A breezily funny, but sharp meditation on the meandering path to a spiritual awakening.

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Encourage to Faith

THE PRESUMPTUOUS, MOSTLY ACCURATE ACCOUNT OF ONE MAN’S JOURNEY INTO THE HEART OF GOD

A personal reflection recounts one man’s lifetime odyssey from the celebration of reason to a submission to faith.

Even as a child, debut author Murray was relentlessly curious and analytically demanding, coldly rational about his approach to understanding the world. In his 20s, he restlessly searched for a deeper purpose to life, and turned to a slew of self-help books for guidance, but to no avail. His subsequent strategy remained bookish but became more refined, and he started to study existentialist philosophy, but again was ultimately unmoved by its solipsistic individuality. Then, he turned to ancient philosophy, especially Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and from there turned to religion, and sampled Buddhism, Mormonism, and even Scientology. He finally sought mooring in monumental literature, and decided to devour the 100 greatest books ever written. Conspicuously absent from that list was the Bible, something Murray noticed when a neighbor in an Atlanta office park invited him to a Bible discussion group. He demurred at the time, but was drawn to the book thereafter, and the more he read, the more the author was mesmerized by its saving message. Eventually, against the counsel of others, Murray left the real estate business and devoted himself to a vocational ministry. This is a brief personal memoir—30 speedy chapters—that narrowly focuses on the author’s spiritual journey, one that began cerebrally but ended with a faithful chastening of rational hubris. The remembrance is philosophically robust—Murray recruits the help of intellectual heavyweights like G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis to make sense of his transformation. But this is not a theological study; it is not only written in accessible prose, but also with verve and self-deprecating wit. At one juncture, Murray wryly congratulates the reader for benefitting from his reflections: “As a consequence, today is your lucky day. You have the dubious privilege of bearing witness to what I’ve learned about the soul so far.” One could gripe that the message is a well-worn one, which is surely true, but it’s also an exemplary Christian one: the stubborn, almost begrudging surrendering to a higher authority, and the joy that ensues from that capitulation. What this volume lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in its refreshing unpretentiousness and modest wisdom.

A breezily funny, but sharp meditation on the meandering path to a spiritual awakening.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2016

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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