Here are some of the books I’ve read this year (mostly for uni), and some recommendations and thoughts about them.
30 Days to Understanding the Bible
Author: Max Anders
Subject: Old Testament Survey
Review: Altogether, I think this book would be much better used for a preteen or teenage Sunday school class. It’s divided into several short lessons with exercises, but working through it at home was a little dragging. There’s nothing wrong with the book itself, and certainly I’d recommend it for a homeschooler or Sunday school teacher, but it simply wasn’t suited for my class.
A Spectator’s Guide to World Views
Author: Simon Smart
Subject: Introduction to Worldviews
Review: While this book provided a quick overview of the most common worldviews found in urban Australia, it was a little limited in two ways:
(1) Aside from a few more postmodern worldviews like relativism and neopaganism, all of the worldviews presented were very modernist. While I understand that it was trying to present the worldviews we’re most likely to encounter in Australia, we have such a diverse population here that we should have heard more about some other worldviews like Islam and Asian religions. Not to mention Dreaming.
(2) All of the worldviews were presented from the Christian standpoint. In cases like these, I always feel it’s better to learn about a religion or worldview on its own terms, and so was disappointed that the worldviews weren’t presented by people who hold to it themselves.
That aside, the book was written in an engaging manner, and I would certainly recommend it for any Christian looking for a better understanding of how those around him see the world. (Which, frankly, should be every Christian).
Basics of Biblical Greek
Author: William Mounce
Subject: Greek Grammar
Review: What is there to say about a grammar textbook, really? The only thing of interest to note I have already mentioned, namely The Professor. Aside from that, I have too remaining comments: very American (in the English explanations and some of the things The Professor says, as well as the audio files for the vocab words!), and verbs are probably left a little too late.
Basics of Biblical Hebrew
Author: Gary Pratico & Miles Van Pelt
Subject: Hebrew Grammar
Review: There is not Professor in this one. I found the explanations a little longwinded and confusing. During the first term, I’d come home and compress the entire ten-page chapter down to about one page of notes just to understand it. Each chapter ends with an exegetical insight, usually a journal article of some sort, which (mostly) related to what we had learnt and which were quite fascinating.
Author: Kevin Vanhoozer, Charles Anderson & Michael Sleasman
Subject: Christianity and Culture
Review: The first sixty pages (explaining the book) drag so badly! But once you’ve tortured yourself by pushing through that bit, the rest of the book is fun and engaging, and easy to dip in and out of as the article titles interest you. Each chapter looks at a cultural trend or an aspect of culture/life, the messages it presents, what the Bible says about these, and a few suggestions for how Christians should react.
Invitation to Biblical Preaching
Author: Donald Sunukjian
Subject: Introduction to Preaching
Review: While I didn’t necessarily agree with everything he said, in his sermon examples and sometimes to do with how to relate to/ present things to an audience (mostly because I think some things would work with American audiences but not with Australian ones), I do think this book (or similar) is something every lay preacher should read. Actually, the entire exegesis and preaching stream should be undertaken by just about every Christian, in my opinion. If lay preachers learnt to exegete properly, their sermons would be a lot more sounds. But nevertheless, a fairly well-written and engaging book.
Living by the Book
Author: Howard & William Hendricks
Subject: Bible Study & Exegesis
Review: This one is about Bible study. Certainly I’d recommend this for every Christian as it teaches observation, exegesis, and interpretation. It would probably cut down on the number of cults around if every Christian had a sound grounding in how to read the Bible in its own context. That all said, and while the book is great, with many good suggestions and a few illustrations, in some ways I think it needs to be updated for the modern world.
The New Christian Traveller’s Guide to the Holy Land
Author: Charles Dyer & Gregory Hutteberg
Subject: Israel Trip for Credit
Review: Perhaps this one would be better titled “The American Christian Traveller’s Guide to the Holy Land”. The second part of the book, which lists many major tourist sites along with some basic information and Bible references, is very good and useful and I think I will use it a lot in January. The first part of the book, however, seems to be basically aimed to someone who’s never travelled before. An American someone who’s never travelled before. It’s all about aeroplanes and visas and jet-lag and currency exchange. You learn about how power-points are different in different countries, and how you’ll be travelling about six hours forward in time. Average temperatures are given for Israel, but all in Fahrenheit. The book could certainly stand to either become a little more international or insert another word into its title.
A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible
Author: God (and various)
Review: As anyone who’s been to church or a Bible study group with me recently knows, this is going everywhere with me. It’s got the Greek New Testament in the front and the Hebrew Old Testament in the back, without all the footnotes and sidenotes of the BHS. Words which occur less than thirty time are footnoted with the English translation. My only complaint is that the Hebrew Bible is ordered differently to the English one, so I keep having to go to the contents page to find the book I’m looking for!
The New King James Bible
Author: God (and various, plus translators)
Review: It’s really quite hard to tell one Bible from another when looking for a thumbnail picture to display, but that’s roughly the same colour as mine, anyway. New Testament Survey and Old Testament Survey both required copious amounts of reading from the Bible each week, but naturally I used it in just about every other subject, as well.
A Simple Song
Author: Melody Carlson
Subject: gratuitous light reading material
Review: It’s beyond cheesy, but it has a good message at the end. A young Amish girl enters American Idol to raise money for her father’s medical treatment, and along the way discovers the life her grandmother led for a few years as a young woman as a famous folk singer. Without giving away the ending, it’s a book about how family, faith, and sticking to one’s values are more important than fame and money.