With one in 88 children now diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the need for accurate information about the disease is growing. Temple Grandin’s latest book, The Autistic Brain, provides that and much more. As someone who is autistic, Grandin offers a compelling voice from inside the disease, with practical parenting and career advice for families and educators. She also gives an in-depth analysis of autism’s history and current research, with an emphasis on cutting-edge treatments. She argues that people on the spectrum ought to be defined not solely by their weaknesses, but their strengths, too—an argument she makes effectively through her work as autism’s ambassador.
As a teenager, Amy Simpson first experienced the impact of mental illness the day her brother found her mom, in the kitchen, “helpless and unable to function.” After taking her to the hospital, Simpson learned her mom had had a “... mind-bending, truth-twisting, hospital-worthy psychotic break.” Although her parents were committed Christians heavily involved in missions, Simpson’s church largely ignored her family’s subsequent financial and emotional stress. In this account that focuses more on personal testimonies than rock-solid statistics, Simpson explores the scope of the mentally ill within the American church and paints a hopeful picture of how Christians can comfort them.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” Proverbs tells us. But Christian psychiatrist Timothy Jennings argues that fear undid Adam and Eve in the garden, and even today, fear of God rewires our brains in unhealthy ways. In a kind of a brain-science-based prosperity gospel, Jennings offers his “God of love” concept as the panacea for every ill. While the book does contain real insights, its cloaking of questionable theology (denying God’s sovereignty and penal substitution) in scientific terms is disturbing—even more so considering Jennings’ numerous videos and his position as president-elect of the Tennessee Psychiatric Association.
Written by ESPN journalists, League of Denial is a hard-hitting look at the history of concussions in football. A companion to an October 2013 Frontline special (which ESPN disowned at the last minute), the book is written in locker-room language and isn’t shy with details of former NFL players’ suicides. Even so, the Fainaru brothers argue persuasively that the NFL suppressed links between football-induced head trauma and brain disease—with disturbing implications for a new generation of football players and fans alike. In addition, the book’s catalog of how politics skewed “peer-reviewed” science, including research in the Journal of the American Medical Association, throws light on the privileged treatment of evolution by those same gatekeepers.
Those two small words are the basis of a new initiative by Derek Webb, NoiseTrade co-founder and former Caedmon’s Call singer. While NoiseTrade built its 1.1 million member database giving away music in return for users’ personal information, this February the website (books.noisetrade.com) began offering book downloads using the same model. NoiseTrade currently offers a variety of classics, fiction, and nonfiction titles, many of which are relevant for Christians. (Want more free ebooks? Deeprootslibrary.com includes authors like A.W. Pink, Andrew Murray, and J.C. Ryle.)
Before hitting download, though, readers might want to peek at Craig Detweiler’s iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives (Brazos Press, 2013), which discusses the challenges of personal computers, big data, and more. The book has inelegant prose but thought-provoking questions that show how new technologies can contain hidden dangers. —E.W.