The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon (book review)

For a man who preached up to 10 times per week for nearly 40 years, you would think that people knew all about Charles Spurgeon’s personal life. Although he frequently used some small personal examples in his sermons, he still kept much of his personal life personal. In reading Spurgeon’s Autobiography, I expected to get an inside look, but that was not what I found. 

Like his sermons, Spurgeon’s Autobiography was fascinating. Like his sermons, his recollections of his past are thoroughly steeped in Scripture. I love this! This shows us that this Prince of Preachers didn’t just put on a performance when he stepped into his pulpit, nor did he simply teach Christian principles for others to apply only to their lives; instead, we see a man who truly patterned his life after the Bible. 

I also love the honesty in Spurgeon’s stories. He tells of his struggles before and after his conversion. He talks openly of his disagreements with some “church” people that didn’t behave very Christ-like. He discusses his battles with depression, and with those who were outright critics of his ministry. In other words, Spurgeon reveals himself without putting himself on some sort of pedestal. 

Charles Spurgeon’s sermons are always a delight to read, but I think you will find in his Autobiography a living sermon that we can all emulate. 

The Strenuous Life (book review)

I just finished reading Theodore Roosevelt’s Autobiography, so it was quite fascinating to read some of the speeches he was giving during the same periods he covered in his memoirs. TR practiced what he preached, and one of his consistent messages is that anything worthwhile is worth the strenuous effort it takes to get it. This collection of speeches is called The Strenuous Life. 

TR himself described the strenuous life like this: 

“The doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife: to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph. … A life of slothful ease, a life of that peace which springs merely from lack either of desire or of power to strive after great things, is as little worthy of a nation as of an individual.” 

In The Strenuous Life, you will read the consistent message TR delivered to a wide variety of people—from the rough-and-tumble outdoorsmen and women, to the diplomats attending a World’s Fair, to business people—nothing of lasting value ever came to those who sat around and waited for it to come to them. The strenuous life is one of initiative, of hard work, of sacrifice, of perseverance, and ultimately a life rewarded by self-satisfaction in a job well done. 

This book is inspiring as a stand-alone read, but I highly recommend you read it in conjunction with TR’s Autobiography, as it adds an extra level of insight to both works. 

Book Reviews From 2016

Shaken (book review)

shakenI continue to be so impressed with the way Tim Tebow always finds a way to let his light shine for Jesus in everything he does. Many people find it easy to give God praise when things are going well, but it might not be as easy to praise Him in the down times. This is exactly what Tim Tebow explores in his latest book Shaken.

Football fans have seen the on-field celebrations after a big victory, the joyous locker rooms, and the upbeat press conferences. But seldom do we see much from the team that loses the big game. Even less often do we get a glimpse behind the scenes of the heartache for athletes in the day-to-day grind of their sport.

Tim Tebow has won the Heisman Trophy, the NCAA football national championship, and one of the most exciting NFL playoff games in history. Tim has also been traded, benched and cut by other NFL teams. During these times, Tim has learned to rely on his bedrock faith. And in Shaken we get to hear the lessons he’s learned, and to discover the truth behind an important Bible verse (from which the name of the book comes): I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken (Psalm 16:8).

Shaken isn’t all about Tim. He is refreshingly transparent to share with us about his struggles and the lessons he’s learned, but he also shares with us the overcoming stories of some other amazing people—folks who wouldn’t normally be in the spotlight. And in so doing, Tim shows us that each and every one of us has immeasurable value to God, that tragedies don’t have to shake our world, but that we can use even the difficult times to lean into God and to do great things for Him.

My level of respect for Tim Tebow, and the way he uses his notoriety for God’s glory, has risen again after reading this book. For anyone who is looking for a way to make sense of the hard things in life, Shaken will be an eye-opening, heart-changing book.

I am a Waterbrook book reviewer.

(By the way, Tim’s first book—Through My Eyes—is also an excellent read!)

One Of The Few (book review)

one-of-the-fewI love to read stories that take me “behind the scenes.” Which is one of the reasons I enjoy reading autobiographies, where the author is candid and transparent, and gives me the scoop on things I wouldn’t have experienced myself. That’s exactly what I got in One Of The Few by Jason Ladd.

Jason takes us inside the United States Marine Corp, specifically into the seat of a Marine pilot. We get to see firsthand the grit, intelligence, and perseverance it takes to be one of the few, the proud, the Marines. Learning a little more about what it takes to attain this elite status, increased my respect for our men and women in military service even more.

But as I read Jason’s story, I quickly learned that he was learning from his own life experiences as well. As he pursues his dream, as he learns new skills, as he is confronted with the harsh realities of wartime situations, Jason must also come to grips with his beliefs about spiritual matters. His journey is uniquely his, but he shares his story in a way that will benefit anyone who is either wrestling with spiritual questions, or anyone who is trying to befriend someone who is skeptical about the Christian faith.

One Of The Few resonated with me on many levels: a great personal story, excellent leadership lessons, new military insights, and great Christian apologetic skills. Definitely put this book on your “to be read” list.

I am a Boone Shepherd book reviewer.

So, Anyway… (book review)

So AnywayGood comedy is something which is appreciated by nearly everyone. A comedian who can make us laugh, or think, or think while we’re laughing, is in limited company. But have you ever wondered how a comedian formulates his or her comedy? In So, Anyway… we get some comedic insight from the very talented John Cleese.

I’ll admit it: I am fan of Monty Python. Their offbeat humor is brilliant in the way they capture a side of life that goes mostly unnoticed. One of the pillars of Monty Python is John Cleese. John has a physical presence that can make you laugh, an intelligence that is lightning-fast, and an ability to use the Queen’s English to draw out nuanced comedy unlike few I’ve heard. But, again, I was always intrigued by that nagging question: How did he get to be so funny? Was he born with a “comedic gene”? Were his parents comical? Is good comedy something that can be learned?

As I read his delightful memoir So Anyways… I discovered the answer was “yes” to all of the above. John looks back on his life in a prescient way that allows the reader to see all of the ingredients that go into making a world-class comedian. Is there such a thing as a “comedic gene”? If there is, John was probably born with it. Were his parents odd? They were probably considered “normal” people (but, what is “normal”?). And along the way John definitely learned what was funny and what wasn’t, and used that to his advantage.

Throughout this memoir you will see John’s comedic routines interspersed in the story of his life. You will discover the “seeds” that blossomed in a particular character or paradigm or comedy routine. You will meet the people, places, and experiences that John leveraged as he discovered what makes people throughout the English-speaking world laugh. Anyone interested in how comedy is birthed and nurtured will love seeing comedy develop through the life of John Cleese.

I am a Three Rivers Press book reviewer.

41 (book review)

41It’s only happened twice in American history: A father and son both serving as President. The first was John Adams and John Quincy Adams, then George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. But only once has the son written a memoir about his father, and that is 41: A Portrait Of My Father.

In the book’s preface, President George W. Bush writes, “Over the years, I suspect there will be many books analyzing George Herbert Walker Bush, the man and his presidency. Some of those works may be objective. This one is not. This book is a love story—a personal portrait of the extraordinary man who I am blessed to call my dad.” What a perfect description of this book, for indeed it is a love story, and a very moving one.

President Bush (the 43rd President) does an amazing job showing the “stuff” that went into making President Bush (the 41st President) the man that he is. It also helps us to then understand the decisions that 41 made throughout his extensive political career. I also appreciated reading how 43 used his personal, eye-witness experience with his Dad as material for his presidential decision-making.

This was a unique way to write a biography, and I found it very engaging and heartwarming. A truly great read!

Book Reviews From 2013

Things We Couldn’t Say (book review)

EMANPBBACK.qxdIt’s not often that a historical memoir could read like a spy thriller, but that’s exactly how Things We Couldn’t Say by Diet Eman reads.

Diet (pronounced “deet”) was a young girl when the Nazis invaded The Netherlands where she lived, and she quickly got caught up the Dutch Underground resistance against their unwelcome invaders. Alongside her fiancee, her family members, and several of her friends, they worked at hiding Jews from the Gestapo. This involved all of the tricks you would thrill at in any modern-day telling of espionage, with read page-turning excitement.

Part of the interesting underlying plot in this story is Diet’s love for her fiancee Hein and both of their families. Diet and Hein were constantly changing their names and residence to keep the Gestapo from catching up with them, yet they still found time to write some amazing love letters back and forth to each other. Their love was a bright light in a very dark time, and makes their involvement in this dangerous business even more impressive.

Not only is this a story about human ingenuity, but also about God’s divine provision as well. Diet records time after time that God miraculously provided for safety and provision and favor in order to keep alive. At the end of the war, every single one of the Jews Diet and Hein helped hide and care for were still alive!

For those reasons alone Things We Couldn’t Say is a fascinating read, but it’s an important read too. In the postscript Diet talks about her reluctance to write this book because of the painful memories it would reawaken. She said, “When the war ended we all said, ‘This can never happen again.’ But now polls show that 22 percent of the U.S. population does not believe there was a Holocaust. The story has to be retold so that history does not repeat itself.”

I can’t recommend this book strongly enough for readers of any age!

Through My Eyes (book review)

Tebowmania has spread beyond the University of Florida, and even beyond the NFL, as Tim Tebow has captured the attention of so many around the world. Like me, you’ve probably heard way too many “talking heads” on TV or radio, or read countless reporters and bloggers, explain what makes Tebow tick. Here’s a better way to find out: Read Tim Tebow’s own words in Through My Eyes.

I’m a Tim Tebow fan, so I realize my opinion of his book might be slightly biased. I love this man’s work ethic, competitive fire, leadership abilities, and Christian testimony. But the question is: where did all of this come from?

In reading Through My Eyes you will learn about his tight-knit family who gave Tim a great foundation upon which to grow. You’ll see the inborn competitive spirit become more and more laser-focused on helping Tim accomplish what he believes is God’s plan for his life. You’ll relive the build up to the big games, the behind the scenes struggles and challenges, and how Tim responded to the wins and the losses.

Instead of letting others tell you what they think makes Tebow tick, find out for yourself as you see this outstanding athlete’s world through his eyes.

By the way, my 12-year-old son and I read this book together, and I found it to be a great conversation-starter for many of the issues he will face in his future. I could envision this book being used in a men’s Bible study or small group discussion, or even in a mentoring role.

An excellent memoir that was very well written.

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