Daughter of the Mountains
Daughter of the Mountains by Louise S. Rankin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a beautiful story of determination, courage and adventure. Although one may think at first, that it is a reading just for children, surprisingly it offers much more for anyone who reads it.

PROS: The book is short and an easy reading. Besides the highly ethical virtues portrayed, the narrative is so detailed and compelling that one almost feels like traveling with Momo from her village in Tibet to Calcutta. Moreover, there are plenty of cultural references for people interested in cultural anthropology and human diversity. Even more, the faith and religious values of the Tibetan people are also demonstrated and to a great extend, the author shows the importance of spiritual foundations in human determination.

CONS: The only “con” I can think of is the fact that the story is not totally resolved. [Beginning of spoiler] Although at the end, Momo recovers her dog, one wonders how can she possibly make it back home by herself and this time carrying an expensive dog along [end of spoiler].

Conclusion: This is an excellent reading for families. I can see myself using it as a startup for a dialogue about human values, dreams, cultures, religions and persistence. Read it, you will enjoy the story and be inspired by it.

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The Addicted Brain: Why We Abuse Drugs, Alcohol, and Nicotine
The Addicted Brain: Why We Abuse Drugs, Alcohol, and Nicotine by Michael Kuhar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is written by one of the top authorities in the scientific research of addictions. This does not mean, however, that it is hard to understand or written only for experts. Instead, this book assumes that the reader does not have much of a background and gently takes him/her from the basics to more advanced content.

PROS: The author really knows what he is talking about. This book is not a over-simplistic or moralistic attempt to say that drugs are bad. The author takes the time to explain drug-addiction in its many different layers; from the molecular changes in the brain synapses, to the behavioral changes of the addict and, even more important, the reaction of society towards him/her. Every scientific term is clearly explained and there are plenty of diagrams, tables and charts to illustrate the points presented. Especially significant is the fact that the author introduces the reader to some of the most intriguing questions in the field and the options that researchers are exploring to respond more effectively to the problem of addiction.

CONS: I found it a little surprising that the author quotes text and graphics from Wikipedia in several occasions. Wikipedia is, of course, an excellent source of information but for a scholarly and experienced author one would have expected quotes from more stable sources. Also, the e-book version I read made it a little difficult to follow the graphics and their description but I am thinking this should not be a problem with the paperback or PDF version. Finally, although it was not the main focus of the author I felt that there should have been a deeper exploration of other kinds of addictions. There is one chapter dealing with gambling, nicotine, alcohol, sex, and others. However, the section about sex addiction was very disappointing as it deviates and repeats contents from the previous section without really giving much information about that topic which I think is very relevant as well.

CONCLUSION: This book is important, seriously important. I have never had any experience with drugs but I live in a place where just by going to the corner I can see children, teenagers and adults consumed by drug addiction. The influence of drugs in our present world is too significant to be ignored.
I dare to say this book is indispensable (1) for anyone who has an issue with drugs whether directly or indirectly involved. Even if this is not the case, this book is relevant for (2) anyone who feels responsible for helping people and for making this world a better place. As a representative of the second group to me it was refreshing and enlightening to be reminded of the physiological consequences of drug addiction and the social stigmas that society has so carelessly put of drug addicts. As the author hints throughout the book, addictions are present in many different ways and, if not with drugs, it is likely that we ourselves are experiencing (or have experienced) such bondage. This is a must read, period.

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How to Keep Your Wife Happy
How to Keep Your Wife Happy by William W. Orr
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

PROS: This is a very introductory book written for husbands to relate in a better way to their wives. It is a very short book with chapters of 2 to 5 pages, excellent for busy people who want a light reading. The book has some good principles and assumes the husband is really starting from zero. I am sure that if a couple follows the principles presented, their marriage will improve, or at least it will be evident that there is a need for improvement.

CONS: The book is just too stereotypical. The “Mr. Husband” of this book has the only goal of working all day and providing for his house. The “Mrs. Wife” is even worse for her only goal in life seems to be that of cooking delicious foods, raising children and keeping the house tidy. Several times during my reading I had to go back to the copyright page to make sure that this book was not written 60 years ago.

CONCLUSION: I am truly amazed that this book is so widely available in the libraries of the Philippines. This book was clearly written for an anglo-saxon context that is almost the opposite from the Filipino reality. If you really have NO idea on how to relate to women, in general, or to your wife, in specific, there may be some useful things you can learn, and you will find the book very easy to follow. However, if you are like me, wanting a wife and not a Barbie, then I would suggest you find more elaborate and realistic materials. The very title of the book reflects a paradigm I do not share; I do not want to “keep my wife happy,” I want her to grow in maturity and in love towards God and towards me, even if I know that hard work and sacrifice is the only way to get there.

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Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens
Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens by Neil Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Outstanding book challenging the way Christians understand the concept of church today. The book is extremely simple and without being pretentious it challenges the readers to focus on establishing significant relationships with people around and, by doing so, to share the Christian message of love, fellowship and renewal in Christ. Cole advocates for a church that is formed by people who have witnessed the power of Christ first-hand, and not for an institution or organization that creates inflexible requisites and structures for those who want to become Christians.

PROS: A fresh book that reminds the reader of the nature of the Church in the New Testament and the obvious and significant departure modern-day churches have taken from that model. The content is backed-up by Cole’s extensive experience and fruitful ministry; he speaks out of experience with vibrant testimonies and recognition of the way in which his ideas on church growth have changed as time passes by.

CONS: The book makes extensive use of movies and books as illustrations of the points presented. Sadly, these are clearly Western (from the U.S. particularly) and readers from other context (particularly Asians and Africans) may no find these illustrations familiar. A more serious issue, however, is Cole’s radicality with what he calls “the bad soil.” For Cole there are certain people that are not really worthy of investing time in them. Instead, he proposes to dedicate that time in the “good soil” the rejected, oppressed and poor people. Though his argument is well presented, I personally am not totally sold into the idea of giving up on someone, if I were the one on that position, I would not like others to leave me to go after the “good soil.”

CONCLUSION: This is seriously a must-read for all Christians. Cole is not shy in raising the concerns that any person in modern Christianity has surely had. Even those wholeheartedly committed to denominationalism and traditional ecclesiastic systems will find the reading enriching and able to broaden their perspective. Even those who are not Christians can read this book and understand why Christianity has been so revolutionary from the time of Jesus until now. If you ever wondered how would Christianity look like independent from denominational structures, this book is a good starting point.

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Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I do not wish to go into the obvious debate of whether or not the boy’s account is a real description of Heaven. Rather, I would like to take this book for what it is, the compilation of a little boy’s description of what he saw in an emergency room when he was 4 years old. As a Christian minister who has been engaged to Bible schools and seminaries for more than 8 years I think I have at least a basic knowledge of theology and the normal response I should have about books like this one is that of saying that they are not theologically orthodox. However, for those without a theological or even without a religious background, the whole tenets of Christianity seem foolishness. After all, we Christians believe Spiritual realms and beings and our whole belief system ultimately depends on personal faith. What I am saying is not that I believe a 100% of the things this book says, but rather that I cannot have final authority to condemn or approve this account, for doing so would require a superior knowledge from Heaven, and I have no such thing.

PROS: Independently of the truthfulness of the account, it does make you remember that Christianity is much more than analysis and rituals, it is ultimately a religion of hope and faith. I think that both, a skeptic or an enthusiastic Christian can benefit from reading the book.

CONS: Honestly I feel that the book was made much larger than necessary. The actual information about the child’s account of Heaven would easily fit in a fourth of the whole book. Also the writing style seems clumsy and redundant (though this also responds to the real-life approach that the book has).

CONCLUSION: If you are a Christian, read it, it makes a good resource to remind you of the kind of religion you have. If you are not a Christian, read it only if you are ready not to be judgmental; I assure you it will at least tickle your curiosity and give you hints of a spiritual worldview.

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Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation
Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation by Sharan B. Merriam
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nice introductory book on Qualitative research. As a wannabe-thesis writer, this book proved useful and enriching to me.

PROS: Clearly written, this book does not assume that you know it all; rather, it takes a very introductory approach so that as long as you read it from the beginning there will be little you will have to research in other sources.

CONS: Maybe because of its introductory approach, there are several topics that will definitely require additional sources. Document Analysis techniques, for example, are too briefly covered and the section on software-aided qualitative research could have surely been a little more comprehensive.

CONCLUSION: Good textbook for qualitative research, as long as you are ready to supplement it with additional resources for the areas you are working on.

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The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture
The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture by Ruth Benedict
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finally had the chance to read this book after hearing much about it. It did not disappoint! This book is a classic in etic anthropology (anthropology from “outside” the studied culture). Ruth Benedict did not ever visit Japan in order to write the book for this was done in the time of WWII. Still, the book reflects her scholarly approach to anthropology and research in general.

PROS: An excellent tool for Westerners to learn more about the Japan of WWII. Benedict explores the rationale of the Japanese mindset to go to war, along with many interesting tidbits on the modern history of Japan.

CONS: There are at least two main things the reader should keep in mind when reading this book. First, this is an outdated work. Written more than 60 years ago, the descriptions Benedict gives of the Japanese people should not be easily applied to today’s Japan. Second, this is a very stereotypical book; This does not mean that Benedict underestimates Japanese people, but rather that she looks for the overarching cultural traits of the country and, hence, offers that which would apply to the majority of inhabitants (though not to everyone).

CONCLUSION: If you happen to be interested in Japan, her people or her culture, this is a must-read. If you enjoy classics of anthropology or simply want to know some of the cultural aspects of WWII, you cannot let this book go!

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