Overcoming Spiritual Barriers in Japan
Overcoming Spiritual Barriers in Japan by Keith E. Webb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An interesting short book attempting to analyze the problem of lack of growth in Christianity in Japan from an exclusively spiritual perspective.

PROS: The book is written in a very understandable and straightforward way. This is not one of those books that try to impress the reader by showing the complexities of the author. Furthermore, the chapters of the book are so short that one can easily read one chapter in pretty much every tiny break. This does not mean that the book is a collection of unrelated chapters; instead, the author has structured his thesis in a clear manner. Finally, there is also a good number of citations that attempt to give the book a more scholarly appearance.

CONS: The fact that the book is so short makes the reader feel that it is more of a lecture or a sermon than an actual treatise or monograph. But the biggest weakness of the book is the fact that it is written specifically for Pentecostal / Charismatic Christians and the author gives the impression not to care much about readers from different Christian groups. As a reflection of this, his quotes are almost exclusively from leaders of these groups and have little weight for anyone else.

The author presents three “strongholds” behind the slow propagation of Christianity in Japan: (1) powerlessness, (2) conformity, and (3) fear of incongruity. Whether one wants to call them strongholds, social factors, or any other way, these three are clear and accurate descriptions of Japanese society. The argument of the author is also well presented and even if one does not belong to the kind of Christian group that will accept everything he says, there is no doubt that the author cares about Japan and has attempted to do a good study out of his concern for the people of this Eastern nation.

View all my reviews

The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A touching story of a man on his road to personal atonement from the consequences of his disastrous decisions.

PROS: The writer manages to present a story that is both realistic and poetic. The main character struggles with the mistakes of his past and constantly reflects on his life in a very insightful way. Nevertheless, his circumstances and life events are as real and crude as it is our world today. Because of this the book speaks to both, our intellectual, reflexive capabilities, and our down-to-earth experiences. Moreover, the book reflects faithfully some of the cultural elements of the modern Middle East. Lastly, but arguably most important, this book speaks of the possibilities that we all as humans have to make terrible mistakes and wrong decisions, but also to mend those and seek for a better way through forgiveness and actions.

CONS: It’s hard to find cons in the book. The only thing I can think of is that the author portrays the United States as some kind of haven where most of the characters finally find rest from their troubles. This to me seemed unrealistic, especially considering the ethnic background of the main characters and the context of opposition that people like them experienced in real life due to the conflict and prejudices derived from the terrorist attacks of Islam extremists.

CONCLUSION: Good book, good story. It can stir some interesting thoughts and discussions, and especially it can serve as a tool to teach elements like forgiveness, redemption, and hope.

View all my reviews

Japanese Reader Collection Volume 2 Momotaro the Peach Boy
Japanese Reader Collection Volume 2 Momotaro the Peach Boy by Clay Boutwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really nice book for those who are just beginning in the study of Japanese.

PROS: As long as you are able to read Hiragana and Katakana, this book has everything you need to understand the text. From grammatical notes per sentence, to full Kanji text, it covers different levels of beginners in Japanese language. Furthermore, the book is written in a progressive form, so that difficulty increases as you advance through it. Lastly, it also includes the story of the tortoise and the hare, I do not know why is not advertised since it takes about half of the book’s length.

CONS: There is a significant number of format errors (mainly lack of spaces between words). Though this does not radically affect comprehension, it does disappoint; hopefully there will be an update with better edition.

CONCLUSION: If you are just starting in Japanese language and would like to have a story to read at your level, this is a good option. You can also get several stories with similar format from the same publishers.

View all my reviews

The Craft of Research
The Craft of Research by Wayne C. Booth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent book for anyone who, willingly or unwillingly, is involved in writing a research paper, thesis, or dissertation.

PROS: This book is great to give you light in the midst of darkness. I had the bad experience of having a lot of subjective, and often contradictory, guidelines as I began working on my thesis; this, plus a hard time finding a good advisor and the heavy bias of my school towards social sciences even when my program was in the humanities, left me very confused. This book presented me with all of the information and inspiration for undertaking the writing of my thesis proposal. From finding a problem to learning about writing style, this book will surely serve you no matter how expert you think you are in research.

CONS: The edition I read is clearly written for the North-American market. The authors mention that there is a more global edition but I did not have it. Because of this, many examples make little sense for the foreign reader.

CONCLUSION: Highly recommendable. The authors are experts in their fields and in research, but that does not mean that they make things difficult. Rather, their expertise is showed in the simplicity and clarity they use in writing; even more, they encourage the reader to do the same, and that is a good thing for everyone.

View all my reviews

How to Think Theologically
How to Think Theologically by Howard W Stone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Good book for people who are interested in understanding Christian theology or in teaching it to others.

PROS: The book explains nicely the essence of theology and makes a very good distinction between practical and academic theology. It is precisely because of this that readers from both groups, i.e. all of us, can benefit from reading it. This edition also bring reflection questions that are excellent for group study or personal reflection.

CONS: Because the book is very introductory, the authors are forced to cover a lot of information and this gives place to some mistakes. As a member of the Church of the Nazarene and fairly knowledgeable about John Wesley and Methodism, I picked up some of those (Methodist quadrilateral, anyone?).

CONCLUSION: Godo book overall. Many people get some entangle in academic theology that they forget that theology happens naturally at church and it is natural in all followers of Christ. This book manages to demonstrate that using fancy words IS NOT the task of theology. I can see myself using it in small group settings with new believers or lay people.

View all my reviews

Great news from my family to our readers and friends :)

An Unexpected Journey…

How the Mind Works
How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A huge book attempting to demonstrate that the human mind (and pretty much all humans know as reality) is the product of evolution and does not involve any kind of intelligent design or purposeful sequence of events.

If you want a really comprehensive book on the nature of the human mind, look no further! This book really takes the time to explore different aspects of this area of study. Each one of the chapters can easily be considered a book on its own, exploring topics as diverse as kinship, vision, arts and even music. After finishing it, you will certainly feel you have learned some things you did not know; or even better, you will feel that the author has given you a new perspective in different elements of human life and the world. I found his description of relationships between men and women to be as straightforward as it can get, and because of that it was interesting to read; especially because the author has a sense of humor that (although approaching offensive sarcasm too nearly) will give you a smile once in a while during the reading. Lastly, this book is well documented and you will get the feeling that the author is well prepared to deal with the issues he proposes.

The author has a tendency of offering more examples than necessary to the point that it becomes boring and one almost feels he is just trying to show-off. In fact, any person wanting to read this book should know that the author’s intention is not that of opening dialogue about the nature of human mind, he is not interested in knowing anything about other people’s opinions unless they support his, or serve as a good example of how ridiculous it is to differ with what he is presenting. I found it amazing that for more than 500 pages this man truly attempts to prove that virtually everyone out of his field and posture is wrong. He really has a great mind and the reader will notice it, but after a while the feeling will not be that of having a teacher wanting to teach you something, but that of a scholar who is so embedded in his own thought that could not care less about his students. This literary pride is well manifested in his treatment of the humanities and arts as something of minor importance and a mere exercise that entertains humans who attempt to gain significance. Music, art, and faith, for the author all fall into the futile attempt of humans to think that they are actually significant in any way. As a religious scholar, I particularly found his treatment of Christian faith and Scriptures to be irresponsibly amateurish at best. As I read I could not help but wonder what would the author think if someone out of his field would speak with the same boldness about his areas of expertise.

This book is the perfect example of what can be accomplished when a person delves so much into his field of studies that he slowly forgets the need for any other sources of scholarship. The author’s effort and presentation are commendable, indeed this will probably be his “Magnum Opus;” Nevertheless, his lack of sensitivity to the heritage of humanity and his ardent affinity to pure logic (I do not even say science for many of his concepts depend heavily in assumptions that he simply considers to be logical without much ado), lessen the impact of this book dramatically. Indeed if you come from the same school of thought as the author, or if you are easily persuaded, you will take this as one of the greatest books you have ever read; but those of us who do not exude the same trust in our mere intellection and who think they can learn from diverse positions, will soon find this this book to be pretentious and unnecessarily long. If you are really eager to be convinced that all you are and know is nothing more than a random accident of evolution in millions of years, and you have a lot of spare time, then this book is clearly for you.

View all my reviews


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 342 other followers

%d bloggers like this: