The Shallows, What the Internet Is Doing with Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

Nicholas Carr has written a fascinating book on the effect of the internet on lives and, in particular, our way of thinking.  The author’s thesis is that modern technology, especially the internet, is rerouting our brains (p. 77), changing the way we think (p. 18) and the way we read (p. 90), is designed to divide our attention (pp. 115-116, 136-143, 194) train us to multitask (pp. 113-114), and “pay attention to crap” (pp. 142).  Carr contends that net reading is, by design, distracting and superficial; it seizes our attention only to scatter it (pp. 115, 118).  Thus large chunks of information is gained at the expense of concentration, contemplation (p. 5), and linear thinking (p. 10).  Google, for example wants to digitize all information including books (pp. 152, 163), but has designed its system such that the reader moves from site to site quickly.   The more clicks the...

The Checklist Manifesto, How to Get Things Right By Atul Gawande

Despite our vast knowledge in virtually every area of life, Gawande believes we are still deeply prone to failure.  He believes many such failures could be overcome (and, conversely, much success obtained) through a simple but often ignored tool, the checklist.  He writes: That means we need a different strategy for overcoming failure, one that builds on experience and takes advantage of the inevitable human inadequacies.  And there is such a strategy though it will seem almost ridiculous in its simplicity, maybe even crazy to those of us who have spent years carefully developing ever more advanced skills and technologies.  It is a checklist (p. 13). Gawande supports his conviction through the use of interesting, true accounts drawn from several areas: medicine (chapters 1, 2, 5, 7 and 8), aviation (chapter 6 and pp. 32-34, 173-182), construction (chapter 3), national disasters (chapter 4), factories (chapter 6), and investments (chapter...

Ecumenical Quest for a World Federation by Martin Erdmann

Ecumenical Quest for a World Federation is an excellent work which informs us of the past and gives us much to consider for the future. Erdmann writes of the era when World War I was approaching and a number of influential people gave thought to what could possibly abolish war and solve most of the world’s social ills. Following the Great War it was determined by many that only a “new world order” could accomplish such a feat. With the signing of the Treaty of Versailles many felt the seeds for the next world war were planted and, as the next twenty years demonstrated, they were correct. Something had to be done about war and its lasting devastation. A new world order was urgently needed but standing in its way was the issue of nationalism. John Foster Dulles, the principle mover behind the new world order, believed the “solution...

Starlight and Time, Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe, by D. Russell Humphreys (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1994) 137 pp., paper $5.99

Dr. Humphreys is a young earth physicist who is addressing the question of how the light from stars, many light years away, could be seen from earth if the universe is only a few thousand years old (p. 9). By means of a rather technical discussion of black holes, white holes (pp. 23-28), relativity and gravitational time dilation, among other things, Humphreys believes that clocks tick at different rates in different parts of the universe. “By this effect …God could have made the universe in six ordinary days as measured on earth, while still allowing time for light to travel billions of light-years to reach us by natural means” (p. 54). Using this theory Humphreys is also able to explain from both a biblical and scientific base what happens on each of the six days of creation (pp. 74-80). The book contains three appendices expanding Humphreys’ theories. More recently...

It’s OK to Say God,Prelude to a Constitutional Renaissance,by Tad Armstrong (Bloomington, Indiana: Westbow Press, 2011), 350 pp. + xiii, paper $25.00

Tad Armstrong, an attorney and founder of ELL Constitution Clubs, established to provide a forum for lay people to study the actually pronouncements of the United States Supreme Court, has a deep concern. He believes that most people, including Christians, are ignorant of the actual rulings of the Supreme Court, especially as they touch our freedoms of religion and speech as expressed the First and Fourteenth amendments of the Constitution (p. ix). As a result, many of us not only believe but also spread half-truths and outright lies, causing unnecessary anxiety and distrust of our government. The only solution, Armstrong believes, is to become educated by reading the actual words of the Court’s rulings and correcting those who do not know the truth. The author writes, It is my contention that, once Christians have the facts in tow, most of the unwarranted skirmishes will cease and the real battles...

The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction

Jonathan Cahn’s, The Harbinger, is a warning to America that God’s judgment is imminent unless the country repents and turns to the Lord, and that very soon. The need for repentance and true dedication to Christ in our society is not doubted by most Christians. America, as a whole, has rejected the Lord, ignored His ways, and rebelled against His sovereign rule. That we ultimately reap what we sow is a biblical concept that is not going to be repealed for the United States and Cahn’s basic theme is well worth considering. If the book is read merely as a novel warning our country to wake up spiritually it has value, but the author makes immediately clear that “what is contained within the story is real” (p. 7). In other words Cahn believes that God pronounced exacting judgment on America and that judgment is found in Scripture, specifically Isaiah...

The End of Education by Neil Postman

Postman, author of insightful books such as Amusing Ourselves to Death and The Disappearance of Childhood, stretches our minds again in this volume.  Postman does not really believe that education has ended but he argues for an educational system that asks different questions, and looks for different results than is common today. Due to my assumption that few will read this review I will not elaborate further except to say that anyone involved in education would benefit from working through Postman’s thoughts on the subject....

Y2K: A Reasoned Response to Mass Hysteria by Dave Hunt

Hunt takes a far more moderate approach than many to the computer glitch now referred to as Y2K. He quotes generously from those who foresee great disaster as the world approaches the year 2000, but he firmly disagrees with their scenario. The views of the doomsayers are based, Hunt believes, on misinformation and/or dated reports. If all the facts are gathered, and the many “silver bullets” are factored in, the author believes Y2K would be foreseen as a bump in the road, not a catastrophic cavern looming just ahead waiting to swallow all of civilization. This book is well footnoted and documented, as are all of Hunt’s works. Hunt does tend to go off on tangents, write in circles and repeat the same information throughout the book. But he gets his thesis across, and his judgment is well worth considering. Personally, I believe that Hunt is right on the...

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Seven Habits is one of the most successful and widely acclaimed books in the success literature genre. Even in fundamental Christian circles it ha received strong endorsements. So I had to see what all the excitement was about for myself. On the positive side I greatly appreciate Covey’s emphasis on character development as opposed to personality development (pp.18ff). In the past our society was concerned with the development of the inner man but for the last 50 years the superficial, outward appearance has taken center stage. Covey’s book is a call back to a former time in which real success came from within. I found the book to be full of many practical and useful suggestions that would aid anyone in having an effective life. Things like putting first things first, seeking to understand others before being understood, and taking time to “sharpen the saw” (i.e. personal preparation for...

The Pocket University by Several

The Pocket University, first published in 1923, is a collection of some of the finest pieces of literature in the English language. Within its first 22 volumes are 1380 masterpieces just waiting to teach, inspire and give us enjoyment. Volume 23, a classic in itself, emphasizes the joy of reading, and also includes a systematic reading schedule that would guide a reader through all 22 volumes in one year. The concept of The Pocket University is that if a person would devote 15-30 minutes per day reading the very best in literature they would have the equivalent of a liberal arts education (p. 81). The opening words of Volume 23 are, “Here are three services which books may render in the home: They may be ornaments, tools or friends.” The Pocket University offers us an exceptional opportunity to make some friends....

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

There goes another millionaire, that guy in his $2000 suit, driving his BMW to his home in the fanciest part of town. Right? Not likely. According to the authors of this fascinating book the millionaire is probably the guy behind him in his three-year-old Chevy, wearing casual clothing and living in a middle class neighborhood. Why is that true? Because the typical millionaire has learned to live well below his income and is not anxious to impress people with his money, which he has earned through hard work and risk. The first guy is probably a millionaire want-a-be who is in debt up to his $50 tie, leasing a car that he really can’t afford, living in a house that is beyond his means, and generally caught up in a lifestyle that will ensure that he never makes it to millionaire row. These are the kinds of things we...

The Millennium Bug by Michael S. Hyatt

Hyatt is “convinced that Y2K problems presents us with, potentially, the most significant, extensive, and disruptive crisis we have ever faced (p. xix).” He has written this best seller in order “to lay the facts before you, help you understand how they will affect you, and then help you decide what you must do – personally” (p. xviii). Just in case you personally decide to take drastic steps, Hyatt has a web site which sells the “Countdown to Chaos Protection Kit,” a six-audio-tape set plus an accompanying handbook, complete with “recommendations, checklist, and the essential resources and supplies you’ll need to survive this looming crisis” – for $89 (Wall Street Journal 1/21/99). “When the clock strikes midnight on January 1, 2000, computer systems all over the world will begin spewing out bad data – or stop working altogether! When this happens, it will be similar to a giant hard-disk...

The Melungeons by N. Brent Kennedy

An interesting account of the possible origins of the mysterious Melungeons. Kennedy traces the incomplete record of this race of people found mostly in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee, all the way back to the 15th century. This is also the sorry story of the discrimination against the Melungeons, which in many ways rivals that of the Blacks and possibly exceeds that of the American Indian....

The Hedge of Thorns by Mark Hamby

This is a supposed true account of John Carrol and his sister Bell who lived in 17th century England. Taken from Carrol’s own account and first published in 1819 by John Hatchard, the story has been rewritten and published by Mark Hamby for modern readers. This is a highly moving little story of a literal hedge of thorns designed to protect travelers from perils that lay beyond, but which became most harmful when transgressed. Carrol’s sad encounter with the thorn hedge as a child foreshadows his spiritual experience as a young man. Had he learned the lesson the literal thorns could have taught he would have been spared the tragic consequences of later years. This book is written that others might learn the lessons John Carrol disregarded. A most interesting story....

Still Waters by W. Phillip Keller

Warning! This book may be hazardous to your peace of mind. I picked up Still Waters thinking that it would be a devotional work along the line of the author’s famous and excellent, A Shepherd Looks at the Twenty Third Psalm, but quickly realized that this was a totally different kind of book. Still Waters is the account of Keller’s and his second wife’s escape from the noise, busyness and rush of modern society. They bought a comfortable cabin in a beautiful wooded area beside a small lake, where they explore and enjoy all the aspects of this life of quietness and solitude. Keller details these wonders in chapters filled with the glories of nature. This book is not about God or Christian living as such; it is about rest and quiet. On the positive side it is well written and interesting. On the negative it creates a great...

Seabiscuit, an American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand

For anyone who loves sports in general and the history of horse racing in particular, Seabiscuit is a classic. This is a meticulously researched true account that reads like a fast-paced novel. It is a nonfiction story that is better than fiction. Seabiscuit, for the uninitiated, was arguably the third best racehorse to have ever run, behind only Man of War and Secretariat. He ran in the 1930s where his exploits electrified and depressed a nation....

Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

Have you ever considered reading a book on punctuation? No? You will change your mind if you read Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Truss’ book has been a best seller in England for some time, but has jumped the pond and is now a hit in America. Truss actually teaches sound principles concerning punctuation and makes it enjoyable. I would recommend this book for anyone who writes as part of his job or ministry. For that matter, anyone who wants to write in proper form will benefit from this volume....

Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals by William J. Bennett

Of all the books that have been, and will be, written on Bill Clinton and his scandalized Presidency, surely this one will reign supreme. Written by a man with a strong political background and author of the Book of Virtues, Bennett has become the unofficial keeper of the moral flame in Washington. While not a Christian, to my knowledge, most believers will line up with his view of values, and will applaud what he has to say in The Death of Outrage. Bennett rightly recognizes that we are fast becoming a nation of people who believe that economic stability is vastly more important than personal character. “If these arguments take root in American soil,” so writes Bennett, “If they become the coin of the public realm – we will have validated them, and we will come to rue the day we did” (p.9). For, says our author, “In America,...

Common Sense by Thomas Paine

Common Sense, the famous “pamphlet” published on January 10, 1776 by Thomas Paine, was a powerful call for American independence from England. It met with immediate success and had numerous reprints, tipping the scales in the minds of many toward the Revolution. At the same time it brought resolve and courage to those who fought for the cause. In Paine’s mind it made common sense to rebel against England. It was the right time; America had the necessary resources; the monarchy of England was a governmental system to avoid; even God and Scripture were on the side of the colonies. Paine appealed to the pride of Americans, their natural rights, the benefit of national debt, their financial well-being, their aspirations for the future, as well as their common sense to move for independence without delay. As he intoned in the appendix of a subsequent edition of Common Sense, “We...

Building the Kingdom of God on Earth by Martin Erdmann

Building the Kingdom of God on Earth is an excellent work which informs us of the past and gives us much to consider for the future. Erdmann writes of the era when World War I was approaching and a number of influential people gave thought to what could possibly abolish war and solve most of the world’s social ills. Following the Great War it was determined by many that only a “new world order” could accomplish such a feat. With the signing of the Treaty of Versailles many felt the seeds for the next world war were planted and, as the next twenty years demonstrated, they were correct. Something had to be done about war and its lasting devastation. A new world order was urgently needed but standing in its way was the issue of nationalism. John Foster Dulles, the principle mover behind the new world order, believed the...