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Notable books

Notable Books | Four books on life changes reviewed by Susan Olasky

An Uncertain Inheritance: Writers on Caring for Family

Most of the essays in this book draw the reader into the writers' experience as care givers, often to an elderly parent slipping into Alzheimer's, or dying from cancer or other prolonged diseases. Novelist Julia Glass' essay, which concludes the book, tells how hard it is to receive care. The writers generally chronicle their experiences without trying to tidy them up. They are honest about their struggles with weariness, anger, and bouts of depression. Several of the essayists are downright unpleasant-and yet together they open a window on a passageway nearly all of us will travel, either as givers or receivers.

Start Your Family

After WWII couples married and began having children without thinking much about it. Everyone was having kids; it's just what people did. Now couples marry later and postpone having children, often for seemingly good reasons: saving money, paying down debts, getting to know each other better. The Watters want to encourage the fence straddlers, the hesitant, to start having babies. They make a case from the Bible about the purpose of marriage and the role children play in the sanctification of their parents. They also use recent research to argue that couples often assume they have more fertile years ahead of them than is true for most people. This is an encouraging and biblical take on a sensitive topic.

Lessons from San Quentin

Bill Dallas was a high flyer in San Francisco until his corner cutting ways led to a felony conviction and a term in San Quentin prison. He had become a Christian shortly before his sentence, but his shallow faith wasn't able to sustain him. Not until a lifer-one of the long-term inmates-literally picked him up off the prison ground and took him to another lifer for help, did his life begin to change. This book combines tough, honest memoir with the lessons Dallas learned from these Christian inmates. They showed him what true faith looked like and how to learn to live it out in pretty dismal circumstances. He spells out the lessons here and tells stories with the kind of specific detail that makes for engrossing reading.

Feel: The Power of Listening to Your Heart

What are emotions? Must we learn to control them? Do evangelicals often try to explain away biblical emotions-love, joy, anger, jealousy, hope-by turning them into something else? Matthew Elliott makes a convincing case that we've turned real feelings into abstract concepts, a misunderstanding that owes more to Plato than it does to Luther, Calvin, or Jonathan Edwards. Elliott asserts that feelings are God given and a source of knowledge not at war with logic but in partnership with it. Feelings trained by the Bible can be trustworthy guides. Another book by Elliott, Faithful Feelings: Rethinking Emotion in the New Testament, contains the scholarly research upon which Feel is based.


In Sammy and His Shepherd: Seeing Jesus in Psalm 23, Susan Hunt teases out the psalm's imagery to make it understandable to children. Sammy is a contented sheep cared for by a good shepherd. In the next pasture another sheep with a bad shepherd does not fare so well. Through their interactions we understand more fully all the ways the good shepherd cares for Sammy and how Jesus is truly the Good Shepherd. The text may be too wordy for pre-school children, but it should be suitable as a read-aloud to early elementary kids.

Cathy Diez-Luckie's Famous Figures of Ancient Times is the kind of book I would have enjoyed using when I was homeschooling. The soft cover book contains jointed paper doll-like figures printed on card stock. Each figure comes in two versions, one colored, one plain, so that children can color or paint their own. The costumes are historically accurate and based when possible on mosaics and sculptures. This volume contains figures from ancient Egypt through Augustine, including Hammurabi, Moses, David, Nebuchadnezzar, Aristotle, Julius Caesar and Jesus.


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