some guidance in my dealings with the poor and homeless folk who approach me in my neighborhood.

Do check it out
LibraryThing link


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Benjamin Harrison

by Charles W. Calhoun

The Seattle Public Library only had this brief biography of our 23rd president, a book from The American Presidents series. As much as I would have preferred a longer, more in-depth book, I have to say that Professor Calhoun did a pretty good job. While Benjamin Harrison will never stand out as one of America's great presidents--indeed, the book states that Harrison's election (and subsequent defeat in 1892) owed as much to the political zeitgeist as to his abilities as a president and politician--he's portrayed as a shining example of a president who can work with Congress to accomplish a lot. (Well, that's assuming that the Congress is controlled by your own party....)  

Check it out.
LibraryThing link

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Was Superman a Spy?

by Brian Cronin

I spent so much time reading Mr. Cronin's blog, I thought I should read his book as well. Fun stuff. Great waiting room material.

LibraryThing link


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Red Guardian Fantasies and Other Stories

by Shouhua Qi

This collections of short stories by a man who grew up during China's Cultural Revolution reminded me almost immediately of my time spent in China. The big difference, of course, is that I experienced China as a guest and a foreigner. For Dr. Qi's characters, on the other hand, China is their home and fatherland. (or is it motherland? I forget their preferred gender) Overall, I found the book to be somewhat poignant, though Mr. Qi also caused me to smile more than once. I was a bit surprised by the rampant adultery (never presented graphically) in the book. How accurately Dr. Qi caught that area of Chinese culture, I don't know. There was a lot that I missed during my brief time there. (Sheesh! Can that be taken the wrong way. Let me clarify: I had no interest in adultery in China. Nor did any adulterers proclaim their activities to me.)(If there was a Chinese equivalent to The Jerry Springer Show, I couldn't understand the language to watch it.) Anyway, it's a good book and I'm going to have to keep it on my shelf for those times when I'm missing my "home" in the Far East.

LibraryThing link


Monday, September 10, 2012

Houdini: A Pictorial Life

by Milbourne Christopher

The child borrowed this book for a research paper. It was sitting around and I picked it up and ended up reading it through. 'Tis a heavily illustrated biography of Harry Houdini, organized more thematically than chronologically. It was interesting how it compared with my only other exposures to Houdini, namely the theatrical and television bio-pics.

I'm glad I checked it out.
LibraryThing link


Sunday, September 02, 2012

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

by Alexander McCall Smith

Ah, what can I say about this book? It's the tale of Precious Ramotswe, a middle aged woman who sets up the first woman-owned detective agency in Botswana. "Quirky" is the word that came to mind as I was reading the book. The plot is rather loose--the book is kind of like a number of short stories woven together. It lopes along with numerous observations of life. Many of those are humorous, but the humor is so subtle I had to wonder how much of it was intentional and how much stemmed from my own cultural misunderstanding. Another phrase that popped in my mind was "feel good".* It's kind of like one of James Herriot's books, that makes you glad to be alive regardless if the events you're reading of are happy or sad. In the end, I figure I just need to hang onto the book and find room for it on my ever more crowded shelf.

LibraryThing link
* I really do apologize for using that phrase. It strikes me as very lowbrow. However, I'm not well read enough to know a better word to describe the concept. Is there an antonym for Schadenfreude?

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