IVP - Andy Unedited - Book Review Archives

March 14, 2017

A Missing Element in Knowing God

One of the most significant passages in one of the most significant books for the church in the last fifty years is this:

What were we made for? To know God.
What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God
What is the "eternal life" that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. "This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true god, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (Jn 17:3).
What is the best thing in life bringing more joy, delight and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God. "This is what the Lord says: 'Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me' " (Jer 9:23-24).*
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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:58 AM | Comments

February 10, 2017

What Augustine Offers Our Multicultural World

Augustine, the great church father, has been such a giant on the theological landscape for so many centuries, he has become a huge, lifeless statue to some. In The Mestizo Augustine Justo González pumps life back into our view with a fresh and fascinating look at the humanity and the competing cultures at work within Augustine.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:22 AM | Comments

February 2, 2017

Understanding Gender Dysphoria

It seems obligatory these days to begin any discussion of sex and society with autobiography. So here goes. I'm an old, white, heterosexual male who basically doesn't have a clue when it comes to understanding gender dysphoria. (But I guess the second half of that sentence was redundant with the first half.) That's why I appreciated psychologist Mark Yarhouse's book, Understanding Gender Dysphoria, so much.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:35 AM | Comments

January 12, 2017

Insider Jesus 2: Did the Reformation Make a Misstep?

God is active in all cultures around the world, even before Christianity or the Bible reach them. That's what William Dyrness contends in Insider Jesus (which I discussed here). If he is right, the implications go far beyond missionary efforts. They encompass how we should view our own faith.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:31 AM | Comments

January 5, 2017

Insider Jesus

In the midst of the explosion of Christianity around the world, some strange and unusual expressions of faith are emerging.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:14 AM | Comments (2)

December 20, 2016

Isaiah's Greatest Hits

Every Christmas and Easter Handel's Messiah treats us to the greatest hits in the book of Isaiah. We can hardly help but sing along when we read such texts as:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:07 AM | Comments

December 15, 2016

Feeling Bad a Whole New Way

Good news for all of us racked by guilt as a result of being raised Jewish, Catholic or Protestant! There is a whole different way to feel bad about ourselves, and it is called honor-shame.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:09 AM | Comments

November 29, 2016

Hillbilly Elegy

The hillbilly or redneck culture of poor whites in Appalachia is largely hidden from view or intentionally ignored by much of the rest of the country, as the recent election showed. In Hillbilly Elegy, J. D. Vance, who himself grew up in this culture, offers a warm yet starkly honest view of himself, his extended family and his people.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:00 AM | Comments

November 15, 2016

Music in the Ruins

The epic life of Dmitri Schostakovich and his music offers a window into the terror of Stalin's purges and the cruelty of the Nazi blockade of his beloved Leningrad (St. Petersburg) during World War II. In Symphony for the City of the Dead, M. T. Anderson begins with Schostakovich's early life and development, taking us step by step to the climactic composition and performance of The Leningrad Symphony in the midst of the city's starvation.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:27 AM | Comments

November 1, 2016

Through Old Testament Eyes 2: Misreading Jesus' Trial

Reading the New Testament apart from the Old Testament is like having just one good eye. We can function, certainly. But we will lack depth perception and may misinterpret what we see. Objects may be closer or further away than we think. As a result, we may bump into something we shouldn't have--or miss something we were trying to hit.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:10 AM | Comments

October 25, 2016

Through Old Testament Eyes 1: Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels

Many Christians function with half a Bible. When we feel troubled we may go to the Psalms, or when we need an exciting story to keep children entertained we may go to Daniel or Jonah. But that may be about it. We say the whole Bible is authoritative and inspired by God, but sadly the Old Testament remains largely a closed book.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:16 AM | Comments

October 18, 2016

Kissinger's Shadow

Henry Kissinger (now age 92) has been a prominent international figure since I was in high school when he became Nixon's National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State. He seemed to me to be an urbane realist then and an elder statesman now. By looking deeply at Kissinger's early writings and the record of his actions as filled out by declassified top secret documents from previous decades, historian Greg Grandin offers a very different picture in Kissinger's Shadow.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:58 AM | Comments

August 23, 2016

How Did He Make It So Suspenseful?

Eric Larson achieves the drama and suspense of a political thriller in his book on the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. This is a remarkable achievement because everyone knows how it ends before they start--a German U-boat sinks the ship. How was he able to do this? When I read the acknowledgments at the end of Dead Wake, I found out. He listened to his editor.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:06 AM

August 16, 2016

Prophetic Lament

Throughout my life I have attended worship services in a variety of traditions, but they tended to have one thing in common--they began with praise to God and then moved to confession. This is an appropriate model to follow with much merit. When we see how holy and good God is, we see more clearly by contrast that we are not, and so we confess.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:15 AM

July 28, 2016

Learning from a Presidential Biography

What might an incoming president learn from a biography of Thomas Jefferson? Much indeed.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:07 AM

July 14, 2016

Unlocking the Book of Job

Here's what many people know about the book of Job.

1. Job is on trial.
2. The book is primarily about suffering.
3. Job's hope for a redeemer foreshadows Christ.
4. God puts Job in his place at the end of the book, telling Job that God is God and Job is decidedly not.

All of those points, however, according to John Walton and Tremper Longman are quite mistaken.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:00 AM

June 23, 2016

The Vaccine Hero

My sister died because of a vaccine . . . a vaccine she never received. On a September morning in 1952, at the age of seven, Lucy Rae Le Peau contracted polio and died that afternoon. The vaccine that would have saved her life would not be developed for another year.Lucy Rae Portrait edited.JPG It was a vaccine my grieving mother prayed for desperately, especially because her three other children, including me, were still vulnerable to the terrifying disease. Every year thousands of children across the United States were struck with it, peaking the year my sister died with over 57,000 cases, of whom 3,145 died.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:58 AM

June 7, 2016

Where Is Technology Going?

Kevin Kelly, guru of Wired magazine, proves himself to be a polymath who is not afraid to have an opinion or two in his book What Technology Wants. His main provocative point is that technology is developing in certain predictable ways.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:12 AM | Comments (4) are closed

May 6, 2016

Dance of the Titans

Franklin and Winston is a delightful piece of narrative history from one of the masters of the genre. By focusing on the relationship of these two titans rather than the massive array of events that was World War II, Meacham gives us, just as the very apt subtitle promises, "An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship."

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:09 AM

April 13, 2016

The Right Brothers

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough, paints a portrait of two heroes and celebrities who stand in sharp contrast to those of today. The brothers didn't look to maximize their fame; they simply wanted due credit. They didn't try to amass enormous wealth; they simply ran a business.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:08 AM

March 31, 2016

Between the World and He

What is it like to grow up black and male in the United States? Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of the highly acclaimed Atlantic article on reparations, tells us in Between the World and Me, a memoir cum extended letter to his fifteen-year-old son. It is a life in which you don't have final control over the most basic aspect of human existence--your own body. Your body can be thrown in prison or shot or just pushed aside at most any time for most any reason with little recourse.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:02 AM | Comments (2) are closed

March 23, 2016

Enjoy a Week in the First Century

Want a quick, entertaining way to get a solid feel for what it was like to be in Roman-occupied Palestine? That's what Gary Burge offers in A Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion. In this window into the world of the first century, we look through the eyes of Appius, a tough-minded, pragmatic Centurion. The story is enriched as we get to know his household, his familia. Livia, his companion, knows the power of her allure. Tullus is a captured slave with skill as a scribe who rises to a place of trust. Gaius is the manager of Appius's affairs, organized and completely loyal to his lord.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:04 AM

March 10, 2016

The Publishing Experience (2)

Does a fifty-year-old book on publishing have anything to offer the radically different publishing environment today? Cass Canfield's The Publishing Experience, on his career at Harper from 1924 to 1986, is such a book. While his brief vignettes of many prominent authors are most fascinating and worthwhile quite on their own, along the way he also offers some precepts that guided his work, which still ring true decades later.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:19 AM | Comments (1) are closed

February 23, 2016

The Publishing Experience (1)

What will publishing be like in fifty years? Will we be reading books from our brain implants? Will people still love print books but be printing and binding them in their home or office? Will reading increase because people will have more time as they travel in self-piloted personal drones?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:05 AM

September 4, 2015

An Un-Business Book

Leadership and Self-Deception is one of the most unusual business books I've ever read. It's a parable or fictional story, but that's not what made it different. A number of business books have taken that approach in recent years.

What surprised me was that I found nothing in this book about strategy, tactics, mission statements, creativity, disintermediation, Hedgehogs, BHAGs or getting the right people on the bus. It didn't talk about innovation or being customer focused or how we live in a totally new normal.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:13 AM

August 5, 2015

A Sci-Fi Homage to The Canterbury Tales

Dan Simmons pays homage to The Canterbury Tales in Hyperion, his sweeping science fiction classic, by tracing a group of pilgrims who journey to confront the mysterious and godlike entity known as the Shrike. As they travel each one tells his or her tale of why they are compelled to go on this dangerous journey. We even find these long short stories or novellas entitled "The Priest's Tale," "The Poet's Tale," "The Soldier's Tale" and so on.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:56 AM

June 24, 2015

The Book of Strange New Things

What if you had the opportunity to explain the gospel to an alien species? How would you go about it? Where would you start? That is the premise of The Book of Strange New Things, a science fiction novel that explores the ultimate in cross-cultural evangelism. While Peter is perhaps not the most likely person to be chosen for the task, he brings a winsome innocence and willingness to enter into the mental/cultural world of the Oasans. He also brings a certain optimism and faith that you wouldn't quite categorize as evangelical but is certainly deep and committed.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:06 AM | Comments (1) are closed

April 14, 2015

Understated Powers

"The war tried to kill us in the spring." From the first sentence of The Yellow Birds, we know that we are in capable hands. Kevin Powers is the well-named author who uses his formidable talent with understated power.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:10 AM

March 10, 2015

April 1865

As we come April 1865.jpegup on the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, a must read is April 1865: The Month That Saved America by Jay Winik. An historian and diplomat, Winik had the opportunity to see first-hand how civil wars around the world so often end so badly--either in the genocide of the losing side or an interminable guerrilla insurgency. Neither happened in the United States. This the remarkable story of why.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:10 AM | Comments (1) are closed

January 28, 2015

The Life of the Mind

The history of evangelicalism and the life of the mind is both well-chronicled and checkered. While Jonathan Edwards is hailed by some as the greatest intellect (not just evangelical intellect) in American history, suspicion and anger has often boiled over from within evangelicalism against the university world. The 1925 Scopes Trial, for example, set off decades of distrust that affected generations of Bible-believing Christians.

Richard Mouw, mouw mind.jpgformer president of Fuller Seminary, is one such believer. He admired those who voiced simple faith in the face of intellectual challenges. Today Mouw is still sympathetic to those who think that being educated can draw one away from being holy. But he knows too that this is a false choice. One can also be a godly thinker or a sinful dimwit.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:35 AM

January 13, 2015

Better Than the Movie?

"The movie is never as good as the book," so the saying goes. As always, there are exceptions; for example The Hunger Games and Tuesdays with Morrie were both better on the screen. Having read Unbroken when it first came out and now having seen the movie, I feel that the question is somewhat irrelevant. Both are excellent--and different.

Laura unbroken 2.jpegHillenbrand's book tells an astonishing true tale. Louie Zamperini had a half dozen amazing episodes in his life--and if only one had happened, the book would have been a remarkable account of perseverance and strength in the midst of adversity. But all six episodes happened--to one man.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:08 AM | Comments (2) are closed

December 17, 2014

Why the Christmas Story Bothered Me

The Christmas story always bothered me.

It just never made sense. No, not the virgin birth. Not the angels singing to shepherds. Not the star in the sky. Not the wise men.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 1:31 PM | Comments (2) are closed

December 2, 2014

Reading Backwards

Consistently when I have taught the Gospel of Mark to college students over the last ten years, the "Aha" reaction comes when I ask them to look up Old Testament passages related to a puzzling verse.

Why does Mark describe what John the Baptist eats and wears but not anyone else? Not Peter. Not Pilate. Not even Jesus.

When Jesus is walking on the water, why does Mark say Jesus intends to pass by the disciples struggling to row against the wind? Doesn't he see them? Doesn't he care?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:56 AM

November 17, 2014

The Curious Incident

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by David Haddon has sold millions of copies, and is now a Broadway play. The book takes us into the mind of Christopher, a high-functioning autistic fifteen-year-old in contemporary Britain. Inside that mind, behavior that seems so odd if not down-right crazy actually begins to make sense.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:54 AM

October 16, 2014

Different Questions

I met David Skeel just before the New York Times article came out earlier this month about his friendship with an atheist colleague at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:27 AM

September 15, 2014

Under the Banner of Heaven

Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air, Into the Wild) in his typically understated yet gripping style, interweaves two stories in his book Under the Banner of Heaven: the 1984 murders of Brenda Lafferty and her infant daughter by Mormon fundamentalists, and the origins and early history of Mormonism itself. It is a chilling and fascinating book that has stuck with me for several reasons. First, it opens up a lot of helpful background about Joseph Smith and the reality behind the polygamous communities popularized in the TV show Big Love.Second, it made me, as a person of faith, think seriously about the dynamics of any kind of fundamentalism.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:07 AM | Comments (1) are closed

April 22, 2014

True Equilibrium

I was recently rewatching the 2002 Kurt Wimmer film Equilibrium when I suddenly realized this is Ray Bradbury's 1953 classic Fahrenheit 451 all over again. But it wasn't a crass failure of imagination. No, Wimmer was doing what many writers, artists and movie makers do--borrowing from a past work to offer an homage while providing a few twists of his own.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:32 AM

March 25, 2014

A Christian Nation? Schaeffer Weighs In

Every once in a while a kerfuffle bubbles up about whether or not the United States was founded as a Christian nation. The question can take many forms. Were the Founding Fathers personally committed Christians? Did they expect the Bible or parts of it to be the bedrock of the country? Was Christianity intended to be the unofficial established religion of the land?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:37 AM | Comments (3) are closed

January 21, 2014

The 2014 Andys

My favorites from my reading last year? Here they are:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 12:02 PM

January 15, 2014

Nominees for the 2014 Andys

The nominees are in. Here's what I read this past year. It's my usual mix of history, some fiction, a couple memoirs, a couple business books and, of course, some IVP books after they were published. The winners will soon be announced.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:00 AM | Comments (2) are closed

December 17, 2013

The End of Ender's Game

I came to Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game late, even though I've been a sci-fi fan all my life. What impressed me was its emotional depth and philosophical sophistication for a book that was in the young adult genre before that category hit the big time in recent years.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:46 AM

November 25, 2013

The First Thanksgiving 3: How the Story Was Misremembered

How did we come to think that the Pilgrims


  • were rugged individualists when they were strongly bound to community?

  • were patriots first and committed Christians second?

  • would support Thanksgiving Day football even though "the 1650s the Plymouth General Court prescribed fines for individuals who engaged in sports on days of thanksgiving" (p. 145)?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:49 AM | Comments (2) are closed

November 19, 2013

The First Thanksgiving 2: What We Don't Know Is Inspiring

The First Thanksgiving by Robert Tracy McKenzie corrects a lot of the errors and myths that surround that original celebration by the Pilgrims in 1620. turkey.jpg In telling us the real story, McKenzie points us to more fruitful lessons we might learn than the warm feeling we get when we think about those independent-minded Pilgrims seeking new lands and freedom, and thanking God for helping them on the way. For example:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:31 AM

November 12, 2013

The First Thanksgiving 1: What We Know Ain't So

What you thought you knew about the first Thanksgiving is wrong. But what you didn't know can be even more valuable. That's the message of Robert Tracy McKenzie's fresh and fascinating book The First Thanksgiving.

Squanto did indeed teach the Pilgrims to fertilize their cornfields with fish, but what else did you learn in school that isn't true?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:34 AM

November 6, 2013

Fifty Years Ago Three Great Men Died

One of the most dramatic events of the twentieth century was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. What is less well known is that two other great men died the same day -- Christian scholar and author C. S. Lewis, and novelist and pantheist Aldous Huxley.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:33 AM | Comments (1) are closed

October 17, 2013

Stark Myth Busting

Rodney Stark loves being a contrarian. And The Triumph of Christianity is no exception to that rule. While the book summarizes much of what he's written elsewhere, it's still a fun, breezy exercise in myth busting. Here are a few spots where Stark's juices get flowing:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 1:01 PM

September 11, 2013

Six Influential Books

What books have shaped me the most? Taking IVP books out of consideration (to keep bias to a minimum), the books below have formed my thought life, my spiritual life, my sense of aesthetics, and how I view and interact with the world.

After making the list I noticed that I read most of them before I was twenty-five. And I suppose that's to be expected. In midlife and beyond, most people have already been shaped, and it's harder for any one book to have a significant impact. The last book in my list (presented here roughly in the order in which I read them) is the exception.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:45 AM | Comments (3) are closed

August 2, 2013

News Flash! Zealot Isn't News

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan has exploded on the scene as the #1 bestseller on several lists and become a media feast. This book suggests that Jesus was just a failed revolutionary and that the apostle Paul should be credited with making him into "Christ." This is not news on several levels.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:01 AM | Comments (1) are closed

June 14, 2013

Stylish Academic Writing 3: Why So Bad?

Why are some academics so addicted to bad writing? Why do they churn out passive verbs like promises from a politician? Why do they multiply abstract nouns like mosquitoes in summer? Why can't they escape from the jungle of jargon? And maybe most important, why can't they be funny?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:26 AM | Comments (3) are closed

June 5, 2013

Stylish Academic Writing 2: WritersDiet Test

Is my writing flabby or fit? Am I a lean, mean writing machine, or have I invaded heart attack territory? I went to Helen Sword's WritersDiet Test to find out. And find out I did.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:40 AM

May 30, 2013

Stylish Academic Writing 1: Good News, Bad News

Helen Sword rips the veil off one of the worst kept secrets in all of academia: Most academic writing is just plain awful. Jargon-filled, abstract, impersonal, sleep-inducing.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:46 AM | Comments (3) are closed

May 22, 2013

The Wisdom of Solomon

More and more I am convinced that the doorway into understanding the New Testament is the Old Testament. It's not a new idea. I think Jesus had something to do with it. But it's one of the reasons we made this a major feature in our recently released LifeGuide in Depth series, including A Deeper Look at James, that my wife, Phyllis, and I wrote. An example can illustrate the point.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:51 AM | Comments (2) are closed

April 30, 2013

Mapping the Origins Debate

In an era of extreme, vitriolic rhetoric, when someone offers calm, straightforward fairness, it is like a cool, refreshing breeze on a hot, muggy day. That is what Gerald Rau provides in Mapping the Origins Debate on the very contentious issue of evolution and creation. He offers a model not only of clarity in thought but of civility in presentation.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:39 AM | Comments (2) are closed

April 16, 2013

Remembering Birmingham

Fifty years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. issued his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" responding to local clergy who felt King and others were moving too quickly, too disruptively in advancing civil rights. To mark the occasion, IVP has published Ed Gilbreath's ebook short Remembering Birmingham, which puts King's letter in historical context and offers reflections on its significance then and now.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:51 AM | Comments (1) are closed

March 19, 2013

Good Prose 4: Being Edited

Once I was harassing (in a good-natured way, of course) an editor I knew well from another publisher about a book she had put out. It was a biography that was overwritten and frequently lapsed into a sentimentalized caricature of the main subject. How could she have let that go through? "Oh," she said, smiling. "You should have seen it before we edited it!" I knew exactly what she was talking about.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:29 AM | Comments (2) are closed

March 12, 2013

Good Prose 3: The Business of Writing

Writers and publishers have always had a love-hate relationship. Mark Twain once offered "the perfect recipe for a modern American publisher" as follows: "Take an idiot from a lunatic asylum and marry him to an idiot woman and the fourth generation of this connection should be a good publisher."*

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:56 AM | Comments (4) are closed

March 1, 2013

Good Prose 2: The Problem with Memoir

I've read more than one memoir and wondered, "Did this really happen? Is the author remembering correctly or perhaps just making things up entirely?" Memoir is a knotty genre. Can we trust it? Should we? Can a book be truthful even if it isn't factual?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:11 AM | Comments (4) are closed

February 19, 2013

Good Prose 1: Talking to Strangers

"To write is to talk to strangers."

Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd practice what they preach by starting their book Good Prose quietly, with a sentence at once disarming and muscular. Indeed, the whole book is about this one, deceptively simple, nearly passive, seven-word sentence. Its rhythm is as beguiling as its substance is vital.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:06 AM | Comments (1) are closed

February 5, 2013

Cut the Clutter

For thirty-five years I've been recommending William Zinsser's On Writing Wel. It is the essential book on the craft, especially for new writers. Zinsser zeroes in on all the myths, bad habits and misunderstandings people have when they start writing.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:09 AM | Comments (5) are closed

January 30, 2013

Les Misérables You Never Knew

With the release of the movie version of the musical Les Misérables, friends and foes alike have debated its merits, demerits--loving it and hating it for being and not being faithful to the original stage production. Here's an excerpt from A Deeper Look at James, forthcoming from IVP this spring and from my wife, Phyllis, and me, that considers what's behind both versions of Victor Hugo's famed book.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:49 AM | Comments (1) are closed

January 9, 2013

The 2013 Andys

Before we get to the winners of the 2013 Andys (gotta build a little suspense), let me offer an overview of what I read this year. Of the twenty-four books listed, five were fiction, two were business books, six were audio books and eight were narrative non-fiction.

Anything new in my reading habits this year? Yes, a couple things. The list included the first ebook I read on my Kindle given to me last Christmas. And there were two self-published books in the list. Both suggest I am part of key trends--and I do love to be trendy.

But now, to the winners, with my own incisive and hyper-witty Synop-Tweet (a tweet-sized synopsis) of each:

Continue reading "The 2013 Andys"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:53 AM

January 3, 2013

The Nominees for 2013 Are In

The world awaits with hushed anticipation. Who will win the 2013 Andys for most, least, worst, longest, shortest, oldest and best books from my 2012 reading list? But first, of course,immortal.jpg the nominees. Here they are, the books I read outside the office, in the order I finished them, linking them to the edition I had.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:27 AM | Comments (3) are closed

December 20, 2012

Modern Times (3): Enemies of the Twentieth Century

Paul Johnson has a point of view. And in Modern Times he takes no pains to hide it. His narrative history of the twentieth century (see my first installment here) is replete with heroes and villains. The three enemies of the twentieth century that he vilifies throughout, roughly in the order he takes them up, are

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:52 AM | Comments (4) are closed

December 13, 2012

Modern Times (2): Events That Obstinately Don't Occur

Twenty-five years ago friends of mine were talking about Paul Johnson's Modern Times (now revised and expanded), telling me it was a must read. I was always daunted by the size. But this fall I realized that I had several long flights coming up when I knew I could make a big dent in it. So while others flashed their Kindles at me, I happily plowed into 800 pages of pulp, glue and ink.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:47 AM

December 11, 2012

Modern Times (1): Contrarian Historian

What makes Paul Johnson's Modern Times so entertaining is that the guy is markedly opinionated. No dry history of the twentieth century this. No boring lists of dates and of names from around the world to memorize. No bland writing here. No indeed. His judgments pop out everywhere in his assessment of many key figures and events from the era. For Johnson, the received historical wisdom on these matters is just so much poppycock. Here's a sampling:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:08 AM

October 30, 2012

I Is an Other (5): Metaphors at Work

In business, psychology, science and politics, successful metaphors should be as common as one-liners at a comedy convention, as numerous as drunks at a tailgate party, as bountiful as bribes in Chicago politics.

In advertising, GEICO, the insurance company, has successfully grabbed attention with its use of metaphor (or it's close cousin, the analogy) in its "Happier Than" campaign.

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October 23, 2012

I Is an Other (4): When Metaphors Strike Out

We can't help but think and speak in metaphors. A hot temperature is the "high" for the day and a cold temperature is the "low." The future is "ahead" and the past "behind."

As James Geary says in I Is an Other, virtually the only way to understand something new is in reference to the old. When the theory of plate tectonics was first used to explain continental drift in the 1960s, the earth was compared to rice pudding--hard on the surface but pliable and liquid underneath (pp. 174-75). And electromagnetic fields were compared to two absolutely still corks floating separately in a bowl of water. Push one and the other moves. Not a perfect analogy, but helpful.

Yet not every metaphor works. Greary gives several examples. Here's a headline from the Tulsa World:

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October 16, 2012

I Is an Other (3): It's the Metaphors, Stupid!

In the current election cycle, America is once again finding out the power of metaphor. Mitt Romney got some points out of "trickle-down government" in the first presidential debate. Barack Obama failed to counter with one of his own. While the principle famously guiding the Clinton campaign in 1992 was, "It's the economy, stupid," perhaps the better piece of wisdom would be, "It's the Metaphors, Stupid."

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October 9, 2012

I Is an Other (2): Wired for Metaphor

Metaphors aren't just clever comparisons. Metaphors are the way we think.

In I Is an Other James Greary (see previous blog here) demonstrates this by considering Rebecca. When she reads a headline that says, "Belt Tightening Lies Ahead," or if someone says, "I'll show you the ropes," she has no idea what either means. She doesn't wear a belt, and no one showed her any ropes. Rebecca is an extremely intelligent person who has Asperger's syndrome. Her brain is virtually incapable of processing metaphors. She only understands what is literal (or metaphors whose meaning she has memorized).

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October 4, 2012

I Is an Other (1): Awash in Metaphors

Louise, my mother-in-law who died a few years ago at age ninety-one, grew up in southern Illinois with her siblings, including Bertha. The two of them did not get along well, finding various ways to be at odds with each other over the years. Even some time after Bertha died Louise commented to me, "Why, Bertha had a tongue that could sit on the front porch and pick grapes in the back yard!"

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August 22, 2012

How "The Singer" Was Born

Our good friend and beloved IVP author, Calvin Miller, died on August 19. The Singer, published in 1975, became his best-known work. Here, in its entirety, is the preface he wrote to the twenty-fifth-anniversary edition, in which he tells the story of the genesis of what Philip Yancey called "a groundbreaking book."

In the 1960s the rock culture singer 25.jpgsavior made his appearance in New York. Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell opened on Broadway. Before long these musicals had entered common culture all across America. The tunes were memorable, and here and there the lyrics touched the New Testament account of Christ. Still, to me the Broadway Jesus seemed a pale imitation of the New Testament Christ. Someone, I thought, ought to write a creative account of the Christ of St. Matthew that St. Matthew would recognize. It was then that the chilling notion occurred to me: perhaps I was the one to do it.

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May 4, 2012

Sherlock and Me

I've never been much of a mystery reader. And not much of a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast either. I found the Robert Downey Jr. movies enjoyable but not enthralling. Nonetheless I have become of megafan of the new Masterpiece Mysteries series. Definitely watch the premier of season two of Sherlock this Sunday. The writing is fabulous, the casting perfect, the production values high, the setting fresh (present-day London), the soundtrack terrific, the balance of humor and tension spot on.

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April 4, 2012

Hungry for The Hunger Games?

Massive box office smash. Best selling books. What's the appeal of The Hunger Games? My take is that boys love the action. The girls love it as a romance. The guys love it as a video game/reality show mashup with not-so-virtual violence. The girls love the idea of being torn between and pursed by two courageous, honorable hunks, especially as that is played out more in the second and third books.

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March 21, 2012

Not a Straight Story Line

Postmodernism tells us there is no purely objective observer. We all have a bias when we come to a subject, no matter how well trained we might be in science or law or history. This would seem to be a rather difficult problem to overcome. How do we say something is true when it will inevitably be colored by our own perspectives?

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January 12, 2012

The 2012 Andys

What are the winning books from the list of titles I finished this year? Yes, you will get the answer to that pressing question here. In addition you'll find my über-creative categories and the wit-soaked comment of the judge. More than that (yes, it is hard to believe), you also find below what the people demanded-- short summaries of each. So included for the first time is a Synop-Tweet (a tweet-like synopsis) of the winning books. Here they are.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:19 AM | Comments (5) are closed

January 4, 2012

The Nominees for 2012

The nominees are in for 2012. No, I'm not talking about Iowa. I'm talking about nominees for the 2012 Andys, of course. The list of books I read last year seems to have a pretty good variety to me. (What's your opinion?) But certain trends may be discernible. Below you'll find:

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November 29, 2011

"I Complained to God" (Outliers 3)

Malcolm Gladwell, as I've noted in previous blogs here and here, makes the case in his book Outliers that success is not totally the result of individual initiative or ability. It is inextricably wrapped up in our background and historical circumstances. This doesn't mean that individual responsibility is a myth.

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November 21, 2011

Why Did Malcolm Succeed? (Outliers 2)

Why did Malcolm Gladwell succeed? Is he a self-made bestselling writer? Is his story different than the story of why some succeed and others don't that we looked at in my previous blog about Gladwell's book Outliers? Does he have none to thank except his own hard work and native talent? In the epilogue to his book, he offers an answer.

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November 8, 2011

The Myth of the Self-Made Man--or Woman (Outliers 1)

Why do some people succeed and others don't? Is it luck? Is it pluck? Is it talent the size of a truck?

That's the question Malcolm Gladwell sets himself to in Outliers. The answer he finds is, often, none of these. To make his point, Gladwell compares Christopher Langan to Robert Oppenheimer.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:54 AM

October 20, 2011

Titles That Stick

I always get in trouble when I talk about what makes a great book title. I know people have other opinions, but this is something I happen to be right about.

This time, however, I've got two experts on my side. In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath not only lay out what makes ideas memorable, but (even though they may not know it) they also unveil the principles for a great book title.

Great ideas (and titles) are:

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September 19, 2011

Lord of the Flies

Since I was a choir boy during most of grade school, Lord of the Flies by William Golding had a special place in my imagination. When I first came across the book, the dark tale of British choir boys gone native on a deserted island was the perfect denizen for my eighth-grade adolescent psyche.

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August 18, 2011

Schaeffer's Gift

My first exposure to InterVarsity Press came when a friend, George, handed me a copy of Escape from Reason by Francis Schaeffer over forty years ago. It was the original edition imported to the U.S. from Britain. I was in high school at the time and had heard of some of the philosophers and theologians and artists he mentioned. (Being raised Catholic, Aquinas was at least familiar.) Many were completely new, however. Even though I only had a vague sense of what he was writing about, I devoured the book.

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June 21, 2011

The Story Behind the Quiet Bestseller

For more than two generations, Quiet Time has been introducing readers to one of the most basic spiritual disciplines of the Christian life—spending some time alone with God each day. Originally the piece was written by several campus staff members (called traveling secretaries) of the British Inter-Varsity movement.

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June 14, 2011

The Quiet Bestseller

The InterVarsity Press publication that has perhaps done more to shape the spiritual life of readers than anything else we've produced was actually one of our first. Quiet Time is a quiet classic that since 1945 has sold a million copies around the world, introducing readers in simple direct language to the daily discipline of spending time alone with God. There, as we listen in the calm, we hear him not in loud thunderbolts but in a still, soft voice.

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June 2, 2011

He Was No "Uncle Tom"

Not only does this year mark the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War, but this month marks the 200th birthday of the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe. The book was the biggest hardback bestseller in American history and drew such a dramatic reaction across the country that Abraham Lincoln said, famously, on meeting the author, "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war."

I took the opportunity to observe this bicentennial by reading the book that caused such a stir at the time but has endured much distortion and derision since.

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April 12, 2011

Merchants of Culture 5: Not All Digital Is Created Equal

The online subscription model has worked wonderfully for academic journals, as John Thomson summarizes in Merchants of Culture, because

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:48 AM

April 5, 2011

Merchants of Culture 4: Publishers in the Middle

It’s easy to see the advantages of being a large publisher, as John B. Thompson chronicles in Merchants of Culture. (The first in this series is here.) It’s the economies of scale—consolidating business operations, having the size to field a sales team, having clout with suppliers and retailers, accumulating cash flow for big projects, having the ability to absorb losses from a big investment that goes bust, and being able to invest in IT.

And on reflection, we can see that despite the vulnerabilities of being small, there are advantages too.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:10 AM

March 31, 2011

Merchants of Culture 3: Making Available vs. Making Known

While familiar territory for some, the current state of publishing and how we got here is skillfully summarized by John B. Thompson in Merchants of Culture. (See my first in this series here.) He covers the rise of agents, the rise of superstores, the rise of “mass-market” hardbacks, the rise of publishing conglomerates, the rise of sales to big box stores, the rise of advances, the rise of Amazon, the rise of the number of books published, the rise of ebooks.

At the same time this story also includes the demise of independent stores, the demise of superstores, the demise of literacy.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:39 AM

March 29, 2011

Merchants of Culture 2: Symbolic Capital

While John Thompson’s Merchants of Culture focuses on big trade publishing in the United States and United Kingdom, it provides helpful insight into a wider range of publishing endeavors. (See my first blog in the series here.) He begins with how publishers get things done. And all publishers, regardless of size or category, accomplish their work with five key resources:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:21 AM

March 23, 2011

Merchants of Culture 1: Merchant of Candor

When reading John Thompson’s Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century, those of us who have been in publishing thirty-five or twenty-five or even fifteen years will feel like we are reading our own biography. This is history we’ve lived through and a present reality we know all too well.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:36 AM

January 4, 2011

The 2011 Andys

You've been waiting anxiously for a year since the last awards were given out. Who will receive the coveted 2011 Andys for the books from my reading list? Who will walk on stage to claim the prize, to thank their parents, their mentors, even their editors? Well, the wait is over. The winners are . . .

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December 28, 2010

What I Read in 2010

Maybe you've noticed the "What I'm Reading" list on the right-hand column of the Andy Unedited homepage. Of those books I finished this year, by the numbers they represent fourteen novels, seventeen nonfiction books, eleven audio books, six books purchased, one given to me as a gift, seventeen from the library, one borrowed, five read for our neighborhood book club, four I blogged about and five published by InterVarsity Press (books I read off the clock after publication).

Here's the full list for the year:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:06 AM | Comments (2) are closed

December 21, 2010

When Smart People Say Stupid Things

I'm always amazed when very intelligent people say very stupid things. But it's happened again. This time it's in The Grand Design, the latest book by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge for thirty years, a chair held by no less than Sir Isaac Newton, himself no slouch. Mlodinow has his own pedigree to be proud of. So what did they say?

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November 10, 2010

To Change the World 5: Seeking the Common Good

James Davison Hunter tells us, in To Change the World, that the political frameworks of the Christian Right, the Christian Left and the neo-Anabaptists are inherently defective. Is there another option besides these three, which Hunter reframes as “defense against,” “relevance to” and “purity from” the culture? What’s his solution?

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November 3, 2010

To Change the World 4: Three Choices Both the Same

Often I have wondered in frustration, Why does everything seem so politicized? Why are the extremes the only apparent option? Where are the sober, even-handed, reasoned, moderate alternatives?

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October 28, 2010

To Change the World 3: Between Presumption and Hope

What’s the central dilemma for Christians who want to change the world? James Davison Hunter answers: Even though populism is organic to American Christianity, what actually brings about change instead is the to change the world 2.jpegcombination of powerful institutions, networks, interests and symbols. And when it comes to the latter, American Christianity is decidedly on the outside looking in.

The ten biggest independent foundations give away billions; the ten biggest religious foundations give away millions (pp. 82-83). Professors at Christian colleges have twice the teaching load of their counterparts at elite and research universities—so they are at a huge disadvantage in any ambition to lead their academic disciplines (p. 86).

Then he quits preachin’ and starts meddlin’.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:27 AM

October 20, 2010

To Change the World 2: The Untold Story of Christianity

Christianity has long been “Exhibit A” of populist movements changing the world. Two thousand years of history clearly show these people on the margins transforming their societies through the power of the gospel. Right? Why then is James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World so negative about the ability of a widespread impulse in ordinary people to transform society?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:33 AM

October 13, 2010

To Change the World 1: The Limits of Popular Opinion

Evangelicals want to change the world. So do Episcopalians, Lutherans and Catholics. They all fall in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson, who thought that if we can educate people—inform them, change their minds—then freedom will flourish and good will prevail.

They’re all wrong. James Davison Hunter says he knows why in To Change the World.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:43 AM

September 14, 2010

Uncommon Decency

People like Jesus. They don’t like Christians. Why is that?

It’s no surprise people like Jesus. He loved children, opposed legalism, stood up for outcasts, healed the sick, comforted the weak, preached the good news to the poor.

But why would so many people not like the people who follow him? Aren’t Christians supposed to be like Jesus, to be Christ-like, literally, “little Christs”? Shouldn’t Christians be known for their compassion, their wisdom, their love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:37 AM

September 8, 2010

The Shallows 8: The Future of the Book

The book, as Nicholas Carr notes in The Shallows, has so far proven extraordinarily resistant to computers and the Net. While book sales and book reading have plateaued, this “long sequence of printed pages assembled between a pair of stiff covers has proven to be a remarkably robust technology for more than half a millennium” (p. 99). But what about now?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:33 AM | Comments (2) are closed

September 2, 2010

The Shallows 7: The Computer's Dream

If we had no clocks, no time-keeping devices of any kind, what would happen? How would we know when to get to the airport? When would plays and sporting events start? For that matter, when would a basketball game end? How would lawyers know what to charge? What would the “timing belt” in my car keep track of?

If we had no clocks, society as we know it would collapse. Society might return to a more agrarian, more relational, more community-minded, more nature-conscious state—but our productivity would most definitely drop. Something would be lost and something gained. As Nicholas Carr writes in The Shallows, “Every tool imposes limitations even as it opens possibilities.” (p. 209).

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August 31, 2010

The Shallows 6: Try to Remember

Something’s gained: Everything is on the web. It’s an external hard drive for the brain, relieving us of the responsibility to remember mindless lists of facts or extended passages of literature. We free up our brain power so we can do other, more important things.

Something’s lost: Because of the way the brain works, when we cease exercising our memory, we don’t merely lose isolated bits of information. We actually lose the ability to gain insight and understanding.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:48 AM

August 27, 2010

The Shallows 5: Google’s Narrow Vision

Over a hundred years ago Frederick Winslow Taylor took a stopwatch to a steel plant in Philadelphia and changed the industrial world. By timing every step and movement in the process he came up with the one, most efficient way each worker should work. Productivity exploded, and manufacturers across the country eagerly adopted his methods. Taylor saw humans as extensions of the machine.

In The Shallows, Nicholas Carr contends that “Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters—the Googleplex—is the internet’s high church, and the religion practiced inside its walls is Taylorism” (p. 150). But at Google humans are extensions of a very particular kind of machine—the computer.

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August 25, 2010

The Shallows 4: The Net Effect

The Net distracts. But not all distractions are bad. As I’ve written here before, taking a break from a problem and letting your brain do something totally different can provide an opportunity for fresh ideas to emerge. The problem is that the constantly distracting state of the Net, contends Nicholas Carr in The Shallows, changes the way we read and think. (You can find the first in my series on this book here.)

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:52 AM

August 23, 2010

The Shallows 3: Driven to Distraction

When the Net first hit big in the mid-1990s, I would tell others, “This is a good thing. People are doing a lot more reading now. Teens are not just playing video games on their computers. Anything that encourages reading is for the good.” Now, especially having read The Shallows by Nicholas Carr (see here and here), I’m not so sure.

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August 20, 2010

The Shallows 2: A Brief History of Reading

In Phaedrus, Socrates muses on the merits of writing. Surprisingly to our minds, he is skeptical. Why? It is a recipe for forgetfulness. We won’t have to exercise our memories anymore. Knowledge of a subject, after all, is much more valuable than a written account of the same thing. The only virtue of writing was as a guard against the forgetfulness of old age.

So Nicholas Carr, in The Shallows, introduces us to the first Luddite in his book on how the Internet changes our brains. (See part one of my review here.) In chapter four he offers a fascinating overview of the history of the written word and how each change created changes in us and in society.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:29 AM

August 18, 2010

The Shallows 1: A Change of Mind

Nicholas Carr made a splash with his Atlantic cover story "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" which I discussed here. Now in The Shallows he brings a full-length book to bear on the question, and it's a dandy.

The subtitle, "What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains," is very descriptive. In this serial review, I'll touch on some of the evidence he offers, a mix of anecdotal and scientific.

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August 12, 2010

History with Attitude

Lies My Teacher Told Me is one of the funnest, most informative rants I've read in quite a while. James Loewen is ticked at the stupidity of American history high school textbooks, and he has reason to be.

One 1990-era textbook offered this whopper: "President Truman easily settled the Korean War by dropping the atomic bomb" (p. 320), which has so many errors in it I hardly know where to begin.

But there's more. Lots more. The textbooks are wrong when they say that . . .

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:46 AM

April 6, 2010

All Writing Is Autobiography

All writing is autobiography.

Fiction. Non-fiction. Quasifictional-semirealistic-self-congratualtory historical narrative. It's all autobiography.

Obviously memoir, journals, travelogues and a lot of bad poetry are autobiographical.

But what about auto-repair manuals?

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December 29, 2009

What I Read in 2009

I continue my annual tradition of listing the books I've read in the past year, in the order I read them. Reading is part of my job, but I enjoy the busman's holiday of reading on my own time. Some of the books I borrowed, some I bought, some were given to me and some I got from the library. Several I listened to while riding around town on errands and commuting to work. In those cases, I've linked to the audio version.

So here are the books of 2009:

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September 9, 2009

Creating Magic

When I read a business book, I'm often looking for the hot, sexy idea that puts a new spin on things, the innovative perspective that helps me see things in a new way, the dead-on research that makes a compelling case all by itself. Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell is none of these things.

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August 5, 2009

The Presence of War

Someone recommended to me that at least once a year I should read a book that is over fifty years old. What seems so hot and compelling now may be forgotten and rather pointless ten or even five years from now. Dave Barry, for example, describes the 1960s as an era in which "a nation gets high and has amazing insights, many of which later turn out to seem kind of stupid." That's kind of like what many bestsellers turn out to be.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:24 AM

July 1, 2009

Behind Every Good Declaration of Independence

John Locke is not just a character on Lost. He's one of the most important philosophers of the last five hundred years on issues of the self and of political theory. When it comes to identifying how the United States came to be in the first place, Locke's Two Treatises of Government written in a hundred years beforehand, is a good place to begin.

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January 5, 2009

The 2009 Andys

You saw what I read in 2008. Which books are awarded the 2009 Andys from this list? The winners are:

Books I Most Enjoyed Reading a Second Time
The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell
Children of God, Mary Doria Russell
I almost never read books twice. At some point I expect I'll enjoy reading these a third time. I recommend these two books constantly. Previously I blogged about Russell here.

Best Portrait of the United States in Microcosm
Friday Night Lights, H. G. Bissinger
Greed, materialism, racism and sports fanaticism are writ large in Texas, where everything is oversized. That's why we can see them more easily in this classic, but we dare not dismiss them as being quirks of "those" people in Texas. They were true and continue to be all too true of the United States in general.

Most Underlined and Marked Up
Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, Kenneth E. Bailey
The premise behind Bailey's project is that peasant culture changes very little over the centuries; therefore, one of the best way to understand the culture of the Gospels is to study contemporary Middle Eastern peasant culture. That approach creates a wealth of remarkable insights in every chapter. Here is just one example.

Best Book About Chicago
The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
This bestseller weaves two stories that are quintessentially Chicago: (1) civic ambition on a massive scale and (2) murder.

Book That Best Fulfilled an Unintended Purpose
Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, Robert McKee
The subtitle tells us this is a book about how to write a screenplay. But I found it immensely helpful in understanding how to watch a movie. McKee upacks how movies are structured on both macro and micro levels. Fascinating and revealing.

Book I Blogged On the Most
Publishing for Profit, Thomas Woll
I went through this book chapter by chapter, which you can see summarized here.

Most Unexpectedly Melancholic Book
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
I've wanted to read this 1980s science fiction classic for some time. When I did, I was surprised at the subtle tone of sadness that wove through the book but which became most pronounced at the end, even as a galaxy-sized victory unfolds.

Most Sensational Title That Actually Fulfilled Its Hype
The Lost History of Christianity, Philip Jenkins
The twentieth century was not the first time Christianity was a world religion. Read what happened over a thousand years ago that you've never even heard of before. This truly "lost history" is astonishingly revealed in another Philip Jenkins triumph.

Most Flippant Book About a Serious Topic
Sin in the Second City, Karen Abbott
A book about sex trafficking in Chicago (and the United States) in the first two decades of the twentieth century shouldn't make it all sound like great fun. But this book does just that.

Most of my reading, of course, comes at the recommendation of others. If you'd like to suggest books for consideration for the 2010 Andys, I'd be glad to hear of them.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:49 AM | Comments (4) are closed

December 29, 2008

What I Read in 2008

Reading is part of my job. But I enjoy the so-called busman's holiday of reading on my own time. As I did at the end of 2007, I am listing the books I finished on my own time (in the order I read them) during the past twelve months.

The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell
Sex and Dating, Mindy Meier
All the Ideas Living in My Head, Don Everts
Children of God, Mary Doria Russell
The Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser
The Last European War, John Lukacs
Culture Making, Andy Crouch
Friday Night Lights, H. G. Bissinger
Rethinking Christ and Culture, Craig A. Carter
Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, Kenneth E. Bailey
Faith in the Halls of Power, Michael Lindsay
The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
The Merchant of Death, D. J. MacHale
No Future Without Forgiveness, Desmond Tutu
Motivating the "What's In It For Me?" Workforce, Cam Marston
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne and Dave King
Story, Robert McKee
The Shack, William P. Young
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card
Publishing for Profit, Thomas Woll
Daring to Draw Near, John White
Gilead, Marilyn Robinson
Sin in the Second City, Karen Abbott
A Promise Kept, Robertson McQuilkin
The Soul Tells a Story, Vinita Hampton Wright
Fire Sale , Sara Paretsky
The Lost History of Christianity, Philip Jenkins
Making Room for Leadership, MaryKate Morse
Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen

After the new year, I'll offer some general comments on the list and which were the best.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:31 AM | Comments (3) are closed

November 18, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

In my car in recent days, I've been listening to Sara Paretsky's Fire Sale, featuring her favorite detective, V. I. Warshawski.

Many fans of this genre have recommended Paretsky to me, so I thought this would be a pretty painless way to test her out. In ways the book is predictable: evangelical Christians are the bad guys--greedy, hypocritical, even violent. Or they are good-hearted but impossibly naïve.

Continue reading "Be Careful What You Wish For"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:11 AM

February 25, 2008

Accounting Mysteries

The accountants I work with are some of my favorite colleagues. It's not their fault that accounting is backwards.

For example, "accounts receivable" is money other people owe you. And what does accounting consider this money to be that you do not have? An asset of course! And money you do have in the bank would seem like a good thing, right? Wrong. It is a liability if you have unpaid bills. No wonder eyes glaze over when accountants speak. (But as I say, it's not their fault.)

Continue reading "Accounting Mysteries"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:52 AM

February 21, 2008

The Bible Is Serious about Humor

We publish a lot of Bible reference books for average people, students, scholars and pastors. As a consumer of Bible reference books, I find that I most often make use of them when I have to give a talk or a sermon. (Now that's a felt need!) Apparently pastors feel the same way.

Continue reading "The Bible Is Serious about Humor"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:32 AM | Comments (1) are closed

February 4, 2008

The Sparrow

I can't remember the last time I read a book a second time--except perhaps for Goodnight Moon.

But when our neighborhood book club decided to discuss The Sparrow, I was delighted to read it again.

Continue reading "The Sparrow"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:02 AM | Comments (2) are closed

January 21, 2008

Nobody Likes Planning

Corporate planning is the butt of many jokes and the bane of many managers. But as folks in InterVarsity have said for years, "Aim at nothing and you are sure to hit it." Tom Woll offers 35 pages on planning in his book Publishing for Profit, a book on which I've been offering a serial review. Woll covers a lot of territory. Here are some highlights:

Continue reading "Nobody Likes Planning"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:56 AM

January 9, 2008

The 2007 Andys

Here are the 2007 Andys, based on what I read last year:

Continue reading "The 2007 Andys"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:01 AM | Comments (1) are closed

December 3, 2007

The Golden Compass

New Line Cinema's The Golden Compass opens in theaters this week amid much debate and controversy. Based on Philip Pullman's book, the first of a trilogy, it is set in another world like ours but not. Some are concerned that the book does (and that the movie will) represent Christianity in a false and unflattering light. Certainly Pullman has said, "My books are about killing God." So he is not being guarded about his intentions.

Continue reading "The Golden Compass"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 2:24 PM

November 13, 2007

One Flew Over

It seems that everyone wants a say about the new book There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheists Changed His Mind. It started with publication of the book last month by Harper One about Antony Flew, a British philosopher who wrote a pivotal essay in 1950 called “Theology and Falsification,” originally presented at the Oxford Socratic Club chaired by C. S. Lewis. Reprinted many times over, it has been a guide for atheists ever since.

Continue reading "One Flew Over"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:57 AM

October 1, 2007

Publishing That Lasts

Sitting on my wife's chifforobe I recently noticed a small, old, clothbound book. On the front was the title, True Liberty, the author's last name, Brooks, and a drawing of flowers printed on the case. The book is about 5" x 7" and only thirty-two pages, published by the Henry Altemus Company of Philadelphia (1842-1936), which started as a bookbinder and evolved into a publisher of photo albums, Bibles, decorative reprints of fiction, religious and moralistic books, juvenile series books, fairy tales, and puzzle books.

Continue reading "Publishing That Lasts"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 2:27 PM | Comments (2) are closed

August 8, 2007

For Those with Management Talent

OK, is there anything I don’t like about First, Break All the Rules? Yes. The title.

Continue reading "For Those with Management Talent"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 5:22 AM

August 6, 2007

What Do Customers Want?

Is there anything in First, Break All the Rules about sales and marketing? You bet. Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman identify four levels of customer satisfaction (pp. 128ff.).

Continue reading "What Do Customers Want?"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:16 AM

August 1, 2007

Why Do Employees Stay?

I’ve been blogging about First, Break All the Rules, calling it the best management book I’ve read. Here's more of what it says that I find so helpful.

We measure all kinds of things in our organizations—sales, profit, growth, productivity, square footage and so on. But Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman say that there’s no measuring stick for a manager’s ability to find, focus and keep talented people. They try to fill in the gap by identifying the key questions every employee asks, consciously or unconsciously (pp. 43ff.).

Continue reading "Why Do Employees Stay?"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:09 AM

July 30, 2007

Nothing Beats Talent

As I wrote in a previous blog entry, First, Break All the Rules is the best management book I’ve read. One of most useful concepts that Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman offer is that of distinguishing talent (p. 71) from skill and knowledge (p. 83). Talent is “a recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied.” Talents are “the driving force behind an individual’s job performance.” They are “the four-lane highways in your mind.”

Continue reading "Nothing Beats Talent"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:04 AM

July 25, 2007

The Best Management Book I've Read

First, Break All the Rules is without a doubt the best management book I’ve ever read. All I can say is read it and do likewise.

Well, actually, I can say more. Why is it good? The way it was put together. It’s not just some management consultants giving you their dog and pony show. Two Gallup Organization leaders, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, took the results of surveys and interviews with eighty thousand managers in over four hundred companies, summarizing what the best actually do best and how they do it.

Here’s a sampling of the management myths they bust.

Continue reading "The Best Management Book I've Read"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:58 AM

July 23, 2007

The Art of Pastoring

For years people have been telling me that The Art of Pastoring by David Hansen is a great book. They said it really isn't just for pastors but for any Christian who seeks to minister to others. They said it was not superficial but full of deep insights. They said the author, David Hansen, told great stories.

Even though InterVarsity Press published it a baker's dozen years ago, I had never read it. Until now. What I have discovered is that everyone was right.

Continue reading "The Art of Pastoring"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:31 AM | Comments (1) are closed

May 2, 2007

Entitlement

Reading history is a favorite hobby. And I have happily returned to David McCullough's books time and again. His 1776 was not a disappointment. An informative, interesting read, as you would expect. One expectation I had that turned out not to be the case was that I thought it would have more on the Continental Congress and the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Instead it followed the less worn path of the military history of that year. Not a bad choice, I would say.

Perhaps the most surprising thing in the whole book however was the following statement:

Continue reading "Entitlement"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 4:23 AM

April 18, 2007

An Underrated Quality

One overlooked and underrated leadership quality that has gotten a bit more press recently is humility.

We should be grateful to Jim Collins for raising our consciousness about this trait with his concept of Level 5 Leadership--a person who combines great ambition for the organization with great personal humility. He offers a number of examples of leaders who missed this mark and those who hit the target, most famously, perhaps, Abraham Lincoln.

Continue reading "An Underrated Quality"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 4:49 AM

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book cover"Some publishers tell you what to believe. Other publishers tell you what you already believe. But InterVarsity Press helps you believe," says J. I. Packer. Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll describe how this came to be a hallmark of InterVarsity Press in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, an anecdotal history spanning the sixty years from the founding of IVP in 1947 to the present day.