An eloquent and beautifully illustrated examination of the Christmas season.

BENEATH BETHLEHEM SKIES

26 ADVENT MEDITATIONS UPON THE MIRACLE AND MEANING OF JESUS'S BIRTH

A slim collection of Advent-themed daily Christian meditations.

In his nonfiction inspirational debut, longtime educator Shuman centers a series of daily devotional Christian messages on the time leading up to the Advent, the birth of the Messiah as related in the Gospels. In a succession of well-designed pages (with engaging watercolor illustrations by Long), Shuman briefly reflects on many aspects of the long Advent season. Naturally, some of these reflections touch on the excessive commercialization of Christmas holiday over the course of the last century: “we are bombarded with advertisements…reminding us of its hastening approach. But unless we are diligent, Christmas comes and goes unnoticed, un-cheered, and without care”—a parallel that Shuman effectively observes in the classic Nativity story of the star shining in the sky over Bethlehem: “The star shone for all to see, but only the Magi lifted their gaze to perceive its light.” This combination of exultation and faith instruction recurs throughout the book’s daily entries, each of which concludes with a set of “Personal Reflections” as discussion questions. One section, for instance, instructs readers that the message of Christmas is one of everlasting joy, followed shortly by queries such as “What does your joy indicate about the measure of your faith?” Each day’s reflection begins with a series of epigraphic quotations, with sources that pleasingly range from Church Fathers to the influential 20th-century theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Shuman is a passionate, eloquent writer with persuasive and lovely turns of phrase, as when he writes that “God chose man to be the parchment upon which He would draw his self-portrait.” Christian readers who ponder the wonder and meaning of the birth of Jesus will find this book to be a wonderful Advent keepsake.

An eloquent and beautifully illustrated examination of the Christmas season.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-7354403-0-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: Thousand Grain Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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