Reading and Reviews – 2012

This page is a list of the books I’ve read so far in 2012 with a brief description and a link to my longer review, if I’ve written one. (for 2011 go here)

39. The Apostle: The Life of Paul by John Pollock
38. A Deceit to Die For by Luke Montgomery
37. The End by Mark Hitchcock
36. A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of Modern Middle East by David Fromkin

A book that really should be required reading for all students of history, international relations, and the modern Middle East. This work tells much of the backstory and diplomatic maneuvering, especially highlighting the British perspective, that led to the creation of the Middle East following the First World War. Though originally published in 1989 many of the observations and conclusions drawn remain just as relevant today as when it was first published.

35. The Visitor by Peter Pikkert

Are we really only slaves to our culture? To what is familiar to us? What happens if we question? What happens if someone comes with a message that causes us to reconsider what we’ve always believed? What if you were sharing that kind of message? A great novella, full of cultural insight as this “clash of ideas” takes place. The story is set in SE Turkey as a foreigner and a young Kurdish man interact. The story is left open-ended allowing (forcing) you to provide your own answers to the question the story raises.


34. Humility: True Greatness by C. J. Mahaney

This is a relatively short book but should be read and re-read often. Mahaney deals with one of the most pervasive spiritual and interpersonal issue: pride. He not only addresses the negative but raises up its counter-part Humility which from the biblical perspective is what really defines true greatness. It is a great exposition of one of the things which ought to set Christians apart from those who are not believers, because true humility is not possible apart from cross.


33. Placebo (The Jevin Banks Experience) by Steven James

The first book in a new series by Steven James who is an author I really like. He is a great story-teller and will keep you reading. I also like how he addresses moral and ethical issues within his narratives. In his Patrick Bower’s series he had introduced some interaction with quantum physics, the search for meaning in life, the consciousness, etc. Sounds boring, huh? Well, in a Steven James story it is highly entertaining and yet thought provoking!


32. Democracy, Islam, and Secularism in Turkey by Alfred Stepan and Ahmet Kuru

This edited collection address some of the most significant issues that are present in modern Turkish politics. The book is especially served by its contributors addressing not only the current issues but placing them in their historical context. Highly recommend it for those studying modern day Turkey.

Read more here: Review – Democracy, Islam, and Secularism in Turkey


31.The Brotherhood by Jerry Jenkins

This was an enjoyable weekend read. It was fun but also thought provoking. It follows the story of a young cop who has always had a plan and life has worked according to plan. Then for the first time everything falls apart. The things that gave his life its meaning and purpose are gone. Where does he go from here? Why go on? How should he go on? These are the questions circling in this story.

30. Kiss Me Like You Mean It by David Clarke

I can’t really say that this book was a favorite. The author uses the book of the Song of Solomon as a manual for sharing a number of practical insights on the marriage relationship. He adopts a very conversational and lighthearted style of writing. This makes the book enjoyable to read but at times it trivializes the topic too much. There are certainly some valuable insights to consider, but it would not rank among my favorites of book on marriage and relationships.


29. Turkey and the European Union: The Question of European Identity by Selcen Öner

“In Turkey and the European Union, Selcen Öner takes the issue of Turkey and its pursuit of membership in the European Union, which has a long and tenuous history, and isolates for analysis one of the most contentious elements, the role of identity. […] Öner’s consideration of the construction of identity is a relevant and helpful effort in understanding the current debates over Turkey’s accession to the European Union.”

Read my full review at e-IR: Review – Turkey and the European Union

28. Christians and the Common Good: How Faith Intersects with Public Life by Charles Gutenson

This book aims to present a biblical framework of what the Bible teaches about how Christians are to engage in public social and political life. It spends the majority of the time constructing a framework and then closes by testing that framework on some concrete issues. The author recognizes that his proposals are not the only possible conclusions that can be drawn from the framework he proposes but aims to start the conversation. In that he succeeds. If you are looking for a book that address the convergence of faith and public life for the Christian, this is a fine place to start.

27. The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God by John Piper

“This book is in some senses a follow-up (or maybe actually the precursor) to Desiring God. The core concept in that book is that “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in him.” In other words, that the ultimate aim of our affections is to be God himself. This book asserts the idea that the ultimate aim of God’s affections is God.”

Read my full review here: The Pleasures of God

26. Opening Moves: The Bowers Files by Stephen James

The latest (kind of) chapter in the Patrick Bower’s series, of which I am a very big fan. This book returns back to beginning and fills in a lot of the backstory that has been hinted at throughout the previous books. Well done. While in some series a later entry like this can feel forced I felt this one was well done. I think I would still recommend reading them in the order they were published, rather than starting here.


25. The Maverick Experiment by Drew Berquist

This was an interesting and for the most part enjoyable read. It falls into the category of a guy, counter-terrorist, combat-type novel. The concept in this one is a group of special forces types given the task of carrying out missions that have to stay off the official records. There was nothing especially great about the book, but nothing that stands out as disappointing. It was a book read for fun and that’s what it was. So in that respect it was successful.

24. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

A classic work on leadership and the make-up of a leader. Usually not praised for its morality but admired for its timelessness and insight into what power often times looks like in practice. I found it quite an interesting read and am glad I took the time to read it. I hope I followed the advice of the work “because Dante says: knowledge doth come of learning well retained.” It was full of numerous quotable and worthy of remembering sayings, learning that if retained can produce knowledge.

23. The Transforming Power of the Gospel by Jerry Bridges

This is another very challenging book by a great author and a godly man. The Transforming Power of the Gospel is a challenge to grow in our Christian walk. What makes this book meaningful is that he places the present experience in light of the reality of what the Gospel means, how it makes alive spiritually dead sinners, and how it is that same transforming power that is at work now. The transformation that is taking place has as its aim growth in Christ-likeness. Whether this concept is something brand new or a reminder of oft heard truths this book is worth reading.

22.Lion of Babylon

A quick and enjoyable book. An operative is sent to Iraq to investigate and track down aid workers that have gone missing. As he works to track them down he comes to meet an Iraqi lawyer who is actively working to help mend the deep-seated divisions and work for reconciliation and a solution to the violence that pervades the country. A compelling story that will draw you in and help open your eyes to some of the personalities and challenges that lie behind the headlines.

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21. The Great American Awakening: Two Years that Changed America, Washington, and Me by Jim Demint

I really enjoyed this book that gave an insiders perspective on the battles within the American political system between 2008 and 2010. SC Senator Jim DeMint was one of the few who was pushing for change, not in the direction towards bigger government and social handouts (ala Obama), and against the established political system in both parties that was concerned with funneling money into projects that would benefit the politicians. In this very personal account Senator DeMint takes you inside the difficult decisions of supporting principles over friendships and the toll this took on him personally. The principles this book praises are those of responsibility and integrity and that through an awakening of these America will be better situated for the future.

20. Go and Do by Jay Milbrandt

Go and Do is a call for a generation to engage in serving the world and to live a life that is defined by more than just a stable job with a sufficient salary. The work has some useful principles for how engagement across cultures can be done more effectively. It is largely shaped by the narrative of the authors own life with added supplements from his work with college students in a Global Justice Program. While it has some positives it should definitely be read with discernment to make certain that the application remains correct.

Read my full review here: Go and Do by Jay Milbrandt

19. The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

So Charles Martin is one of my favorite writers for a very particular kind of book and setting to read it in. I love reading his books (or in reality listening to them) in the car with my wife. Often times on road trips (or just a daily commute) we’ll read one of his books together. He is a great story-teller. He really shines in his character development and working through the hardships of difficult choices. This story begins when a small chartered plane crashes on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. Two people struggle to find their way out and in doing so you learn a lot about the struggles they are facing that have led them to this moment. While I did really enjoy this book, it wasn’t my favorite by Martin and would recommend When Crickets Cry and Down Where My Love Lives: The Dead Don’t Dance and Maggie (2 in 1) before this one. That said, if you are looking for a good summer book to read this was a good start for us!


18. The Red Rooster by Michael Wallace

A poor, unemployed girl in Nazi occupied Paris. Barely able to survive. Struggling to go on to search for her father and the German officer who took him. An okay storyline and for the most part a fast-paced read. To be honest, I didn’t really like it. I finished it mainly because I’d started it. It has more objectionable elements than I would prefer. The actual writing and the plot was okay, not awful but not great either. It’s a novel set in the midst of the Second World War and while it gave some insight into the hardships of life during the period I wouldn’t exactly classify it as a work of historical fiction. I don’t feel that I really learned all that much. So in short…though it’s free I’d recommend something else.

17. The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

I was really challenged by a number of great thoughts in this book. It was very straight forward. It is the kind of book that might be called “down to Earth” but that isn’t a very accurate description as it is very much about recognizing the reality of more than just what is visible. I read it along with my devotional scripture reading and was continually provided with challenging thoughts to mull over. I’d highly recommend it as a book that will encourage and challenge you in your “pursuit” of the presence of God.

16. How Christians Should Relate to Government: A Zondervan Digital Short by Wayne Grudem

As is indicated in the title this is a “digital short” and comes in at just about 80 or so pages. It is a shorter version of Grudem’s book Politics According to the Bible. The majority of my interaction with Grudem prior to this text was through his systematic theology textbook. This book is interesting but not great. He addresses a few incorrect views of engagement and then proposes his view. It is a simple read to begin engaging on the topic but it leaves much to be desired, though I imagine the longer text would fill out some of those desires.

15. Average Joe: God’s Extraordinary Calling to Ordinary Men by Troy Meeder

This is a book that doesn’t offer anything new. It is a reminder to act on what you already know. The book is targeted at men in any calling of life, to urge them to walk with God. The book uses a lot of different scenarios from men who have had a personal impact on his life, to his own struggles, or ways in which he learned these lessons. A reminder of things we ought to do.

Read my full review: Average Joe by Troy Meeder

14. Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins

The finale of the Hunger Game series is the story of a revolution coming to fruition. There are some truly unexpected twists. Through the eyes of different characters you can see some of the challenges that have to be overcome to accomplish the overthrow of a repressive regime without replacing it with simply more of the same. The relationships and character development from the first two books is helpful to carry you forward and the conclusion has suspense to keep you guessing but also provides enough resolution to leave you satisfied.


13.Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins

In the second book of the series the story takes on much greater depth. It lacks some of the intensity of the first book, but it does a brilliant job of communicating the larger picture. It takes a while for the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, to realize what might be possible and how she has inadvertently become the spark that might lead to a full-scale revolution. This book continues the narrative of the first and lays the groundwork for the final book.

12.The World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips

This book is very well done. It is an easy and engaging read, due to the fact that the author is a popular blogger, but has serious depth to it. It shows how having a truly biblical (the whole bible) worldview, turns everything upside down. The implications of what it means to be a follower of Christ, to believe the Gospel, ought to have ramifications that cause you to believe and act in a way that is distinct from those who do not believe the same thing, and at the same time allows you to offer something meaningful to them when they are searching for answers.

11.The Hunger Games (The First Book of the Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins

The beginning of a very captivating trilogy. This book is not at all about the glorifying of violence and death. It raises some really deep questions and is a fantastic story. This book sets the stage for the rest of the series and what seems to be almost a simple, self-contained, and really good story, is part of something much, much bigger.


10.Hostage in Havana (Cuban Trilogy, The)

This was a really fun and pretty quick read. The main character is a US government officer who works largely in the financial sector discovering and helping to stop criminal organizations around the world. For someone who crunches numbers, she seems to end up in some pretty rough spots. After being targeted by a sniper hired by a South American drug cartel she takes a covert trip with a friend to handle some “business” in Cuba. There is enough intrigue and and action to keep the story moving. Nothing spectacular, but I definitely enjoyed the book, and learned a little bit more about that island just 90 miles off the coast of Florida.

9. Islam and Secularism in Turkey: Kemalism, Religion and the Nation State (International Library of Twentieth Century History)
by Umut Azak

A scholarly look at the place that religion has had within Turkey since the founding of the Republic. It highlights the way in which particular events were framed to show religion, specifically “reactionary Islam,” as backward and dangerous and why those events led to the adoption of the particular authoritarian measures that were adopted.

8. The Life of David As Reflected in His Psalms
by Alexander Maclaren

I really enjoyed this book. It is structured around the various stages of the life of David from his early days in the fields tending sheep, to a young hero, to a fugitive on the run, to a victorious king, a broken sinner, and finally a reflective aged man. Most of us are familiar with his and with his Psalms but we don’t necessarily read the Psalms in connection with the events in his life. This book does just that and gives a great vantage point for reconsidering the Psalms and applying them for reflection and application.

7.Don’ t Waste Your Life
by John Piper

This is a call and an encouragement for a generation of young people to live their lives for something that counts. Like most of John Piper’s books it is filled with exposition of scripture but it is also very personal. It confronts the host of things and desires that threaten to offer lesser joy and at the end leave us saying “I’ve wasted it.’ This is a call for people to find their ultimate joy and treasure in God and their purpose in spreading that to all people through whatever vocation and skills and means they have been given.

6.Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty
by Mustafa Akyol

This is a really important book and one that I would highly recommend. It argues for robust freedom in line with Muslim beliefs. Seem contradictory? He looks at the developments in Islam and why particular interpretations won out during particular eras of history. He builds his case by going back to the Koran as his basis rather than sources that are later and of varying levels of repute. It is a very accessible book. It deals with deep issues but in a way that most readers will be able to follow.

5.The Last Plea Bargain
by Randy Singer

I have not read a lot of legal fiction, but what I have read has been really enjoyable and The Last Plea Bargain continues the trend. The author intertwines a number of characters and cases into one story and I did get caught up in the action. The plot definitely had some last minute twists that kept me guessing right up to the very end. If you are looking for an enjoyable novel that raises a few questions of ethics for you to consider while giving you an inside look at the criminal justice system, this would be a good choice.

Read my full review: The Last Plea Bargain

4.The Tehran Initiative
by Joel Rosenberg

The second book in a series centered around Iran and their efforts to get a nuclear bomb and how Shi’ite eschatology might look like as it influences current events. It is a work of fiction (and pretty good fiction in my opinion!) but raises a lot of interesting questions and has plenty of potential realism. It is written by a Christian and that shapes some of the authors perspective and the themes addressed. Really enjoyable and exciting to read with plenty to chew on along the way!

3.Lincoln’s Diary
by DL Fowler

A girl with a somewhat troubled past learns about a diary her grandmother was given that is rumored to be Lincoln’s and may raise questions about the plot that ended his life. A decent story line but I struggled to get through it. I was never really grabbed by this book. Would not be one I’d recommend and if I had paid for it I would be disappointed. Nothing really wrong with it other than it wasn’t all that enjoyable.

2.The Next Decade: Where We’ve Been . . . and Where We’re Going
by George Friedman

This a book about the American Empire, that he argues exists whether it is desired or not, and the kind of leader it would take to manage it while maintaining the values of the American Republic. He looks region by region at American interests and gives a suggested strategy for shaping the coming decade. In his book The Next 100 Years he looks at trends but in this one he is concerned more with individuals. An interesting read, certainly one that makes plenty of claims that could be debated, but worth reading.

1. Why Church Matters: Discovering Your Place in the Family of God
by Joshua Harris

A good book full of thoughts on how and why the church is important in the life of an individual Christian. It is not a theology of the church but is biblically-sound. He gives good questions to ask when looking for a church. Argues that the church is important for us because the church is important to God.

Read my full review.

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