Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book Review: The Stories We Tell

As Americans we consume more popular entertainment through television and movies than any other culture. But do we ever take the time to stop and think about what these stories we are consuming are telling us?

That's the question that Mike Cosper seeks to answer in The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long For and Echo The Truth. In this brief volume, Cosper examines the themes that are seen in popular movies and television programs and explores the aspects of the Gospel that these stories often reflect.

Cosper is careful to point out that his discussions of various programs are not necessarily endorsements of those shows. Christians are often divided over what content is appropriate to watch. In reading the book, I found discussions of numerous movies and TV shows that I would not necessarily watch for one reason or another. But that doesn't take away from the main strength of the book which is to examine critically the story that is being told. There are messages within stories whether we realize it or not. That is where Cosper is trying to get us to look.

At the conclusion of the book, he also has a helpful word to those who aspire to be Christian filmmakers. The focus should be on the strength of the story rather than the mesage. Too often Christian film making suffers from a tendency to be too preachy trying to hit the audience over the head with the Gospel rather than focus on the quality of storytelling.

I found this book challenging me to think more deeply about the message in the stories that I watch. What glimpses of truth are they trying to reveal to us? Certainly if we look hard enough we can see that these shows do reveal something about ourselves and about the world we live in.

The Stories We Tell is an excellent resource that Christians would be wise to invest in. It will change the way you think about entertainment for the better.

Note: A copy of this book was provided to me by Crossway in exchange for this review. No other consideration was received in exchange for this review.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Book Review: What's Best Next

Does God care how we spend our time? Does the Bible speak to us in terms of how we manage our time? Does the Bible have anything to tell us about how we set our priorities? If so, how do we practically apply biblical teaching to planning our days?

These are all questions that Matt Perman attempts to answer in his book What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. The key is not getting more things done but getting the right things done.

In the first portion of the book, Perman diagnoses the fundamental problem behind productivity: we're just too busy. Our time and energy is spent on things that don't matter as much (at least from an eternal perspective) as others. As a result, we aren't able to devote our energies to the things that are most important to God. He then proceeds to very carefully outline how the Bible speaks to how we spend our time. We are called to be good stewards of the time we have on Earth just as we are called to be stewards of everything else that God has given us.

Perman then moves from the theological to the more practical section by offering numerous steps that the reader can take to help improve their own productivity. I found this section of the book a little more difficult to work through as it was more tedious to read through. I would recommend that a prospective reader of the book have a notebook handy while reading it so they can be writing down practical applications for themselves. This is a book that is best applied as it is read. Otherwise it will seem difficult to work through.

Perman should be credited for his thorough studies on the issues of organization and time management. His years of work are clearly evident in the text. He certainly has a vast knowledge from which to draw. Ultimately the lessons for each individual may be different as some will find things to apply that may not as easily apply to others.

In all, this is a solid book on a subject that nearly everyone deals with. If you want to explore time management from a biblical perspective then this is a good place to start.

This book was provided to me by BookLookBloggers. No compensation was received in exchange for this review apart from the book.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Book Review: Essentialism - The Discliplined Pursuit of Less

When writing a book review, I am always hesitant to use phrases such as "life-changing" as they areso overused they have become meaningless. But when it comes to Greg McKeown's book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less life-changing is an apt description. In fact, I would go so far to say this book could totally revolutionize how you think about time management.

We've all felt it: the weight of being over-committed. We're too busy. We say yes to too many things. We are stretched too thin. As a result, we don't know how to set priorities. Our calendars are too full. We are rushing from one thing to another and never have time or energy to complete a single project.

It's those exact feelings that led McKeown to write this book. In fact, in the first chapter he tells a moving story about the day his daughter was born. While his wife was in the hospital he was off at a client meeting. At a time he should have been with his family he was away at work. It was that episode that led him to start thinking about how he should re-prioritize his life and become an Essentialist. (You can read the first chapter here.)

"The way of the Essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better. It doesn't mean occasionally giving a nod to the principle. It means pursuing it in a disciplined way." (Essentialism, page 5)

With amazing clarity, McKeown lays out the steps that one needs to follow in order to become an Essentialist. One cannot help but be dramatically challenged by the lessons from this book,

When I normally read a book I don't bother marking in it. But with this book, I was furiously highlighting as I was working through it. More importantly, this is not a book that I will be able to read just once. It's a book I will be coming back to repeatedly as I try to apply its lessons.

Of all of the time management books I have read, Essenitalism is the one that most directly addresses the fundamental problem that most individuals face: over-commitment. By applying the lessons of the book, the reader can truly transform their lives. This book's lessons are ones that we can all be served well by learning: say no to all that is unimportant and focus our time and energy on the things that are most important. I highly recommend it.

Note:I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.