Archives For Book Reviews

Max On Life

andyallen —  April 18, 2011 — 2 Comments

I think I’ve been intending to read a Max Lucado book for about 10 years now.  I finally decided to read one of his books after I saw him speak at the World Vision Artist Retreat this past January.  Max comes across as an incredibly genuine and kind guy.  I picked up this book, ‘Max On Life‘, and another recent offering, ‘Out Live Your Life’.

Max On Life is a book of 172 questions that Max says he gets on a consistent basis.  All the questions have something to do with faith and Christianity and Max offers answers to each of these questions.

I have to say I wasn’t a big fan of this book.  Perhaps I’m not the primary audience Max is trying to reach, but I felt like a lot of the responses and answers to these questions were kind of sugary sweet and somewhat expected from the Evangelical Christian perspective.  It’s not that Max didn’t respond with truth in his answers, even though there were a few that I personally didn’t fully agree with, I just felt like I’ve heard these things said a hundred times in sermon after sermon.

I’m sure there will be some readers who will really engage with Max’s writing.  I could envision someone connecting to this book who is newer to the Christian faith and needing to find some clarity as they’re wrestling through the complexities where humanity and faith converge.

Continue Reading…

This year has been a transitional one for me and my family, so I found myself really looking forward to reading this book.  I think there are things in life that we kind of know, but then another voice articulates it in such a way that it really connects.  There were several of those moments for me in this book.

The premise isn’t earth shattering, but Andy Stanley explores the difference between laws and principles and unpacks thoughts surrounding his thesis: “Direction – Not Intention – Determines Your Destination.”  Shifting our thinking about why and how we end up wherever we are in life can help us chart a better course, or path.  The author contends that all of life is connected…every decision, choice, impulse, whatever…and that Todays Choices = Tomorrows Experiences.  He brings the discussion to a close by suggesting that what we pay attention to, where we place our focus, will ultimately determine our destination.

There are quite a few personal anecdotes and stories from scripture used to make his case.  I never felt like I was being condemned for bad choices, everyone has made plenty.  I was encouraged to consider the weight of even seemingly inconsequential moments in life and how they can have dramatic outcomes later on.  We’re all on a path to somewhere and we can influence our destination through being intentional.  I also thought it was very cool that the author was honest enough to recognize that some dreams may never be reached because of old decisions.  I appreciated the fact that he took some time to help readers digest that and suggest some ways to deal with discouragement and chart a new path to finish well.

Continue Reading…

Most of the books I read get reviewed here on my blog.  They generally have something to do with faith, ministry or music but I also have been intentionally reading more novels and other types books to keep my mind entertained and mix things up a bit.  Here are a few books I’ve read over the past couple months….

SH*T MY DAD SAYS ::: Justin Halpern
An incredibly funny book.  I literally laughed until I cried on more than one occasion.  If you’re someone easily offended by profanity then it’s not for you, but I completely enjoyed many of the quotes and anecdotes.  Lots of laughs and some heartwarming moments too.  Check it out on Amazon HERE.

SHIFT ::: Peter Arnell
I picked this up at the library because I’m looking at the re-branding/re-crafting of my approach to music and my career.  While I appreciated some of the thoughts in this book, I felt like a lot of the material wasn’t accessible because it was specific to the author and related to his successes….even a bit narcissistic at times.  Check it out on Amazon HERE.

I had this series recommended to me by an employee at Barnes & Noble.  I wasn’t disappointed.  It did take me a good 150-200 pages to really get into this novel, but it was an entertaining read after I got through the set-up.  The characters were well developed and the plot was intriguing.  Again, if you’re easily offended profanity  or put off by the subject matter of sexual assault or abuse then you might want to pass, but I didn’t feel like any of it was gratuitous or obnoxious because it was fitting to the dialog and true to the story and characters.  Check it out on Amazon HERE.

The second book in a trilogy of sorts from this author.  I was engaged in the story much quicker in this book because several of the characters are carried over from the first in the series (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.)  Another fun ride with some very unexpected twists.  I liked the fact that part of the main storyline in this book was uncovering some of the reality and tragedy of sex–trafficking.  Check it out on Amazon HERE.
**note: I have a quick review of the final book in this series here.

Then Sings My Soul

andyallen —  November 21, 2010 — Leave a comment

Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan*

I grew up going to church in a small mountain town.  Our little church had the long wooden bench pews with hymnal books placed in the back of the pew in front of you.  Our hymnals were a dingy dark brown color with embossed gold lettering.  Mom would play the piano, Lola Redfern would play the organ and Dad would lead the singing from behind the oak pulpit with his right arm conducting the congregation.

Sometimes they would take requests and I would raise my hand as high as I could until Dad would call on me, then I would ask to sing Onward Christian Soldiers.  I liked playing war with my brother and our friends, so it was fun to sing about being an army man in church.  I have a lot of memories from being in church and singing as a kid.  I look back now with fondness and a deep appreciation for the spiritual history and heritage I have because of the lives that Saints lived prior to my being here.

As a worship leader I have researched, recorded and performed many hymns.  I’ve even told some of the stories of the hymn’s authors.  I enjoyed going through this book as it offered many more stories and anecdotes about songwriters and saints that have documented their faith in music over the last few centuries.  In particular, I loved that many of the songs included here were Christmas songs.  I’m a huge fan of Christmas music so this was a treat.

Of the 150 songs explored in this offering, most are somewhat familiar if you’ve got a little history with traditional church music.  Many of the songs that were unfamiliar to me still had intriguing stories that I enjoyed.  For each hymn, there was one page of the actual music and lyrics and then a second page with a story about the author and the song.

Overall I found this book to be inspiring as I was given a window into some of the most powerful hymns of the Christian faith.  As a songwriter I really enjoyed reading the backstory of what led these writers to create and craft songs that have had a lasting impact on our world.

Publisher’s Info:

Stories of the most favorite and beloved seasonal hymns of faith.

Don’t look for a dry recounting of boring historical fact, the devotional-style stories in Then Sings My Soul show the emotion and drama behind the hymns of faith that have changed many lives throughout history. Designed to be personally reflective, these stories speak to the soul and add depth to a meaningful worship time with God through song.

Recounted are stories of the people whose faith led them to write these wonderful seasonal hymns and the people whose faith was affected by reading, hearing, and singing the songs.

*I was given this book to review by The opinions in this review are mine alone and are not the opinions of the publisher.


andyallen —  November 13, 2010 — Leave a comment

Even though this book is a few years old, I was thankful a friend passed it along for me to read.  I’ve read a couple other books this past year from the Barna camp, unChristian and Pagan Christianity, and while I haven’t subscribed to every thought presented, I have appreciated the discussion they’ve brought to the table.

The Revolution Barna is exploring is one where many modern Christians are leaving organized church in search of a more authentic faith expression and community.  Beyond a commentary on this trend, I really appreciated the way he took the opportunity to encourage readers to lean into their beliefs and live out their faith in a real and tangible way.  Ultimately the Revolution is about followers of Christ genuinely living a life that is honoring to Jesus, inside or outside of the local church.

A strong argument and reason that many people are expressing in leaving the local church as their connection to faith, is that the current church can be ineffective in it’s efforts.  Beyond programs and consumer driven services, these  Revolutionaries are seeking a faith and community that has genuine transformational impact on their lives and relationships.

The last few years I have met quite a few people who are discouraged and disillusioned with church as we’ve known it over the past several decades.  To be honest, I’ve had more than one moment with the same sense and feeling.  Observing the trends that the book presents has been interesting and challenging.  As Barna writes:  “Jesus did not die on the cross to fill church auditoriums, to enable magnificent church campuses to be funded, or to motivate people to implement innovative programs.  He died because He loves you and me.  He wants an everlasting relationship with us, and He expects that connection to be so all-consuming that we become wholly transformed.”

The book is a fairly quick and easy read.  If you’re someone exploring how your faith is really working in the real world, this book could be a good read for you.

Publisher’s Info:
World renowned pollster George Barna has the numbers, and they indicate a revolution is already taking place within the Church, one that will impact every believer in America. Committed, bornagain Christians are exiting the established church in massive numbers. Why are they leaving? Where are they going? And what does this mean for the future of the Church? Using years’ worth of research data, and adhering to an unwavering biblical perspective, Barna predicts how this revolution will impact the organized church, how Christ’s body of believers should react, and how individuals who are considering leaving (or those who have already left) can respond. For leaders working for positive change in the church and for believers struggling to find a spiritual community and worship experience that resonates, Revolution is here. Are you ready?