30 Minute Reviews

Here is a list of books I have received over the past few weeks, but have been unable to read in full. Instead, I have given each of them at least 30 minutes and tried to get as much of a feel for the book as possible in that time.

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Note to Self by Joe Thorn – This is a book dedicated to modeling the discipline of preaching the gospel to yourself. Joe Thorn has written a series of notes to himself–48 of them in total–to remind himself of the gospel and to remind himself how to live as if it is true and as if it has done a work of transformation in his life. It is quite a unique book and it beautifull suits the format. He divides the notes into 3 categories: The Gospel and God, The Gospel and Others and The Gospel and You. The letters have titles like “God Does Not Answer to You,” “Be Humble in Your Theology,” “Honor Your Parents,” “Don’t Be a Fan Boy” and “Suffer Well.” In every case, Thorn simply seeks to bring the gospel to bear on a particular area of life. With each letter just a couple of pages in length, it’s a good book to read at a pace of one chapter per day.

The Dragon’s Tooth by N.D. Wilson – I sat down with the family to read N.D. Wilson’s latest novel, The Dragon’s Tooth. After reading one chapter I saw that my daughters (aged 8 and 5) were not interested and that my son (aged 11) was too interested to wait for me to read it with him. So we abandoned the read-aloud project and my son went ahead and devoured the book in a day. Nick says it is, “Very, very, very good. A bit confusing at times. They definitely need to write another one.” We will take that as high praise. And, of course, this is only part 1 of the “Ashtown Burials” series, so his wish for a sequel will be granted. I’d recommend all of Wilson’s novels.

Absolute Monarchs by John Julius Norwich – I spotted this book, a history of the papacy, when it made its way onto the New York Times list of bestsellers. I made a valiant attempt at reading it, but in the end, found that it was, well, kind of boring. Norwich takes a look at the papacy, focusing in on some of the scandals that have always dogged the Roman Catholic Church. You’d think that would make for riveting reading, but the book moves at a snail’s pace as Norwich tries to take a look at just about every pope there has ever been. He looks at so many different men (and one woman, of course) that they all begin to blur together. After a couple hundred pages of this I moved on to something else. I guess I’m not sure where this book really fits; it’s too casual for the academic reader, but a little too focused for the casual reader. My guess is that 90% of the people who bought it didn’t ever finish it.

Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook – Here’s another interesting book that covers a rather niche topic–the tomato. Tomatoland answers the question, Why do grocery store tomatoes taste so bad? It turns out they taste so bad because they are all picked long before they are ripe and are then gassed to make them turn red. They never truly ripen. What’s more, they are grown in a soup of chemicals and pesticides and are often picked by what is essentially slave labor. I read this book almost to the end, but decided not to finish it or write a full-length review because of the niche nature of the topic. If you’re looking for some interesting and casual reading, you could do a lot worse than this.