Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Book Reviews – December 31, 2008

Here are some more book reviews to end up your year.

The River by Edward Hooper

This book is an ambitious investigation into the hypothesis that the HIV entered the human population through the testing of oral polio vaccine in Africa in the late 1950s.  This book is quite large - 800+ pages – and full of details.  Hooper looks at the controversy from just about every angle – how the OPV was made in the 1950s, what primate species were used to make cell cultures, how the vaccine was given, the geography of vaccination as well as the geography of the early AIDS epidemic.  I found this book fascinating and highly encourage anyone who works in medicine or bioethics to take the time to read it.  Whether or not the hypothesis is eventually shown to be accurate, it is important for people to be aware of and discuss the questions of bioethics and viral and vaccine research that are brought up through this work.  A+

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

This is a novel about Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the long-term mistress of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney met in Chicago when Wright was designing a home for Mamah and her husband.  Several years later, Mamah left her husband and two children to go with Frank to Germany.  After their time in Europe, Mamah and Frank both returned to Chicago.  They moved from there to Spring Green, WI, where Frank built Taliesin, a home for Mamah.  The story ends with the stunning brutal murder of Mamah and six others at Taliesin.  I found this a fascinating study of a woman in the early days of feminism.  The author was clearly sympathetic to Mamah, but I still could not fathom leaving one’s children and family to run off with another man (for which I’m sure Mr. Math Tutor is happy).  I recommend this book if you are interested in the early 20th century.  B

Death in a Prairie House by William Drennan

I decided to read this book after I read Loving Frank.  This is a non-fiction account of the Wright-Borthwick/Cheney affair and the subsequent murder at Taliesin.  This author spent more time on Frank Lloyd Wright’s history so I felt like I was getting a better rounded look at the situation.  I certainly recommend it  if you are interested in the topic.  A

Why We’re Not Emergent: From Two Guys Who Should Be by Kevin DeYoung

This is another entry in the anti-emergent books among Evangelicals.  I actually found this book helpful, which surprised me since I often don’t like books written “against” other philosophies.  In this case, I found that the authors were quite fair in their assessment of emergent leaders and often quote extensive passages from those they are critiquing.  They seemed to want to give the emergents the benefit of the doubt as often as possible.  I recommend this to anyone who is considering Emergent theology.  A

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, one of the stories from Beedle the Bard plays a very large role.  This book is a compilation of the stories discussed in the last HP book along with commentary by Albus Dumbledore.  We read this book out loud as a family and very much enjoyed it.  The stories themselves are very much like traditional fairy tales.  Dumbledore’s commentary provides some further insight into the wizarding world created by Rowling.  I very highly recommend this book.  A+

The Minister’s Daughter by Julie Hearn

I listened to this book on my mp3 player – thank you library system!!  This book is called The Minister’s Daughter, but the main character is actually a young woman accused of witchcraft in Puritan England.  The minister’s daughter is her accuser.  I enjoyed listening to this book.  The story is interesting and quite enjoyable.  There are some supernatural elements.  Sadly, the portrayal of Christian leaders in the book was less than ideal.  I was discouraged to see that the pagan elements were overwhelmingly positively portrayed, but the Christian elements were generally negative.  Overall, though, it is a good book, and I recommend it.  A-

That’s it for 2008.  I’m working on some more books to review in the next couple of weeks.  Have a Happy New Year!!!



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