From Peanuts to the Pressbox: A Book Review

Recently, as part of the Thomas Nelson Blogger Reviewer Program, I received a copy of Eli Gold’s From Peanuts to the Pressbox: Insider Sports Stories from a Life Behind the Mic. The work is an autobiography looking back at the life of a kid from NYC who skipped most of high school to watching sporting events that found himself in the right place in the right time many times over who advanced up the ranks of sportcasting.

I give the work three stars. It was an easy read; something to read while trying to fall asleep at night. For me, a sign of a great autobiography is one that the subject shares not only the events of his life, but why those events were important enough to recall as well as the lessons learned.

Overall, this work is a feel-good retelling of Eli’s favorite stories, without much added depth. Eli’s work has been overall contained to hockey, NASCAR, Alabama football and basketball. If you’re familiar with any of these sports, there will be many stories that will be quite enjoyable and fun to read. If you’re not, but have some idea of the benefit of sport, there are stories that will make you laugh, or make you stop to think for a moment.

All in all, a fine book.


Book Review: Christianity in Crisis – The 21st Century

I recently read Christianity in Crisis: The 21st Century by Hank Hanegraaf as part of a blogger reviewers program with Thomas Nelson Publishing.

The majority of the book included an item-by-item rebuttal of many “Christian” preachers that promote a Gospel message that is not congruent with the actual New Testament, including Texan Joel Osteen. I thought that this breakdown was a bit longer than it needed to be; however, if you’re a subscriber to one of religions quasi-based on the Gospel or are trying to engage someone in debate who is a subscriber, Mr. Hanegraaf’s detail will be very much appreciated.

The final section of the book attempted to answer the question “So, if all of these ways are wrong, what’s the right way?” While a fine attempt, I believe the author was too limited in his scope of what is a proper way to practice Christianity. The author’s assessment resulted in what seems to be the typical response by fundamentalists (i.e. “a Bible-believing church”, which is a veiled attempt to basically say any church that acknowledges the role of Tradition is excluded).

The Catholic Church, the faith I subscribe to, is a Bible-believing church, by our own understanding of the role of Scripture and Tradition; however, from my upbringing in the Bible Belt, I know far too many would exclude me from grace for this assessment. I believe the author’s work would be more inclusive, accurate and provide greater assistance to the Christian world trying to faithfully following the message of Jesus Christ in a world where prosperity and faith preachers derail authentic Christian thought far too often.

With that limitation noted, I still believe the majority of the text is quite fine and worth a read. Additionally, I think a shorter, summarized version would also make for a great tool for the armchair theologians in the United States who are trying to get a quicker answer to why these preachers “don’t seem right” to them.


Review – The Noticer

Arriving in stores tomorrow is The Noticer by Andy Andrews and published by Thomas Nelson. In the book, the author follows the life of a homeless youth who is found by Jones, a wander himself who “notices” enough about people to help them see a new way of thinking. In addition to helping the homeless youth realize that he’s able to do more than sit under a pier, Jones seems to help everyone in the town one way or another. He’s everyone’s best friend, yet no one really knows anything about the “noticer”.

The book is an uplifting, quick read that did not draw me to any new thoughts, but reminded me of simple things I already knew–to be kind to others, that life isn’t all about yourself, and that life can be great or horrible depending on simply how you choose to view your situation. The author writes the book in a tone that suggests that the end is already known and thus lacking suspense. Jones seemed too good to be real and I struggled with that throughout the book.

Despite these limitations, the book is just right to remind the reader that even the worst of situations have a silver lining and a reminder for us not to take things for granted. I think the book would make a great gift for the always too-cynical high school guy.


Review – Christian Martyrs for a Muslim People

Over Spring Break, I read Fr. Martin McGee, OSB‘s latest book, Christian Martyrs for a Muslim People, published by Paulist Press. This is a story of nineteen Catholic martyrs who died, for being Catholic, while serving a virtually completely Muslim population in Algeria.

While the land that is now Algeria was once a booming Catholic world before the Islamic faith traveled to north Africa, overall, Catholicism had only existed because of French colonial activity in the area. When Algeria gained independence in the mid-20th century, the vast majority of Catholics left the region. In the 1970s, the Algerian government consolidated many Catholic services still in the area (such as schools), leaving the various bishops, parish priests and monks with virtually no Catholic population. In fact, the book mentions one parish whose only Catholic parishioners were monks of a local monastery.

In a great multi-faith twist, the Catholic ministers began to serve the Muslim population–not in religious services, but through social work. The priests and religious would operate libraries and serve the non-religious needs of the community, despite the threat from extremists to remove Christians from Algeria.

The horrible actions of a few resulted in the death of nineteen Catholics in the 1990s.

Fr. McGee takes a great look inside the lives of these nineteen, explaining why they would face almost certain death in order to serve a population who was not Catholic nor would become Catholic anytime soon.

This is a great read about an aspect of our global Catholicism that I had known nothing about (beyond perhaps seeing these names on the annual list of Catholics killed for the faith). This is truly an amazing story and all Christians (not just Catholics) should read this as both a testimony of amazing lives and as an example of ways to interact with folks of other faiths.

Book Review: The Truth About You

I recently read The Truth About You:
Your Secret to Success
by Marcus Buckingham and found the book
interesting. The book comes in three pieces: a ~30-minute DVD, an
actual book and a notepad, stylized as a “ReMemo” pad.

Truly, I cannot decide if I liked the
DVD (which the book asks you watch before reading) or not. I have a
personal preconceived notion that a charismatic guy talking about
self-discovery is faking it. Mr. Buckingham seems very genuine, but
for me, I had to work hard to actually listen to him. In reality, the
DVD has some great basic “truths” about life–nothing
groundbreaking or worthy of a call to mother to tell her you’ve
discovered the newest nugget required for life.

The book is an “interactive book”,
which I wasn’t sure what that meant when I started reading it. I
expected the book and the DVD to work in tandem with each other, to
be weaved into use more. After watching the DVD before reading the
book, the DVD is referenced but not used again. An interactive book,
in this case, means the book, while mostly text to read, does include
various prompts with space for you to write a response.

My biggest critique is that the book
seems to just repeat what the DVD already said. Sure, there’s a bit
more depth and reading it gives you a chance to think about it in a
different way, but I had the urge to skip paragraphs because of the
“I’ve already heard this from him” line of thought.

That being said, I think the book still
has a great market–groups. While individually, I think the book was
good–not great–as a self-discovery tool, the book has great
potential to be used as part of a group to help individual members
discover more about their strengths and weaknesses. Whether you’re a
corporation, a prayer group or whatever else, using this
DVD/book/notepad set as a guided practice to help individuals
discover and discuss the results would be quite fruitful. As an
individual, I wanted to “skip ahead to the good stuff”, but the
good stuff about this book is what my mind naturally wanted me to
skip. In a group setting, I would have been “called out” early
for this and been able to more deeply enjoy the book’s strengths.

In short, if you’re really yearning to
discover more about your strengths or weaknesses, give this book a
try. If you feel alright about what you already know, find a group of
folks who are like-minded or are yearning and experience this book

After the jump, you can explore the first few pages of the book.

Disclaimer: I was given this book by
the publisher, Thomas Nelson, as part of a program for book
reviewers, but given no direction to follow nor compensation for this

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The Rights of Catholics in the Church


The Rights of Catholics in the Church

I just completed this work, one of the newer books published by the Paulist Press, The Rights of Catholics in the Church.
The work, by Rev. James Cordien, is obviously the work of a scholar of canon law. While very factual, the presentation is dry. At the end of the discussion in each section, Cordien adds needed flavor through a case study.
While the presentation is dry, the work is a comprehensive look at the rights of Catholics in Church (true to the name!) while admitting that these rights are not always respected. The sense from the author is that as the Church adapts more the notion of “rights of the faithful”, some of the difficulty is presented by the Church, through her priests or bishops or through the institutions of appeal or lack thereof.
In many sectors of the Church, the faithful are sadly believe that “Father is always right”, no matter the situation. This work brings to light many of the rights that I personally was not fully versed on, such as the right to educate children or for religious formation. Some rights, like the right to form assemblies of the faithful, are more well-known through their fruits, the many lay association movements that now exist in the Church. Other rights, such as the right to receive the sacraments should be explored in greater depth–many pastors prohibit individuals from marrying because of parish “registration”, something not foreseen by the Church.
The work is divided into three broad sections: “An Overview of Rights in the Church”, a section that looks at the historical development of rights and freedoms in the Church, from the apostles to the revised 1983 Code of Canon Law. The meat of the book is found in the second section, “The Rights of Catholics in the Church”. This 100-page section speaks of twenty-eight rights identified from the Code of Canon Law by the author broken into relatively easy to understand sections that follow a logical order. Many of these discussions overlap since many of the rights are rooted in common themes, especially the active participation of the faithful in the life and ministry of the Chuch. The final section, “Limitations On and Defense of Rights in the Church”, after acknowledging the rights, explores the limitations and nature of appealing when a person’s rights are denied.
All in all, I give this book three stars for “I liked it”. I probably won’t read it cover-to-cover again, but it’ll stay in my reference collection and add to my understanding of canon law. I do hope the author completes a second volume discussing the obligations, the flip side of the rights coin, of Catholics in the Church.