An informative but sometimes-superficial survey of Old Testament stories.

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BIBLE STORIES FOR ALL WITHOUT THE DOGMA

A PART OF CULTURAL LITERACY

A retired teacher offers an introduction to the major stories and themes of the Old Testament geared toward non-Christians.

As an Old Testament teacher at a tuition-free Jesuit school that had a surprisingly large non-Roman Catholic and Muslim population, debut author Walsh developed lesson plans that “all of the students could identify with regardless of their religious background.” Now retired, he has compiled his lessons into a concise overview of the Bible that targets nonreligious readers interested in better understanding the book. In the author’s view, even among the nonreligious, one must have basic biblical literacy to fully understand Western society. Biblical references, for example, abound in Western literature, art, and music, from Handel’s Messiah to the Byrds’ “Turn, Turn, Turn.” The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” takes an even more poignant turn when readers understand the story of Moses’ mountaintop experience in Deuteronomy. The bulk of Walsh’s work walks readers through the major stories of the Old Testament in a straightforward, non-dogmatic way while providing brief historical and literary commentary for context. He also highlights important concepts and themes that run throughout the Old Testament that could be easily overlooked by those new to the Bible. For example, his reflections on the story of Cain and Abel introduce novices to the origins of the quote “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And the author emphasizes the biblical pattern of God favoring the younger son over the older in his discussion of Abraham. But while much of Walsh’s commentary will be useful to those unfamiliar with the Bible, some of it is trivia that doesn’t advance a deeper understanding of the work, such as an entire page of famous quotations about friendship by Aesop, Ben Franklin, and others. Surprisingly, given Walsh’s Jesuit school background, he does not include the Catholic and Orthodox books removed from the Bible by Protestants. A more thorough discussion of canonization history—and how Christians selectively picked which books to include in the Bible and which to leave out—would have been extremely valuable in this introduction.

An informative but sometimes-superficial survey of Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Summit Crossroads Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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