What better way to start the year than with book reviews? Hope you enjoy!
Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers by Mark Regnerus – I loved this book. Of course, it says something about my my academic background that I enjoy reading books about sociology. I am fascinated by this topic, especially since I used to have a number of young women in my practice whom I was treating for sexually transmitted infections and whose babies I delivered. I really want my own kids to delay sex until marriage for medical as well as religious reasons. I’ve seen the devastation that early and frequent sexual activity can wreak. But, is the Church being effective in helping our teens make good choices? This book tried to answer this question, among others. The author showed that abstinence pledging by teens, despite being a sacred cow of Evangelicals, is simply not very effective. It appears that the teens who are least likely to be sexually active and to have fewer partners are those with high personal religiosity levels. It appears that the “programmatic” approach to the problem of teen pregnancy taken by many churches has failed us. So, what is the answer? There’s not a simple one, but we need to get past the naivete of thinking that kids who are involved in youth groups will automatically “wait for marriage”. Our churches and families would do much better to focus more on helping our teens develop a closer walk with Jesus with less focus on “good behavior”. A
The Victims Return: Survivors of the Gulag Return after Stalin – by Stephen Cohen – Millions of people were sent to the “Gulag Archipelago”, a network of prison/work camps scattered across Siberia, during the reign of Josef Stalin. Many of them died, but many returned home to try to reintegrate into Soviet society. I read this book knowing almost nothing about the USSR after Stalin, so it was highly educational on that front. What made it a good read, though, was the stories. The author writes about a variety of people who were in the Gulag for varying amounts of time, but focuses on their life after the Gulag. They had to deal with the memories of the Gulag, but also with fitting into a society that was changing. Definitely worth reading. A
The Whale Rider by Witi Tame Ihimaera – I had heard of the movie, “The Whale Rider”, but didn’t know much about it. When Wild Man was studying Australia and New Zealand, we needed another read-aloud, so I chose this. And I’m very glad I did. The whole family enjoyed the story of the girl who was not loved by her grandfather because she wasn’t a boy. By the end of the book, though, the girl has shown that she is the next “Whale Rider”. A
The American Evangelical Story by Douglas Sweeney – This was a good overview of the history of Evangelicals in America. It was very good to see how the Evangelical denominations shaped and were shaped by the development of this country. Definitely a good read, especially if you enjoy social history. A
Jesus Freaks: A True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge by Don Lattin – I was looking up the Jesus Freaks book by D.C. Talk, but this one came up in the list. I just couldn’t resist checking it out. It’s a true story about a cult that is only tangentially related to Christianity. It was a pretty good book. B
Jane Austen in Scarsdale by Paula Cohen – This story takes the general plot of Persuasion by Jane Austen and transposes the story to Scarsdale, NY. The main character is a guidance counselor in a high school in an affluent area who is constantly dealing with difficult parents and anxious students as she tries to help her students navigate the college admission process. The real fun begins when her ex-boyfriend moves into town with his sister and her son, who is a high school student. And, if you’re a Jane Austen fan, you know where the plot goes from there. Yes, it’s formula, but it’s a nice, pleasant read. B
Poison: A Novel of the Renaissance by Sara Poole – A young woman becomes the “poisoner” to Cardinal Borgia in the days before the pope dies and the Cardinals must go into conclave. Not only is the poisoner required to protect Borgia during this time, but she also learns a secret about her father that leads her to try to prevent the expulsion of the Jews from the city. Well-written, intriguing plot. A
Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean (audio) by Richard Logan – In the early 1960s, the Duperrault family from Green Bay, WI chartered a boat and captain to take a trip through the Bahamas, with the idea of eventually purchasing their own boat. However, things went terribly wrong. A few days after the boat was last seen in the Bahamas, the 6 year old daughter was found in the open ocean floating on a styrofoam float. The girl was terribly dehydrated and required hospitalization. The story that she told while in the hospital was one of murder and her desperate struggle to survive. The perpetrator, the boat captain, answered an inquiry about the loss of a boat, but then committed suicide, apparently because the little girl survived. This story tells not only about the 6 year old girl, Tere, but also the family and the boat captain. Absolutely fascinating. A
The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz – I just love the Spellman series by Lisa Lutz. In this installment, Izzy Spellman is taking over the family business, but also trying to put up with a series of blind dates set up by her mother, dealing with phone calls from her favorite octogenarian from Florida, and asking the family why random bits of the house (like door knobs) keep disappearing. It’s another hilarious and funny installment. Definitely read it! (Warning: Language alert – Not safe for kids!) A
From Asparagus to Zucchini – This is a cookbook produced by the Madison Area CSA Coalition. It’s an alphabetic listing of the veggies that are likely to show up in your CSA bag along with suggestions on how to store, clean, and cook them. I highly recommend it. A
So, go check out a book from the library and get reading!