First, two Christian books related to my work:
1. The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What They Believe, and Why They Matter, by George Barna.
I'd never read any of Barna's books - have you? This one caught my eye on the new books shelf at the library. Might have left it there if I'd read the back-cover copy, which says in big letters: "What will it take to restore our country to greatness?" Ugh, nationalism!
But although this book has strong alarmist overtones (chapter 1 is "America Is on the Path to Self-Destruction") it also provides some good sociological analysis of religion in America. And even the alarmism is much easier to accept here, in the well-fleshed-out arguments of a book, rather than a quick-and-dirty op-ed piece or talk radio soundbite.
America's faith "tribes," says Barna, are: casual Christians (67 percent); captive Christians (16 percent); Jews (2 percent); Mormons (1.5 percent); pantheists, mostly Eastern religions (1.5 percent); Muslims (less than 1 percent); and skeptics, including atheists and agnostics (11 percent). The book describes the history of each group in America, how they see themselves, how they think, how they live, their politics, beliefs, and practices, and what trends seem to be shaping them today. Based on telephone surveys conducted with about 30,000 Americans.
2. Faces in the Crowd: Reaching Your International Neighbor for Christ, by Donna S. Thomas.
This book explains easy ways to share the gospel naturally - especially with the people from different countries who live, work, and study all around us. This practical, inspirational guide includes lots of examples, especially from the author's own experience. Donna is also the author of Becoming a World Changing Family and other books.
I'd been intending to read this for some time, having heard about it when it came out a few years ago. Then, the publisher sent me about 20 books at once. This one I tucked into my bag and took with me in hopes it might offer some help with the material I was teaching at a conference workshop this month, and it fit the bill perfectly. I'll recommend it whenever I teach about reaching out to internationals in the US.
And the rest are things I read just for fun:
3. For the book club, I picked up and read Bruno: Chief of Police, by Martin Walker. Walker is more well known for his work as a foreign affairs journalist; this was his second attempt at fiction and the publishers hint that it may be the first in a series. Lots of culture and history in this one. Our protagonist is (as you might guess) a police chief in a country village. "The brutal murder of an elderly Algerian immigrant instantly jolts Walker's second novel from provincial cozy to timely whodunit."
Just about all the other novels I read this month were sequels to others I've recently mentioned:
4. Pardonable Lies, by Jacqueline Winspear (a sequel to 'Maisie Dobbs') Good stuff. Thoughtful.
5. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, by Alexander McCall Smith (a sequel to 'The #1 Ladies Detective Agency.' This is #6.) I got it mostly because I needed something for the car while making long drives at night, and it was available as a book on tape. Yes, tape. I'm obviously not an 'early adopter' of technology, since I still don't have a CD player (or something digital) in my car!
6. Fatally Flaky, by Diane Mott Davidson (#15 in her Goldy Schultz series). You know, one of those cozy mysteries with recipes in the back. Yeah. Maybe I'll actually try the cookie recipe in this one...
7-8. Finally, some kid lit: The Sea of Monsters and The Titan’s Curse, by Rick Riordan. These amusing, fast-moving, clean, and not-too-challenging fantasy novels about kids battling the forces of evil are just the thing for a flight home after a teaching trip, and they sell them for next to nothing in the airport bookstores.