Book Review: You Are What You Love

You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2016. 224 pp) James K. A. Smith is the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview at Calvin College. With a background in philosophy focused on French thought, Smith engages as a public intellectual and cultural critic. In addition to his published books, Smith has contributed to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Slate, Christianity Today, and The Hedgehog Review. A Divided World We live in a divided world. The obvious unpacking of this statement surrounds divisive politics or schisms between worldviews. But, our experiences are divided even at a metaphysical level. In other words,… Read More →

Book Review: Heroes of the Frontier

Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers

Heroes of the Frontier: A Novel by Dave Eggers (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 400 pp) Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Dave Eggers attended the University of Illinois but dropped out to take care of his younger brother in the wake of his parent’s death. These experiences are chronicled in Eggers’ best-selling memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. In addition to published works, he has founded McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house, and 826 National, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for kids 6-18 in urban areas across the nation. Dad Brain Whenever my family attends a social gathering, I often find myself equally present and aloof. I engage in conversation, attempt witticism, hope to be a contributor to the… Read More →

Book Review: Moonglow

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

Moonglow: A Novel by Michael Chabon (New York: Harper, 2016. 448 pp) One of the most celebrated writers of his generation according to The Virginia Quarterly Review, Michael Chabon was born in Washington D.C. He earned his B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and his M.F.A from the University of California, Irvine. Chabon published his first novel, The Mysteries Of Pittsburgh, from his master’s thesis at the age of 25. His third novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union won Chabon the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award. Hiking Mount Constitution A decade ago and an era far far away, I took my wife—then girlfriend—to the oasis known as the… Read More →

Book Review: The Twelve

The Twelve by Justin Cronin

The Twelve: A Novel by Justin Cronin (New York: Ballantine Books, 2012. 608 pp) Justin Cronin is the author of The Passage, The Twelve, Mary and O’Neil, and The Summer Guest. His work has earned him a PEN/Hemingway Award, a Stephen Crane Prize, Whiting Writer’s Award, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Houston, Texas with his family. *Spoiler Alert for the Previous Books* Let’s Talk Plot and Structure Even though narratives can take many forms and stylistic flourishes, I tend to enjoy the prologue. This excerpt at the beginning of a story allows the author to set the stage and make statements about the overarching themes to come. When I think of the… Read More →

Book Review: Man’s Search for Meaning

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, translated by Ilse Lasch (Boston: Beacon Press, 1959, 1962, 1984, 1992, and 2006. 184 pp) Viktor Frankl is an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. Frankl’s memoir of his time in the Nazi concentration camps became a foundational element of his psychological and existential philosophy. Frankl died in 1997. The Holocaust Museum In high school, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. for a youth leadership conference. The event included high schoolers nominated from their respective schools across the United States. The principal aim of the conference was to educate the future leaders of America on the minutiae of D.C. politics. We created a pseudo-government and tried to lobby for… Read More →

Book Review: Homegoing

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing: A Novel by Yaa Gyasi (New York: Knopf, 2016. 320 pp) Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a BA in English from Stanford University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she held a Dean’s Graduate Research Fellowship. She lives in Berkley, California. Ancestry There’s a scene from the year’s best new television series that sticks with me. Atlanta is amazing. Take my word for it. Anyway, Earn (Donald Glover), the protagonist—if we can accurately label such a character in this series—visits a party in a well-to-do neighborhood. The husband and wife operate in the elite stratosphere of Atlanta culture. The white husband considers himself a connoisseur of African culture,… Read More →

Book Review: Here I Am

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

Here I Am: A Novel by Jonathan Safran Foer (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2016. 592 pp) Born in Washington, D.C., Jonathan Safran Foer attended Princeton University earning a degree in philosophy. While at Princeton, Foer developed a senior thesis around the life of his Holocaust surviving grandfather. Eventually, this thesis became Foer’s first published book titled, Everything Is Illuminated. The book received critical acclaim winning the National Jewish Book Award and a Guardian First Book Award. Eventually, the novel was adapted into a film starring Elijah Wood. Foer’s second novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: A Novel garnered both praise and derision for its use of 9/11 as a narrative tool and its use of visual writing. Foer… Read More →

Book Review: The Price of Salt

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith (New York: Dover Publications, 2015; originally published in 1952. 256 pp) Patricia Highsmith was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1921. She studied English composition, playwriting, and short story at Barnard College. Highsmith wrote 22 novels during her career, including Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley. She died in 1995. Who Are You? Identity is a tricky thing. When I was younger, I worried consistently about goodness. Did I possess good qualities inherently? Did I need to work for them? What did it take to be good? With a constant focus on these identity questions, I never felt whole. I had nothing obviously hindering me from living a decent life,… Read More →

Book Review: The Art of War

The Art of War by Sun-tzu

The Art of War by Sun-tzu; translated by Ralph D. Sawyer (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1994. 375 pp) Sun-tzu was a Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher who lived in the Spring and Autumn period of ancient China, traditionally believed to have lived from 544 BC to 496 BC. It’s Not All About Warfare Even though I must admit I was the typical teenager playing the standard first-person shooter games, the older I get, the less inspired I become with the war metaphor. While Tom Clancy can scratch that puerile itch for action and black-and-white narratives, the world’s complexity makes it difficult to sit within the us-versus-them mindset. From a business perspective, the warfare metaphor runs deep. We… Read More →

Book Review: The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad: A Novel by Colson Whitehead (New York: Doubleday, 2016. 320 pp) Colson Whitehead was born in 1969 and raised in Manhattan. He attended Harvard College and afterward he began working as a reviewer for The Village Voice. Out of the gate, Whitehead’s fiction gained acclaim when his first novel, The Intuitionist, won the Quality Paperback Book Club’s New Voices Award. His work has earned him the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the PEN/Oakland Award, and a Whiting Writers Award. Also, Whitehead has received a MacArthur Fellowship and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. Victors Write History History: Written by the Victors. We discuss such a phrase most often around our… Read More →