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Notable books

Notable Books | Four recent books from Christian publishers reviewed by Susan Olasky

Issue: "Fighting poverty," March 13, 2010

Things Worth Remembering

During the week before Maisey Laswell's wedding, Maisey avoids her mother Kendy as much as possible and nurses a grievance that has ruptured the relationship. Kendy wonders what has gone wrong, and both women think back to earlier, happier days when they were not at odds. The story is told in the present tense and alternates between Maisey's and Kendy's point of view. By novel's end, author Stark reveals the nature of the grievance and the sin and misunderstanding at its root. She shows how mother and daughter, with the help of the men in their lives, are able to reconcile. This moving relationship novel highlights the importance and possibility of forgiveness.

Bo's Cafe

Readers of The Shack will recognize some common themes in this new novel from Windblown Media: the importance of authenticity and the problem of religious people putting up false fronts. Here, big-time executive Steven is running his life into the ground. His wife, fearing his fits of rage, kicks him out of the house. His daughter shuts him out of her life. Then, eccentric Andy shows up and begins to poke, prod, confront, and encourage. With the help of friends at Bo's Cafe, he shows Steven how shame lurks at the bottom of his trouble. Given Windblown's marketing skill, this message book in the guise of a novel is likely to get an audience.

Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?

In a collection of profiles, Zacharias highlights her subjects' attitudes toward money and stuff. Her immediate target is the prosperity gospel, but she's not always careful in her definitions, so capitalism in general, and even Sarah Palin, come in for swipes. She can get away with her blunderbuss approach because she is funny and writes well with an attention to detail-and she's basically right: God's chief end is not to make His people rich. Some profiles feature folks-Sister Schubert, for example-who use their wealth to bless other people: They have discovered the difference between having possessions and having meaningful lives. Other profiles exemplify the vanity of living for things that will pass away.

Beaded Hope

Beaded Hope is the kind of feel-good story that many Christians like to read. It starts with three women living with grief and disappointment. One is a widow raising her teenage stepdaughter, who gets pregnant. Another struggles with infertility and is angry at God. Another is a TV newscaster who chases fame to hold at bay memories of childhood abuse. Their lives intersect on a mission trip to South Africa. They learn lessons, overcome obstacles, and find meaning on the trip. None of that is objectionable, but the book's view of missions, economic development, and international adoption leaves the impression that deep problems have relatively simple solutions.


The Walk by Stephen Smallman (P&R Publishing, 2009) is a book you could give to a new believer. Using Mark's Gospel as a starting point, it presents the basics of the faith, answers questions about discipleship and the authority of Scripture, and it provides a path to growth: It's meant to be read alongside a Bible and a journal for note-taking. In an engaging way Smallman covers the content of the Gospel, basic doctrines of the faith, and prayer-and he always roots the discussion in Scripture. The book grew out of Smallman's many years of pastoral ministry: He modeled it after "Dummies" books, writing for the beginner and assuming no prior knowledge.

If you need to be encouraged to memorize Scripture, Scripture By Heart: Devotional Practices for Memorizing God's Word by Joshua Choonmin Kang (IVP, 2010) is a good prod. Its 30 short devotionals focus on the importance of memorization for spiritual health and, to a lesser extent, the how-to's of doing it.


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