Featured Author: Philip Yancey

 

In the last few years, I’ve learned that when you talk ‘religion’ with friends or colleagues, 90 percent of the time, you run the risk of offending someone. Yes, faith is a very prickly subject. It’s also highly personal and private. To be perfectly honest, my own faith tends to be ambiguous and ambivalent in turns. So why recommend a Christian author’s works to friends and family members?

Well, for the simple reason that Philip Yancey’s writings aren’t just religious, they’re philosophical. They’re there to get you thinking. In his books, Yancey doesn’t tell you what or how to think; he offers you ideas and leaves the thinking (and believing) up to you. He treats the subject with ample delicacy but maintains integrity when tackling it. His books also offer a fresh perspective to what you already know, or think you know.

About the Author:

Philip Yancey (born 1949) is an award-winning evangelical Christian author. With over 14 million books sold worldwide, he’s one of the most read Christian authors today. He’s won a number of book awards including the Gold Medallion Book Award and the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) Christian Book of the Year award.

When Yancey was just about a year old, his father succumbed to polio after members of their strict, fundamentalist church convinced his dad to go off life support. They believed that his faith in God would heal him. His father’s death combined with his experience of witnessing contradictions between what the church taught and what it practiced, contributed to Yancey’s loss of faith. It would a take a miraculous moment in Bible College for him to experience a form of metanoia (spiritual conversion).

Since then, Yancey has been tackling some of the most basic and hardest questions and issues on Christianity. He’s penned thought-provoking Christian books like What’s So Amazing about Grace (1997), The Jesus I Never Knew (1995), Disappointment with God (1988), and Reaching for an Invisible God (2000). Yancey has also contributed works to publications like Reader’s Digest, National Wildlife, Publishers Weekly, Eternity, Moody Monthly, Chicago Tribune Magazine, and the Saturday Evening Post.

Website: www.philipyancey.com

 Favorite Work: Disappointment with God (1988)

Other Recommended Books from this Author: Where is God When it Hurts? (1977), The Jesus I Never Knew (1995), What’s So Amazing About Grace (1997)

Image: Christianpost.com

Book #7: The Virgin Suicides

THE VIRGIN SUICIDES

Author: Jeffrey Eugenides

Genre: Fiction; Mystery/Drama

First Published: 1993

Status: Read

Pages: 243

Rating: A-

 

“Offering a stark and profound take on teenage suicide and how it affects an entire community, The Virgin Suicides is an extraordinary debut piece from an exceptional novelist.”

 

Set in Grosse Point, Michigan in the 1970s, The Virgin Suicides recounts the events leading to and following the suicides of the Lisbon sisters. In the book, Jeffrey Eugenides shows the viewpoint of a community trying to make sense of the girls’ deaths. The story is told in the first person plural perspective, where the narrator is a member of a group of boys who went to school with the sisters.

Like the rest of the community, the boys experience an intense fascination with the Lisbon sisters. Years after the girls’ deaths, the narrator is still remembering, recounting the events leading to the girls’ suicides. Interviews are conducted and recorded. Personal items are gathered as ‘evidence’. All possible information about the sisters are compiled and recorded in this book.

The book opens with the final suicide attempt from the last Lisbon daughter, Mary. Mary had overdosed on sleeping pills. Although the paramedics find her breathing, all efforts to save her are futile. Like the rest of her sisters, Mary was meant to die. Take it from the book’s title. This isn’t the case of a single suicide. All five of the Lisbon girls die—some in particularly gruesome ways.

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7 Books that Changed My Life

To quote James Bryce: “The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.” To me, the following books are wellsprings of information. In them are endless lessons on writing, life, faith, love, and everything in between. I don’t think it’s possible to outgrow or get tired of any of these books.

So, without further ado (and in no particular order), the 7 books that changed my life: 

#1: Letters to A Young Poet by Rainier Maria Rilke

First Read: Freshman Year, College (2003)

Sylvia Plath’s “Mirror” might’ve gotten me started on poetry, but it was Rilke’s letters which brought out my passion in writing. This collection of letters from Rilke gives some of the most poignant and practical advice on becoming a writer. With every letter Rilke writes to the “young poet”, Franz Xaver Kappus, we’re also somewhat privy to the innermost musings of one of the most beloved literary figures of the 20th century.

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Book #5: Bridget Jones’s Diary

BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY

Author: Helen Fielding

Genre: Non-Fiction; Comedy/Chick-Lit

Rating: A+

First Published: 1996

Status: Read

Pages: 271

“Deliciously candid and absolutely hilarious, Bridget Jones’s Diary is the type of book one keeps on the bedside table for emergency laughs and instant pick-me-ups. V. v. good.”

Some books are meant to be read once, others are meant to be reread until the pages fall out. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding falls under the second category. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call this book a literary masterpiece comparable to the works of Maya Angelou, Jane Austen, or the Brönte sisters, it really is quite a book. Its unflinching and comic portrayal of single women (singletons) and smug marrieds is absolutely spot-on.

True to its name, this book reads like an actual diary with daily entries where Bridget tracks everything from her weight to her calorie consumption, cigarette count to alcohol units. You’ll see her mood fluctuate along with her weight as she goes from one addiction to another—moving from cigarettes to lottery tickets and afternoon cocktails to smoothies.

With every confession Bridget makes, she also voices out the reader’s innermost fears, nagging insecurities, and irrational musings. Whether it’s a tendency to weigh oneself obsessively, count each calorie, chase after the “wrong” guy, smoke too many cigarettes, consume copious amounts of alcohol before 5 p.m., or rely too heavily on self-help books to solve romance and self-esteem issues—Bridget’s candid confessions will strike a chord somewhere. In my case, this book brought to light my unhealthy belief that my happiness is inversely related to my weight—that I would only truly be happy if I were a size 2 or less.

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Reading List: The Next 10 Books

In no particular order, except for the Jane Austen Marathon, my reading list for the next month or two.

Randy Pausch – The Last Lecture (2008)

Virginia Woolf – Three Guineas (1938) – reread

Jeffrey Eugenides – The Virgin Suicides (1993)

Helen Fielding – Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (1999)

THE JANE AUSTEN MARATHON

Sense and Sensibility (1811) – reread

Pride and Prejudice (1813) – reread

Mansfield Park (1814) – reread

Emma (1815)

Northanger Abbey (1818, posthumous)

Persuasion (1818, posthumous) – reread

Wild Card/s:

Woody Allen – Without Feathers (1975) reread

Woody Allen – The Insanity Defense: The Complete Prose (2007)

Book in Wish List: “I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie” – Miss Pamela Des Barres (love her!)

Next For Review: Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding (1996)

I promised myself I’d reread a book for every new book I buy, hence the number of items marked as rereads. Will now be scouring the net for other books to buy.