New Stuff

Book Reviews (by Kim Gentes)

In the past, I would post only book reviews pertinent to worship, music in the local church, or general Christian leadership and discipleship. Recently, I've been studying many more general topics as well, such as history, economics and scientific thought, some of which end up as reviews here as well.

Simply Christian - N.T. Wright (2006)

Many of the works I have chosen to review have been deeper theological writings, some of which have been by revered biblical scholar, N.T. Wright. His work as both a historian and theologian has colored his books with a particularly powerful edge. Because of his scholarly bent, when thinking about a general book outlining Christianity and its claims to those outside of the faith (or new to it), I wouldn't have thought to consider a book by Wright. However, "Simply Christian" is just that. It is a book that presents the Christian faith in a clear and understandable format to any who might be interested.

Within its pages, Wright poses a thoughtful progression that examines the human experience to point to an unspoken awareness in ourselves, and our world, of something missing. Wright's "echoes of a voice" elements are justice, spirituality, relationship and beauty– all things which tell us that the universe (and our place in it) are meant for something different than we have come to. But more than a sense of lack, they point to something that exists that we can't name. And in his development of what that is, he names it. The Jewish God, YHWH.

Wright's use of these arguments and specific components (especially justice and beauty) echo clearly the arguments of CS Lewis' writings in both Mere Christianity (which uses moral code/justice) and his sermon/writing The Weight of Glory (which uses beauty and love). I mention Lewis and Wright in the same context, because their parallel books seem to be aimed at the same thing, and both writers are up to the task. Simply Christian, however, is a much more historical and technical exploration of how the world and context of Jewish monotheism brought about the person of Jesus, and how Jesus turned out to be not only the answer for Jewish religious hopes, but also the ultimate "Lord" of the entire human race.

Wright's basic premise is this– God created a good world, but man rebelled from him. God has set out on a plan to rescue his rebelled creation and that plan has come to embodiment in God himself coming to earth in the person of Jesus. Jesus announced this rescue plan of re-creation (putting the creation to rights) and now invites all people into that rescue– not only for their own sakes, but to join in as part of the solution. That solution is called the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is the realm/dimension of God's love and reign invading and reclaiming man and the earth for God's purposes. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God continues to work through all those who join in (Christians) and through the church– the gathered Body of Christ.

As best as I can, that is how I would summarize Wright's preposition in Simply Christian. The problem with doing such a summary, however, is that I risk infraction of any number of logical, practical or theological arguments because, simply put, just as life is not simple, Christianity isn't either. And boiling Christian faith down to a few short lines of innocuous (and fairly un-actionable) statement is precisely what Wright avoids by taking on all the salient points in life-breathing detail. I want to make that point because this book is not "Simple Christianity", as if everything intelligent about it could be reduced to a set of polarized truisms. In fact, the author puts to use his own varied, and sometimes extended, metaphors throughout the book to help us grasp the nuance of key concepts and moving narrative of the story of God, creation, man, Jesus, and eventually, the church.

Simply Christian is a very well written book, but it also has significant historical and rhetorical ammunition in its muzzle. The author banters through classical references (Plato, Epicurus, Lucretius), extensive Jewish back-story (all the relevant biblical narrative, as well as apocryphal and historic characters such as Judas Maccabaeus, Simeon ben Kosiba), 1st century Roman world (Caesar, the rise of Rome as a world empire), and plenty of 18th to 21st century (Nietzsche, Hitler, Oscar Wilde, 9/11 attacks) references as well. He does all of this as a way of providing proper context and flow to the presentation being made. It is all excellent, but it is not going to feel "simple" to say a 7th grade student. Wright continues to be in good company, however, as Lewis' regular references to literary or classical world touch-points would likewise be foreign to many readers.

That said, Simply Christian is an excellent book with mountains of good points and very few detractions. The delightful surprises I found are the excellent highlighting he does in correcting the dozens of common misconceptions that people (Christians and non-Christians alike) have of what being Christian really means. His theological stature here helps immensely, as he grasps at "truisms" and debunks them cleanly. Playing with language and logic, he clarifies many incorrect and unhelpful misunderstandings of who Jesus is, what he said and (not the least important) what happens after we die.

Because the truth and explanation of Christianity is not ultimately "simple" (in terms of boiling it down to one-liners that can be defended), this book is not either. However, in the scope sense, it is a well-written exposition and recommendation on what it means to be Simply Christian.


Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes

Paul: In Fresh Perspective - N.T. Wright (2005)

NT Wright has two kinds of primary writing that I am aware of- the scholarly tomes debating and explaining nuances of his theological positions to other academics (such as Jesus and the Victory of God) and the short but complete books meant for summary and concision of a topic for use by pastors and lay people (such as Simply Christian). When I first got my paperback of "Paul: In Fresh Perspective" I assumed it would be a book in the second style- pastoral, easily read and without the dense pressure of theological details. I was right, and wrong.

In this book, Wright definitely is aiming to speak concisely and clearly about a deeply complex set of issues. And in that, the author succeeds marvelously. The book is easy to follow, well structured and moves clearly from point to point, in a building progression. But the book does not "boil down" the points of Pauline theology into a few clichéd notes. Instead Wright grasps with the breadth of not just our perspectives, but with Paul's. In doing so he turns the understanding of Paul's theology away from our context and into Paul's 1st century, monotheistic, Jewish worldview intersecting with the Greek philosophical underpinnings which were itself pounding its ideologies onto the imperial Roman world.

Wright compresses Paul's world into seventeen deft pages of introduction that orients the reader for the journey to discovering- what was Paul really saying about Jesus, the Spirit, Israel, salvation and God. It would be hard to stack together a work that collapses so many controversial theological pivot points as Wright has done here. But he has done it, and done it without sounding defensive, contradictory or condescending. More than that- he has done it convincingly.

The meat of the book is divided into two main parts. The first part deals primarily with the themes that Wright sees in both Paul and the first century Jewish world- creation & covenant, Messiah and apocalyptic, and gospel and empire. Wright lays these themes out for us to grasp the narrative into which Jesus came and from which Paul is now speaking.

The second part of the book deals with resultant conclusions that the work of Jesus now makes within the context of the themes discussed in the previous section. Wright paints the "fresh perspective" across the primary topics of God (monotheism), God's people (election), and God's future (eschatology). The author wraps up this section by looking pointedly at Paul's personal and specific work, and some specific theological hot-points that Wright moves to clarify via more redefinitions of context.

In both of these sections Wright is taking on the task of, as he puts it, thinking Paul's thoughts after him. This is important to realize as a major mechanism employed by the author because the primary assumption he starts with on all of Paul's work (on every subject Paul presents) is that the apostle himself is actually redefining all of the major components of the Jewish theology and narrative around their fulfillment in and through the work of Jesus, his life, vocation, death on the cross and resurrection. The entire force of Wright's arguments are based on his belief that Paul was taking his Jewish monotheistic narrative, redefining it in Jesus as the Christ, and representing it to both Jews and Gentiles alike who found themselves within the context of the Hellenistic world of Roman imperialism.

For example, a snapshot of this is his statement that God was becoming king in the person of Jesus, and the impact of this on the new people of God (the church) meant that Jesus was now king and not Caesar. The shock waves of these kinds of statements are expounded in the Pauline context and purposefully extirpated from our own. The intersection of culture, politics, and religion that we would segment in the 21st century is brought to light as an inappropriate revisionist viewpoint founded in our modern enlightenment worldview. Wright is careful to return to such nuances when necessary, hoping to remind the reader that Paul (and his 1st century world) would not have seen these things the way we do, and thus we must read Paul with his lenses on, not ours. My review would be in danger of becoming more lengthy than the source being reviewed if I tried to quote and support in any level of detail, but perhaps this will whet your appetite to dig into this breathtaking work by this brilliant scholar.

After having read a few other of Wright's books, I was surprised at how short, yet dense this book was. At about 175 pages, this book holds a profound amount of content. In fact, I am now on my fifth reading of the book in the last 12 days, simply because it took me that many repetitions to draw out some of the details, only after I could hold together the main points after a couple of readings. Each page, each paragraph is thick with explanation and exploration. Yet, it is not written as a cryptic scholarly "thesis" with a standard 30% footnote margin at the bottom. This book is very readable, and the words do not require a dictionary to read. But Wright has written this book so well, so densely that it does require digestion time- or like me, re-reading multiple times.

Of interest to the "Pauline" debaters and scholars is Wright's approach to the doctrine of "justification". I would only say this- if you haven't actually read this book, please don't try to attack its premise on this topic. I understand the desire for many to do so, since the point of justification by faith is so seminal to reformed theology and does (by some accounts) go back as far as Augustine. Wright's keen mind, his work as a historian and his equal desire to translate the 1st century message for our 21st century minds in a way that would allow us to understand his theories make all of this possible and accessible even if juxtaposed to what we've been polarized to believe.

An excellent book, incredibly well-written, with powerful (and fresh) perspectives on key Christian thinking.


Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes


Culture Of Honor: Sustaining A Supernatural Environment - Danny Silk (2009)

Church government is a topic that has as many opinions as there are churches. In fact, though the Bible talks little about church government directly, it is a main point of distinction among many Christian groups. This is both sad and telling of our fractured world and the bride of Christ. Because of this lack of cohesion, teaching and discussion among Christians on this topic, there are few writings on the subject that don't devolve into particularism.

One book I have recently read on this subject is Danny Silk's "Culture of Honor: Sustaining A Supernatural Environment". Silk is a senior staff member at Bethel Church in Redding California, most known for its popular leader, Bill Johnson. "Culture of Honor" is a different approach to church government than you might expect. It's main distinctive is embedded in the title of book- that the honor of people is the only way to true leadership of those same people. This is stated upfront in a succinct definition:

The Principle of Honor states that: accurately acknowledging who people are will position us to give them what they deserve and to receive the gift of who they are in our lives.1

Silk provides both strong points and excellent personal/church examples of those points throughout the book. The examples shine of the vibrancy of mercy, wisdom and faith that takes both God and people seriously. It is clear that Silk (and the book therein attributes this clearly also to Bethel) is looking to undermine the assumption of a business world influenced hierarchical church government and supplant on it primarily the pastoral care of mercy and wisdom within the context of a relational, not structure, based leadership. This is somewhat ironic because one of the main refutations that the book makes is actually a claim against the role of pastoral office as a primary overseer of the local church. But I will return to that later.

What I love about this book is it's common sense, and biblically based, understanding of its main thesis- that we are to honor people with the assumption of good in our hearts. Judgment is not an option, and even as leaders, we do not assume acts of "church discipline" are the first solutions to people's failures. In fact, Silk is almost masterful in his application of the Socratic method (guiding people through asking questions as a way of self-discovery) of pastoral counseling. He knows, like great leaders in history have always known, that people change only through internal acknowledgement and willingness to do so. This can often only come when those people are empowered through revelation of their own situation, failures, misunderstandings and sin. None of this can be imputed (and make a heart change) by typical "instructive" methods. Silk rightly leans on this key point:

Asking the right questions in the right way is one of the keys to creating a safe place.2

The author culminates a series of excellent examples into several poignant truths, debunking the need to chastise people into submission, and taking the message of Jesus mercy as the prevailing guideline for our actions, rather than the judgment and criticism so prevalent in many church governmental structures. He confronts this issue of judgment and its fallout head-on:

What offense does to you is it justifies you withholding your love. I get to withhold my love from you when you have broken the rules, because people who fail are unworthy of love, and they deserve to be punished. In fact, what punishment looks like most often is withholding love. And when I withhold love, anxiety fills the void, and a spirit of fear directs my behavior toward the offender.3

This brilliant statement is a cogent explanation of so many of Jesus teachings on leadership and sin, especially the specific lessons he was pointing to in his parables of the good Samaritan and the prodigal son. Silk, and Bethel, seem to have found an articulation for how to apply these deep truths that rises above the need to control people, based on their fear of "getting messy" with difficult situations and people.  The book pivots on the idea that "we are un-punishable"4, which is related not only as a core value but a culture changing reality for the church and the world- and who can argue with him! Silk has found in church government a place in dire need of the cross and Christ's work on it- the mercy of God, removing judgment from our realm to God's.

For these points, "Culture of Honor" is one of the best books you can read on church leadership and how to lead in relational grace rather than shaming or controlling people into "Christian behaviors". Interestingly enough, after recently finished reading Brené Brown's "Daring Greatly", I found that "Culture of Honor" is (at its core) a biblical exposition of the truths Brown discovers (through her research), that shame ultimately always fails as an effective motivator and leadership tool. An odd juxtaposition, to be sure, yet these books are linked in their foundational message of leaving shame-based methods and moving to forms of trust (in Brown's book vulnerability; in this book faith) that provide relational, not positional, power to influencing others.

Silk is expressive in his passion for his viewpoint and one can't argue with his experience for which he claims to be witness to the power of his model being operable- presumably, the church community he is a part of thrives in the leadership architecture of he describes in the book.  As I said, I enjoyed the book and found its primary points- honoring people, valuing their worth, Socratic-method counseling/pastoral care, creating safety in community and confrontation, the value of Christ's work making us un-punishable, avoidance of shame-based manipulation, faith/risk/vulnerability, reliance on the Holy Spirit, viewing the "on earth as it is in heaven" of Matt 6 as the primary perspective of God's kingdom intersecting and invading our real world, the inclusion of apostolic and prophetic ministries as essential components to local church leadership- to be excellent examples of the mercy-centered orthopraxy from which Jesus himself modeled ministry.

But to give this review its full treatment I must state where I felt the book falls short of what appears to be one of its main goals- to establish a new "order" of hierarchical rank in local church government. Specifically, Silk uses 1 Corinthians 12:28, which says "And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues."5 to attempt to justify this assumption about a hierarchical order of church government:

Paul clearly lays out an order of priority in this passage, and this order is related to the realms of the supernatural that correspond to each particular office.6

From this assumption, the author builds a lengthy argument and reasoning around establishing apostles as the current positions which should play the foundational role in church government. The problem is, he does not substantiate it well from scripture. One has to make the interpretive jump with Silk that "first...second...third" was implicit to authority and NOT to order of operation or a timeline. Further, the context of this entire section of Corinthians is actually the inverse point that the Silk is trying to draw from this single passage in a few ways.

View a detailed review of points that I felt were poorly made in this book.

Poorly Made or unclear points Culture of Honor

First, the whole point of Paul's chapter 12 (even letter for that matter) is to stop the misuse and jealousy that has arisen over the perfusion of gifts in the Corinthian church. The entire chapter 12 is a rhetorical question for Paul, where he is saying that all gifts are needed and we do not need to continue to use distinction as a fulcrum for division or comparison, as seen easily in verses 29-31. Almost in a sense of frustration, Paul exhausts a rhetorical list of questions- the "all are not"s and "all do not"s are concluded by the "are they" and "do they"s respectively. So Paul is actually trying to point people away from declaring one thing is more important than others, even as a government, not trying to establish a "pecking order" as Silk is theorizing.

Second, Paul diffuses any comparisons and such thinking by closing this chapter by saying "And I will show you a still more excellent way" (1 Cor 12:31b). And it is on this note that Paul leaves what he considers an obviously erroneous line of thinking (comparing and ranking gifts) for perhaps his most famous Pauline chapter, 1 Cor 13, where the language and character of love become the central theme of Paul's exposé. It seems obvious that if Paul was trying to establish a power structure in the church, he wouldn't have done it in a chapter basically scolding the Corinthians for doing just that- comparing and ranking their gifts and roles.

Third, along with his transition into the love chapter, Paul says this in verse 31 "But eagerly desire the greater gifts". Interestingly, once he says this, he never mentions the apostolic again, although he reiterates other items on the list, including prophecy, tongues and does so without keeping the same order. If Paul deigns to mention the apostolic in relation to the actual active gifts within a local church (the remainder of the instructive Corinthian text), yet does not exclude prophetic and tongues, what does this mean?

It seems incongruent that he would set up a "model" of apostolic government if he did not express that throughout his other writings. And this is just what we find- Paul mentions apostles again in few places, but any of which could refer to the singular grouping of church establishment activities that the apostles (the twelve plus Paul and others who are labeled apostles) did to spread the gospel and found churches. In our 21st century thinking, the modern day missionary seems more of a job description of New Testament apostle than a governmental station within a local church. Apostles founded churches, set in pastoral and leadership and moved on. This is the scriptural and historic legacy of Paul's work throughout the entire Mediterranean world, not the least with his detailed example of Timothy.

Silk, however, tries to deconstruct the concept of pastoral leadership of church government with the single scripture in 1 Cor 12:28, even though in Paul's similar outline list of church government shown in Ephesians 4:10-12, where it says:

He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

Silk never deals with this scripture, even though it's context is clearly intended at exploring leadership in the local church as clarified by Paul's clarifying purpose in verse 12 (and 13, though not quoted) :

for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 

Paul is saying, in essence, that "here is the collection of leadership roles we need in local churches to equip the body of Christ". Silk diffuses common sense when trying to jump around and grasp at whatever self-defining examples he hopes to pigeon hole into his thesis. At one point he says:

Jesus, who modeled the office of the prophet, walked around giving supernatural sight to others all day long.7

Yes, Jesus did walk around and do supernatural things. But this sentence creates more misconceived definitions of a term (prophet) that Silk then connects with whatever random attributions he thinks helps his book, rather than nail down a definition. As a result, he begins to ramble from one non-sequitur to another hoping the reader will just go along with his meandering "undefinition", in this case of prophet. Again, I don't disagree with Silk that Jesus is a prophet, but the historical, Jewish and scriptural definition of the kind of prophet that Jesus had come to be is not the definition Silk is bantering about in his 21st century "give words and heal people" colloquialisms.And Silk does this with other terms as well (not the least of which is apostle).

Why am I coming down so hard on Silk for missing these things? Because he is trying to assert something very strongly in this book, but he does a weak job of actually making his case. This frustrates me partly because I actually like where Silk is going in the book, but I feel he derails his own credibility by both not properly supporting the scripture he does use, and not dealing with scriptures that appear to contradict his thesis.

Silk makes several other missteps as well, all of which break down the credibility of his book. The most strange of which, is when the writer creates self-insulating arguments to prove his theories and debunk others. In a series of antagonistic snaps at "teachers" (which are actually mentioned in both 1 Cor 12 and Eph 4- unlike apostles which he is elevating) Silk randomly asserts that modern teachers are simply 21st century Judaisers:

The teachers, as the primary influence in the Church, have turned our attention to the law.9

Silk fails to acknowledge that scripture is not the same as the pejorative law he is inferring here. If we held that, we couldn't use it to explore or explain anything, let alone help us define church government. And since the author is actually trying to use scripture to help him define it, it's probably not best to commend its use for his own purposes, but quash it for others opposite views. But, sadly, Silk takes this one step further and outright declares that the "current" leadership models present in most churches are all wrong because they don't conform to his viewpoint of apostle/prophetic (top-down) hierarchy, and anyone who might try to disagree with him is de facto wrong if they try to use scripture as the basis for their disagreement. When talking of how a pastor (using him as an example of the old regime) would approach Silk's "new order" of church government, Silk expounds the issue with pastors and teachers:

The need to "prove" something scripturally was part of his ceiling, a limitation that strengthened his focus as a teacher but constrained his ability to operate with other priorities when it came to other tasks of leadership.10

Again, it's hard not to read the above without assuming the author is trying to create self-insulating arguments from which he hopes others must be held liable, but from which he hopes to escape (IE. he is allowed to use scripture to prove his point, but others may not use it to have an alternative viewpoint). Once Silk binds himself in this illogical double-jeopardy, the reader is left wondering why he didn't just humbly say- "here is what we think at Bethel. We aren't sure it's all right, but it works for us. Scripture isn't real clear about this, but this seems to be a helpful model". Instead, we are given what amounts to a few trails of broken conjecture that weakens the superstructure of his arguments.

This is disheartening, because (as I mentioned at the outset) this book has some excellent things to say. I love the main premise (and title) of the book, I agree with much of the foundational and grace-centered basis of the Bethel approach to leadership and conflict resolution, and I even like the important reconsideration of the roles of apostle and prophet into the local church government. However, the support and exploration of the church governmental theory is so poorly done as to undermine the value of the hypothesis. I am not even saying the hypothesis couldn't be true- I just don't think this book does a good job of doing that. Also, the tone of the book, at times, does not help endear the reader to give more benefit of the doubt to the author. At times, it sounds self-assured and perhaps even condescending to those who might not agree (a la "you might think you know, but listen, we've got this figured out").  I just think a bit more language of "consider this" throughout the book would have taken it from being a book that sounds sure of itself, to being one that church leaders might want to chew on and consider its points more seriously.

In the end, despite my long and detailed comments of frustration (mentioned above), I strongly recommend people read this book. Especially to any church leaders who are looking for insightful perspectives on church government. Struggle with this book, as I did. Read the stories, be inspired by them. And try to untangle the disconnected logic from the main ideas. As one church leader said "eat the meat, spit out the bones".  I initially read this book as an assignment, and when I was finished I thought "I could definitely serve at a church with that model". I'd use this book to explain the model- as it does that well- I just wouldn't try to use this book to defend it.

Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes


1. Silk, Danny (2009-12-28). Culture of Honor: Sustaining a Supernatural Enviornment[sic] (Kindle Locations 179-180). Destiny Image. Kindle Edition.
2. Ibid., (Kindle Locations 318-319)
3. Ibid., (Kindle Locations 1076-1079)
4. Ibid., (Kindle Location 1181)
5. Ibid., (Kindle Location 566-568)
6. Ibid., (Kindle Location 569-570)
7. Ibid., (Kindle Location 720-721)
8. The prophetic model of Old Testament scripture, that Jesus did come to fulfill, is one of a Godly criticism to the people of Israel. Unlike our idea of explaining the future, most of what is labeled prophetic in the old and New Testament is the balancing critique of Gods voice. Often confronting, correcting compelling and reframing people's expectations and worlds against the call of God. Again, prophetic certainly does have a revelatory nature of all its operation but its clear that scripture most often has it as a balancing voice of insight meant to keep the Israel/the church from become self focused.
9. Silk, Danny (2009-12-28). Culture of Honor: Sustaining a Supernatural Enviornment[sic] (Kindle Location 746-747). Destiny Image. Kindle Edition.
10. Ibid., (Kindle Location 1326-1328)

The Road To Serfdom - F. A. Hayek (1944)

Of the thousands of pages of text among the dozens of now iconic books written on economics, there is no more succinct and penetrating exploration of the ties of economic capitalism with political liberalism than the relatively short work of "The Road To Serfdom" by Friedrich A. von Hayek. Having read several of these voluminous texts myself, I can say unequivocally that "The Road To Serfdom" is the singular text that simultaneously explains the simplicity and benefits of the free market system while profoundly destroying the notion that personal liberty could be found within the socialist economic framework. Hayek, as he admits of himself, is an academic and technical economist who felt compelled to write a defense of the basics of liberalism (in the 19th century classical definition) as the unique and necessary combination of economic freedom and personal liberty only after it was clear that many of his influential political contemporaries in WWII Europe had vastly misunderstood the workings of socialism, and that it's ultimate outcome would always be totalitarianism- either in the form of Communism, as in Russia, or in the form of Fascism, as in Nazi Germany.

In fact, this book outlines the progression of what exactly happened in Germany to produce the society and opportunity for Hitler's regime to become the tyrannical monster of the modern world. Hayek clearly and convincingly explores how the fears of individuals based in economic instability of a free market system can lead people to eventually surrender their individual liberties in hopes of economic and nationalistic security. This surrendering becomes a downward spiral of personal liberties as the willing (at least initially) cost of an ever-expanding socialist economic state. A state in which the individual hopes of security and sustenance become permission for an eventual autocracy that maintains all decisions for all peoples at all times.

The observations of Hayek are not meant merely as a history lesson, but were a clear warning to England and America of the dangers of socialist economic thinking (and socialism in general), because Hayek believed that the rise of socialism in those countries would eventually set the stage for a totalitarian regime to be possible. In fact, Hayek's thesis and warnings are so cutting, and so well defended that he almost single-handedly inspired a renaissance of 20th century liberalism (though it more often went by the label of conservatism by its adherents such as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan).

"The Road To Serfdom" is not just about the political and economic threads that led to Nazi Germany, it is about the true balance of power between personal liberties and state control. If you have never read an economics book in your life, you MUST read this one. It is by far the most powerfully written, yet simply understood, philosophical explanation of liberalism and the free market system- and why the combination of free market economy is the central component to ensure the other freedoms that accompany modern liberty (emancipation, universal suffrage, free speech and more). The ability to make self-determined decisions about work and economic exchange imbues in itself the power to allow both individuals and entities to pursue success. The natural balance of the free market is not only clearly articulated, Hayek contrasts it with the inherent weaknesses of the planned economic socialist state.

This is a political book, but whatever your politics are- you cannot afford to ignore this book. Whatever your political understanding or persuasion, this book is an absolute "must read" text. While books like Mises' "Human Action" and Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" provide more technical details and examples on how the free market system works, neither of those books provide so clear and convincing a treatise on the benefits and perpetual health of a economic liberalism, as "The Road to Serfdom".

Once beginning to read this book 4 days ago, I could not put it down. I am now on my third time through and continue to find it as enthralling and engaging each time through. A truly brilliant articulation of economics, freedom, free market, and the dark path of socialism that eventually leads to totalitarianism. If you believe you understand economics and have never read this book, you have missed one of the greatest texts in this field, in history.

Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes

Daring Greatly - Brené Brown (2012)

"Daring Greatly" is a brilliant and well-founded book that explores the relationship between vulnerability (and its antithesis- shame) and the human ability to thrive in various aspects of life. Researcher, professor and speaker Brené Brown presents a comprehensive treatise on the strength of weakness as encapsulated in the concept of vulnerability. Basing the book on almost a decade of grounded theory research, Brown pours out a narrative of our society: grounded in a culture of scarcity, steeped in shame, disengaged and dehumanized, we've become ineffectual and immobilized by our vices while remaining skeptical of a solution from the weak-kneed concept of vulnerability. Into that realm, she categorically refutes the myths of vulnerability and builds a bulwark of understanding, combating and refuting shame. By juxtaposing these two concepts- vulnerability and shame- the author gives practical tools for people to begin to reframe their approach to everything from work, to mission, to relationships and even to parenting.

What endears this book to the reader is its terse and pithy style in which Brown's "Texas-attitude-meets-Ivy-league-education" approach draws both research and reality into sharp focus. Brené Brown may be as brilliant a writer as she is a researcher, and one can only hope that she is as resilient with this kind of writing as her formula for combating shame-based systems. Her examples, her categorizing and her structure of the book brought me along effortlessly. Every time it seemed that she was about to run ashore with data, psychobabble and information overload, she would pull out another human story of what she was talking about. OK, I'll admit it. I welled up with tears a few times reading this book. Especially the parts that were about things I have dealt with, such as parenting, shame, work (success and failure) and more. Rather than make up hypothetical cases, Brown peppers this book with real life. The kind of real life that hits you in the heart like a sucker punch in the solar plexus.

The only "fault" I could find with this book was its later-half renditioning of iterated concepts into named "manifestos" and "checklists", which feels to this reader like a liturgical social contract that perhaps adds its own very tiny hint of shame to those who already feel burdened down by the expectations and shame this book otherwise so powerfully addresses. I say this not to berate the author's work, but merely to point out that it is the nomenclature of "manifesto" and "checklist" that perhaps places them on another long "To-do" list that our shame-laden society is already struggling to stand up under. I will take the great advice given in them as helpful, but may not want to call it a "manifesto"- a term which has so much charge and grandiosity as to make ignoring it something of a shame.

That point aside, the book explodes the heart with joy from every corner. The topics covered will be of interest to literally every person in western society. Who is not driven by the pressures of shame, afraid of the weakness of vulnerability, and out-gunned by the societal pressures of being the perfect parent? I absolutely LOVED what  Brené Brown says about parenting. I finally saw some actual explanation behind the occasional times of glistening success I've felt as a parent, and some solid solutions for parenting issues I am still struggling with. The chapter on parenting, alone, is worth the entire price of the book, although, frankly it makes little sense until you've read the rest of the book (as it appears, fittingly at the end of the volume). It is excellent and penetrating in its clarity of the essential aspects of relational connection and leadership with our children. To cite just one example (from which are many) is this obvious and brilliant axiom that emerges in her writing:

What do parents experience as the most vulnerable and bravest thing that they do... the answer was obvious: letting their children struggle and experience adversity.1

This is just a sample of Brown's common sense reality that mixes well with her deep research background to create a brilliant collage of wisdom in this chapter.

Now, finally, to my absolute most loved part of the book- the appendix. Call me a geek, and you'd be throwing a big stone into my glass house for sure. In the appendix Brown explains her particular approach to research theory and process. Her work has been taken seriously because she took it seriously. This was not a book written out of convenience or conjecture. Brown is driven by research. This is what I LOVE about this book, and from it comes an appreciation that has me reading it through a second time.

I've got to admit something. I don't like reading pop-psychology books. I especially don't like when they become phenoms that garner tabloid level press and afternoon talk show appearances. My disinclination to this kind of writing made me wince when I had found out that (after I had downloaded the book to my Kindle), it was widely celebrated in just these kinds of arenas.  But Brown's research, excellent writing and incredibly practicable solutions (that she details therein) dispel all of my concerns of being one of the "mob" running after the "hot fad" in pop-psych.

This book is excellent, timely, deep (but not technical), caring and enjoyable. An astounding feat in just 250 pages of text that fly by in a couple days.  If you have time to read just one book this year, make it this one. You won't regret it.

Amazon Link:

Review by Kim Gentes


1. Brown, Brene (2012-09-11). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (p. 238). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition. 

Page 1 ... 2 3 4 5 6 ... 21 Next 5 Entries »