One-Minute Book Reviews

August 17, 2008

Quotes of the Day from Rick Warren’s ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ — ‘The Bestselling Nonfiction Hardback Book in History’

I didn’t see the evangelical pastor Rick Warren interview the presumptive presidential nominees yesterday at his California megachurch, but I was curious about the man who persuaded Barak Obama and John McCain to spend an hour apiece answering his questions. Somebody had stolen my library’s only copy of Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, which the trade journal Publishers Weekly called “the bestselling nonfiction hardback book in history.” But I found the paperback edition in the Christianity section of a local bookstore. Here are some quotes from The Purpose Driven Life.

“Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning.”

“God has a purpose for your life on earth, but it doesn’t end here. His plan involves far more than the few decades you will spend on this planet.”

“Temptation is a sign that Satan hates you, not a sign of weakness or worldliness.”

“I once heard the suggestion that you develop your life purpose statement based on what you would like other people to say about you at your funeral. Imagine your perfect eulogy, then build your statement on that. Frankly, that’s a bad plan. At the end of your life it isn’t going to matter at all what other people say about you. The only thing that will matter is what God says about you.”

“Now that you understand the purpose of life, it is your responsibility to carry the message to others.”

“Even many remote villages get email, so you can now carry on “e-vangelistic” conversations with people on the other side of the world, without even leaving home!”

Comments have been turned off for this post. Thank you for not leaving comments about this post here or elsewhere on One-Minute Book Reviews. Many sites welcome comments on The Purpose Driven Life www.purposedrivenlife.com. You can find some of them by searching for terms such as “purpose driven life” and “discussion groups.” You can find a transcript of what Obama and McCain told Rick Warren at rickwarrennews.com/transcript/ and more about their interviews with him here thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/08/16/tonights-obama-mccain-faith-forum/.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 18, 2008

Is This ‘Da Vinci Code’ Acolyte a Delete Key Awards Candidate?

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,Mysteries and Thrillers,Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:36 pm
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What kind of writing might qualify for one of the Delete Key Awards, given to authors who don’t use their delete keys enough? Bill Peschel over at Reader’s Almanac nails it with his suggestion of D. L. Wilson’s Unholy Grail, a Da Vinci Code acolyte that involves a manuscript said to be written by Jesus’ brother, James, and includes characters such as rogue priest who is killing others around the world and marking their bodies with stigmata.

This paperback original might seem like small potatoes compared with Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach (longlisted for a “Bad Sex” in fiction award) and Steve Martin and Roz Chast’s The Alphabet From A to Y, a book for roughly 2-to-4-year-olds that sends the message that kids are never too young to make fun of people with disabilities. But Bill noted that Unholy Grail “fights above its weight with its combination of subject matter, timeliness and powerfully bad writing.”

Here are three of my favorite Delete Key contenders from this religious thriller, chosen from a rich list that Bill sent:

“For two thousand years, Christianity’s held up pretty darn well.”

“’Here’s the kicker, Charlie,’ Carlota sank into her chair and let out a sigh. ‘Professor Hamar’s husband felt so much guilt over contributing to the disease that killed their son that he committed suicide.’ Charlie smacked his hands to his head so hard he knocked his cap off.”

“A uniformed task force had been sent to the Hotel Royal and, thank God, there was no dead priest in any of the rooms.”

You can find a review of Unholy Grail on Bill Peschel’s site www.planetpeschel.com/index?/reviews/bookreview/the_jesus_and_mary_chain/ and a blurb for it from Clive Cussler (“a tale rich with intrigue”) on D.L. Wilson’s www.dlwilsonbooks.com.To find out if the novel it made Delete Key Award shortlist, check back on Feb. 29, when One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the finalists for this year’s prizes.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday Revised Common Lectionary Readings and Hymns

Filed under: Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:49 pm
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If you visit this site regularly, you may have noticed that posts often relate to news events or holidays, usually through a quote from or review of a related book. One of the most popular of these was last year’s Ash Wednesday post (“What do the ashes on Ash Wednesday mean?”), based on Marc Foley’s A Season of Rebirth: Daily Meditations for Lent (New City, $12.95, paperback) www.newcitypress.com, back in the Top Ten today. (It’s beating that Marv Albert Super Bowl quote by the equivalent of a 56-0 postseason blowout.) I couldn’t find a similar book this year, so here instead is a link to Hymn Site‘s readings from the Revised Common Lectionary for Ash Wednesday www.hymnsite.com/lection/index.shtml. Click on the “Calendar” page on that site and then on “Ash Wednesday” to get the readings (which you can read or listen to).

One of Hymn Site’s suggested hymns for today is Charles Wesley’s great “Ye Servants of God,” inspired partly by the persecution of English Methodists in the 18th century. I can’t link directly to that hymn on Hymn Site, so here’s a direct link to the version on Cyber Hymnal www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/y/s/yservofg.htm. You’ll hear music as soon as you click on that link. You can find other suggested hymns by searching for “Lent” on Cyber Hymnal.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

December 23, 2007

Henry Van Dyke’s Christmas Classic, ‘The Story of the Other Wise Man’

A parable about the meaning of  faith that first appeared in 1896

The Story of the Other Wise Man. By Henry Van Dyke. Ballantine 112 pp., $7.95, paperback. Available in other editions, including abridged picture-book versions for children.

By Janice Harayda

What is the meaning of faith? Does it involve saying prayers? Attending religious services? Making pilgrimages to shrines or holy places?

Henry Van Dyke (1852–1933) never raises these questions directly in The Story of the Other Wise Man. But they lie at the heart of this classic parable about the meaning of faith in a secular age.

Van Dyke invents a fourth wise man, Artaban, who trades his belongings for gifts for “the promised one” foretold by prophets:  a sapphire, a ruby and a pearl. Artaban plans to give the jewels to the infant after meeting up with his companions Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, who have gold, frankincense and myrrh. But he misses the connection after he stops to nurse a dying man, and later on, he parts with his jewels. He uses the ruby to ransom a child whom King Herod had ordered slain and the pearl to free a girl about to be sold into slavery.

Artaban believes he has missed all opportunities to meet the promised one until, near the end of his 33 years, he reaches Jerusalem just before the Crucifixion. There he realizes that his search has ended when he hears a faint voice saying: “Verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.”

On his journey Artaban wrestles with what The Story of the Other Wise Man calls “the conflict between the expectation of faith and the impulse of love.” But Van Dyke resisted appeals to explain what his book “meant.”

“How can I tell?” he asks in his foreword. “What does life mean? If the meaning could be put into a sentence there would be no need of telling a story.”

Furthermore: Van Dyke was the minister at Manhattan’s Brick Presbyterian Church, where he first told Artaban’s story. He later became a professor English at Princeton University and Ambassador to the Netherlands. Van Dyke may be best known today as the author of the text for the hymn “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” set to the tune of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from the Ninth Symphony. Click here to read Van Dyke’s words and listen to the music www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/j/o/joyful.htm. You will also see a picture of Van Dyke if you click on the link.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

http://www.janiceharayda.com/


December 7, 2007

‘The Supreme Christmas Poem in the English Language’ Is … Quote of the Day (Reynolds Price)

This is the Month, and this the happy morn
Wherein the Son of Heav’ns eternal King,
Of wedded Maid, and Virgin Mother born,
Our great redemption from above did bring …

From John Milton’s “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”

What is “the Supreme Christmas poem in the English language”? This must have been more of a stumper than I thought, because I asked the question Tuesday, and nobody got it right. I may have thrown you off by saying I’d give an American writer’s answer when the poem wasn’t written here. (Oh, sons and daughters of Cambridge! Where were you when a fellow Cantabrigian needed you?) The novelist Reynolds Price argues – and many others would agree – that the poem is John Milton’s “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity.” Price says of Milton and his poem:

“The most powerful early component of his genius became visible in December 1629. While on the winter vacation from his studies at Cambridge, he wrote his initial indispensable poem, an ode ‘On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity.’ It was, almost certainly, the result – only two weeks after his twenty-first birthday – of his eagerness to exhibit a first fruit of the high calling he sensed within himself. And in the freewheeling rhetorical rapture which pours out memorable phrases in joyous profusion, in its complex musical urgency, and its unquestioned Christian sense of God’s immanence in nature, the ode continues to be the supreme Christmas poem in the English language.”

Reynolds Price in an essay on Milton in the just-published Literary Genius: 25 Classic Writers Who Define English and American Literature (Paul Dry Books, $18.95, paperback) www.pauldrybooks.com, selected and edited by Joseph Epstein with wood engravings by Barry Moser. Price, the poet and novelist, is the James B. Duke Professor English at Duke University www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reynolds_Price.

The first lines of Milton’s poem appear at the top of this post. You can read the annotated full text in the Milton Reading Room on the Dartmouth College site http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/nativity/index.shtml. Please note that on this template I can’t indent the lines as Milton did.

Did you know the answer to Tuesday’s question? An easy way to become better acquainted with Milton’s poetry is to go to the free site Cyber Hymnal and listen the hymn “Let Us With a Gladsome Mind,” which you can hear by clicking on this link: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/e/letuglad.htm. (You will hear the music immediately when you click.) The words to “Let Us With a Gladsome Mind” come from Milton’s poem with the same title, which he wrote when he was 15. You can read the poem and listen to the music simultaneously at Cyber Hymnal www.cyberhymnal.org, which also offers at no cost the words and music to thousands of other hymns, including religious Christmas carols.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

http://www.janiceharayda.com

November 21, 2007

Listen to Thanksgiving Hymns and Others for Free at Cyber Hymnal — Downloadable for Free, Too, If They’re Out of Copyright

Further update at 7:45 p.m. Dec. 1: The Cyber Hymnal site is back up. I just listened to the Doxology and “The Snow Lay on the Ground,” the carol often used as an anthem (the first I remember singing with youth choir at my childhood church). But I’m leaving up the Nov. 29 update because you may want to use Hymn Site as a back-up if Cyber Hymnal goes down again. Jan

Update at 5:25 p.m. Nov. 29: The Cyber Hymnal site seems to have crashed — let’s hope temporarily — since I posted this. The link worked without problems for days. But at this writing you can’t reach Cyber Hymnal either from here or the link on Google. Until the site is up again, you can hear the music and find the words to hymns at HymnSite www.hymnsite.com. HymnSite isn’t as easy to search as Cyber Hymnal and may have fewer hymns, but has many of the same elements. Jan

Update, Nov. 2010: Cyber Hymnal is now NetHymnal, and the links in this post have been changed to reflect it.

Today I was looking for facts to add to a quote of the day about a Thanksgiving hymn and found a site called NetHymnal that lets you listen for free to the music of more than hymns and Gospel songs.  NetHymnal also has the words and background of tunes, pictures of authors or composers, a few musical scores and more. It offers 29 hymns by J. S. Bach alone, including such chart-busters as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and “Von Himmel Hoch.” The site is just what its name implies — the online equivalent of a hymnal you might find slotted into a pew except that it lets you listen to the music instead of reading the scores. And you can download for free anything that’s out of copyright.

So this is the place to go if you’d like to hear the Thanksgiving hymns “Now Thank We All Our God,” “For the Beauty of the Earth” and “We Gather Together” (the only one of the three that’s non-Trinitarian in all verses). Cyber Hymnal also lets you listen to Christmas carols and patriotic songs such as “O Canada,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” (the Navy Hymn). And if you’re getting married in a church soon, you can hear any hymn that could be played at your wedding. Be sure to listen to the traditional — and best — version of the classic wedding hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” on Cyber Hymnal before somebody talks you into the alternate setting that has become popular without my consent. (Are you going to invite me to the wedding?)

If you don’t care for Thanksgiving hymns but want to hear to some of the most stirring music ever written, use the title search tool on Nethymnal to look for “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” (the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony), “Thine Be the Glory” (“See, the Conqu’ring Hero Comes” from Handel’s Judas Maccabeus) and “Be Still, My Soul” (“The Song of Peace” from Sibelius’s Finlandia). Like the Colorado Rockies, that quote of the day that I planned to post will have to wait till next year, because I’m off to Cyber Hymnal to listen Beethoven’s “The Heavn’s Resoundeth” (“The Heavens Are Telling”), nearly as glorious as the “Ode to Joy.”

The picture above from the old Cyber Hymnal shows Catherine Winkworth (1827-78), who translated “Now Thank We All Our God” (“Nun Danket”) from the German.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 24, 2007

Robert Cording’s Poem “Pentecost in Little Falls, New Jersey’

Filed under: Poetry,Religion — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:34 pm
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A reminder for anyone observing Pentecost (Sunday, May 27) …

Robert Cording’s eloquent collection Common Life: Poems (CavanKerry, $16, paperback) includes the poem “Pentecost in Little Falls, New Jersey.” A review of Common Life appeared on this site on April 5, 2007, and is archived in the “Poetry” category and with the April posts. You can find more information on Cording, a professor of English at Holy Cross, at www.cavankerrypress.org. Click on the “Reading Room” page on that site to read his poem, “A Prayer to Adam,” the first poem in Common Life.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 6, 2007

Tasha Tudor’s Children’s Classic, ‘A Tale for Easter’

Filed under: Children's Books,Classics — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:15 pm
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A young girl dreams of a magical journey on the back of a fawn in a picture book that’s been a holiday favorite for more than 60 years

A Tale for Easter. By Tasha Tudor. Aladdin, 32 pp., $5.99, paperback. Ages 4–8.

By Janice Harayda

This classic picture book is a kind of Easter counterpart to The Polar Express, though it has a smaller format than Chris Van Allsburg’s Christmas fable. Generations preschoolers and other young children have delighted in Tasha Tudor’s sentimental tale of a girl who, on the night before the holiday, dreams of taking a magical journey on the back of a “wee fawn” that shows her “rabbits smoothing their sleek coats,” lambs “in fields of buttercups” and other gentle creatures of the season.

A two-time Caldecott Honor artist, Tudor uses second-person narration and soft watercolors to show Easter through the eyes of girl who lived at around the time of the Civil War, to judge by her Little Women-ish dresses and bonnet. Tudor sets the tone early: “You never can tell what might happen on Easter. You’re not always sure when it is coming, even though you go to Sunday school … it is only when Good Friday comes, and you have hot cross buns for tea that you know for certain Easter will be the day after tomorrow.” And while a story this sweet won’t appeal to everybody, Tudor has following among all ages, including many adults. And A Tale for Easter is so widely available that you may be able to find in bookstores and libraries at the last minute.

Recommended if … you’re looking for a picture book that evokes the magic of a season of rebirth without getting into Christian theology. A Tale for Easter may especially appeal to a child who sees herself as a “girly-girl.”

Published: 1941 (first edition), January 2004 (Aladdin paperback reprint).

Furthermore: You may also want to read the post entitled “The Best Versions of the Easter Story for Children” (March 17), which deals with picture books about the Resurrection and related events. Click on the listing for the post under “Top Posts” at right. This post has ranked among the five most popular on One-Minute Book Reviews almost every day since it appeared.

A new review of a book or books for children or teenagers appears every Saturday on One-Minute Book Reviews. To avoid missing these reviews, please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed. One-Minute Book Reviews is a noncommercial site that does not accept advertising or free books or promotional materials from publishers and provides an independent evaluation of books by an award-winning critic.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 5, 2007

Robert Cording’s ‘Common Life’: Poems for Easter and Beyond

A distinguished poet explores “possible answers to unanswerable questions”

Common Life: Poems. By Robert Cording. CavanKerry, 105 pp., $16, paperback. [Note: The template for this site does not allow for the correct indentation of the lines quoted from "Pigeon Man."]

By Janice Harayda

One of the poems in the Robert Cording’s elegant Common Life tells of a man who, every Easter, would bring a truck full of caged pigeons to a town green, then release them and drive home to await the return of his flock. “The pigeon man” put on his display for residents who felt an odd mixture of spirits:

High on resurrection hymns, yet dampened by
Nagging reminders – Jim’s young wife dying of cancer

And their two boys who would be
Motherless in a month; a divorce ot two members
Loved by everyone; a suicide bombing in Jerusalem;
And soldiers occupying the church at Bethlehem.

“Pigeon Man” adds that though the release of the birds took only a moment, the townspeople looked forward

To the pigeons which must have suggested,
Whether we believed or not, and even if we knew
The movement in the opposite direction was far
More common, that grief could suddenly turn to grace.

That flash of grace amid tragedy is typical of the poems in Common Life, all rooted in the epigraph from Psalm 37:7: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” A professor of English at Holy Cross, Cording has said that he explores “possible answers to unanswerable questions.” And the 43 poems in Common Life radiate a sense of the mysteries of life that, like those of the rosary, can be joyful or sorrowful.

Some of the most memorable poems have their roots in practices you might find in Ripley’s Believe It or Not but that are transmuted in the book into something higher. Cording meditates on a petrified fetus that lived for 15 years in a Brazilian widow’s uterus, the 19th century tradition of photographing the dead and a man who wanted to kill himself when doctors restored his sight after a lifetime of blindness, an event that might have overjoyed others:

But now the most familiar objects lurch at him,
Irrationally, maddeningly.
They bear so little resemblance to his blind conception
Of them, the man actually wishes to be blind again …

Several poems besides “Pigeon Man” relate directly to Easter, including “Lenten Stanzas” and the title poem, which begins:

Like Christ on the Emmaus road concealed
From his disciples by his ordinariness,
The commonplace is sometimes hardest to see –

Yet if “the commonplace is sometimes hardest to see,” Cording evokes it with exceptional skill and mastery of form (which includes an occasional rhyme). He opens with “A Prayer to Adam,” a fine example of sprung rhythm and its strongly accented first syllables. And in “Rosary Bead, Netherlands, c. 1500” he recalls a medieval rosary in five ten-line stanzas that echo the form of the rosary itself.

For all their sacred imagery, the poems in Common Life never read like tracts or veiled exercises in proselytizing. They are poems first and “religious poems” second. Cording has said that he tells his students that the readers of a poem must feel that they are “making contact with a real human being, not simply with arguments and opinions.” In this collection, readers make that connection on every page.

Best line: Many. Here’s one from “Skellig Michael,” about a visit to a monastic ruin: “ … More than half / My life already over, I have come to know lately / How little I know, and how even that gets in my way, / My mind trafficking in perfectly managed confusions, / In creating comfort and security where neither truly exist.”

Worst line: “Much Laughter” is a good poem about the melancholy Samuel Johnson. But to say that Johnson entrusted Hester Thrale with “with a padlock/ And chain to restrain his fits when the time came” may be an oversimplification. Some scholars would argue that he had sexual reasons for doing this.

Published: March 2006

Furthermore: Cording’s poems have appeared in magazines that include the Nation, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, American Scholar, The New Yorker. Among those in Common Life, “Parable of the Moth” appeared in Best American Spiritual Writing 2004 (Houghton Mifflin, 2004) and “Advent Stanzas” in Best American Spiritual Writing 2005 (Houghton Mifflin, 2005).

Links: www.cavankerrypress.org

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 26, 2007

Robin McGraw’s Faith in Herself

Dr. Phil’s wife writes about her $50,000 Mercedes, her crystal chandeliers, and those tabloid rumors

[Note: I picked up Inside My Heart along with Love Smart, reviewed on this site on Feb. 8, planning to do a dual review. The books were so different I decided to do this one separately.]

Inside My Heart: Choosing to Live With Passion and Purpose. By Robin McGraw. Nelson, 223 pp., $24.99.

By Janice Harayda

Robin McGraw devotes four pages of Inside My Heart to a vasectomy reversal that her husband had without telling her – an incident that included, as she puts it, “fabricating” a cover story for his whereabouts during the surgery. This is by far the most revealing anecdote in her memoir of her marriage to Dr. Phil McGraw. What would her husband say if a man on his talk show confessed to doing the same thing?

McGraw says that she wrote Inside My Heart to get female readers excited about becoming “the woman that God created you to be,” a process that involves learning to stand up for themselves as she says she has done. Presumably to help them get “excited,” she writes about her $50,000 Mercedes, her “Italian Renaissance style” home with its “mosaic floors and crystal chandeliers” and her “black suede bomber jacket” that her husband gave her for Christmas. She says little about her day-to-day spiritual practices and struggles beyond that she gives thanks each morning for how “God has blessed” her.

Although Inside My Heart comes from a publisher of Christian books, God comes across in it as a generic figure with a goody bag that always has something for McGraw. So it’s hard to say who the target audience is. Inside My Heart may offend evangelicals with its glib materialism and lack of references to Jesus and the Bible. But it’s so shallow it has little to offer others, including people who enjoy good celebrity memoirs. Perhaps it’s is aimed partly at all those tabloid readers who wonder if there’s truth to the rumors that its author has been so lonely in Los Angeles, she went door-to-door trying to find someone to play bunco with her? If so, let the record show that McGraw says the stories about the dice game are false. “I had never even heard of it,” she says, “let alone played it.”

Best line: McGraw was startled when she first learned of her husband’s vasectomy reversal: “And then I took a good look at him and saw that he had a bulge under his trousers from a bandage and icepack.”

Worst line: At times McGraw slips into her husband’s nasty, hectoring tone. An example occurs when she urges people to have colonoscopies: “If you’re over fifty and haven’t had one done because you’re too squeamish to deal with it, stop acting like a baby and go have one.”

Consider reading instead: Firstlight: The Early Inspirational Writings of Sue Monk Kidd, by Sue Monk Kidd. A review is archived in the “Essays and Reviews” category on this site.

Published: September 2006

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

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