I’ve spent a good portion of the day reading a new book on my Kindle 3, and am amazed once again by how good the text looks. The contrast and clarity are absolutely amazing. I was impressed with our Kindle 2, but the Kindle 3 is even better.
Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
Lu and I stopped by Barnes and Noble today, to browse and perhaps spend a gift card.
While I enjoy my Kindle, and Lu reads from hers daily, there’s something to be said for the pleasure of browsing a bookstore. From the magazine racks, to the new releases, to the bargain books, and even to the new games section, there’s still something about a real bookstore that can’t be matched by the Kindle. I enjoyed seeing and holding the new books, reading some dust jackets, and picking out a fantasy baseball magazine (watch out, Otto).
On the other hand, there’s something satisfying about buying a book on the Kindle and having it download and be ready to read within a few seconds.
We came away with two magazines and a book today. While these may also be available on the Kindle, I generally feel it’s fairest to buy from B&N if I discover it at B&N. That is, given that the store has definite expenses that allow me to browse, it doesn’t seem fair to pick out something at the store, then turn around and order it from Amazon to save a few bucks. Or, in yet other words, I try to buy where the service was rendered.
What do you think?
“I remember when I was preparing to take my first trip to Sudan in 2004. The country was still at war, and the Darfur region in Western Sudan had just begun to make headlines. A couple of months before we left, I received a Christian news publication in the mail. The front cover had two headlines, side by side.”
“On the left, one headline read First Baptist Church Celebrates New $23 Million Building. A lengthy article followed celebrating the church’s new sanctuary. The exquisite marble, intricate design, and beautiful stained glass were all described in vivid detail.”
“On the right was a much smaller article. The headline for it read, Baptist Relief Helps Sudanese Refugees. Knowing I was about to go to Sudan, my attention was drawn. The article described how 350,000 refugees in Western Sudan were dying of malnutrition and might not live to the end of the year. It briefly explained their plights and sufferings. The last sentence said that Baptists had sent money to help relieve the suffering of the Sudanese. I was excited until I got to the amount.”
“Five thousand dollars.”
“Twenty-three million dollars for an elaborate sanctuary, and five thousand dollars for hundreds of thousands of starving men, women, and children, most of whom were dying apart from faith in Christ.”
“Where have we gone wrong?”
“How did we get to the place where this is actually tolerable?”
— David Platt
As faithful readers will recall, my Kindle is one of the few items that I would take me in the unlikely event that I was moving to a cabin in the woods. (Here are the details.) It is one of the most handy devices and has become a favorite of mine.
However, Barnes and Noble has recently come out with a competing book reader, the Nook. Despite the name, which evokes thoughts more similar to a baby’s pacifier than a state-of-the-art electronic book reader, I was intrigued. Perhaps even a little envious.
After all, the Nook offered some compelling features not available with my Kindle.
- Color images of book covers
- The ability to “loan” books to another Nook user
- WiFi in addition to 3G wireless
- Some intriguing in-store features when connected to B&N WiFi
- The Android OS runs “under-the-hood”
So, I stopped at a Barnes and Noble to try one out.
What did I discover?
- The color book covers look better in printed ad material than on the Nook. They were so small that really only the color patterns were helpful.
- Only the bottom ribbon of the Nook screen is touch-sensitive. All menu action takes place in that touch sensitive area. Perhaps due to the compressed area, I found navigating the menu to be not nearly as convenient as on my Kindle.
- I crashed the Android OS (actually some installed DLL; the OS gave a cryptic message and then recovered) without even trying.
Bottom line — I no longer have Nook envy. I’ll still be satisfied to take my Kindle to my small cabin in the woods.
I’m in the market for a new work of fiction to add to my Kindle. Any suggestions for me?
I’ve recently finished Ted Dekker’s Thr3e and was disappointed with the ending. I enjoyed his Black/Red/White trilogy, but thought that Red and White didn’t quite live up to Black. I’ll read Green when it comes out.
I thought of Sigmund Brouwer’s Double Helix, but it isn’t available for Kindle.
I’ve thought of some classics, such as the Three Musketeer series by Alexandre Dumas.
But perhaps you have some suggestions for me?
A few weeks ago, I suggested that my new Amazon Kindle was one of just a few things that I’d want to take with me to my imagined small cabin in the woods. Now, after using the Kindle for a few more weeks, I am liking it even more.
My Kindle made a good impression right off the bat, beginning with the packaging. When the box was opened and the Kindle was revealed, I was surprised to see a picture on the screen. However, I learned that the screen has very low power consumption and that the Kindle screen is always on. So, even when the Kindle is off, the screen is on, and shows one of several black and white pictures.
Once the Kindle was taken from the box and examined, it felt right. My friend Jim has an original Kindle. I wasn’t too impressed with it. It had an odd pyramidal shape and didn’t feel solid. The new Kindle corrects both of these perceptions. The shape is now a nice rounded square with a uniform depth, and the Kindle has a very solid feel to it.
The screen uses an interesting ink technology that I find to be very readable. The display process applies ink to the screen. When a new page is shown, the screen flashes to black (all ink) and then ink is removed to leave the resulting text. At first I thought that the flashing would be annoying, but it quickly became unnoticeable. I’ve found the screen to be easy to read in both bright and normal lighting. However, since the screen is not backlit, you cannot read it in the dark. So, in any conditions where you can read a book, you can read the Kindle. Plus, the size makes it super-convenient to read while at home, while traveling, or even while walking on the treadmill.
The Kindle is often called an electronic book, but it is really electronic books. Many books can be installed to the Kindle, and you can easily switch between any of the installed books. Books can be purchased from amazon.com, and are then automatically installed to the Kindle via wireless service. Purchased books can be removed from the Kindle, and then reinstalled at any later time. My Kindle currently has:
- The English Standard Version of the Bible
- The New American Standard Version of the Bible
- Flint, by Louis L’Amour
- O’Fallon, by Louis L’Amour
- Radigan, by Louis L’Amour
- The Last of the Breed, by Louis L’Amour
- The Haunted Mesa, by Louis L’Amour (not a very good book)
- Black / Red / White: Circle Trilogy, by Ted Dekker
- Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, by Mark R. Levin
What I’ve learned is that I really like the Kindle for reading fiction, biographies, and other “story-like” books. However, I don’t enjoy it so much when reading something that might not be read sequentially (such as the Bible or a technical book) or that you may want to refer back to while reading. For instance, navigating the Bible via a table-of-contents is just too cumbersome to make the Bible useful in a church or study situation. However, for devotional reading (where you start at some location and read sequentially over several days), the Bible on a Kindle is just fine.
Additionally, there are some other disadvantages.
- You can’t loan a book to some one else after you’ve finished reading it.
- You can’t sell the book in a used book store or a garage sale.
- Even if you own the book in print format, you have to buy the Kindle version of the book at full price.
- Once a book is removed from the Kindle, you’re dependent upon amazon.com to be able to restore it back onto the device if you ever want it again.
- Not all books are available in Kindle format.
However, there are some advantages, too.
- Don’t know what a word means? Move the cursor over the word to see the definition.
- The text of the book can be searched.
- The text of the book can be highlighted.
- Books take up less room on the Kindle than on a bookshelf.
- Kindle books are often less expensive than print editions. For example, the Black/Red/White: Circle Trilogy costs less than $10. (Though you’d have to read a lot of books to overtake the cost of the Kindle.)
It is cool to be able to turn on the wireless feature, shop in the amazon.com store, and have a book automatically downloaded to the Kindle. There’s a certain “wow” factor to it.
I turn off the wireless feature when I’m not using it to connect to the amazon.com store. This greatly extends the battery life from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.
In summary, I’ve been very impressed with the Kindle. The initial cost makes it unlikely that it will be a money-saving purchase, but I do find that I’m reading more with the Kindle than I had been reading without it. It’s just so convenient to pick up and read for a few minutes.
As you may recall, I recently purchased an Amazon Kindle 2 — an electronic “book”. (It’s really cool; I promise to write about it sometime.) Anyway… for my first reading experience, I chose the Bible. While I like the Bible, reading it on the Kindle wasn’t the best experience — it’s too hard to jump around. So, I switched to a novel: Flint, by Louis L’Amour. What better choice than a classic Western?
There’s a few things you can always count on in a Louis L’Amour book:
- The good guy is either:
- a fast draw
- an excellent rifle shot
- a champion cage fighter (to borrow from today’s terminology)
- a horse whisperer, bronco rider, expert trail tracker, etc.
Sometimes he’s all four.
- The bad guy is bad, and undeniably deserves to be shot, beat up, or otherwise opposed by the good guy.
- There’s a beautiful young woman in need of help.
- The good guy is available and attracts the affections of the beautiful girl.
So, every Louis L’Amour Western novel has all the makings for a good book.
Flint is no exception.
That’s really all you need to know.
However, I noticed as I recently re-read Flint that there are some unexplained jumps in the narrative. I’m not sure if this is due to editing errors, or if Flint just isn’t as cohesive as most L’Amour novels. For example, a paragraph sequence might be like this (this is made-up):
“Hand drank his coffee and looked out over the ranch.” followed by “Stepping into the saloon, Hank…”
The two paragraphs just don’t flow into each other. I noticed several of these “leaps” in Flint. It made me wonder if Flint was one of L’Amour’s first or last novels.
Google has become ubiquitous on the web; will they become ubiquitous in the phone space as well with the Android phone?
I recently completed Hello, Android, by Ed Burnette. This brief book provides a quick overview of Android, from the Byzantine installation requirements of the development tools to the user interface design to the SDK. With a book that’s less than 200 pages long (including the index), the author cannot afford to offer much more than an introduction.
However, if you are already familiar with developing mobile software, and especially if you have some exposure to Java, then an introduction to the hot topics may be just what you need. The following chapters are included:
1. Quick Start
2. Key Concepts
3. Designing the User Interface
4. Exploring 2D Graphics
6. Storing Local Data
7. The Connected World
8. Locating and Sensing
9. Putting SQL to Work
10. 3D Graphics in OpenGL
A. Java vs. the Android Language and API
The early segments of the book use a Sudoku game as the programming example. Here I think it would be most helpful to read a chapter, then sit and the PC and follow the same steps on your own. This kind of hands-on reinforcement would greatly facilitate both understanding and retention. However, if that’s not feasible (and it wasn’t for me when I was reading this book), there are still ample details to allow you to follow along and nod your head.
If and when I tackle an Android project, I anticipate that some of the examples in this book will be very beneficial. However, I also expect to find some important holes that were missed simply due to the scope and size of the book.
My first thought was “I didn’t know that Scott Hamilton was a Christian.”
I won’t tell you what my second thought was.
My third thought was “This might be an entertaining read.”
I would classify myself squarely in the “Olympic ice skating is interesting and a rare hour watching ice skating is OK” demographic. That doesn’t exactly make me a fan. But I remember watching live when Tonya’s shoe lace (skate lace?) broke, and I get a little nervous when I see a man hold a woman above his head while spinning madly, so maybe I get some fan points. Apparently it’s enough to make this book an interesting read.
The title is a play on the skater’s figure eight… a compulsory figure from what I now know is a bygone era in figure skating. The figure eight is, according to Scott Hamilton, essential to learning proper figure skating.
Similarly, the seemingly ever optimistic Scott Hamilton relates five principles that are essential to being a happy person:
1. Fall, Get Up, and Land Your First Jumps
2. Trust Your Almighty Coach
3. Make Your Losses Your Wins
4. Keep the Ice Clear
5. Think Positive, Laugh and Smile Like Kristi Yamaguchi
6. Win By Going Last
7. Learn a New Routine
8. Stand in the Spotlight
As you can see, the eight principles share a skating motif. While the principles may sound light and fluffy, there was more depth than I expected. For instance, in the “Win By Going Last” chapter, Scott writes about the competitive advantage of being the last skater. In the skating world, going last isn’t selfless; it’s a winning a strategy. But in real life, being selfless (i.e. going last, putting other ahead of yourself) is also a winning strategy.
Along the way, Scott gives some insights into the world of competitive and professional figure skating.
He also reveals some of his spiritual journey: “Everybody talks about a midlife crisis, but I had an anti-midlife crisis. I turned forty and the first thing I did was get married, start a family, and become a Christian. I kind of went in the other direction.” (Page 151)
The Great Eight is definitely a light and easy read, but don’t be mistaken into thinking that it is all fluff. You may not buy into every idea presented (I didn’t), but I think you’ll still find something of value.
Even if you’re not the world’s foremost skating fan.
Not everyone is a Steve Martin fan. I am.
However, my fandom came late in life. I’ve not ever seen Steve Martin on Saturday Night Live. I’ve not seen him in live concert. I’ve not listened to any of his albums. I’ve not even seen all of his movies.
Yet, I am still a fan. Why? Perhaps some of the secrets can be found in Born Standing Up, an autobiography by Steve Martin.
Steve (that somehow seems more natural than “Mr. Martin”) starts his story as young lad in CA, where he fortuitously lives near the new Disneyland, and continues through his stand-up stage. He reveals some of the people that influenced and motivated him, how his style of comedy developed, the perseverance that led him to stick it out when most of his meager earnings were spent traveling from job to job, when it wasn’t at all certain that his act would ever be considered successful, and as life on the road was more-and-more isolating.
Yet, we’re left to consider whether those days before “success” were better than the days after “success”, as we learn that success also served to isolate Steve Martin from regular friendships.
The autobiographical book does a good job of not giving too many details, avoiding the sordid. There are a few words that would have earned a movie an R rating in previous years, but would perhaps now be acceptable in a PG-13 movie. Yet, even these are rare, suggesting that Steve Martin is the gentleman that I imagine him to be.
Born Standing Up is a nice mixture of nostalgia, humor, and sentimentality. It’s relatively short and easily read. In the end, perhaps, you like me, will conclude that Steve Martin has found the “movie life” more satisfying than life as a stand-up comedian.
Faithful readers may recall that in 2008, Lu and I were reading from Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s Walk with You devotional. We were about 67% successful. By that, I mean that we missed only a few days a month for the first 8 months of the year, but somehow stopped during the last few months. I could make up an excuse, but the truth is there wasn’t really a good reason. How did you do with your individual or couples devotional reading goal last year?
This year, I am enjoying the One Year Walk with God Devotional. I found a steeply discounted copy with a cool, imitation leather cover (always a plus). I won’t be surprised if it takes me more than a year to get through it, but based on the first few readings, I think I’ll enjoy it, no matter how long it takes.
Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be), by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, is a good introduction to the emergent/emerging church movement, if you (like me) are inclined to be a bit skeptical.
One challenge of writing (and reading) a book about the emergent/emerging church is defining what it is. In fact, to some, there are definite distinctions (other than spelling and form) between emergent and emerging, ironically foreshadowing my conclusion that saying the same things with different, “hip” words is a big part of the movement. Kevin DeYoung states that “defining the emergent church is like nailing Jell-O to the wall.”1 This difficulty in defining the movement stems, in part, from the movement not defining itself, and even questioning the value of definitions. DeYoung offers this definition, which is really more of an explanation and less of a definition.
Back to the question at hand — attempting an explanation of the emergent church. To some “emergent” means nothing more than a new style and approach to worship (“couches, candles and coffee”). To others it signals an appreciation for postmodernism. To yet others it means a return to a more ancient, primitive, and pristine form of Christianity. At a popular level, “the term emerging church has been applied to high-profile, youth-oriented congregations that have gained attention on account of their rapid numerical growth; their ability to attract (or retain) twentysomethings; and their ability to promote themselves to the Christian subculture through websites and by word of mouth.” Or, as Andy Crouch puts it in Christianity Today, emerging churches are “frequently urban, disproportionately young, overwhelmingly white, and very new.”
One of its critics has described the emerging church as a protest movement — a protest against traditional evangelicalism, a protest against modernism, and a protest against seeker-sensitive megachurches. Others, sympathetic to the movement, have used the acronym EPIC: experiential, participatory, image driven, and connected.2
In the event that that explanation doesn’t resonate, try this:
After reading nearly five thousand pages of emerging-church literature, I have no doubt that the emerging church, while loosely defined and far from uniform, can be described and critiqued as a diverse, but recognizable, movement. You might be an emergent Christian: if you listen to U2, Moby, and Johnny Cash’s Hurt (sometimes in church); use sermon illustrations from The Sopranos; drink lattes in the afternoon and Guinness in the evenings, and always use a Mac; if your reading list consists primarily of Stanley Hauewas, Henri Nouwen, N.T. Wright, Stan Grenz, Dallas Willard, Bernnan Manning, Jim Wallis, Frederick Buechner, David Bosch, John Howard Yoder, Wendell Berry, Nancy Murphy, John Franke, Walter Winks and Leslie Newbigin (not to mention McLaren, Pagitt, Bell, etc.) and your sparring partners include D.A. Carson, John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Wayne Grudem; if your idea of quintessential Christian discipleship is Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Desmond Tutu; if you don’t like George W. Bush or institutions or big business or capitalism or Left Behind Christianity; if your political concerns are poverty, AIDS, imperialism, war-mongering, CEO salaries, consumerism, global warming, racism, and oppression and not so much abortion and gay marriage; if you are into bohemian, goth, rave or indie; if you talk about the myth of redemptive violence and the myth of certainty; if you lie awake at night having nightmares about all the ways modernism has ruined your life; if you love the Bible as a beautiful, inspiring collection of works that lead us into the mystery of God but is not inerrant; if you search for truth but aren’t sure it can be found; if you’ve ever been to a church with prayer labyrinths, candles, Play-Doh, chalk drawings, couches or beanbags (your youth group doesn’t count); if you loathe words like linear, propositional, rational, machine and hierarchy and use words like ancient-future, jazz, mosaic, matrix, missional, vintage and dance; if you grew up in a very conservative Christian home that in retrospect seems legalistic, naive, and rigid; if you support women in all levels of ministry, prioritize urban over suburban, and like your theology narrative instead of systematic; if you disbelieve in any sacred-secular divide; if you want to be the church and not just go to church; if you long for a community that is relational, tribal and primal like a river or garden; if you believe doctrine gets in the way of an interactive relationship with Jesus; if you believe who goes to hell is no one’s business and no one may be there anyway; if you believe salvation has little to do with atoning for guilt and a lot to do with bringing the whole creation back into shalom with its Maker; if you believe following Jesus is not believing the right things but living the right way; if it really bugs you when people talk about going to heaven instead of heaven coming to us; if you disdain monological, didactic preaching; if you use the word “story” in all your propositions about postmodernism — if all or most of this tortuously long sentence describes you, then you might be an emergent Christian.3
The authors rightly conclude that many of the questions and complaints that the emerging movement has for the “traditional, evangelical church” are valid and worthy of discussion. However, there are several disturbing trends that suggest that some of what is labeled “emergent” is, in fact, more properly called “another gospel.”4 If this rings alarm bells with you, and especially if you find yourself attracted to some of the emergent terminology, then read this thoroughly researched and footnoted book yourself.
All quotes offered so far have been from Kevin DeYoung, a pastor. Yet, the book has two authors. The second is Ted Kluck, a sports writer. It’s no surprise, therefore, that their writing styles are different. Kevin DeYoung writes from a more scholarly, theological perspective. Ted Kluck, in contrast, writes from a more everyday, common sense perspective. The combination is quite effective, as each writes (mostly) alternating chapters.
Take this example from one of Ted Kluck’s chapters.
“Ain’t gonna let nobody turn be ’round, turn ’round, turn me ’round.”
“Ain’t gonna let injustice, turn me ’round, turn me ’round, turn me ’round.”
A quick look around the room at Mars Hill Bible Church, at the five thousand or so other middle-class, suburban white people, and I really wonder what injustice it is that they’re singing about. Not finding their size at the Gap?
All kidding aside, I’m surprised to see that the clientele at Rob Bell’s church is so, well, normal. And I can honestly say that watching thousands of tall, white, Dutch folk — baby boomers, yuppies, college and high school kids — belting out a Civil Rights-era spiritual is just about the weirdest thing I have ever seen. My black buddy L.J. would blow his stack if he saw this. I’m glad he’s not here.5
Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) is both entertaining and informative. It isn’t reactionary and identifies some positive areas of the emergent movement; yet it also provides some cautions worthy of consideration.
1. page 17
2. pages 17-18
3. pages 20-22
4. see Galatians 1:1-9
5. page 214, and evidence that I did read past the first few (extensively quoted from) chapters!
I stumbled across On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, by Andrew Peterson (who, I think, looks different in person than at his Web site), at the Coral Ridge Barnes and Noble. I was looking for a fun book, and based on the jacket cover, it seemed to fit the bill.
Andrew Peterson spins a riveting tale for all ages, following Janner, Tink and Leeli Igiby and their trust dog, Nugget, in escape from the vicious Fangs of Dang who seek the lost jewels of Anniera. Quirky characters and their world of wonders — from the edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness to the deadly Glipwood Forest and beyond — set the stage for this epic adventure that includes…
- Original Songs and Silly Poems
- An Ex-Pirate Grandfather
- Toothy Cows and Real Sea Dragons
- Tours of Anklejelly Manor and Peet the Sock Man’s Tree House
- Suspenseful Legend and Fascinating Lore
- Genuine Recipes for Maggotloaf
- Authentic Hand-Drawn Maps
It sounds like just the kind of book I would write, if I were a song-writer/performer writing a book. (Actually, it wasn’t until after I bought it that I connected that it was by Andrew Peterson, the Christian musician that we recently heard in concert in Cedar Rapids.)
And, actually, it was an enjoyable read. One mark of a good story is that it doesn’t take too long to get into it. On the Edge of the Sea of Darkness took a little longer than I prefer. But another mark of a good story is that once you get into it, you don’t want to put it down until you finished. On the Edge of the Sea of Darkness scores a hit on this count.
If you’re looking for a serious novel that says it seriously, look elsewhere. If you like any kinds of humor that might remotely fall into one of these categories:
- Word play or puns
- Weird (remember the rule: i before e except after c and in the word weird)
Then you might, just might, enjoy this book. But you won’t know until you try it yourself!
For some time now, it’s been my goal to start the day, every day, with a devotional reading with my wife. In recent months, we’d been moderately successful, reading from a devotional four (sometimes more) times per week. However, my goal was every day, not four out of seven days. So, clearly, I needed a new approach or more determination, or both.
The new approach was found with the book Moments With You, by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. This book contains 365 devotional readings, keyed to each day of the year, that are geared toward married couples. Each contains scripture, a discussion starter, and a prayer goal.
Experts say that a habit takes 21 days to ingrain. I’m happy to report that we have only one more day to go until we will have completed our readings each day for the first 21 days of 2008. I read aloud on Mondays through Saturdays, and Lu reads aloud on Sunday. Sometimes the discussion question results in discussion; sometimes not. Then we pray together and continue our day.
If you have a similar goal, but have needed something to help you along the way, consider Moments With You. You don’t even need to wait for a new year!
I recently completed Lone Survivor, the Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, by Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson.
Marcus Luttrell is a Nave SEAL who has served in both Afghanistan and Iraq during the War on Terror. The first few chapters of the book introduce Luttrell and describe his training as a Navy SEAL. The physical requirements and training go way beyond “strenuous” — you will have respect for the physical and mental toughness of these rare men, even those who start but don’t finish the training.
However, the main bulk of the book (and the best part) tells of Operation Redwing. In June 2005, Luttrell was part of a four-man SEAL team dropped into the mountains of Afghanistan as part of Operation Redwing, which involved capturing or killing a terrorist leader, responsible for the deaths of several civilians and U.S. military personnel. However, once in position, the team was unwittingly stumbled upon by three shepherds and their flock of goats. The team had to choose between killing the civilians (to protect themselves and the mission) or whether to release the shepherds (who would likely inform the local terrorist group, thought to be 80 to 200 strong). They chose to release the shepherds. Read the book to find out the disastrous results.
Luttrell paints a stark picture between good and evil, and surprisingly reveals that even among the mountain strongholds of Afghanistan, good men can be found. Luttrell owes is life to the men of an Afghanistan village who defied the Taliban and defended Luttrell.
Luttrell describes himself as a Christian, and attributes his survival to God’s protection. At least three times he should have been separated from his rifle, only to find it right at hand. However, the book does contain blasphemous language. If you can skip over the language, you’ll find that Lone Survivor tells a strong story.