May 22, 2013
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.
One of the best-known verses in the letter is James 1:5: "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you" (NIV). But almost immediately James jumps to issues of rich and poor (1:9-11) and doing the word (1:22-24) and helping widows and orphans (1:27). And the rich and poor make several more appearances in the letter. Why, after headlining the topic of wisdom, does James make this leap to these other topics?
One well-known Old Testament use of the idea of wisdom orbits around craftsmanship. Bezalel was filled with "wisdom" in making artistic designs, metalworking and woodworking (Ex 31:2-5). It is also evident when people obey God's law: "Observe them [God's decrees and laws] carefully, for this will show your wisdom" (Deut 4:6).
But there is a third meaning that is less well-known, even though it is found in the very famous story of Solomon discerning who the true mother is when two prostitutes come to him with a baby. When he indicates he will give half to each, the true mother pleads with the king to not do so and to instead give the child to the other woman.
And what was the reaction of the people? "When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to figure out who the real mother was." Well, no, it doesn't actually say that. It was "because they saw that he had wisdom from God to really put that wicked woman in her place." Um, no, it doesn't say that either.
What happened was, "When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice" (1 Kings 3:38). Wisdom and doing justice are also equated in Psalm 37:30.
So when James mentions wisdom in the context of rich and poor, and helping the marginalized like widows and orphans, he's not talking about how we can up our IQ or get some street smarts. He's telling us that doing what is good and right for the oppressed is true wisdom.
The Old Testament can help us not only interpret the New Testament correctly but apply it correctly as well. Sounds like a wise thing to do. That's why we wrote A Deeper Look at James.
Nineteenth-century engraving by Gustave Doré.
April 30, 2013
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.Continue reading "Mapping the Origins Debate"
April 16, 2013
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.Continue reading "Remembering Birmingham"
March 19, 2013
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.
March 12, 2013
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."*Continue reading "Good Prose 3: The Business of Writing"
March 1, 2013
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?Continue reading "Good Prose 2: The Problem with Memoir"
February 19, 2013
"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.Continue reading "Good Prose 1: Talking to Strangers"
February 5, 2013
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.Continue reading "Cut the Clutter"
January 30, 2013
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.Continue reading "Les Misérables You Never Knew"
January 9, 2013
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 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, 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.Continue reading "The Nominees for 2013 Are In"
December 20, 2012
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, areContinue reading "Modern Times (3): Enemies of the Twentieth Century"
December 13, 2012
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.Continue reading "Modern Times (2): Events That Obstinately Don't Occur"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:47 AM
December 11, 2012
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:Continue reading "Modern Times (1): Contrarian Historian"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:08 AM
October 30, 2012
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.Continue reading "I Is an Other (5): Metaphors at Work"
October 23, 2012
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:Continue reading "I Is an Other (4): When Metaphors Strike Out"
October 16, 2012
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."Continue reading "I Is an Other (3): It's the Metaphors, Stupid!"
October 9, 2012
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).Continue reading "I Is an Other (2): Wired for Metaphor"
October 4, 2012
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!"Continue reading "I Is an Other (1): Awash in Metaphors"
August 22, 2012
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 savior 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.Continue reading "How "The Singer" Was Born"
May 4, 2012
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.Continue reading "Sherlock and Me"
April 4, 2012
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.Continue reading "Hungry for The Hunger Games?"
March 21, 2012
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?Continue reading "Not a Straight Story Line"
January 12, 2012
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.Continue reading "The 2012 Andys"
January 4, 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:Continue reading "The Nominees for 2012"
November 29, 2011
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.Continue reading ""I Complained to God" (Outliers 3)"
November 21, 2011
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.Continue reading "Why Did Malcolm Succeed? (Outliers 2)"
November 8, 2011
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.Continue reading "The Myth of the Self-Made Man--or Woman (Outliers 1)"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:54 AM
October 20, 2011
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:Continue reading "Titles That Stick"
September 19, 2011
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.Continue reading "Lord of the Flies"
August 18, 2011
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.Continue reading "Schaeffer's Gift"
June 21, 2011
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.Continue reading "The Story Behind the Quiet Bestseller"
June 14, 2011
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.Continue reading "The Quiet Bestseller"
June 2, 2011
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.Continue reading "He Was No "Uncle Tom""
April 12, 2011
The online subscription model has worked wonderfully for academic journals, as John Thomson summarizes in Merchants of Culture, becauseContinue reading "Merchants of Culture 5: Not All Digital Is Created Equal"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:48 AM
April 5, 2011
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.Continue reading "Merchants of Culture 4: Publishers in the Middle"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:10 AM
March 31, 2011
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.Continue reading "Merchants of Culture 3: Making Available vs. Making Known"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:39 AM
March 29, 2011
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:Continue reading "Merchants of Culture 2: Symbolic Capital"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:21 AM
March 23, 2011
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.Continue reading "Merchants of Culture 1: Merchant of Candor"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:36 AM
January 4, 2011
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 . . .Continue reading "The 2011 Andys"
December 28, 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:Continue reading "What I Read in 2010"
December 21, 2010
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?Continue reading "When Smart People Say Stupid Things"
November 10, 2010
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?Continue reading "To Change the World 5: Seeking the Common Good"
November 3, 2010
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?Continue reading "To Change the World 4: Three Choices Both the Same"
October 28, 2010
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 combination 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’.Continue reading "To Change the World 3: Between Presumption and Hope"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:27 AM
October 20, 2010
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?Continue reading "To Change the World 2: The Untold Story of Christianity"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:33 AM
October 13, 2010
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.Continue reading "To Change the World 1: The Limits of Popular Opinion"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:43 AM
September 14, 2010
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?Continue reading "Uncommon Decency"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:37 AM
September 8, 2010
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?Continue reading "The Shallows 8: The Future of the Book"
September 2, 2010
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).Continue reading "The Shallows 7: The Computer's Dream"
August 31, 2010
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.Continue reading "The Shallows 6: Try to Remember"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:48 AM
August 27, 2010
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.Continue reading "The Shallows 5: Google’s Narrow Vision"
August 25, 2010
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.)Continue reading "The Shallows 4: The Net Effect"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:52 AM
August 23, 2010
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.Continue reading "The Shallows 3: Driven to Distraction "
August 20, 2010
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.Continue reading "The Shallows 2: A Brief History of Reading"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:29 AM
August 18, 2010
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.Continue reading "The Shallows 1: A Change of Mind"
August 12, 2010
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 . . .Continue reading "History with Attitude"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:46 AM
April 6, 2010
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?Continue reading "All Writing Is Autobiography"
December 29, 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:Continue reading "What I Read in 2009"
September 9, 2009
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.
August 5, 2009
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.Continue reading "The Presence of War"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:24 AM
July 1, 2009
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.Continue reading "Behind Every Good Declaration of Independence"
January 5, 2009
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
Best Portrait of the United States in Microcosm
Most Underlined and Marked Up
Best Book About Chicago
Book That Best Fulfilled an Unintended Purpose
Most Unexpectedly Melancholic Book
Most Sensational Title That Actually Fulfilled Its Hype
Most Flippant Book About a Serious Topic
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.
December 29, 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
After the new year, I'll offer some general comments on the list and which were the best.
November 18, 2008
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
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
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"
February 4, 2008
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"
January 21, 2008
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
December 3, 2007
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
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
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"
August 8, 2007
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
August 1, 2007
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
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
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
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"
May 2, 2007
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
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