Solid Exposition, Lacking Bibliography. This book is truly a phenomenal look at southern culture from the time the first Europeans came to the southern North American region through today and how various in and out groups have viewed and shaped that culture along the way. Divided into a few different eras, Reagan truly does an excellent job of showing just what Southern culture and Southern Civilization meant to the various peoples of the given eras and how those views would come to shape later generations. Indeed, the only issue I could find with this book (even given its 600+ page length!) was that its bibliography comprised just 10% or so of the text, when 20-30% is more normal for a nonfiction text in my experience across literally hundreds of Advance Review Copies over the last few years alone. Thus, the one star deduction – which even I admit may be debatable in this particular case, as 10% of a 600+ page book *is* 20-30% of a 200-300 page book. Still, I’ve seen similar length books still hit that 20-30% mark, so I’m sticking to my guns here even as I openly admit others may feel different. Very much recommended.
This review of The Southern Way of Life by Charles Reagan Wilson was originally written on November 22, 2022.
Mostly Solid Examination – If From A Single Worldview. This is one of those examinations of an issue where the examination seems mostly solid, but is also clear that it is from a particular worldview – and the reader’s own feelings about that worldview will likely determine how much the reader enjoys or agrees with the author’s reasonings and recommendations. Specifically, Smeitana’s ultimate point is that older white churches are out, and younger multi-ethnic churches are in. Mostly using a more case study approach with a few more general facts thrown in (and with a scant bibliography of just about 12% of the text, rather than the 25-33% or so that is more typical of more scholarly based examinations in my experience), this book tells the tale of where the American Church finds itself now, what Smietana thinks got it here, and how he believes it can adapt into the future. And again, all of this seems objectively pretty reasonable, and how you view his particular slant will likely determine whether you agree more or less with it.
Ultimately the two stars deducted here – while I considered a third star deduction for the scant bibliography, I ultimately leaned against it due to the power of the case studies and clear direct investigations – were for proof texting and for large discussions of COVID. The proof texting was a complete brain fart, as he really only does it twice (vs other “Christian Living” books doing it *far* more often), but it is an automatic star deduction *every* time I see it, in my own personal war against the practice. The discussions of COVID largely couldn’t be avoided for anyone writing a book about where the American Church is in 2022, with the COVID disruptions of the past couple of years shifting the landscape in this arena at least as much as within any other, and objectively I can acknowledge this. However, *I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID*. Period. And therefore I wage a one man war against any and every book that mentions it as well.
Ultimately this is a book that I think it is important for anyone interesting in American Christianity and where it is and can go to consider, as there really are a lot of interesting and compelling discussions within it and points to consider, no matter your own religious or political persuasions. For this reason, it is very much recommended.
This review of Reorganized Religion by Bob Smietana was originally written on August 31, 2022.
If Douglas Adams Wrote “Men’s Fiction”. Take the hilarity and wit that *Douglas* Adams was known for in his scifi and apply it instead to a tale of three middle aged men each having distinct mid-life crises that all get wrapped up in each other… and you basically have this book. More of a “men’s fiction” tale that explores similar themes as the better known “women’s fiction” genre, but focusing on the guys rather than the gals, this is a wild romp with heart – and a relatively short read at under 250 pages to boot. Adams manages to pack quite a tale within that lower page count though, and the laughs are on nearly every page. Truly a more lighthearted and off-the-wall book that many may need in trying times. Very much recommended.
This review of Relativity by Ben Adams was originally written on May 26, 2022.
Mostly Solid History Of Official Religious Life In The United States. Sehat manages to trace the history of official religious life in the US fairly well from its pre-Founding roots through its current fights over religious liberty. There are a couple of glaring weaknesses – the largest being his claim that Natural Rights theory originated in the Christian Church (it was actually created outside of the Church as a challenge to the Church’s position that rights come from God). But as with that particular case, most of these tend to only exist in areas where a rare person might actually know the particular topic particularly well – as this former Libertarian Party of Georgia official and candidate happens to do re: Natural Rights theory. 🙂 Otherwise, a solid if slightly dry – though nowhere *near* as dry as other treatises of its type – history that would be beneficial for many Americans (or those seeking to understand America) to read. Recommended.
This review of This Earthly Frame by David Sehat was originally written on February 18, 2022.
Blatant Racism Deeply Mars Otherwise Universal Story. This is, without a shred of a doubt, the most racist book I’ve seen published this Millenium, at minimum – and to think that the normally *very* solid Lake Union Publishing allowed it under their banner is very discouraging, indeed. While I would never say a book should not be published at all, this is one that no major company – particularly one so large as Amazon – that claims to stand for diversity, inclusion, and equity should ever stand behind. White / America is EVIL according to Shah, and everything wrong in Preeti’s life is because she had to try to fit in with “White America”. Bullcrap. You take the commentary about everything White and/ or American being so evil out of this tale and look at just the remaining elements of struggling to fit in, to find oneself despite parental desires, to have your parents accept you as an adult… and you’ve got a universal tale that applies no matter the race. *Everyone* goes through these struggles, even in cultures where it appears different. But no, Shah here had to go the racist route and destroy what would have otherwise been a solid, maybe even transcendental, work. While some might think I’m being a bit generous here with 3* based on this write-up, the univeral elements here were done quite well while examining their particulars within Indian culture, particularly looking at both the Indian Diaspora and Indians who never leave the subcontinent – nor want to. And that is where I am confident in still allowing it the three, despite such blatant and rampant racism. Recommended, begrudgingly.
This review of The Taste Of Ginger by Mansi Shah was originally written on December 29, 2021.
Excellent Case Study In Storytelling. Over the last month, I’ve read all three of the books Marsh is releasing (from three different publishers) over the course of six weeks from early October 2020 through mid November 2020 (when this, the last of the books in this “series”, releases). And each has been dramatically different from the last, which speaks to Marsh’s true skill as a storyteller. Second Chance Lane, the first of the series, was a Hallmarkie romance. My Sister’s Keeper, the second, was a weaving, winding, soap opera of a tale that my wife says would work well as a Lifetime Movie.
And here, with The Boy Toy, we get arguably the most cinematic of the three books, in the vein of a multicultural Knocked Up / Hundred Foot Journey. We get an older lead female. We get a look at various facets of Indian culture (that as my friend Ritu says in her own review, many of Western cultures won’t be as familiar with – more on that momentarily). We get a more-balanced-than-usual look at the struggles of infertility as it relates to those who actually want children. (Vs childfree people like me that *don’t* want children and thus infertility is actually a blessing of sorts.) We get an age-gap *ish* romance with the *female* being the older person in the couple.
And yes, we get sex. A lot of it. And all over the place, beginning as little as 10% into the book. If you’re looking for a “clean” / “sweet” romance… you’re not gonna want this one. 😉 Similarly, getting back to the cultural issues… Marsh does a good job of not hiding at least one Indian equivalent of what I call “Talibaptists” in the US. She does a great job of showing the pressure they can wield socially and the damage it can wreak, and she doesn’t shy away from this aspect at all – instead giving a solid example of how to overcome it. Every culture has these types, sadly, but Marsh shows them in depths not often explored, particularly in a romantic comedy, and again – shows her strength as a storyteller in doing so.
Ultimately though, this is a fun and funny romantic comedy that hits all the right notes, discusses some heavy topics, but leaves you satisfied in every way text on some surface can. Very much recommended.
This review of The Boy Toy by Nicola Marsh was originally written on October 23, 2020.