Review Tuesday: What is the Bible? By Rob Bell

I’m a huge fan of Rob Bell’s. I was introduced to his Nooma series back when I was in university volunteering as a youth leader at a church I went to. He spoke about Christianity in a way I had never heard before and it was captivating. He has published numerous books – his first one being Velvet Elvis. All of his books talk about Christianity in a new way – or at least a way that you don’t normally hear Christianity talked about, and What is the Bible? is without a doubt one of my favourite books of 2017.

From Goodreads:

Rob Bell, the beloved author of Love Wins and What We Talk About When We Talk About God, goes deep into the Bible to show how it is more revelatory, revolutionary, and relevant than we ever imagined—and offers a cogent argument for why we need to look at it in a fresh, new way.

In Love Wins, Rob Bell confronted the troubling questions that many people of faith were afraid to ask about heaven, hell, fate, and faith. Using the same inspired, inquisitive approach, he now turns to our most sacred book, the Bible. What Is the Bible? provides insights and answers that make clear why the Bible is so revered and what makes it truly inspiring and essential to our lives.

Rob takes us deep into actual passages to reveal the humanity behind the Scriptures. You cannot get to the holy without going through the human, Rob tells us. When considering a passage, we shouldn’t ask “Why did God say . . .?” To get to the heart of the Bible’s meaning, we should be asking: “What’s the story that’s unfolding here and why did people find it important to tell it? What was it that moved them to record these words? What was happening in the world at that time? What does this passage/story/poem/verse/book tell us about how people understood who they were and who God was at that time?” In asking these questions, Rob goes beyond the one-dimensional question of “is it true?” to reveal the Bible’s authentic transformative power.

Rob addresses the concerns of all those who see the Bible as God’s Word but are troubled by the ethical dilemmas, errors, and inconsistencies in Scripture. With What Is the Bible?, he recaptures the Good Book’s magic and reaffirms its power and inspiration to shape and inspire our lives today.

One of the features I most love about Rob Bell’s books is that he writes how he speaks. There are no crazy long paragraphs or chapters in any of his books, which makes what he saying easier to understand and much more digestible. It’s a great way of writing for what he’s talking about because he’s able to blow you away with just a couple of sentences.

In What is the Bible? Rob talks about a different way of reading/seeing the Bible. And his reasoning/arguments for seeing it that way are perfectly valid. I found it so mind blowing because as a kid going to Sunday school you are definitely taught to read the Bible in a certain way – and sometimes it felt that since the adults didn’t have the answers to your questions, your questions were either not valid, or God didn’t know. Faith and the Bible didn’t seem functional to the world that we live in. I changed my mind about that in university, but I’m thinking about it again in a new way because of this book.

I think my favourite part of this book is when Rob explains the history of something or puts a story/verse/word into its original historical context. In many instances there was a clarity that came simply from doing that, and my perspective shifted because now I understand the history. I definitely want more of that understanding, which is why I’m very happy that there’s a suggested list of reading at the end of this book. I’m definitely going to checking out some of those.

There are people who are seriously not going to like this book, and who will disagree with how Rob views the Bible simply because it doesn’t fit into their vision of what being a Christian and having faith looks like. The only thing I can suggest to those people is that you read it and see what it says. Your faith isn’t static or stagnant. It evolves and grows as you evolve and grow and if you’re not doing that then I think that speaks to a larger problem.

For anyone interested in the Bible, or interested in a really good non-fiction read I would suggest this book to you. It’s a good one.

Review Tuesday: Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I had read We Should All Be Feminists a couple of years ago, and I completely loved it. I felt that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie had explained feminism so well, and it’s definitely a book/talk that I recommend to a lot of people. So, I was very excited when I learned that she had a new book coming out called Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.

From Goodreads:

A few years ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received a letter from a dear friend from childhood, asking her how to raise her baby girl as a feminist. Dear Ijeawele is Adichie’s letter of response.

Here are fifteen invaluable suggestions–compelling, direct, wryly funny, and perceptive–for how to empower a daughter to become a strong, independent woman. From encouraging her to choose a helicopter, and not only a doll, as a toy if she so desires; having open conversations with her about clothes, makeup, and sexuality; debunking the myth that women are somehow biologically arranged to be in the kitchen making dinner, and that men can “allow” women to have full careers, Dear Ijeawele goes right to the heart of sexual politics in the twenty-first century. It will start a new and urgently needed conversation about what it really means to be a woman today.

This book is a very short read, but it packs a punch, so while it’s easy to breeze through it because it is so short, I advise you to stop and take your time because it’s easy to miss important points.

As I was reading this book/letter, some of the suggestions of the author I had already thought about – such as if your daughter wants a “boy” toy and not a “girl” toy, that’s okay, buy it for her. But some of the other suggestions and points I hadn’t thought about before. For example, the author uses the example of a play group and mentions how parents of daughters tell their girls to be careful, and don’t go too far, whereas for the sons they push them to go further, try new things, etc. It was interesting to me – in this example and others – how much of a way of being and thinking sexism is. So much so, that at times I didn’t even realize that that’s what I was experiencing or reading or thinking.

Not realizing how sexism society is, is also why feminism is so important. I mean, why do I have to change my name when I get married? Why can a male employee be assertive, but a female is a bitch? Why can’t I show that I’m feeling shitty when I have horrific cramps instead of pretending that my biology is, at the moment, not kicking my ass?

There is also the reverse of this coin too. Why when dad’s are parenting their children does society call it (or joke) that a dad is babysitting? He isn’t. He’s parenting. Why is parental leave for new dad’s a more common occurrence?

Sexism hurts both sexes, and your sexual organs should do hinder you from anything.

This book – and others like it – are vitally important because these issues are still happening, because society still feels the need to put women and men into specific boxes.

This is another book that I’m recommending to everyone because let’s face it – we should all be feminists.

Review Tuesday: The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has a way with words. He is one of those authors that makes me look at things completely differently – such as “Night’s Bridge.” That’s a scene and an image I’ll never get out of my head. And he also has a way with speaking – the way that he speaks about reading and libraries and art is inspiring. Thus, I was very excited when I heard that he was coming out with a collection of his essays and speeches in The View From the Cheap Seats.

view from the cheap seatsFrom Goodreads:

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

The book is broken down into different sections:

  1. Some Things I Believe
  2. Some People I Have Known
  3. Introductions and Musings: Science Fiction
  4. Films and Movies and Me
  5. On Comics and Some of the People Who Make Them
  6. Introductions and Contradictions
  7. Music and the People Who Make It
  8. On Stardust and Fairy Tales
  9. Make Good Art
  10. The View From the Cheap Seats: Real Things

The book started off strong with some interesting essays and forwards that he wrote for different books. I also really liked that there were some authors and works that I had never heard of because it meant that I kept opening Goodreads or Evernote to find or write down the different book titles that seemed interesting to me so I could read them later. It’s always fun when an author you enjoy essentially recommends new books to you.

However, by the middle, I was starting to falter. The introductions started getting repetitive and I started getting a bit bored. A couple of the people he was talking about became the “one in a million people” and I feel like I would have liked those forwards more if I wasn’t reading them all together in one shot.

The book picked up again though in the last couple of sections and I found myself devouring it. I loved the On Stardust and Fairy Tales section, and Make Good Art, as well as The View From the Cheap Seats: Real Things. There was one essay in that section about refugees that made me cry actually.

I’ve decided that the original essays or speeches that he wrote and put into this book are my favourite and kept me entertained and engaged the most. The forwards are the ones that I didn’t like nearly as much (though I liked the beginning ones more than the middle ones).

Overall though it was a book I enjoyed and I did end up making a list of new books and authors to check out. Can’t go wrong with that!