Mini Book Review of Iron Heart: The True Story of How I Came Back From the Dead by Brian Boyle

41rpGd0gB6L._AC_US218_Brian Boyle should of been dead. After a collision with a dump truck – you read that right, dump truck, he was left with multiple injuries and placed in a medically induced coma while a team of surgeons attempted to put his body back together.  He was in such bad shape that every internal organ was in the wrong place. If it wasn’t for his athleticism and good health before the accident, Boyle certainly would have died. A college level swimmer before the accident, he was left learning how to walk. His story of slowly coming out of coma and being aware of his surroundings, but not being able to communicate or even move gripped me and drew me in. I found myself rooting for him at every step of the way.

Boyle’s story is a success story that culminates in the Kona Ironman Championships. The remarkable part of his story, however, is the support he had along the way. From his parents to the team of doctors and therapists that managed to put him back together; it took a team to get him to Kona.

I love stories of people who beat the odds to accomplish greats feats and Boyle’s story certainly qualifies. He was remarkably close to death and eventually began to thrive. This book was a great read.

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Mini Book Review of Chasing Kona by Rob Cummins

Chasing KonaThis book follows the author’s journey from non-athlete to athlete and eventually to the Ironman World Championships. I enjoyed following is story. The most remarkable aspect of this read for me was the amount of dedication and perseverance it took him to reach his goal. The workload and program he adhered to is incredible. Basically, his whole life revolved about endurance training. His story is a lesson in what separates success from failure. Most often its not natural talent, but rather a willingness to do what’s necessary.

I found this book for my kindle on Amazon … and it was free with my Amazon Prime membership.

Book Review of “No God But One” by Nabeel Qureshi

nogodbutoneFrom the moment I read Nabeel Qureshi’s first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, I wanted to read more from him. His first book details his conversion from Islam to Christianity and essentially serves as his testimony. In this book, Qureshi offers the reasoning behind his conversion. In essence, he subjects the claims of Islam to the same scrutiny skeptics demand of Christianity and the Bible, however, he does so in a fair and heartfelt manner. In doing so, he details the debates he used to engage in with his Christian friends and compares the claims of Islam with the claims of Christianity. In scrutinizing his Islam, Qureshi eventually arrives at a place of spiritual bankruptcy and discovers that Christianity holds up well to scrutiny. This discovery is what leads him to sacrifice all he’s ever known for the conversion that is detailed in his first book.

When I learned of Qureshi’s passing last year, I immediately resolved to read this book. I am glad I did so. He writes with the authority of one who has lived both faiths and loves people from each religion. His writing is honest and his testimony is incredible. His voice is unique and is sure to inspire. I highly recommend his work to anyone who wants to learn more about Islam, especially as it compares to Christianity.

Book Review of Never Binge Again by Glenn Livingston, Ph.D.

neverbingeI typically don’t bother writing reviews for books I didn’t like. Heck, if I’m being honest, I typically don’t finish a book I don’t like. This is one of those instances. I picked up this book of because of the promise embedded in its title, “Never Binge Again.” As someone who has always struggled with maintaining a healthy diet, this book appealed to me. In this book, Livingston spends a great many pages explaining that we need to change the way we look at our inner binge eater. Rather than love the inner glutton that lives inside us, we need to develop an animosity toward it. He recommends that we call this inner self ‘the pig.’ In a sense, he is recommending that we personify our inner binge eater in a way that allows us to see it for what it really is – an enemy. The author offers this solution as an alternative to a self-love approach to healing.

Livingston’s approach may work for some people but, if I’m being honest, I thought it was all a little goofy. Livingston continued to lose me when he began attributing our inner binge eater to evolution and our “lizard brain” which is only concerned with self-satisfaction.

I’m glad this book was free for my kindle because I didn’t feel too bad when I quit reading it.

Mini Review of “The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal” by David E. Hoffman

billionspyI’ve attempted reading fictional spy stories over the past couple of months and given up on each of them. This book, however, has taught me a powerful lesson. While I enjoy Cold War era history, it is a subject matter that proves the truth is far more fascinating than fiction. The Billion Dollar Spy is is a detailed account of the CIA’s handling of Adolf Tolkachev. Tolkachev spied for the United States deep under cover in Soviet Moscow and provided the United States with technology secrets that gave them a definitive advantage in aerial combat.

People who are looking for a “James Bond” like thriller will find the pace of this book slow. However, the appeal of this book isn’t in the action; rather, it is in the decisions the CIA made in handling their most valuable spy. Do they meet his demands or risk making him unhappy? Should they attempt to sneak him and his family of the Soviet Union? What techiniques should they use to keep his presence secret from the Russians? I found this all very interesting!

If you are interested in the Cold War, you need to learn about Adolf Tolkachev. His story is incredible and the United States owes him a debt of gratitude for the risks he took.Mini

Mini Book Review: The Billion Dollar Spy by David E. Hoffman

spyThis book is the true story of Adolf Tolkachev who delivered Russian secrets to the the CIA for seven years during the Cold War. The sheer impact this one spy had on the United States military, specifically in aviation, is astounding. His secrets contributed to the United States’ air superiority throughout the world for long after the Cold War ended and helped topple the Soviet Union. It is an incredible story. As I read the account of Tolkachev, I couldn’t help but wonder how his story ties in with other known spies of the era. People like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hannsen may have contributed to the ultimate downfall of Tolkachev and it is mind-boggling to consider the interwoven web of espionage that permeated the Cold War. In a world focused technology and “wiki-leaks”, this book reinforces the necessity of human intelligence. I highly recommend it if you are interested in Cold War espionage.

Book Review of ‘Letters from a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with His Father’s Questions about Christianity’ by Gregory and Edward Boyd

lettersI would have a hard time expressing how much I appreciated this book. It chronicles the correspondence between Seminary professor Dr. Gregory Boyd and his skeptical father Edward. Over the course of a couple of years, Greg Boyd corresponded with, and witnessed to, his father. This book allows the reader a glimpse into their private letters.

Like many skeptics, Edward Boyd had a negative impression of Christianity (as opposed to a positive impression of an opposing worldview); as such, he lends voice to many of the most common objections to the Christian faith. Professor Gregory Boyd skillfully, and lovingly, responds to each and every objection with a heart focused on leading his father to Christ. The end result is a tender lesson in apologetics for readers.

Here are a few of the reasons I highly recommend this book:

  • Gregory Boyd is witnessing from his heart. Too often, apologetics becomes purely an academic and polemic pursuit. Apologists are often more concerned with being right rather than leading people to Christ. This book offers an example of apologetics done correctly with proper love and concern for others.
  • It is honest. There is no attempt made to clean up some of the harsh language or objections offered by the older Boyd. By presenting his letters as they are written, readers are given the opportunity to get to know Edward Boyd – flaws and all. In the process of getting to know him, I found myself rooting for him to overcome his objections to Christ.
  • Dr. Gregory Boyd role models patience, persistence, and love. These attributes are too often missing from apologetics.
  • The Boyd’s relationship with one another is special. They are able to be honest with one another over the course of dozens of letters with no hint of hurt feelings or animosity rising to the surface. This is my weakness when engaging in apologetics. Too often I get frustrated and irritated by someone’s inability to appreciate the truth of Christ and I either get angry or give up. If Dr. Boyd experienced any such emotions he was able to disguise them well.
  • The transformation in Edward is evident as moves from skepticism toward Christ.

This is one of the best books I’ve read in awhile and represents one of the best examples of practical apologetics I’ve found. I highly recommend it.

Book Review of ‘Run Your Butt Off’ by Bonci, Butler, and Coates

runyourbuttoffThis book provides a beginning runner with all the knowledge they need to get started. It offers a plan that closely resembles the “Couch to 5k” running plan that I began with and completed this past summer. It dispels many myths about running and helps beginners understand it’s okay to go slow and add walking breaks to their running. This book takes it a step further however by also offering a diet and weight loss plan.

Even though I’ve already completed the Couch to 5k Program I found myself reading through this book in its entirety simply to learn more about their diet plan. Some of the most informative information involves calculations to determine a person’s daily caloric needs and how to create a healthy calorie deficit in order to lose weight.

In all fairness, most of the information in this book can be found for free on the internet if you look hard enough. But here it is compiled all in one place and offers the beginning runner everything they need to start a healthy running plan. It’s well worth the read.

Book Review of “To Be a Runner” by Martin Dugard

tobearunnerThis book is a collection of essays about running by cross country coach and writer Martin Dugard. At times, the writing is very good. Dugard knows how to write and his love of running is certainly illumnated through his essays. For the most part, I enjoyed this book. As a beginning runner, I enjoyed seeing how Dugard’s love for the sport has kept is interest over a lifetime.

Though I enjoyed it, To Be a Runner wasn’t without it’s problems. First, the essays were connected in theme only. They seemed collected in no particular order. Some focused on his individual running adventures while others focused on his coaching or his high school runners. As a result, some of the essays were much more interesting and engaging than others.

The biggest problem with this book, however, was that it made me feel like an outsider. I didn’t run cross country in high school and I’ve only been running for a few months. My longest run is just five miles and I’m struggling with losing enough weight to run any further than that. Also, about half my runs happen on treadmills as a means to protect my body from pain and as a way to protect myself from the unpredictable Ohio weather. Dugard almost comes off as a “run snob” and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t even consider me an actual runner. I may be totally wrong, but I doubt that I was the target audience for his writing.

I enjoyed the book and particularly enjoyed visiting the sport through Dugard’s eyes. But don’t pick it up if you expect to learn anything about the sport or to pick up hints or tips. Read it for what it is … a collection of loosely connected essays written by an avid runner who loves the sport.

 

Book Review of Still Growing: An Autobiography by Kirk Cameron

stillgrowingKirk Cameron and I are the same age. When his TV show ‘Growing Pains’ was on the air, I was in the age demographic it appealed to and, I must admit, I was a pretty big fan. I can somewhat remember the controversy between Cameron, the writers on Growing Pains, and his fellow cast members when he accepted Christ and subsequently began objecting to some of the content, dialogue, and plots on the hit show. I mean, I remember it, but it’s not like it was that big a deal to me. I wasn’t a Christian at the time and, though I was a fan, it wasn’t like Darth Vader started going to church or anything – I mean, it was a pretty small glip on my radar.

Flash forward several years and it turns out I am still a fan of Kirk Cameron. Now that I’m a Christian I appreciate how outspoken he is regarding his faith. He is actively promoting the gospel and I have nothing but respect for that. In addition, His movie Fireproof is one that I’ve literally seen dozens of times and really enjoy. So when I picked up this book it was out of mild interest at best. I was kind of interested in his memoirs considering the Growing Pain years and looked forward to reading his take on what it was about the gospel that impacted him so much that it changed the trajectory of his career. This book delivered on each of those fronts.

It was interesting to read how Cameron became a teenaged heart throb and how that stardom impacted his everyday life. Cameron details every aspect of his career from bit parts in commercials to star of a hit TV show along with the events in his acting career after Growing Pains. But he also shares his testimony and how the gospel impacted that same life. He explains why he made the choices his made and what his reasoning was at the time. I enjoying seeing things from his perspective.

Perhaps what impressed me the most was that Cameron allowed the gospel to impact his life. How many times do we see people accept Christ yet refuse to allow His grace and mercy to change them. That can’t be said about Cameron. He was willing to answer God’s call even if it damaged his career. A career, by the way, that was successful by any definition of the word. Cameron trusted God with his career and, by all appearances, has been blessed for his faith.

I enjoyed this book. If you are a fan of Growing Pains and of Kirk Cameron, there is no doubt you will too.