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May 30, 2008

Open book thread

Open_book_2 Welcome to the first Point open book thread! All this summer, we'll be posting a thread every Friday where bloggers and commenters can come to talk books. Any and all books: books that you're reading now, or that you've read, or that you want to read. Share your opinions, ask for recommendations, list your favorites, create some buzz -- anything goes.

I'll try to get the thread up earlier in the day from now on. I would have had it up earlier today had I not spent much of the day in an epic battle with the insurance company (but that's a story you don't want to hear).

Anyway, I'll lead off with this gem of a review for what sounds like a gem of a book, a novel about poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Every once in a while you run across a review that's so good your mouth starts watering, and this is one of those times; ever since I read this one this morning, I've been itching to hit Barnes & Noble, and probably would have, had the insurance company not needed me to stay here and make 12 billion phone calls. Hopkins is one of those poets I don't understand very well but love anyway, and I can't wait to read what sounds like a wonderful novel about him.

Much as I enjoyed the review, though, one passage drew a sigh as well as a chuckle from me: "Here is what happened when I began raving to some (very nice) friends about 'Exiles' . . . This is how they replied: 'I hate poetry. I don't read it. It's a damned waste of time.' Or, 'Do you know the immense amount of harm organized religion has perpetrated over the years? Even if you do accept the notion of a personal god?'"

Yeah, heard that one before.

Now it's your turn. What are you reading, or dying to read, or wondering if you should read?

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Matt Guerino

Great idea! I love talking good books.

I recently finished Rodney Stark's The Victory of Reason - a refreshing antidote to the old "religion ruins everything and secularism is our only hope" saw. Highly recommended - a few more of my thoughts on this book are at http://summitperspective.blogspot.com/2008/04/book-review-victory-of-reason-by-rodney.html

I'm currently reading Good to Great by Jim Collins, pondering its application to church leadership, and loving it! Blog review to come soon.


I'm currently reading Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy (Kraybill, Nolt, & Weaver-Zercher). I grew up very close to Lancaster, PA and the the Amish communities there were just a normal part of everyday life, so when, years later living in Las Vegas I heard about the Nickel Mines school shooting I was heartsick and dumbfounded. I followed the news stories closely, but they never seemed to quite "get it". It's difficult for the "English" (that's you and me and all of those reporters to the Amish) to understand the Amish way of life. When I hear about "Amish Grace" (I think it may have been mentioned on The Point in the past.) I was interested to read it.

Kraybill, Nolt, & Weaver-Zercher are all faculty who focus their study on Amish history and culture. Two of them hail from PA colleges close to the Amish community at Nickel Mines. They write with authority about the subject and tackle a complex subject in a very approchable and engaging manner.

The book is divided into three distinct sections. Section One discusses the school shooting itself by looking through the dual lens of both Amish and English culture. This section looks as the Amish resction to the shooting (forgiveness) and the English "surprise" at that reaction. I particularly appreciate the author's knowledge of Amish culture as it provides an understanding of the "naturalness" of the Amish reaction. Their discussion of the media response is, as well, interesting, and contrasted against the explanation of Amish culture is facsinating.

Section two begins to delve into the subject of the book - forgiveness. This section looks particularly at the way the Amish understand forgiveness - particularly it's practices. The authors do a terrific job here of highlighting the subtleties and complexity of Amish forgiveness. And, they do so with a great deal of respect for those they write about.

Section three "reflects on the meaning of forgiveness, not only for the Amish but for the rest of us as well." I have not finished reading this section, but this section appears to attempt to explain what the research in general tells us about forgiveness and what we might learn from the Amish about forgiveness.

I am very impressed with this book and highly recommend it. The authors write knowledgeably about the subject matter, but do so in a very approachable way. The authors say, "This book is about Amish grace, but it is also about forgiveness, pardon, and recondiliation." I think that's a subject about which all of us could use a little schooling.

Jason Taylor

Well, to be fair, much of the poetry available IS a waste of time. But then I have a distaste for free verse. It always seemed to me something like a scam-one thinks Deep Thoughts, and writes it anyhow, ignores craftsmanship, and calls it poetry.

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