Posts By Adam Shields

Black Friday Sales Audiobook and Ebook Sales

Barnes and Noble has 25% off most things either in Store or online with coupon

Amazon has $5 off a $20 physical book purchase with code GIFTBOOK17

Amazon has a Start a New Kindle Series sale. The book itself isn’t on sale, but you get a $2 credit when you start one of the select series. Reviewed books from the sale include:

Audible has over 400 books on sale for $4.95 and another 300 children’s books for $3.95. 

The reviewed books on sale (links to reviews)

Recommended (link to sale books)

Kindles are on sale.

Amazon has 1600 Graphic Novels on sale for 65-85% off

The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase #3) by Rick Riordan

The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase #3) by Rick RiordanSummary: Final chapter in Riordan’s Norse trilogy.

Rick Riordan has become a young adult/children’s author powerhouse. Churning out nearly 30 books or graphic novel adaptations in just over the last 10 years. He is best known for his Percy Jackson series, which is set in the same world as this series. (Magnus Chase is the cousin of Annabeth Chase from the Percy Jackson series.)

This series I think is geared to a slightly older audience than the original Percy Jackson series. But returns to what made the Percy Jackson series good. It is clearly young adult, with the same types of tropes that most young adult novels contain. But it is also fun.

The Hangman by Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Gamache #6.5)

The Hangman by Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Gamache #6.5)Summary: A novella in the middle of the series.

Louise Penny was asked to write this novella by ABC Life Literacy Canada. It was intentionally written with an easy to read vocabulary and structure but with similar themes for adults and older teens that have difficulty reading.

This type of book is so important. There are many adults that for a variety of reasons do not have high level reading skills. But most of the books that are in the range of their reading level are thematically oriented toward children or teens. While I am glad that many adults are returning to read Young Adult or Children’s books, many adults do not want to only read children’s or YA books.

What I was most struck by while reading The Hangman was that it didn’t feel like a simplified book. Penny was able to construct a novella that while it isn’t as complex as her longer books in structure, it didn’t feel like she was reducing the book to something lesser than what she normally writes.

This is a novella, so I finished it quickly. But it was worth reading. It did not really add anything to the broader story, but at the same time you do not really need to know the rest of the series to pick it up.

Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland

Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart by Christena ClevelandSummary: Unity is actually a pretty big deal.

I am not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading Disunity in Christ, but it has. The book came out four years ago and I purchased it two years ago. But I didn’t actually read it until last week.

I did not need convincing that Unity is a pretty important part of Christianity. The problem is not that unity is important, but what unity means and what we should be doing about the lack of unity.

Books on Christian unity are not completely unusual. But most books are either theological explorations of the concept of unity, or practical training on peacemaking. While there are theological reflections and practical ideas on how to build unity, what is unique is the social science that helps to explain both why unity is important and why unity is hard to achieve solely with human means.

Christena Cleveland is a Social Psychologist. She is currently a professor at Duke Divinity School and a frequent trainer. The background in social science research, along with a number of studies that she reports on, were her own, gives her credibility.

Philosophy and Religion in the West by Phillip Cary

Philosophy and Religion in the West by Phillip CarySummary: Overview of how Philosophy and religion in the west have impacted one another.

Phillip Cary was the professor in my favorite Great Courses course, The History of Christian Theology. He is a professor at Eastern University. Philosophy and Religion in the West was nearly as good.

This is a western history of philosophy. I would also like to see an eastern version, but I do not think that exists from Great Courses right now.

The course opens with Plato and Socrates before moving into Jewish and Christian philosophy. Because I have been intentionally trying to work on developing my philosophy background, there were things here that were both repetitive from other Great Courses or reading, but also a number of areas where something finally clicked for me.

The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life by John Le Carré

The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life by John Le CarréSummary: Memories from a great novelist.

John le Carré (the pen name for novelist David John Moore Cornwell) has had a long career. He turned 86 last week, but started writing in the late 1950s. He most recent novel, a sequel to The Spy Who Came In From the Cold was released in September.

Part of what interested me from the reviews of The Pigeon Tunnel was how le Carré knowingly plays with the idea of memory. Several places he suggests that his recounting is what he remembers, but then comments that others remember the situation differently.

In one of the later chapters, mostly about his father, he says that he paid two investigators to give background on his father. He wanted to write his memory of events and then have the ‘actual’ events as recounted by the investigators on a corresponding page to show the difference. The investigators were not able to find the level of detail that he needed to carry that idea out. But that hint of how le Carré views memory and reality give a sense of what he was trying to do in this memoir.

Le Carré can tell a story. As I was reading or listening (I alternated back and forth between Kindle and Audiobook with le Carré narrating the audiobook), I was almost always engaged. But I would put it down and not be super excited to pick it up again. So I spent several weeks working through The Pigeon Tunnel.

As with almost every memoir there are people and stories that are mentioned that hold great importance to the author that do not quite get communicated to the reader. Some of the name dropping went completely over my head.

But I thought the end of The Pigeon Tunnel was especially good. His discussion of his father (a con man who spent time in jail and was wanted in many countries) was particularly insightful and interesting. That led to a discussion about his own education being covered at one point by a rich friend because his mother disappeared when he was a child and his father was unreliable (and a crook). Because of the friend loaning him the money, le Carré was able to finish his education and get the job in the intelligence world which led to him become a novelist. In a similar way, le Carré connects a story of him helping someone else to become a doctor by loaning him the money for his education. Those types of stories about how we are related matter. Le Carré’s stories are often cynical, but not everything about him is cynical.

November Monthly Deals

You are Already Amazing by Halley GerthChristianAudio’s free audiobook of the month is a You are Already Amazing: Embracing Who You Are, Becoming All God Created You to Be by Holley Gerth It is 5 hours and 17 minutes long and has 94% 4 or 5 star reviews at Amazon and 4.7 stars (out of 5) based on 30 reviews at Audible.

November Kindle Sale – there are 841 kindle books on sale for the new November sale.  There are 300 Religious books53 Young Adult books, 117 Biographies and Memoirs, 116 Mysteries, 115 Romance, 97 Scifi and Fantasy and more.

Books that are on sale that have been reviewed by are now on a permanent, continuously updated post.

Some others that  that look interesting.

America’s Constitution: A Biography by Akhil Reed Amar

America's Constitution: A Biography by Akhil Reed AmarSummary: History, Law and Political Science together help us understand the origin and ‘meaning’ of the Constitution.

I have been very slowly working my way through America’s Constitution: A Biography for months. Part of what has been interesting is reading it along side books like The Half that Has Not Been Told and Reconstruction: America’s Unfished Revolution, Very Short Introduction to the President and theology books like the one I am currently reading on hermeneutics.

When I picked up America’s Constitution I was expecting something like either a Very Short Introduction series book, that describes the content with a bit of analysis or one of the Biography of Religious book series, like the one on Mere Christianity or The Book of Common Prayer or Letters and Papers from Prison that were as much about how the books were received as they are about the content of the book. Instead Akhil Reed Amar is using a mix of history, legal interpretation and analysis of the politics that created and amended the constitution. This well rounded perspective give both an overview of the content as well as helping to understand why we understand the constitution as we do.

I appreciate the well rounded analysis, but the organization occasionally left me a bit frustrated. The full constitution is in an appendix at the back. And I probably read it completely at least three times and sections of it many more times than that trying to get context for the discussion. I do wish there was more extended quotations of it in context of the book (or better linking to the sections as footnotes in the kindle edition.) In many ways it is exactly like theology books that reference passages of scripture without actually quoting them, so that you need to stop and go look them up in context to understand the discussion.

The most helpful parts of the book was the extended discussions throughout the book on role and politics of slavery in the development of the constitution and how the constitution was amended and understood. What the discussion of slavery shows is how much politics matters. The constitution is not just a document of ideals, but of practical realities. It is what was passed and approved. Amar also includes speculation of what could have been approved based on notes of discussions, the constitutions of states and the understanding of legal theories of the times with English Common Law system. What we have could have been different and that matters to how we understand the constitution.

Is the Bible Good for Women by Wendy Alsup

Is the Bible Good for Women by Wendy AlsupTakeaway: The fact that this question (and the related questions about whether the church or Jesus is good for women) needs to be asked is depressing.

Maybe it is just me. But I find when working through books that are a bit to the left of me, it is fairly easy for me to take what is good and leave what is not. However, books and teachers to the right of me, I have to more consciously and intentionally listen to what is being said and not insert ‘so what you means is…’ statements that do not adequately reflect what the author is intending.

I have followed Wendy Alsup’s blog for years. There is much that I agree with and appreciate about her writing. I intentionally attempt to read her with an open mind because even though we disagree about some issues of theology and approach to scripture, I have greatly benefited from listening to her over time.

Alsup is in an uncomfortable middle ground. She is writing this book for women that either are from a fundamentalist background and have absorbed teaching that really is anti-women or for those that are outside the church and assume they know what the bible is about.

She is also in an uncomfortable position of pushing back against overly restrictive positions on women (for instance she believes and talks about in the book why women should be ordained as deacons) while not accepting women as elders and pastors. She frequently critiques complementarian views as commonly understood and taught, although many from the more egalitarian side easily lump her in with the term.

Alsup uses the phrase, ‘the bible is the best commentary on itself’ frequently in Is the Bible Good for Women. I like this idea, but it is a nuanced and theological idea and in the working out of it I frequently disagree with Alsup’s takes. My disagreement starts with Genesis 1 and 2. While gender is present in Genesis 1 and 2, my bias suggests that the point of those passages are not about gender or roles, but about God being supreme god above all other gods in the land.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple by Alice WalkerSummary: Life is horrible, then it gets a bit better.

I have spent a lot of the past year or so reading history and other non-fiction about racism, slavery, Jim Crow and the broader African American experience in the US. I have not read a lot of fiction in part because non-fiction I can distance myself a bit.

A large part of the point of fictional portrayals of the African American experience is to engage in an emotional way. I am still reluctant, although I know that is where I need to start going more often.

The Color Purple has been in my library for years. I picked it up on sale on kindle. Then picked up the audiobook on sale. But it wasn’t until the musical Color Purple was included in my Broadway in Atlanta subscription (so I could get Hamilton tickets) that I finally sat down and read The Color Purple.

Alternating between kindle and audiobook, it took me about a week to read the first 20%, but only two or three days the read the last 80%. The opening of The Color Purple is rough. Celie opens the books with short, childish letters to God. She is describing being repeatedly raped by her father as her mother gets sick and dies. And this continues for years after her mother’s death. She gives birth twice, with her father taking away the children into the woods to an unknown fate.

Later, when her younger sister starts to mature and become attractive, she starts to try to protect her. That leads to Celie essentially being sold off to a widower to be his new wife (and sex slave) and mother to his children (who are not much younger than she is.)

The time scale for The Color Purple is decades. As I tried to describe the story to my wife in preparation for the musical (we go Sunday night), the weight and breadth of the story really came to me. There are a number of characters that are well developed with enough back stories and emotional life to make telling the story difficult.