Audible Win Win Sale – 231 Audiobooks for $4.95 Each

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Audible has 231 audiobooks on sale for $4.95. The sale runs until Sept 26. There are some of the books (especially the classics) that might be cheaper if you purchased a cheap or free kindle edition first and get the audible whisper sync discount.

These books have been reviewed at Bookwi.se (links are to Bookwi.se Reviews). Click here to go to the fully list of the sale.

Reviewed Books on Sale:

The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World by Douglas F. Kelly

The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World by Douglas F. KellyReviewed by Bookwi.se Contributor Seth Simmons

The basic premise of The Emergency of Liberty in the Modern World is that the philosophical and theological seeds of a doctrine of religious liberty and its relationship with state power were developed first by John Calvin, and that his ideas so saturated and infiltrated the climate of Western thought that many today don’t even recognize his influence.
After discussing Calvin’s theological developments, the author describes how the French Huguenots in the late sixteenth century took Calvin’s ideas and expanded on them, recasting them in the language of natural secular rights. Running in parallel, Scotsman theologian John Knox expanded Calvin’s ideas further and developed a theology that practically obligated Christians to defy a government that oversteps its boundaries. Next, the history of medieval-to-modern England is a story of theological factions warring over the source and development of political authority and its relationship to the church. Eventually, the Puritans abandoned Europe (to a degree) and brought to a young America their views about state power.

Amends: A Novel by Eve Tushnet

Amends: A Novel by Eve TushnetSummary: A groups of alcoholics is the subject of a reality TV show.

Eve Tushnet is a writer that I have been wanting to read more from. I have read a number of blog posts and articles by her. In addition to this novel, she has a memoir that I have been wanting to read for a while. Several authors that I ‘know’ have recommended the novel. And because it was recommended as funny, and only $3.99, I picked it up.

I am not sure that funny is how I would describe it. Alcoholism and recovery are not inherently funny subjects, at least to me. I did a college internship with a drug and alcohol rehab program (primarily focused on recently homeless.) While I only worked as a counselor for a few months with the internship, I volunteered there for years and lived on site in exchange for working as night security for a couple years before I was married in grad school.

Amends presents a fairly realistic view of addiction and recovery. The reality TV program is being put together by an addict herself. The ‘talent’ is chosen for diversity and interest. So there is a gay man, a teen hockey star, a homeless Christian African immigrant, well known playwright, a woman who identifies as a wolf, etc.

These are all brilliant characters. Their conversations are occasionally over the head of the TV audience. The reality TV angle, similar to Christopher Beha’s Arts and Entertainment and Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, both irritated me and provided some needed context to the novel. I really do not like most reality tv. The exploitive nature of it, especially with something like addiction, is acknowledged by the book but also still wrapped up in the novel.

Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why by Paul Tough

Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why by Paul Tough book reviewSummary: Helping children from difficult backgrounds succeed, is more about creating the right environments for them to be successful than it is teaching them success strategies.

My paying job is to manage data for an after school program that works in low income areas and targets low performing students at low performing school. I am always interested in the latest theories and practices that seem to be successful. But I have been working at this job for nearly 15 years. And my wife has been a teacher for even longer. I have seen trends come and go. Solutions are never fast or simple because the problems have been long in coming and are infinitely complex.

Paul Tough is a journalist, a writer for the New York Times and a contributor to This American Life. This is his second book on this theme (the first was How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character). This is a very short book, 145 pages, less than 4 hours of audio. And in that short number of pages there are still 23 chapters. Tough opens by charting out why children from difficult backgrounds have difficulty in school and life. Adversity, stress, trauma, neglect, low attachment and other adversities all impact development. Some of these can literally change DNA, but all impact development of young children, which has a very long term impact on future development.

Helping Children Succeed is more than diagnosing the problem, Tough also attempts to chart out some of the failed solutions and some of the potential viable solutions. There is no pretense that solving problems of education is easy. But because of differences of demographics, population trends and birth rates, the majority of children in schools are now poor, minority or from other difficult to educate subgroups.

Where I think Tough is right is that character issues, internal motivation and ‘grit’ is more important in the long term than base intelligence. The question is how to develop the internal, and often precognitive, skills that allow kids to do the hard work that is necessary to overcome their educational difficulties.

Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World by Walker Percy

Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World by Walker Percy book Review

Summary: A slightly neurotic psychiatrist faces the end of the world after inventing a device that can read the state of a person’s soul.

Walker Percy is one of those 20th century Catholic novelists that intrigue me. Percy, Graham Greene, Flannery O’Connor, Endo and several others were not writing ‘Christian fiction’. They were writing literary fiction that was influenced by their faith, usually quite overtly. They became prophets in a way that I am not sure is quite possible today.

Alan Jacobs’ long essay at Haper’s on the loss of the Christian Public Intellectual is somewhat similar to my thoughts here. It is not that there are not prominent literary figures that are Christians (Marilynne Robinson being the first on everyone’s lips.) But I am not sure that there is a similar prophetic voice, and I am not sure that the culture of the 1950-70s that produced these famous Catholic voices wasn’t a particular culture that was conversant enough about Christian themes, while not necessarily being Christian. But it is also always problematic comparing historical authors to current because the remembered historical authors are always greater than the whole of current authors that have not been winnowed by time.

Love in the Ruins is about Dr Tom More. Written in 1971, it envisions a near future USA that has devolved into a segmented culture with no real government. Small city states of conservatives (Knotheads) or liberals operate without any opposition. Several groups live outside of society, including the hippy communes and the Black radicals that are opposing a more extreme Jim Crow (near slavery) style oppression.

Tom More is a widower. His wife left him to find herself after their daughter died. And then his wife died with her universalist guru. Tom is now a brilliant alcoholic womanizing doctor. He is a sometimes  psych resident of the large teaching hospital. But mostly he is living by himself, minded by his nurse, pursuing local girls and trying to figure out his Ontological Lapseometer. The Lapseometer reads the state of the soul and toward the middle of the book he figures out how to turn the reading device into one that can adjust the mental imbalances of the individual, Angelism/Beastialism ratio among other types of imbalances.

Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants

I am reposting this 2013 review because the Kindle Edition is on sale for $1.99. Also his recent book, Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins: Learning from the Psychology of Ancient Monks is free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.
Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis OkholmTakeaway: Spiritual Growth is not a quick fix.  It is a journey without end.

One of my favorite classes at Wheaton College was Systematic Theology with Dennis Okholm.  I think I learned more about theology in that class than I did in all of my theology classes at University of Chicago Divinity School combined.

So when I saw that Okholm’s book was on sale for kindle (2 weeks ago), I picked it up and read almost all of it in a single sitting, that probably goes against the theme of the book.

Monk Habits for Everyday People is a very readable and interesting look at how Protestants (and more particularly Evangelicals that are often most interesting in evangelism and salvation) can learn from Benedictines about how to live as Christians.  This is an ongoing theme for me this year.  Not intentionally, but I think it is something that God is doing in me. As Okholm says near the beginning of the book:

We have become consumers of religion rather than cultivators of a spiritual life; we have spawned an entire industry of Christian kitsch and bookstores full of spiritual junk food that leaves us sated and flabby. As if we believed the infomercial that promises great abs if we just buy the right piece of equipment for $39.95, we think that the secret to being a spiritually fit Christian can be had by finding some secret technique or buying the most recent hot-selling inspirational devotional. Maturity in the Christian life does not come in these ways. The life of the disciple is like that of the athlete who prepares for and runs a marathon. We can have the snazziest running garb, assemble a library full of training schedules and tips, and watch Chariots of Fire each day every day for a year, but while all of these things might help, they will not be a substitute for the unspectacular training and diet that we must engage in if we are going to become mature Christians, “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jas. 1:4). It’s that way with anything in life—being a concert pianist, a skilled sculptor, or an insightful historian.

And this soon after that, “What Benedictines have to offer Protestants in this quest is the lived reminder that the Christian community’s ultimate function is to shape individuals who, as disciples of Christ, are being formed into his image.”

The End of All Things by John Scalzi (Old Man’s War #6)

The End of All Things by John Scalzi (Old Man's War #6)Summary: More inter galactic political intrigue and death defying heroics.

Old Man’s War was a great book. It was a nice update to Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. I never did read the third and fourth books of the series (which I should). Scalzi rebooted the series with Human Division and continues it with The End of All Things.

These two books are short story collections that tell the story in snippets from a variety of perspectives. That is not my favorite method. But Scalzi is a good writer and in spite of the fact that I am not a fan of short stories. These are well done. They give the idea of some of the wide ranging fiction of George RR Martin or Neal Stevenson without the 900 pages of text.

Most of the time I write reviews soon after I finish a book, but it has been nearly 2 weeks since I actually finished The End of All Things. And while I know the story and can remember the major arc, it is a fairly forgettable. The problem with the story story collection idea is that it usually lacks the character development as it bounces around. And while several of the characters have been in several other books (Harry throughout), I just don’t really love any of them.

From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology by John Dyer

I am reposting this 2011 review (one of the best books I read in 2011) because the Kindle Edition is free today.
From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of TechnologyTakeaway: Technology is shaped by its human creators, but also in turn shapes its human users. (This is the book I have been searching for on Technology and Christianity.)

I am a geek wannabe.  I fix a lot of friends computers and my less techie friends often ask for advice.  But my skills pale in comparison to John Dyer, John Saddington, and a bunch of other twitter friends.  In spite of the fact that I am a nanny and not a full time tech worker, I have been thinking a lot about technology and how we as Christians should be reacting.  Over the past couple months I have read two decent books on Technology and Christianity, Tim Challies’ The Next Story and Adam Thomas’ Digital Disciple.  Both have real value, but the book I have been looking for is John Dyer’s From The Garden to the City.

The main theme of the book is that while we as humans create technology (and that is part of our God given role), the resulting technology shapes us in ways that we often ignore.  A personal example happened yesterday.  My wife and I are heavy users of our phones for social media and texting, but we do not actually use them to make a lot of phone calls.  Our smart phones are not neutral devices as many Christians want to say, neither good nor evil.  Yes, we can choose to do good things or evil things with the phones, but the very fact we have the phones affects the way we interact in the world.  Technology is not deterministic; we can overcome natural tendencies.  But without reflection and insight we, often are just unaware of how the technology affects us.

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (Cormoran Strike #3)

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (Cormoran Strike #3)Summary: The reader may have the thoughts of the killer, but we won’t know the identity until the end.

I do not particularly like knowing the thoughts of a killer. (Which is why I hate the show Criminal Minds.) So I am not particularly happy that JK Rowling added that twist to Career of Evil. That being said, this is the best book of the series so far.

Cormoran Strike and his partner Robin are the main focus. Robin is preparing for her wedding to a man that we are not particularly supposed to like. There is a lot of back story on both Cormoran and Robin. They are really developed as characters and that suggests a continuation to the series that I look forward to.

The problem is that there is little where else for Rowling to go with the criminals. There are three viable suspects here from Cormoran’s background. And we now have a real serial killer as the bad guy. One that really enjoys death, dismemberment and many other disturbing murder cliché’s.

September Deals

51EZ7+jixOL._AA300_ChristianAudio’s free audiobook of the month is The Boy Born Dead. It is 7 hours and 10 minutes long and has 4.6 stars (out of 5) based on 30 reviews at Audible. And 94% of review on Amazon are 4 or 5 star.

Amazon/Audible free audiobookThe Phantom of the Opera –every month Amazon and Audible give away a kindle/audiobook. Both the kindle book and the audiobook are free. But you have to purchase the free kindle edition first here, and then add on the Audible narration. This was free a couple years ago, so you may already have this audiobook.

Sept Kindle Sale – there are 302 kindle books on sale for the new August sale. There are 36 Religious books6 Children’s Books, 23 Young Adult books, 26 Biographies and Memoirs, 74 Mysteries, 92 Romance, 39 Scifi and Fantasy and more. Bookwi.se has Reviewed Scary Close by Donald Miller, Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans, and Art of Work by Jeff Goins (links are to the reviews)

Some of the books that are in the sale that are worth looking at include (links are to the books at Amazon): The Rich are Different by Susan Howatch ($1.99), Confessions of Nat Turner by William Clark Styron ($2.99), Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler ($1.99), and Proof: The Science of Booze by Adam Rogers ($2.99)

Free Kindle First Book – every month Amazon gives away one of six pre-release books to Amazon Prime members. These are books that are published by one of Amazon’s many publishing imprints.

September 2016 Kindle First