Category Archives: books

The Commandant by Rudolph Hoess (Book Review)

Rudolph Hoess was the SS Commandant over the concentration camp at Auschwitz during World War II. Under his direction well over a million would die (Eichmann claimed 2.5 million!). These were not primarily enemy combatants but civilians – men, women, and children (primarily Jews).

Hoess wrote about his time at Auschwitz, not only what he did but how he thought and felt. This particular edition has been edited by Jurg Amann for length and clarity. It is a small volume of only 111 pages.

I found it highly disturbing, anxiety inducing, stomach churning – in other words, just what is needed. It is a prophylactic against future genocides, may God save us. It is an inducement to action in the present against ongoing genocides, God help us.

“But I must admit openly that the gassings had a calming effect on me…Up to this point it was not clear to me, nor to Eichmann, how the killing of the expected masses was to be done. Perhaps by gas? But how, and what kind of gas….Now I was at ease.”

– Hoess, pg. 70.

Let me digress for a moment and speak as an American Christian. I suspect that someday when God reveals to us the true nature of the good and evil which we have done in our lives we will find that our apathy stands far above and beyond so many of the sins we endeavor so faithfully to avoid today.

Further, I suspect that our myopic dedication to these rote sins is an endeavor to distract our consciences from the true nature of our own selfishness.

Lord, save me from my apathy. From my righteous indignation over the sins of others that I use to assuage my burning conscience.

The Leaders We Deserved by Alvin S. Felzenberg (Book Review)

History has the potential to be our tutor in humility. I will not claim any excellence in humility, but I will say that what humility I have is in large part due to reading history.

The Leaders We Deserved by Alvin S. Felzenberg is one of the better historical tutors as it exposes to us not only the lives and actions of our leaders but also the times, controversies, and cultures in which they led.

History can be dull and dry – because the writing makes it so, or the topics are mundane, or because we fail to see what it has to teach us. Yet history can also be exciting and insightful – history teaches us truths like:

  1. Those we judge today as scoundrels or imbeciles are oftentimes our heroes of yesterday.
  2. What seems the only way, the right way, frequently proves the wrong way with the passing of time.
  3. We are greater and worse than those who came before us – leaving us to consider, will we search out the sins of our generation and forsake them or will future generations look back at us in dismay?
  4. We repeat our past with variations. We are not the first to face such a dilemma, nor are we likely to be the last.
  5. People operate within a personal and cultural milieu; their actions are heavily weighted by their experiences and a little more listening, a little more grace, can go a long way towards understanding and appreciating the other.

Lets look at a few examples and I will share some of the lessons I learn from these historical truths:

  1. Anti-immigrant sentiment is not a new phenomenon. John Adams supported and enforced the Alien and Sedition Acts which specifically targeted immigrants. (pg. 258)
    1. Lesson: Anti-immigrant movements are not a new phenomena nor should one dismiss such movements as intellectually crippled, for great minds have supported them.
    2. Question for Consideration: Who were anti-immigration policies focused on? (Hint: Those who now proclaim themselves proudly and truly American were oftentimes the very individuals opposed in the past, e.g. the Irish)
  2. Nor is suppression of freedom of speech a new phenomenon – as John Adams used one of the laws in the Alien and Sedition acts to suppress political opponents. (pg. 258)
    1. Lesson: Freedom of speech has been threatened by great leaders in the past; it is not a new threat, nor does it being threatened mean that we are imminently facing its extinction.[1]
    2. Question: Who else in American history has constrained the rights of American citizens? (Hint: Abraham Lincoln suspended habeus corpus; under FDR during WWII we placed over 160,000 Japanese Americans in concentration camps)
  3. Under Andrew Jackson we were the perpetrators of horrific acts of human rights violations as we manhandled Native Americans.[2] (pg. 261)
    1. Lesson: While we should oppose human rights violations around the world, we should not pretend that we are above such abuses.
    2. Question: What other atrocious acts have been committed under the authority of the United States? (Hint: Look for our purposeful infection of individuals in Latin America with a horrible disease, we are talking 20th century; also some of the regimes we have supported despite their genocidal human rights violations)
  4. Ulysses S. Grant fought for African American civil rights but his endeavors were not lasting enough to offset the foundation of the Ku Klux Klan, which violently enforced segregation and subjugation. It was with 700,000 Southern African American voters that Grant won the election; but, fast forward a short time into the future and African American civil rights would again be suppressed – including the right to vote. (pg. 278)
    1. Lesson: Americans allowed slavery to endure for a lengthy period of our history and when it was ended there was hope of a new equality, but we failed to protect those who were vulnerable and ensure that might didn’t make right…it was our inaction that allowed subjugation of our fellow members of humanity to continue on.
    2. Question: What other sorts of racism surfaced later in American history? Have we seen any recently? (Hint: Look for riots not just in Southern states but Northern as well – I’m looking at you, New Jersey, for one)
  5. There is something to be learned from Ulysses S. Grant whom Felzenberg notes as the only president “to apologize in his farewell message for his personal and policy failings.” (pg. 285)
    1. Lesson: It requires a deeper dive into U.S. Grant’s personality and circumstances to determine whether this apology came from a healthy place and whether it is something to be imitated by others. At first glance, though, we behold a refreshing humility for one of our elected leaders – the ability to admit one’s own incompetence.
    2. Question: What other American leaders have apologized for their actions? What is true about the character of these individuals as opposed to those who refused to apologize or did so in a belittling manner? (Hint: John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan may be a good start)
  6. Under Franklin D. Roosevelt America placed into concentration camps (and thereby abandoned the constitutional rights of) 120,000 Japanese Americans (60%+ were American citizens). (pg. 314)
    1. Lesson: Even if our cause is right we are capable of making grave mistakes that permanently and negatively affect the lives of others.
    2. Question: Have we placed other individuals into concentration camps or otherwise significantly curtailed their liberties? (Hint: Look into the historical treatment of the mentally ill and of those who were ill with HIV/AIDS)
  7. John F. Kennedy, in some ways an astute and successful leader in foreign affairs badly bungled the American-backed invasion of Cuba (pg. 355), and his numerous dalliances with the opposite gender could have been disastrous for national security. (pg. 356).
    1. Lesson: As we consider who will be most careful with our national security it is important to remember that heroes of the past had their great weaknesses as well.
    2. Question: How was John F. Kennedy’s health while in office? (Hint: Look into the consequences of his wartime injuries [WWII] and how this was handled and hidden during his time in office)

What historical books have you read? What lessons have you learned from specific historical events? What questions have historical events raised for you?

  1. [1]Not that I am suggesting we should stop fighting for freedom of speech or be aghast at attempts to deny it, only that in historical context our doomsday predictions are usually not fulfilled.
  2. [2]Some balk at the idea of the United States mistreating Native Americans, insisting this was brought on by their own misbehavior. Even if we were to grant this premise, we would still have committed many acts of atrocious violence against Native American civilians. Sixty thousand Native Americans died traveling the Trail of Tears! (pg. 263) It may also be worth noting that this horrific behavior was opposed by individuals such as American hero, Davy Crockett. (pg. 264)

My Haul: A Short Reading List.

An Estate Sale

Today I went to an Estate Sale in Mendham, NJ. The house was set back from the street, which was a sometimes one-lane road in the middle of the countryside. It was quite beautiful…and the most beautiful part where the thousands of books lining its walls.

The former resident of the house was obviously a lover of classic/contemporary literature, arts, history, and biography. I spent a solid two hours searching the shelves and finally exited with nineteen.

I know, that is a lot of books – but when there are several hundred you want to buy and you leave with less than two dozen, one feels a certain sense of accomplishment.

So here is my haul…Perhaps it will make a fun reading list for someone who shares my interests.

Photo of Bookshelf with Lots of Old Books
Image thanks to Unsplash.

Why I Chose What I Chose

Feel free to jump down to the list itself, but for those who care (anyone?) I’d like to share the reasoning behind my choices.

  1. I focused primarily on historical and biographical books because:
    1. I don’t read much contemporary fiction.
    2. When I read classical fiction I usually use an e-text and turn it into an e-book.
    3. I consider myself too much a beginner in the arts to be able to understand much of what is said in these fields and would rather focus on learning more of the basics.
  2. I chose almost exclusively books that the former owner had read in their entirety (which was obvious by the hand-written notes, underlines, and bookmarks sprinkled throughout).
  3. My primary interests in reading are to (a) understand God and (b) understand humanity. The library was sparse in the former, so I focused on the latter.
  4. Most of these books are historical or biographical, but the way in which I read them remains constant with my primary interests:
    1. Who is God? How do we relate to Him?
    2. Who is Man and Woman? How do we relate to each other?

 

The Selections

Revolutionary War Era

World War II

Other

 

  1. [1]When we record history, we interpret it. We are not objective observers. With humility we acknowledge this and attempt to be self-reflective as we write…but sometimes the reader discovers the author has in fact (or just seems to) slipped into various biases which color the facts unnecessarily.

Blinkist: Staying Current in a Break-Neck World

Overview of Blinkist

I’ve been using Blinkist for well over a year now and am quite happy with it. There are free accounts (one Blink available to read each day selected by Blinkist) but I’m a paying subscriber ($4.16/mo.), I’m a little tempted to go Premium ($6.66/mo.) just to gain the ability to export my highlights to Evernote,[1] but for now, I’m being good.

Photo of Book, Glasses, and Phone
Image thanks to Dariusz Sankowski

What Blinkist does is summarize important non-fiction books which generally take 10-20 mins. to read. It allows one to be familiar with the book without investing hours into it.

I also use it to figure out which books I really want to read. It is great to read a brief summary and quickly see whether a full reading will be productive.

Blinkist is accessible on smartphone, tablet, and via desktops/laptops. I tend to read most frequently on my smartphone.

Guide to This Post

You’ve already made it through a quick overview of Blinkist, but there is still a lot of material I’ll be covering, so here is a quick guide to what follows so you can jump around if you so desire:

  1. Blinkist Features I Love
  2. Small Things I’d Like to See in Blinkist – This main consists of inconsistencies in their user interface – features aren’t available on mobile that are on full web, and vice versa.
  3. Big Things I’d Like to See in Blinkist – I have three specific features I’d like to see in Blinkist to make it more useful.
  4. Blinks I’ve Read That Convinced Me I Should Read the Book
  5. Books I Don’t Feel the Need to Read After Reading Blinks
  6. Blinks I’m Currently Reading
  7. Blinks I’m Most Eager to Read

Blinkist Features I Love

  • Favoriting – If you like a Blink you can favorite it. I use this to keep a list of books I want to buy / read in full.
  • Highlighting – I love being able to highlight portions. I actually have OCD and my highlighting is more than a bit compulsive, but I’m still happy to have the feature.
  • Introductions – Provide a brief introduction to the book, oftentimes highlighting the books major topics, and usually including a small bio of the author.
  • Final Summaries – Sums up the main point(s) of the book, recommends a related book to read.

Small Things I’d Like to See in Blinkist

  • The ability to take notes like one can on the Amazon Kindle.
  • Consistent features across devices, e.g.
    • Web App Lacks:
      • Ability to add to one’s To Read list.
      • Ability to add tags to a blink.
      • Ability to add Blink to favorites.
      • Ability to delete book from Currently Reading.
      • Ability to listen to audio.
    • Mobile App Lacks
      • Ability to add via the wish list items for Blinkist to create Blinks of.
      • Ability to buy book from currently reading list.
      • Finished List of Blinks completed.
    •  from the web app.
  • The introductory material (especially the blurb about the author), quotes, and heading sentences for each “page” to be highlightable.
  • When highlighting on the mobile app, sometimes the arrows allowing one to expand or contract the selection never appear (I find this inconsistently happens when selected the first [or last?] word in a line).

Big Things I’d Like to See in Blinkist

There are several rather large changes I’d like to see Blinkist bring about. All three have to do with making the Blinks more productive and useful.

First, there is the need for page references. Right now one knows the Blink is about the book, but not the particular pages or even chapters being referred to. Ideally, there should be chapter and/or page references for all the major points the Blink summarizes so one can pick up the actual book and quickly read the specific section one wants to read more deeply, rather than needing to browse the entire book.

Second, it would be great if there were quotes from the book summarizing each of the major points the book makes. These could be footnotes included in the Blink. They’d allow us to read controversial viewpoints in the author’s own words.

Finally, it would be great to be given resources to see what the critics of the book say. For example, Noam Chomsky criticizes American Foreign Policy in Rogue States, but how would his opponents rebut his arguments?

Another, even more important example is those books dealing with health and psychology. Authors make statements but it is unclear their sources or whether this is the author’s own opinion of scientific consensus.

Blinks I’ve Read That Convinced Me I Should Read the Book

  • (3) Jennifer Kahnweiler. The Introverted Leader.
  • (1) Dr. Eric Berne. Games People Play.
  • (3) William James. The Varieties of Religious Experience.
  • (5) Dr. David Perlmutter. Grain Brain.
  • (5) Dr. William E. Paul.
  • (4) Noam Chomsky. Rogue States.
  • (4) Leonard Mlodinow. Subliminal.
  • (5) Atif Mian and Amir Sufi. House of Debt.
  • (5) Giula Enders. Gut.
  • (4) Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. The Power of Myth.
  • (3) C.L.R. James. The Black Jacobins.
  • (2) Stephen R. Covey. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
  • (4) Tim Spector. The Diet Myth.
  • (3) Roy F. Baumeister and John Tiernye. Willpower.
  • (4) Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson. Why Nations Fail.
  • (3) Susan Cain. Quiet.

Books I Don’t Feel the Need to Read After Reading Blinks

  • Dr. David Perlmutter with Kristin Loberg. Brain Maker.
  • Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull. The Peter Principle.
  • James Rickards. The Death of Money.
  • Carl Zimmer. A Planet of Viruses.
  • Michael Alvear. Make a Killing on Kindle.
  • Timothy Snyder. Bloodlands.
  • Tim Ferris. The 4-Hour Workweek.
  • Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. What’s Mine Is Yours.
  • Walter Isaacson. Einstein.
  • Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller. Attached.
  • Margaret Cheney. Tesla.
  • Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold. Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming.
  • Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter. Triggers.
  • Jon Ronson. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.
  • Alex Epstein. The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.
  • Christopher Hitchens. The Trial of Henry Kissinger.
  • Christopher Clark. The Sleepwalkers.
  • Chris Brogan. The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth.
  • John Lanchester. I.O.U.
  • Benjamin Graham and comments by… The Intelligent Investor.
  • Philip Zimbardo. The Lucifer Effect.
  • Gary Taubes. Why We Get Fat.
  • Suki Kim. Without You There Is No Us.
  • Thomas Paine. Common Sense.
  • Edward W. Said. Orientalism.
  • Phillip Coggan. Paper Promises.
  • Edward D. Kleinbard. We Are Better Than This.
  • Kevin Roose. Young Money.
  • Ha-Joon Chang. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism.
  • Kabir Sehgal. Coined.
  • Ha-Joon Change. Economics: The User’s Guide.
  • Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky. How Much is Enough?
  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto.
  • Eric D. Beinhocker. The Origin of Wealth.
  • Karl Pillemer. 30 Lessons for Loving.
  • Niall Ferguson. The Ascent of Money.
  • Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. Sex at Dawn.
  • Masha Gessen. The Man Without a Face.
  • Niccolo Machiavelli. The Prince.

Blinks I’m Currently Reading

  • Stephanie Coontz. Marriage, a History.
  • Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo. Poor Economics.
  • Ha-Joon Chang. Kicking Away the Ladder.
  • Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener. The Upside of Your Dark Side.
  • Karen Piper. The Price of Thirst.
  • Jeffrey A. Leberman, Ogi Ogas. Shrinks.
  • Steven Pinker. The Better Angels of Our Nature.
  • Adam Braun. The Promise of a Pencil.
  • Seth Godin. Tribes.
  • Lawrence Lessig. Free Culture.

Blinks I Am Most Eager to Read

  • Tom Rath. StrengthsFinder 2.0.
  • David Richo. Daring to Trust.
  • Oliver Sacks. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales.
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin. Team of Rivals.
  • Mark Goulston. Talking to Crazy.
  • Donella H. Meadows. Thinking in Systems.
  • Dr. Richard Bandler, Alessio Roberti and… The Ultimate Introduction to NLP.
  • Noam Chomsky. Failed States.
  • Jeremy Rifkin. The Zero Marginal Cost Society.
  • Ori Brafman. Sway.
  • Walter Mischel. The Marshmallow Test.
  • Helen Fisher. Why We Love.
  • Robert Karen. Becoming Attached.
  • Brene Brown. Rising Strong.
  • Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon. A General Theory of Love.
  • Ray Kurzweil. The Singularity Is Near.
  • Josh Kaufman. The Personal MBA.
  • Richard Koch. Living the 80/20 Way.
  • Brian Tracy. Eat That Frog!
  • Donna Jackson Nakazawa. Childhood Disrupted.
  • Laura Putnam. Workplace Wellness That Works.
  • Patrick M. Lencioni. The Advantage.
  • Ron Friedman. The Best Place to Work.
  • Daniel Goleman. Emotional Intelligence.
  • Dr. Frank Luntz. Words That Work.

I Make Money

I try to write only was is worth reading and to only recommend products I believe in,still I figure you deserve to know that I will get paid if you sign up for Blinkist through one of the links on this page.

  1. [1]Honestly, I have a love/hate relationship with Evernote. I wish there was something else that worked better than it did, but I haven’t found it. Microsoft OneNote seems significantly clunkier.

Vyrso: My Selection of On Sale Books.

Book Cover of Ed Dobson's Seeing Through the FogVyrso is part of Faithlife, formerly known as Logos Bible Software. It provides e-books focused on general rather than professional/academic audiences. I occasionally browse the site to see if there are any deals worth taking advantage of and I found a few this time around I thought I’d share with you:

  • Ed Underwood. Reborn to Be Wild: Reviving Our Radical Pursuit of Jesus. David C. Cook. $0.99.
    • I don’t know anything about Underwood, but this line from Vyrso caught my eye, “A long-time pastor ponders why the Jesus Movement stopped moving …” This parallels my more general interest in what exactly happened to the hippies…
  • J.I. Packer, Paul Helm, Bruce Ware, Roger Olson, John Sanders. Perspectives on the Doctrine of God. B&H. $2.99.
    • I love these books that provide multiple views on a subject. Some really great authors attached to this particular volume. A number of other volumes are on sale in this series for a similar price, this is the one that most interested me.
  • Ed Dobson. Seeing Through the Fog: Hope When Your World Falls Apart. David C. Cook. $1.99.
    • Dobson recently passed away after a ten year battle with a debilitating and progressively worsening illness.
  • John C. Thomas and Lisa Sosin. Therapeutic Expedition: Equipping the Christian Counselor for the Journey. $2.99.
    • I’m not familiar with Thomas or Sosin, but their extensive experience and the practical nature of the book attracted my attention.
  • William Yount. Created to Learn: A Christian Teacher’s Introduction to Educational Psychology, 2nd edition. B&H. $0.99.




A List of Lists of Books Recommended by Famous (and Somewhat Famous) People

Introduction

A Photo of a Stack of Books
This image was generously licensed under the Creative Commons by Alexandre Dulaunoy.

In 2011 I wrote a list of lists of books and it has remained a perennial favorite till the present. I figured it was time to revisit the list. The revamped list has expanded far beyond the original and as such needs to be broken down into sections. This section consists of lists of books recommended by famous (or semi-famous) individuals.

If you know of other recommended reading lists written by the famous, let me know and I just may add them to this article and give you a little hat tip (HT).
Thanks to Margaret Mackey for assisting with the research for this post.
This is the first in a series of lists of lists. Follow the blog to receive updates as each new post is released. You can follow the blog by entering your email on the left or by liking the Facebook page or by following the Twitter account. Or by my favorite method, subscribing to the RSS feed.

Osama Bin Laden

36 Books: Brian Ries. Here Are the Books Osama Bin Laden Was Reading. Mashable, May 20, 2015.

Bin Laden was a serious reader – of serious literature. Check out this fascinating list that includes titles such as Checking Iran’s Nuclear AmbitionsChristianity and Islam in Spain 756-1031 A.D., Handbook of International Law, and Obama’s Wars. It seems Bin Laden took seriously the adage to know one’s enemy.

David Bowie

75 Books: Maria Popova. David Bowie’s Formative Reading List of 75 Favorite Books. Brain Pickings, Nov. 3, 2013.

All but two of Bowie’s recommended books were published during his lifetime, and the two that weren’t were published within 2 years of his birth.  They span a wide variety of topics, from poetry to fiction to history.

Stewart Brand

76 Books: Maria Popova. Stewart Brand’s Reading List: 76 Books to Sustain and Rebuild Humanity. Brain Pickings, March 7, 2014.

American author, co-founder of Long Now and editor of The Whole Earth catalog, gives us his list of must-read books.

Carl Sagan

 10 Books: Maria Popova. Carl Sagan’s Reading List. Brain Pickings, July 11, 2012.

A small sample of Carl Sagan’s reading list.

Brian Eno

20 Books: Maria Popova. Brian Eno’s Reading List. Brain Pickings, March 3, 2014.

Wikipedia says he is a musician, composer, record producer, singer, visual artist, and one of the principal innovators of ambient music.

Clifton Fadiman (and John S. Major)

133 Books: Clifton Fadiman and John S. Major. The New Lifetime Reading Plan, 4th ed, Interleaves, 1997.

American intellectual, author, editor and radio and television personality Clifton Fadiman gives us his “lifetime reading plan.” The original was authored solely by Clifton, but this later edition was co-written with John S. Major.

Joel Gascoigne

50 Books: Joel Gascoigne. 50 Books That Transformed My Business and Life. Entrepreneur, March 13, 2015.

Co-founder and CEO at Buffer.

Bill Gates

6 Books: Viktor Reklaitis. 6 Books Bill Gates Says You Should Read. MarketWatch, October 30, 2014.

Includes a book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, surprising, not Teams of Rivals.

190+ Books: Bill Gates. Book Reviews. Gates Notes, ongoing.

These aren’t necessarily Bill Gates favorite books, but they are books he has reviewed on his blog. This is an ongoing blog series by him, so the number will grow.

Sam Harris

12 Books: Maria Popova. Neuroscientist Sam Harris Selects 12 Books Everyone Should Read. Brain Pickings, July 21, 2015.

Sam Harris is a neuroscientist also known for his vocal atheism.

Will Hatton

45 Books: Will Hatton. The Forty-Five Best Books To Read On The Road. Matador Network, June 19, 2015.

Will Hatton has compiled an excellent list of captivating stories of travelers far and wide – stories guaranteed to captivate and inspire you.

Mark Manson

7 Books: Mark Manson. Mark Manson’s 7 Books That Will Change How You See the World. April 2, 2015.

Manson is an author and blogger. Really great list that includes a summary of each work but Manson is heavy on the profane language.

Barack Obama

6 Books: Brittany Levine Beckman. Barack Obama’s Summer Reading List. Mashable, Aug. 14, 2015.

Leo Tolstoy

45+ Books: Maria Popova. Leo Tolstoy’s Reading List. Brain Pickings, Sept. 30, 2014.

Tolstoy himself penned this list of recommended reading.  He divided his recommendations into age groups, from childhood to age 63,  and then further subdivided the list into books recommended as “great”, “very great”, and “enormous.”

Alan Turing

5 Books: Maria Popova. Alan Turing’s Reading List. Brain Pickings, March 12, 2012.

16 Books: John Graham Cumming. Alan Turing’s Reading List (with readable links). Feb. 2012.

Alan Turing was a British pioneering computer scientist, mathematician, logician, crypt-analyst and theoretical biologist.  This is a list of the books he borrowed from his school library.

Both of these posts reference the same list. Unfortunately I have been unable to find the original list by Alex Bellos. I suppose I could take a jaunt over to The Wayback Machine.

Neil deGrasse Tyson

8 Books: Maria Popova. Neil deGrasse Tyson Selects the Eight Books Every Intelligent Person on the Planet Should Read.  Brain Pickings, Dec. 29, 2014.

A fairly standard list of books – The Bible, Newton’s The System of the World, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, and so on.

Logos Offering 24 Free Books for Theological Studies

I just want to throw this out there, Logos is doing an advent giveaway in which they are giving away twenty-four different biblical resources that can be utilized in their Logos software.A drawing of books standing next to each other

You don’t have Logos? Good news, you can get the base install for free.

You don’t have to worry about having missed any of the free volumes either, each volume is unveiled on a separate day but the past volumes are also available (till the end of advent).

Note: Logos focuses on academic resources, I wouldn’t recommend these books to those beginning biblical studies (whether as a lay person or academically) with the exception of the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary.

Thus far the selection has included:

  • Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews – Based on the New Living Translation. This is a good commentary to have.
  • N.T. Wright’s Scripture and the Authority of God. – Wright is one of the most controversial and well-known contemporary theologians.
  • Calvin’s Calvinism (2 Volumes) – John Calvin was one of the most famous theologians of the Protestant Reformation and his thought has been integral to much of present-day theology.
  • Tabletalk Magazine Bundle: Christian History (11 Issues) – Covers the second to twelfth centuries of Christian history.

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s offers will be!

P.S. There are also a few other books Logos offers for free. Of these I’d most highly recommend :

  • Faithlife Study Bible – A constantly growing digital study bible. A great resource, fairly friendly for any reader.
  • Lexham Bible Dictionary – An awesome, constantly growing dictionary of the Bible. You don’t need to throw away those old, old print dictionaries you may have, but refer to the Lexham Bible Dictionary first to ensure you are learning about the latest studies. I find developments in understanding the Greek language and archaeological studies especially fascinating!
  • Crucial Questions Series (20 Volumes) by R.C. Sproul – I haven’t read these volumes myself, but Sproul has a solid reputation. His thought is from the Reformed school, which means an emphasis on predestination over free-will.
  • The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition – The Society for Biblical Languages (SBL) is well-known for its quality resources. If you want to read the New Testament in Greek, this can be a great Greek version to read.

50 Psychology Classics

I just finished Tom Butler-Bowdon’s 50 Psychology Classics which summarizes fifty of the most important books written on psychology.

Tom is an amazing guy who has written multiple books along these lines including similar volumes on Self-Help, Success, Spiritual, Prosperity, and Politics Classics.

In addition, Tom makes many of the summaries from his various books available on his website. I’ll be linking out to a few below.

Front Cover of 50 Psychology ClassicsI love these books because they provide a great way to get an overview of the literature. It isn’t meant to be the end, rather it is a beginning. A place to become familiar with the “big ideas” and determine which ideas one really needs to dive into more deeply.

Here are the volumes I found most interesting in this book. I’ve marked those which I really want to read with an *.

  1. Understanding Human Nature by Alfred Adler.
  2. Games People Play by Eric Berne.*
  3. The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine.
  4. Feeling Good by David Burns.* (I’ve already read this one, see OCD Dave for my summary of its contents).
  5. A Guide to Rational Living by Albert Ellis & Robert A. Harper.
  6. My Voice Will Go With You: The Teaching Tales of Milton Erickson by Sidney Rosen.*
  7. Young Man Luther by Erik Erikson.
  8. The Will to Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
  9. Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman.
  10. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman.* (I’ve read this one as well)
  11. I’m OK–You’re OK by Thomas A. Harris.
  12. The True Believer by Eric Hoffer.
  13. The Farther Reaches of Human Nature by Abraham Maslow.*
  14. Brainsex by Anne Moir and David Jessel.*
  15. Gestalt Therapy by Fritz Perls.
  16. On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers.
  17. Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman.
  18. Beyond Freedom and Dignity by B.F. Skinner.
  19. Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen.*
  20. Darkness Visible by William Styron.* (I’ve read this one as well)
  21. The Origin of Everyday Moods by Robert E. Thayer.

Note: I did not select the most important works out of those listen in Tom’s book, rather I chose those that interested me. There were a number that would probably be considered more fundamental than some of those listed above but with which I either lack interest or else I am already familiar through other sources with.

At the end of the book Tom offers a concise list of fifty more classics, of those I am most interested in:

Man, Myth & Magic Volume 1

Perambulations

When I first venture into a new library I like to peruse the shelves and just get a feel for where everything is and what gems lie in wait for me.

Recently I visited the Mary Jacobs Library in Rocky Hill, NJ. During my perambulations[1] through their facilities I stumbled across the ten volume encyclopedia Man, Myth & Magic.

Editions

John William Waterhouse's Magic Circle (Dec. 31, 1885).
John William Waterhouse’s Magic Circle (Dec. 31, 1885).

Originally published as a series of periodicals in 1970 it was compiled into an encyclopedia in 1983 and 1985 and had further revisions in 1995 and 1997. It is to this most recent edition I refer (unfortunately, there has not been any further updates to this series).

Quality

I wasn’t sure what to expect, volumes of this sort tend to vary widely in quality. Some are reliable, academic works while others are unsubstantiated ramblings. This volume falls more in the former than latter.

Contributors

Its contributors are widely varied and a fascinating lot in and of themselves. A few names I recognized:

  • Roland H. Bainton – Professor of Ecclesiastical History (Yale); author.
  • F.F. Bruce – Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis (Manchester); author.
  • William Sargant – physician in charge of the Department of Psychological Medicine, St. Thomas’ Hospital; author.
  • M.C. Tenney – Professor of Theology (Wheaton); author.

There are brief summaries regarding each author and editor in the book which I found delightful to read in and of themselves.

Bibliography

This first volume contains a bibliography-to-die-for covering the subject material of all ten volumes. A few volumes that stuck out to me at first glance as being potentially fascinating:[2]

  • E.M. Butler’s Ritual Magic (Cambridge University Press).
  • Joan Evans’ Magical Jewels of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Particularly in England (Gale).
  • C.G. Jung’s Psychology and Alchemy (Princeton University Press).
  • J. Read’s Prelude to Chemistry: An outline of Alchemy (MIT Press).
  • J.C. Baroja’s The World of Witches (University of Chicago Press).
  • H.C. Lea’s Materials Towards a History of Witchcraft (AMS Press).
  • Margaret A. Murray’s The God of the Witches (Oxford University Press).
  • Montague Summers’ History of Witchcraft and Demonology (Routledge & Kegan Paul).
  • H.R. Trevor-Roper’s The European Witch-Craze in the 16th and 17th Centuries (Peregrine).
  • Paul Boyer and Stephen Nisssenbaum’s Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (Harvard University Press).
  • John Demos’ Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Early Culture of New England (Oxford).
  • R.E.L. Masters’ Eros and Evil: the Sexual Psychopathology of Witchcraft (Penguin).
  • Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudon (Harper & Row).[3]
  • St. Elmo Nauman’s Exorcism Through the Ages (Philosophical Library).
  • Paul Carus’ History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil (Open Court).
  • Richard Emmerson’s Antichrist in the Middle Ages (University of Washington Press).
  • F.R. Johnson’s Witches & Demons in History and Folklore (Johnson N.C.).
  • Jeffrey Russell’s Lucifer: the Devil in the Middle Ages (Cornell).
  • Jeffrey Russell’s Satan: the Early Christian Tradition (Cornell).
  • William Howard Woods’ History of the Devil (Putnam).
  • Reginald Thompson’s The Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia (AMS Press).
  • A.L. Herman’s The Problem of Evil and Indian Thought (Orient Bk. Dist.).
  • Wendy O’Flaherty’s The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology (University of California Press).
  • Richard Stivers’ Evil in Modern Myth and Ritual (University of Georgia Press).
  • K. Amis’ New Maps of Hell (Arno).
  • R. Cavendish’s Visions of Heaven & Hell (Harmony/Crown).
  • Kaufman Kohler’s Heaven and Hell in Comparative Religion (Folcroft).
  • Jacques Le Goff’s The Birth of Purgatory (Chicago University Press).
  • John Macculluch’s The Harrowing of Hell: a Comparative Study of an Early Christian Doctrine (AMS Press).
  • Bernard McGinn’s Visions of the End: Apocalyptic Traditions in the Middle Ages (Columbia University Press).
  • James Mew’s Traditional Aspects of Hell (Gale).
  • D.L. Sayers’ Hell, Purgatory (Penguin).
  • H.B. Swete’s The Apocalypse in the Ancient Church (Macmillan).
  • Daniel P. Walker’s Decline of Hell: Seventeenth Century Discussions of Eternal Torment (University of Chicago Press).
  • David Aune’s Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World (Eerdmans).
  • A. Guillaume’s Prophecy and Divination among the Hebrews and Semites (Harper & Row).
  • E. Howe’s Astrology: The Story of its Role in World War II (Walker).
  • Wilhelm Wulff’s Zodiac and the Swatsika: How Astrology Guided Hitler’s Germany (Arthur Barker).
  • C.G. Jung and R. Wilhelm’s The Secret of the Golden Flower (Harcourt, Brace and World).
  • Carl Jung’s Synchronicity: an Acausal Connecting Principle (Routledge & Kegan Paul).[4]
  • F. Altheim’s A History of Roman Religion (Dutton).
  • Henri Frankfort’s Ancient Egyptian Religion (Harper & Row).
  • W.K.C. Guthrie’s The Greeks and their Gods (Beacon Press).
  • Georgia Pesek-Marous’ The Bull: A Religious and Secular History of Phallus Worship and Male Homosexuality (Tau Press).
  • L. Spence’s Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt (Harrap).
  • George W. Cox’s Mythology of the Aryan Nations (Kennikat).
  • E.A.W. Budge’s The Book of the Dead (Universal Books Company).
  • J.G. Griffiths’ The Origins of Osiris (Argonaut).
  • E.O. James’ The Cult of the Mother Goddess (Praeger).
  • H. Licht’s Sexual Life in Ancient Greece (Greenwood).
  • S.G.F. Brandon’s Creation Legends of the Ancient Near East (Verry).
  • S. Langdon’s The Babylonian Epic of Creation (Clarendon Press).
  • Joan O’Brien and Wilfred Major’s In the Beginning: Creation Myths from Ancient Mesopotamia, Israel, and Greece (Scholars Press).
  • Edward Westermarck’s A Short History of Marriage (Humanities).
  • Philippe Aries’ Western Attitudes Towards Death: from the Middle Ages to the Present (Johns Hopkins).
  • S.G.F. Brandon’s The Judgment of the Dead (Scribner).
  • John Hick’s Death and Eternal Life (Harper & Row).
  • J.M. Clark’s The Dance of Death in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (Jackson).
  • L.P. Kurtz’s The Dance of Death and the Macabre Spirit in European Literature (Gordon Press).
  • Peter Armour’s The Door of Purgatory: a Study of Multiple Symbolism in Dante’s Purgatorio (Oxford University Press).
  • E.G. Gardner’s Dante and the Mystics: a Study of the Mystical Aspect of the Divina Commedia (Haskell).
  • R.D. Gray’s Goethe the Alchemist (AMS Press).
  • David Bindman’s William Blake: His Art and Times (Thames & Hudson).
  • Ronald Grimes’ The Divine Imagination: William Blake’s Major Prophetic Visions (Scarecrow).
  • Richard Carlisle’s (editor) The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mankind (Marshall Cavendish).
  • R. Cavendish’s King Arthur and the Grail: The Arthurian Legends and Their Meaning (Taplinger).
  • Sabine Baring-Gould’s Curious Myths of the Middle Ages (Oxford University Press).
  • K.M. Briggs’ An Encyclopedia of Faeries (Pantheon).
  • Basil Cooper’s The Vampire: in Legend, Fact, and Art (Robert Hale).
  • Basil Cooper’s The Werewolf: in Legend, Fact, and Art (Robert Hale).
  • Paul Newman’s The Hill of the Dragon: an Enquiry into the Nature of Dragon Legends (Rowman).
  • W.F. Albright’s Yahweh and the Gods of Creation (Eisenbrauns).
  • Alexander Heidel’s Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels (University of Chicago Press).
  • Donald Leslie’s The Survival of the Chinese Jews (Humanities).
  • James H. Lord’s The Jews in India and the Far East (Greenwood).
  • D.S. Bailey’s The Sexual Relation in Christian Thought (Harper & Row).
  • Lawrence Besserman’s The Legend of Job in the Middle Ages (Harvard University Press).
  • James Gaffney’s Sin Reconsidered (Paulist Press).
  • A.D. Nock’s Early Gentile Christianity and its Hellenistic Background (Harper & Row).
  • J.A. Phillips’ Eve: The History of an Idea (Harper & Row).
  • Norman Powell-Williams’ The Ideas of the Fall and of Original Sin (Longmans).
  • Bruce Vawter’s Job and Jonah: Questioning the Hidden God (Paulist Press).
  • I. Engnell’s Studies in Divine Kingship in the Ancient Near East (Allenson).
  • Heinrich Dumoulin’s A History of Zen Buddhism (Pantheon Books).
  • Mary Boyce’s (editor) Zoroastrianism (Barnes & Nobles Imports).
  • M. Anesaki’s History of Japanese Religion (Tuttle).
  • C.H. Gordon’s Ugaritic Literature (Argonaut).
  • M.P. Nilsson’s History of Greek Religion (Greenwood).
  • H.J. Rose’s Ancient Roman Relgiion (Hutchinson).
  • T.C. Allen’s The Egyptian Book of the Dead (Chicago University Press).
  • J.H. Breasted’s Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt (Peter Smith).
  • E.A.W. Budge’s Egyptian Heaven and Hell (Open Court).
  • J.C. Gibson’s Canaanite Myths & Legends (Attic Press).
  • Brian Branston’s Gods and Heroes from Viking Mythology (Schocken).
  • E.O. James’ The Ancient Gods (Putnam).
  • Gilbert Murray’s A History of Ancient Greek Literature (Folcroft).
  • Slater Brown’s The Heyday of Spiritualism (Hawthorn).
  • C.E. Hansel’s ESP & Parapsychology: A Critical Re-evaluation (Prometheus Books).
  • F. Pdomore’s Modern Spiritualism (E.J. Dingwall).
  • Morton Kelsey’s God, Dreams and Revelation: a Christian Interpretation of Dreams (Augsburg).
  • Leo Oppenheim’s The Interpretation of Dreams in the Ancient Near East (American Philosophical Society).
  • F. Fordham’s An Introduction to Jung’s Psychology (Gannon).
  • Erich Fromm’s The Greatness and Limitations of Freud’s Thought (Harper & Row).
  • E.J. Dingwall’s (editor) Abnormal Hypnotic Phenomena: a Survey of Nineteenth Century Cases (Barnes & Noble).
  • Stefan Zweig’s Mental Healers: Franz Anton Mesmer, Mary Baker Eddy, Sigmund Freud (Ungar).
  • Shane Leslie’s St. Patrick’s Purgatory (Burns and Oates).
  • J. Ancelet-Hustache’s Master Eckhart and the Rhineland Mystics (Harper & Row).
  • Edmund Beaman’s Swedenborg and the New Age (AMS Press).
  • Robert L. Moore’s (editor) Carl Jung and Christian Spirituality (Paulist Press).
  • F. Neilson’s Teilhard de Chardin’s Vision of the Future (Revisionist Press).
  • David Bakan’s Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition (Schocken Books).
  • Ernest Bates and J.V. Dittermore’s Mary Baker Eddy: The Truth and the Tradition (Halsted Press).
  • Lawrence Foster’s Religion and Sexuality: Three American Communal Experiments of the Nineteenth Century (Oxford University Press).
  • Handbook of the Oneida Community (AMS Press).
  • H. Henson’s Oxford Group Movement.
  • Tom Driberg’s The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament (Knopf).
  • George R. Scott’s The History of Corporal Punishment: a Survey of Flagellation in its Historical, Anthropological and Sociological Aspects (Gale).
  • George H. Williams’ The Radical Reformation (Westminster Press).
  • Lynn Dumenil’s Freemasonry and American Culture, 1880-1930 (Princeton University Press).

Interesting Articles

Of the articles contained in this first volume I find the following particularly interesting:

  • Aberdeen Witches – Witches in Scotland, what is myth, what is fact, executions.
  • Agrippa – Involved in the occult.
  • Ahriman – The evil god of Zoroastrianism.
  • Aix-En-Provence Nuns – A group of nuns in the 17th century allegedly possessed by demons.
  • Alchemy – Attempts to turn base metals into gold and to perfect the individual.
  • Alexander the Great – The facts and the legend.
  • Angels – From Jewish and Christian belief.
  • Animals – All about their relationships with the spiritual – e.g., those that are sacred.
  • St. Anthony – Experienced apparent demonic attacks.
  • Aphrodite – Greek Goddess of love.
  • Apollo – Greek god, the oracle at Delphi was his.
  • Apple – It’s religious meaning goes far beyond Jewish/Christian thought.
  • Arthur: The Once and Future King – You know, King Arthur.
  • Asmodeus – A demon found in the book of Tobit.
  • Astarte – Queen of Heaven, regularly led Jews away from Yahweh, also known as Ishtar and Aphrodite.
  • Astrology – Predicting the future from the sky.

Grumblings

Overall I was happy with the Encyclopedia, but let me note two areas of disgruntlement.

The more minor involves the section on Astrology, which while decently long was still fairly confusing as far as how the system worked. I could have spent more time in it figuring it out, but I wasn’t that interested.

The more major one is the tendency of some secular historians to recast religious beliefs from their own perspective. I can’t remember where, but at least once (it may have been in angels) I noticed a significant disconnect from what those who practice Christianity would say about a belief and how it was presented.

This sort of playing loose and reinterpreting religious beliefs in a way that is outside what the practitioners of that religion would state as their belief is disconcerting. I don’t mind if it is done with a disclaimer and an explanation of how those within the religion would have viewed the matter, but when the external view is imposed without disclaimer it raises concerns for me – namely, how can I trust that you (the author) are providing me with a real account of other religions? If you cannot represent the beliefs of a major, well-known religion accurately, how do I know you have not misrepresented other, lesser-known religions?

This is a major concern – but it is something found in so many books that I can’t write the volume off for this reason alone – I simply take the article with a grain of salt…kind of like Wikipedia.

This trend seems to be most pronounced among scholarly authors (who, imho, sometimes get too big for their britches) but, thankfully, it appears to be a declining trend (from my subjective experience) – that is, academia seems more inclined to write objectively than it did for much of the 20th century when at least some authors felt the need to reinterpret instead of report.[5]

  1. [1]Yes, I used that word just because it was fun to do so. :P
  2. [2]Okay, I wrote this out largely for my own benefit…in case one day I think, “I really wish I could remember the name of that book on x I thought would be interesting to read.”
  3. [3]Okay, I’m just a sucker for Aldous Huxley.
  4. [4]If you haven’t noticed, Jung fascinates me.
  5. [5]Again, I have no issues with reinterpretation, I am interested in postmodern thought, etc., I only complain when the interpretation given is stated as if it where the de facto interpretation and thus the belief is significantly misrepresented.

Uppity Women of Medieval Times (Book Review)

Vicki Leon wrote a very enjoyable and informative book labeled humorously Uppity Women of Medieval Times. The book contains brief biographies of perhaps several hundred women from Medieval Times who achieved renown for all sorts of positive and negative reasons.

The tone of Leon’s book is well captured in this brief quote from the introduction:

Anna Maria van Schurman
A portrait of Anna Maria van Schurman by Jan Lievens.

“Life was especially hard on wives, even if you were the lady of the manor. There were no hardware stores and no football games, so husbands tended to be underfoot a great deal. Therefore, when women caught wind of the Crusades idea, they wholeheartedly supported it. ‘Okay, you’ll be gone what, a couple years? Make sure you rake the leaves and take out the garbage before you leave.'” (pg. xi)

Books like this are excellent for throwing our ideas of the way the world does and/or has operated into disarray. I love them because they force me to think about things in new ways – to be challenged as the oversimplifications of life are re-complicated before my eyes.

A few interesting women from this book:

  • Chiyome (Japan) – “around 1560 started her own rent-a-ninja business, training girls to become kuniochi or ‘deadly flowers,’ as they were called.” (pg. 8)
  • Anna Maria von Schurmann – “learned a dozen languages, graduated with a law degree from Utrecht University, studied medicine, taught philosophy, wrote books, and in her spare time was a sculptor and painter of note…” (pg. 16)
  • Olga (Russia) – “Around 945…she methodically went after the various rebel groups, wiping them out in ingenious ways designed to put the fear of Olga into the rest. The first batch she buried alive; the second, she had bailed in their baths.” (pg. 28)
  • Raziya (India) – Ruled over a powerful area in the country, memorized the Koran, charged into battle on her war elephant, was the first female leader of a Moslem state. (pp. 32-33)
  • Damia al-Kahina (North Africa) – “…rallied the Berber tribespeople…taken the Jews who’d gotten tossed out of Spain….beaten a famous Arab general…led [her] own army of Jews and Christians and leftover Byzantines to victory over invading Moslem forces….won five years of peace for her people–the only time…that anyone would unite North Africa until modern times.” (This is late 600’s AD) (pg 48)
  • Trotula of Salerno (Italy) – “…pioneered surgical techniques for repair of the perineum…wrote two important medical books…advocated the use of opiates to ease childbirth pan and prescribed hormonal treatments…to regulate menstruation and overcome sterility.” (pg. 92)
  • Louise Labe (France) – “…took up martial arts and became a superlative horsewoman and archer…got a kick out of jousting…During the siege at Perpignan [300 miles from her home]…she rustled up a flattering suit of armor and fought for [her countrymen.]” (pg. 108)
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine (1100’s) – “…ruled as queen of France for fifteen years and queen of England for fifty more, producing ten kids when she wasn’t busy with music, health care, or political maneuverings.” (pg. 126)

Okay, I could go on forever…and I barely touched on many of these women’s amazing exploits.

There is no doubt that women have historically been oppressed and marginalized in a male-dominated society – and I don’t want to minimize that in the least – rather I want to acknowledge the marvelous way in which women under the most adverse of circumstances rose to great heights and accomplished great things.

Go get Leon’s book. It is a fun and informative read!