#BookReview: You Are Never Alone by Max Lucado

What’s In Your Basket? This is the second time I’ve had the honor of working with one of my childhood literary heroes as an advance reader of his new book, and the first time I’ve actually read the entire book before publication (in this case, roughly 3 months before). And this book is classic Lucado. Full of humor, real life stories, encouragement, … and prooftexting. For those that don’t know, “prooftexting” is the concept used quite extensively in Christian circles where you cite seemingly random Bible verses in support – “proof” – of whatever claim you’re making at the time. And it is an automatic star deduction whenever I encounter it. No ifs, ands, or buts. This is my own way of waging war against the practice.

All of that noted, this particular book looks at several of the miracles as seen in the Gospel of John, which has long been my own personal favorite Gospel and book of the Bible. So much so that when I preached my own first sermon over two decades ago now, it too came from John – though not one of the stories Lucado so eloquently discusses here.

Seriously y’all, the guy is a master of the conversational style and inspirational writing. He has been for 30 years, and this book is no different there. Were it not for the prooftexting, this is a 5* book easily if you’re remotely open to Christian thinking, and if you don’t want to read a book that heavily references Christian thinking… why are you reading a book by one of the most well known Christian writers and pastors in America today? It even has a revelation or two that I didn’t know myself and had to Google, but for those still as plugged into this community as I was long ago were likely old news at this point.

All told, a work that is very much recommended.

This review of You Are Never Alone by Max Lucado was originally written on June 10, 2020.

#BookReview: I Died Swallowing A Goldfish by Kent Holloway

Max Lucado Meets CSI. Holloway has been writing fiction stories for many years, sometimes involving various cryptids, other times involving various folklores, and even one time using his day job to create a fictional tale of a crime scene “cleaner”. This is his first foray into the nonfiction realm, and here he uses his day job to talk about Christian ideals in a style very reminiscent of Max Lucado. Each chapter is roughly half “here’s a story from my day job as a forensic death investigator” and roughly half “here’s how that tale impacts the Christian life”. Because Holloway consistently uses prooftexting – the technique of citing Bible verses out of context in support of one’s thesis – I personally cannot give it any more than the four stars I’ve chosen to give it here. Others, particularly Christians or at least those than enjoy reading books such as Lucado’s works, will likely rate it higher and honestly I cannot fault them for it. It was a solid tale in that vein, I simply am so adamantly against prooftexting that I cannot allow myself to give 5 stars to any text that uses the technique. Others more critical of Christian beliefs reading this more for the CSI side of it (which is a valid approach, that side is truly fascinating) might rate the book a bit more critically specifically because of the Christian points, and that too would be fair-ish. Holloway, as he admits in the text, is an ordained minister and a Southern Baptist, and what he says throughout the text is mostly solidly in line with current Southern Baptist theology. So if you’re reading this book just for the CSI side, maybe just skip over the back half of most chapters, or skim them for any conclusions about the CSI side of the chapter. Overall a very well written book with a rare if not unique perspective in this field, and one that is very much recommended.

This review of I Died Swallowing A Goldfish by Kent Holloway was originally written on November 20, 2019.

#BookReview: How Happiness Happens by Max Lucado

Solid Pointers, Regardless of Philosophy. This is a partial review based on the first 5 chapters of this text being provided by the publisher.

Here, one of the icons of my childhood, Max Lucado, takes on the topic “how can I be happy?”. And regardless of your particular belief system, he makes some really great points. Yes, the man has been a preacher most of my life if not longer. His first book was published when I was just 6 yrs old and learning to read, and his style really hasn’t changed in all that time. And honestly, that is one of the things that makes him so great. His style is very conversational and quite funny, and that makes any of his books – this one certainly included – very easy reads.

And yet, it is exactly that approach that gets him 4 stars here. Why? Because I *need* to see the back half of the book to see exactly where between 3 and 5 stars this text will ultimately land. With what he has laid out in the beginning of this book, combined with the titles for the back half that I don’t yet have access to, this book could go anywhere from mind blowing to just run of the mill Lucado (which, again, is still great – particularly in regards to how easy it is to read his books). Based on what I know of him from reading his books for literally most of the time I’ve had the ability to read and of his situation from having grown up in the same types of circles he has lived in throughout my life, I *expect* Lucado to play it a bit safe in that back half. He likely isn’t going to say anything that will get too many people too angry either direction. What he likely says will be theologically orthodox, but verbally kind – that is pretty much Lucado in a nutshell. But man, if he does the unexpected and actually takes some bold-for-his-age-and-position stances… it could be revolutionary.

A pessimist will find several faults here, chief among them the continued use of proof texting, and likely hit that 3* ranking.

An optimist is going to see how readable this text is and how refreshing its message is and likely hit it with the 5*.

This realist could agree with both of them and really needs more information to make a more sound judgement, so the 4* feels like the right option at least for now.

Excellent work, and it truly is an honor to be able to ARC a book from one of my childhood literary heroes.

This review of How Happiness Happens by Max Lucado was originally written on August 22, 2019.