Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best Books of 2009?

We are putting together our lists for the best books of 2009. Some of them were published in 2009 and some of them we just happened to get around to reading in 2009! You can read about last year's winners here: Derek's picks part 1 & part 2; Walt's picks part 1 & part 2.

Look for posts presenting CPYU Book Award Winners sometime in early 2010. For now, we're interested in hearing from you:

What were the best books you read this year?

(Just a reminder: whenever we have 15 or more comments we giveaway a FREE book. The winner is randomly selected from the "comment-ers.")

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Forgetting Jesus?

Many polemics have been written about the North American evangelical church. Some center on theology, others on practice, but many assume that what evangelicals think or do is gospel centered. Michael Horton, in his new book, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Baker), challenges readers to consider whether or not churches are preaching Christ, or something else. “I think that the church in America today is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful and perhaps even well-liked that it nearly mirrors the world itself,” Horton writes. “Judging by its commercial, political and media success, the evangelical movement seems to be booming. But is it still Christian?”

Horton believes many churches cater to society by offering a Gospel that is easy to accept, while preaching and teaching “good advice” not “good news.” He sifts through popular Christian writers and teachers, most notably Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Robert Schuller, Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball and Mark Oestreicher, to reveal a reluctance to communicate the offensiveness of the gospel. According to Horton: “Today it is less about measuring ourselves against God’s holy will than about helping make good people better through good advice.”

Horton reveals that the moralistic, therapeutic, deistic worldview, discovered by sociologist Christian Smith is really the worldview of most Christian adults. Not everyone will agree with Horton’s arguments, but they certainly are worth considering. Has the church stopped preaching Christ and Him crucified? Are we leaving out central elements of the faith, especially when teaching the young? Horton’s diagnosis is compelling and seems more accurate than not, but it isn’t all bad news. He also reminds us of the Good News and suggests ways to put the church back on track.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Best Sex

Shoot straight. That’s certainly what the culture does with its pervasive and assorted non-stop messages about sex and sexuality. What’s resulted is a do-anything sexual ethic void of any boundaries other than those one sets for himself or herself—and it’s assumed that’s where sexual freedom is to be found. “Not so!” says C.J. Mahaney. If you believe there’s something more, you believe correctly.

Mahaney, of Sovereign Grace Ministries, offers up a much-needed biblical corrective pointing to true and full sexual freedom in his accessible little book, Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know (Crossway). Rooted in the unfolding biblical drama and a deep understanding of God’s created purpose for His gift of sex, this book is forthright in setting out clear parameters for men in a world where the messages they usually hear and follow are destructive to relationships and lives. Mahaney reminds men that sexually satisfying intimacy is meant to bring Glory to God, and that “before you touch her body, you must touch her heart and mind.” He then goes on to describe ways to kindle romance, communicate and become immersed in “holy, erotic joy.” A wonderful chapter by Mahaney’s wife Carolyn is included at book’s end, offering “A Word to Wives.”

While Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God bills itself as a book for husbands, I highly recommend it as a book for mature young men who are not yet married. Not only will the book serve to outline a practical theology of sex for marriage, but it will help younger readers (and the youth workers who lead them) understand and practice their sexuality to the glory of God before marriage. My guess is that many older readers will find the book helpful, but finish it lamenting the fact that they had never discovered it before.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Teen Life

British author Nick Hornby’s novel Slam (Riverhead Books) is about a boy named Sam. Written in the first-person, Sam tells the story of being raised by his single, young, divorced mother. He’s a decent student who plans on being the first person in his family to attend and graduate from college. Skateboarding is his obsession and he has a poster of Tony Hawk in his room. He talks to the poster and the poster talks back. In fact, it’s safe to say that the poster functions as his mentor, giving him direction and frequently offering advice.

Life is going along as “normal” for an average 21st century teenager, until his new girlfriend, Alicia, gets pregnant. Sam and Alicia have major decisions to make and the book does a marvelous job at revealing how a teenager navigates these challenges. How will they tell their parents? Will they keep the child? Will they stay together in a relationship? Will Sam be able to go to college? Will Alicia drop out of school? Readers are given a unique, and I would say, accurate, look into how an adolescent shaped by contemporary youth culture processes such questions.

I highly recommend this novel for any student of youth culture, especially parents and youth workers who want to better understand the world of teenagers. Hornby knows their world well and his book helps us to see life through the thoughts and actions of teens. This book should be of special interest to anyone reaching out to teens from broken homes or helping teens navigate the challenges of teen pregnancy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Winner is...

Thanks for all who participated in our latest FREE book giveaway. We created a great list of books that would make excellent Christmas presents! The following person was chosen randomly from the list of comments and has won a free signed copy of David Crowder and Ben Hogan’s book, Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, But Nobody Wants to Die:

everybodylovesraymond

Please email us, cpyu(at)cpyu.org, with your mailing address to claim your prize. Thanks for playing! Stay tuned for future giveaways.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Columbine Reality

Last week I finally got around to a book that's been sitting on the pile for quite some time. I wanted to read Dave Cullen's Columbine before the 10th anniversary year of the watershed school massacre came to an end. Riveting reading, it was difficult to put down. Considered the nation's foremost authority on those who perpetrated the event now known by the simple one-word name of the school, Cullen has spent ten years investigating every nook and cranny of what happened in Littleton before, during, and after April 20, 1999.

I remember where I was when I first heard the news. I was in the car driving from speaking to an English class at Lancaster Bible College, heading a few miles south to speak to some at-risk students in an after-school program at Lancaster City's McCaskey High School. An initial radio report had informed me that there had a been a school shooting in Colorado and a few kids had been injured. By the time I got back in my car a couple of hours later, a more grim story was unfolding fast. I was up all night glued to the TV. Since then - in fact before the bodies were removed from the school - Columbine reality and myth have been woven together in a mix that's allowed the truth to get muddied by chaotic confusion, trauma-fueled desire, misinformation, hasty assumptions, false conclusions, irresponsibility, and lies.

Yesterday, after finishing Cullen's book, I ran across this quote attributed to John F. Kennedy: "Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." Timely. The age of rapid information has combined with our desire for easy answers, our lack of good research, our need for Evangelical heroes, and our bent towards believing what we want to believe to cloud the truth about Columbine. And this bad habit is not only limited to the Columbine massacre. We do it all the time. And Evangelicals - a group I'm a part of that values truth and integrity - is usually no different. Mainstream media, viewers worldwide, Columbine families, and my own Christian culture jumped to some hasty conclusions. Then along comes Dave Cullen, shedding light on the facts and thereby illuminating the truth about Columbine in some undeniable ways. Granted, Cullen doesn't know everything and he has the advantage of post-dust-settlement hindsight. But he's helped us know more than we've ever known before...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Books Make Great Christmas Gifts!

We have another signed copy of David Crowder and Ben Hogan’s book to give away! You know, their book (signed!) Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven But Nobody Wants to Die would make a nice Christmas present, don’t you think?

Books make great Christmas presents. We’re wondering:

Will you be giving any books as gifts this Season?

Are there any books you hope to get for Christmas?

"Comment" your answers... the winner of the FREE SIGNED BOOK will be chosen randomly from the list of comments (only one comment per person, please) on Tuesday, December 15, 2009.

Read an interview with the authors.

The winner from the previous giveaway still has not claimed his prize. Please check the comment section of this post to see if you are the winner.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Volunteer Help

It’s always interesting to hear the responses when I ask a room full of youth workers to describe what they do in youth ministry. Those who volunteer their time to pour their lives into kids usually sell themselves short by almost embarrassingly confessing, “I’m just a volunteer.” But with a little bit of information and encouragement, these folks can begin to see that they need to drop the “I’m just a” to confidently embrace the amazing role they play in shaping the hearts and minds of young people.

My friend Jim Hancock made the transition to youth ministry volunteer after more than 20 years of getting paid to minister to kids. His experience as a volunteer taught him quite a bit, and in his signature style he has crafted a helpful and encouraging book for those who pursue this high calling and high privilege without getting paid a dime. How To Volunteer Like a Pro: An Amateur’s Guide For Working With Teenagers (Zondervan/Youth Specialties) is full of practical advice and helpful tips loaded into 37 short chapters, making it highly suitable for individual reading or small group training sessions. Jim includes guidance on everything from how to build relationships, to crossing cultures, to reporting abuse. One chapter even offers suggestions on how to ask good questions, with Jim passing on the three time-tested best questions he knows.

Youth ministry volunteers aren’t chaperones, supervisors or an adult presence. They powerfully serve Christ and kids by becoming the hands and feet of Jesus on the ground, right there where kids live. How to Volunteer Like a Pro will encourage and equip them to fulfill their God-given calling as an incarnational presence in young lives.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Engaging The Shack

The novel The Shack has reportedly sold over 4 million copies. The self-published phenomenon has been a New York Times bestseller and author William Young has been interviewed by almost every major media outlet. If you haven’t read The Shack, someone you know has. And, chances are, it has left a lasting impression on how they view God and understand faith.

The Shack
is about a man whose daughter is kidnapped and murdered, plaguing his life with a “Great Sadness.” He is invited to a meeting at the shack where his daughter’s dress was last seen. There he meets God and engages in long conversations with the Trinity trying to make sense of how a loving God would “allow” such an evil thing to happen.

The book is not without its critics. Some have declared it unbiblical and heretical. In his new book, Finding God in the Shack: Seeking Truth in a Story of Evil and Redemption (Intervarsity, 2009), Roger Olson offers a fair and wise assessment. Olson was moved by the book, found it very encouraging, especially for people who have endured hardships, and doesn’t want it dismissed. He explains, “The Shack is not a book of systematic theology or orthodox doctrine; it’s a story—like Jesus’ parables—meant to convey a message about God.” But, according to Olson, that does not mean we shouldn’t read it critically: “However great and inspiring it may be, The Shack is just a story and not God’s Word … while there have been amazingly popular and life-transforming books written since the Bible, all must be judged by Scripture.”

This book helps to that end, by walking readers through the story and comparing it to God’s Word and Church history. The Shack is not without its faults, and Olson has provided a user friendly guide to make sure readers do not lose sight of the truth of the God portrayed in The Shack. A small group discussion guide is also included.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Shaping Kids with Words

It’s easy to forget the power and importance of words. Regretfully, I’m most often reminded of their effect after feeling remorseful over poorly chosen words. But words can have a deeply positive impact as well. As a relatively new father, I’m just beginning to see glimpses of the effect my words and demeanor have, and will continue to have, on my 16-month-old son. How I long to be more intentional about the words and phrases I use with him.

That’s why I’m thankful to have read Words Kids Need to Hear: To Help Them Be Who God Made Them to Be (Zondervan, 2008) by David Staal. Staal packs this concise book with seven statements he believes are important to share with children and teens alike. Going beyond an explanation of why they’re important for kids to hear, he explores different ways to say them and the importance of backing those words and phrases with our everyday actions. As a children’s ministry director at Willow Creek Community Church, Staal is able to reference many helpful examples from the lives of families at his church. He also shares his own trials and triumphs in regards to sharing these statements with his own children.

It’s not as though these seven statements are new, formerly-hidden-to-parents, catch-phrases. Rather, Staal reminds us that deliberately using these words will help children realize, in healthy and biblical ways, their value, self-worth and the importance of boundaries as they learn to view themselves as not only our children, but as a child of God. Though using these words with younger children is important, let’s remember that our teens, regardless of whether they’ve heard us say them before or not, also need to be shaped by these significant words.

Friday, November 20, 2009

David Crowder & Mike Hogan Signed Book!

The moment you’ve all been waiting for… We’re giving away a signed copy of David Crowder and Mike Hogan’s book, Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, But Nobody Wants to Die. And, I must say, David Crowder’s signature is one of the coolest I’ve ever seen! Here’s how it works:

Answer one of the following questions:

What is your favorite book by a musician?
What is your favorite book about a musician?

The winner will be chosen randomly from the list of comments (only one comment per person, please) on Monday, November, 23, 2009 at 1:00pm (EST).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tim Keller Round-Up

Over at his blog, Walt highly recommends Tim Keller’s new book. Walt writes, “I finished Keller's latest little, easily read, yet meaty new book, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. Keller hits it so far out of the park in this one that I'm going to watch the replay (read it again). . . and perhaps again. Because there's so much idolatry in me, there's so much in this book that I've got to ponder, digest, and take to heart… How easily I believe that the things that don't really matter really matter. I am prone to pursue, over and over and over again, created things rather than the Creator. While I can enjoy the things He's made, they can never fulfill.” You can read the rest of Walt’s review here: Home Run… Keller!

CPYU has benefitted greatly from Keller’s writing and ministry at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. We pass around his sermons, read his books, and have recently highlighted a new small group DVD curriculum. We hope more youth workers, parents and students consider learning more about Keller's work. Here’s a quick Keller Round-Up to introduce you to or remind you about the very helpful resources Keller has recently provided.

Read Walt’s review of The Reason for God (NY Times Bestseller!)

Read Derek's review of The Prodigal God

Learn more about The Prodigal God DVD

Visit The Reason for God website

Visit The Prodigal God website

Visit the Counterfeit Gods website

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

David Crowder & Mike Hogan Interview

We are excited to let you know about a new book by David Crowder and Mike Hogan of the David Crowder Band. What follows is an interview with the authors. But wait, there’s more! We have SIGNED copies to give away. Stay tuned for details!

What motivated you to write Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven But Nobody Wants to Die?
DC&MH:
It wasn’t one specific thing (that thing being the very sudden and very public death of our good friend and pastor Kyle Lake). Well, perhaps more accurately, it was one specific thing (the afore-mentioned tragedy in the previous sentence) that was preceded by many other things (sickness, death, unanswered questions), which then prompted us to the only logical conclusion when faced with such matters, which was to write a book. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense! 


Do you think there is some confusion about heaven among Christians? How does your book help readers gain a more biblical understanding of heaven?
DC&MH:
Certainly! Truth be told, we have yet to meet someone who has been there and back to tell us what it’s all about. You know, at least in person… But, yes, in any area where the only information available is based on interpretation, opinion, conjecture, etc. there is sure to be some confusion. But then, people don’t really talk about it much, do they? At least not in specifics. We wanted to start talking about things that, for whatever reason, people don’t seem to talk about much. These are big issues (life/death/heaven), and insight would be a welcomed thing. When we were in the middle of grief we had a very hard time finding resources that discussed such things in ways that were moving to us. Hopefully our book inspires people to contemplate and discuss this stuff in a way that is interesting and reverently amusing.

Your book talks a lot about Bluegrass music. How does Bluegrass inform your theology?
DC&MH:
There is a longing for the ever after that exists in bluegrass music that we admire. There is recognition that despite our best efforts to change the here and now it will still be broken; we will still encounter pain and suffering and tragedy. The beauty of bluegrass is the resilience and hope that is found in its content and the belief that there is something better coming causes us to live process things differently in the present. Hope changes everything.

Many of our readers are youth workers and parents. How will they benefit from this book?
DC&MH: They will become better looking, wiser, and live longer. They will become titans of industry and the arts, wielding great hammers of influence the world over. In short, they will benefit by becoming a more awesome version of themselves.

Also, they might find it a lovely resource for discussing death and the Christian response to it. As bleak as it sounds, none of us are getting out of here alive and we will all surely deal with the loss of someone we love or have friends or neighbors who are grieving. It’s so difficult to know what to say, how to help, what exactly it is that our loved ones are going through.

What’s the latest with the David Crowder Band?
DC&MH: Well, we just released our 5th (!!!) album, entitled Church Music, and we are currently touring this wonderful country in support of it. It’s an explosion of rock and (or) roll! Experience it for yourselves!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Integrated Life

Theologian John Stott has said that every Christian should experience two conversions. The first is out of the world to Christ. The second is back into the world with Christ. Sadly, many Christians fail to take the second step. Sometimes this is out of fear. It can be intimidating to engage the ugliness of the fallen world. But for many, the failure to re-engage the world is because of ignorance and lack of helpful resources.

In their new book, A Faith and Culture Devotional: Daily Readings in Art, Science, and Life (Zondervan, 2008), editors Kelly Monroe Kullberg and Lael Arrington hope to bridge that gap. With contributions from a number of insightful authors, including John Stott, Dallas Willard, Os Guinness, Randy Alcorn, R.C. Sproul, Frederica Matthews-Green and many more, this devotional takes readers on a 15-week journey “to marvel at the wonders of God and his world.” Monroe and Lael explain, “Our hope is that this devotional catalyzes a kind of kingdom education from master kingdom teachers, expanding our knowledge, strengthening our beliefs, and inspiring our love for God and others.”

Each week offers short readings from seven key cultural areas: Bible and theology; history; philosophy; science; literature; arts; and contemporary culture. The readings conclude with reflection questions for individual or group study. We need to be reminded that God is not just about the business of redeeming individuals, but that He cares deeply about His entire creation, including the cultures in which we live. This excellent and unique devotional serves as a daily reminder of God’s heart for His world.

Visit CultureDevo.com to learn more about the book and to see a complete list of contributors.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Walt's Latest Recommendations

CPYU President Walt Mueller has offered two new book recommendations on his blog Learning My Lines. The Long Snapper: A Second Chance, A Super Bowl, A Lesson of Life by Jeffrey Marx “is a quick can't-put-it-down book that tells the story of Brian Kinchen's unprobable invitation to come out of retirement to long-snap for the Patriots during their Super Bowl run of 2003. Marx uses his engaging signature-style to take readers on Kinchen's journey from middle-school Bible teacher to the stresses of long-snapping when ultimate football prize is on the line.”

Walt also highly recommends Think No Evil: Inside the Story of the Amish Schoolhouse Shooting and Beyond by his good friend Jonas Beiler. According to Walt, “Jonas gives a compelling firsthand account of not only what transpired at Nickel Mines and his personal involvement, but how the Amish were committed to forgive.”

Click here to read the rest of Walt’s post Read These.

Click here to learn more about The Long Snapper.

Click here to learn more about Think No Evil.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Darwin?

How will you celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species? I hadn’t really thought about it until I read an interesting article in Inside Higher Education. In his article, Darwin, From the Creationists, Scott Jaschik reports on a new strategy being cooked up by Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort. Jaschik explains, “Living Waters, an evangelical group that argues for the literal truth of the Bible, is planning to distribute 175,000 copies of The Origin of Species on university campuses next month, just in time for the 150th anniversary of its publication. But these won't be ordinary copies. They will feature a ‘special introduction’ to Darwin's classic.”

The special introduction is an added 50 pages written by Comfort that provides a timeline of Darwin, connects Darwin to Hitler and, according to Cameron, “gives a clear explanation of the Gospel.”

So, I'm curious, what do you think of this strategy? What do you think of Cameron's assertions at the beginning of the video? In the end, do you think this "outreach" does more harm or good for the advancement of the Gospel on today's college campuses?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Prodigal God DVD

Followers of CPYU will know that we are big fans of Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. His latest books, The Reason for God and The Prodigal God have been reviewed and discussed in our speaking and writing. Both books won Bookshelf Book Awards for 2008.

We are exciting to let you know that Zondervan has recently released a DVD small group/discussion resource around the themes found in Keller's The Prodigal God. It is outstanding. The film quality is very professional and the message is illustrated powerfully. There are also discussion guides to assist the small group experience. From the back cover:

"In six captivating DVD video sessions, pastor and New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller opens your eyes to the powerful message of Jesus' best-known—and least understood—parable. The Prodigal God is a revelation of the very heart of the gospel: God's radical love for sinners of every kind. Taking you and your small group or church beyond the traditional focus on the wayward younger son, Dr. Keller helps you glean insights from each of the characters in Jesus' parable: the irreligious younger son, the moralistic elder son, and the Father who lavishes his love on both. The Prodigal God will challenge the devout and the skeptic alike to see Christianity in a whole new way."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Not So Funny

Reviewed by Walt Mueller

Chris Farley was one funny guy. But that humor masked an individual who was much more complex than someone who always was able to generate a laugh. When he died from an overdose at the age of 33, people wrote him off as another celebrity train wreck. It was like John Belushi all over again. Concerned that his brother would never be truly known as anything other than the overweight star of Saturday Night Live and several movies, Tom Farley decided to tell Chris’ story in The Chris Farley Story: A Biography in Three Acts (Viking, 2008).

Why would a ministry concerned with matters of faith and culture recommend a Hollywood bio? In this case it’s because The Chris Farley Story forces us to examine many of the emerging and oftentimes sad realities of living life in a celebrity-obsessed culture—whether one is a celebrity or celebrity watcher. Tom Farley wants readers to know that Chris was not only a comedic genius, but that he was a very real person who grew up struggling with the realities of living in a family crippled by addiction. Farley was earnest, sincere and a genuinely caring person who dealt with his own insecurities by trying to make other people laugh.

This hilarious and heartbreaking portrait not only tells Chris’ story, but includes more than a hundred exclusive interviews and observations from people who knew Chris the best, including David Spade, Chris Rock, Alec Baldwin, Chris’ priest and his brothers. Readers should not approach this book as entertainment. Rather, it’s a case study in humanity, the ills of depravity and the desire for ultimate redemption. If you have a heart, this is a book that will make you grieve what we’ve become, grieve the brokenness that runs deep and wide in our culture, and see the need for ultimate redemption through Jesus Christ.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What Will College Students Learn?

Millions of students started a new college year last week. Here’s a good question: What will students learn?

A few years ago I reviewed an interesting and important book by former Dean of Harvard College, Harry Lewis. In Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal Education Have a Future?, Lewis looks at the state of higher education in America through the story of Harvard College. For better or worse, Harvard is looked to as one of the premier colleges in America and around the world. As Harvard goes, so will much of higher learning around the globe. According to Lewis, colleges in America (Harvard included), “have forgotten that the fundamental job of undergraduate education is to turn” teenagers into adults, “to help them grow up, to learn who they are, to search for a larger purpose for their lives, and to leave college as better human beings.”

Central to Lewis’ concern is that colleges have gotten away from giving students a well-rounded education. To prove his point, Lewis has launched a website (What Will They Learn?) that helps “college shoppers” better understand what is and isn’t being taught at colleges and universities across the country. The website is easy to use. It simply tells you how much a school costs and whether or not there are required courses in the following areas: English composition, literature, foreign language, U.S. government or history, economics, mathematics, and science. Why does this matter? From the website:

According to a recent study, only 31 percent of college graduates can read and understand a complex book. In another recent survey, only 24 percent of employers thought graduates of four-year colleges were "excellently prepared" for entry-level positions. College seniors perennially fail tests of their civic and historical knowledge. And rates of leisure reading have taken a nosedive. What you see on What Will They Learn? illuminates why these statistics are so dismal: Students seldom learn what they are not expected to learn. This is because our colleges and universities have largely abandoned a coherent, content-rich general education curriculum… We examine general education because these requirements encompass the courses the vast majority of students must take, regardless of major. Ideally, these courses—commonly known as the core curriculum—ensure that students encounter broad, foundational knowledge in both the arts and sciences, knowledge that provides the intellectual backbone for lifelong learning and informed citizenship.

The website gives schools a letter grade based on the required courses taken by students. It is fascinating browse. You will be surprised by how poorly most schools are graded. Now, I’m sure the website will be met with criticism, especially from highly selective colleges that receive an “F.” But it is a good conversation starter, to be sure: Just was exactly are students (parents) paying so much money for?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New Study Guide for The Space Between!

If they aren’t there already, your children will someday be teenagers. Sadly, parenting teens has become one of the most dreaded and misunderstood phases in the exciting journey of raising children. Much of this fear and dread is rooted in our own memories of what it was like to be a teenager once ourselves. It wasn’t easy then. The parenting fear factor gets amped up a few notches when you consider that the pressures, challenges, problems, choices, and expectations facing teenagers in today’s world are more complex than for previous generations.

The Space Between: A Parent’s Guide to Teenage Development, by CPYU President Walt Mueller, sets out to help parents understand what kids in today’s culture face as they pass through the God-ordained process of growth and change. Believing that our fears can be alleviated through developing a deeper understanding of normal adolescent development, The Space Between offers a practical and hope-filled overview of adolescence that is built on principles from God’s Word along with years of experience in both studying youth culture and raising children. An admitted “fellow-struggler” along with all other parents, Walt walks readers through his research and own experience to offer a vulnerable window into the developmental world of today’s teens.

The Space Between
Study Guide is a great resource to use with:
  • Parents’ Sunday School
    Class
  • Small groups
  • Retreats
  • Neighborhood Study
  • Christian School Parents’
    Meetings
  • Youth Group Parents’
    Meetings
  • Individual reading and
    study
  • College and Seminary
    Youth Ministry Classes

Monday, August 31, 2009

Jason Soucinek: Reader Interview

Current position/title: Director, iPULSE, a division of Life Services, and Associate Staff with CPYU

Have you always been a reader? If not, how did you become one?

Reading was one of those things that I dreaded when I was in school, even college. In fact, I took great delight in having passed all my English literature classes (and many others) without ever having read a single classic. It wasn’t until I graduated from college that I learned how much I LOVED to read. Now I can’t get my hands on enough books. It seems like I am always reading. Especially the classics! Funny how you avoid something most of your life then you spend the rest of it trying to make up for lost time!

What are your reading habits and practices?

A couple of things worth mentioning here:

As for habits, typically I love to read in the morning and in the evening. Whenever I travel I try my best to use public transportation. There is nothing like getting in a chapter or two while I wait to go from one point A to point B.

As for practices, I read on a variety of topics from several different perspectives. I feel this allows for me to understand issues in a much broader sense. I think it is silly when you don’t challenge yourself to see some of the big things we read about and not understand the other side.

Find one or two authors you love and read everything they ever wrote! For me that is John Steinbeck and C.S. Lewis.

Name 3 books that have been very influential in your life and one sentence that explains why.

Wow! That is like asking what my favorite band is or what movie I like the most but I will try my best. I am sure as soon as I send this off to you I will think of several others that could replace these three.

The Pearl, by John Steinbeck. This was the first book after I graduated from college that got me hooked on reading. Since then I have made Steinbeck a stable in my yearly reading pattern.

The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard. This book was thick! Not just in the physical sense but in the spiritual and mental sense. This was the first book that had me reading scripture right alongside the book I was reading. I remember spending days doing nothing but studying scripture and reading this book. Absolutely fell in love with the Lord all over again!

Why We Can’t Wait, by Martin Luther King Jr. There is probably no other person in modern history that has had as much influence on my life as this man. This is the book that started that adoration.

If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be and what questions would you ask him or her?

C.S. Lewis, where did you find time to write, teach and respond to all those letters while also having a social life?

According to a recent study by the National Endowment of the Arts, very few young people are reading. Do you have any ideas on how to get young people to read?

I think the one thing that this generation is missing is the use of their imagination. This might be hard to accept but I recently went to the museum with a group of students. When they were asked to look at the art on the walls they couldn’t place themselves in the picture. They had a hard time playing in the fields or thinking about what might be beyond the hills or who might live in the house that was painted. I believe that this is a direct result of a generation of students that are not reading or who have never been read to as a child. Reading unlocks our imagination. I learned this late in life but I am taking full advantage of it now!

One way for us to curb this trend is to use books in our teaching. Whenever I speak I love to use books that we all remember from our childhood like Where the Wild Things Are, The Giving Tree or The Velveteen Rabbit. What I’ve realized, however, is not everyone in my audience have read these books. But something happens when I read them aloud…people’s heads perk up and they are taken into the story. Maybe they’ve never read the story but it gets them excited about reading. I’ve had more than a few teenagers that will come up after I’ve spoken and ask about the book I just read out loud. My hope is that this starts a rhythm or practice that will start them on a journey of reading. Gosh, to think if someone had done that when I was younger…all the books I could have already read!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Great Man, Great Advice

Reviewed by Walt Mueller

The older I get the more I’m convinced that the greater the spotlight a person finds himself in, the harder it is to keep one’s priorities straight. We’ve all watched heroes and role models rise—and then very quickly fall. That’s why Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy is such a breath of fresh air. He is a man whose life is marked by humility. He is a man whose greatest commitment is to be committed—truly committed—to Jesus Christ. Tony Dungy is the real deal.

After reading Dungy’s best-selling memoir, Quiet Strength, readers who had been exposed to Dungy’s life and story in that book hungered for deeper insight into the principles and commitments that guide his life. Now, Dungy has released his latest, Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance (Tyndale House, 2009), a book that shatters the cultural myths we so easily buy into on a quick path to idolatry.

Done with an easy-to-read style that’s packaged in digestible, thought-provoking nuggets, Uncommon leads readers on a helpful look in the mirror, challenging them to develop godly attitudes, to love their families, to be a positive model in the lives of their friends, to reach their full potential in life, to establish a mission that matters, to choose influence over image and to live out their faith. Uncommon offers a straightforward message that must be heard. While it’s recommended for all males, it’s especially suited for men and boys who might not normally read much at all.

Dungy writes in the introduction, “At the end of the day, I’m sure of one thing: accumulating stuff and women and titles and money are wrong keys. Fitting in, following the crowd and being common are not what we’re supposed to do. There’s more in store for us.” He’s pointing men in the right direction.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Michael Wittmer Interview: Don't Stop Believing!

Michael Wittmer (MW) is professor of systematic and historical theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. Click here to read a review of his most recent book, Don't Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus is Not Enough.

CPYU: Before talking about your new book, Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus is Not Enough, our readers would also be interested in your previous book Heaven is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God. Briefly tell us what you hoped to accomplish with that book.

MW: This book teases out the implications of the Christian worldview to explain the meaning of life. Many evangelicals think that this world is not their home, that matter doesn’t matter (or worse, that it is the matter), and so they mistakenly conclude that only their spiritual activities matter to God. Heaven Is a Place on Earth calls us back to a biblical understanding of creation and culture and to the cosmic scope of our redemption. It explains why everything we do—even the ordinary routines of life—drips with spiritual significance.

In this way it supplies a nice companion book to N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope and Dave Naugle’s new book, Reordered Love, Reordered Lives. Dave, who you interviewed below, is one of our premier Christian professors. I am blessed to count him as a friend and encourage everyone—especially college students—to profit from his wisdom in this book.

CPYU: What motivated you to write Don’t Stop Believing?

MW: I first heard of postmodernism in the early 1990’s, but it was always something that existed out there in the culture at large. In the last five years I’ve noticed that its perspectives have entered many of our churches and schools. My students are asking fundamental questions about things that we used to take for granted. It’s an exciting time to be a professor—because we are discussing big issues that really matter—but it’s also a bit scary, for the same reason.

I wanted to help students find their way through this new world by affirming where the new thinking is correct but also to warn about the dangers of going too far in this direction. In sum, I heartily affirm this generation’s emphasis on social ethics (they are much more socially conscious than I was at their age) but want them to remember that following Jesus also includes believing some foundational doctrines about who Jesus is and what he came to do.

CPYU: I find your book to be a very helpful bridge-builder between conservative and “emerging” churches. What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding that conservative churches have about “emerging” churches? And what do you think is a major misunderstanding among “emerging” churches toward conservative churches?

MW: A major thesis of Don't Stop Believing is that emergent churches emphasize loving our neighbor while conservative churches focus on right belief. While this is generally true, I think that many conservative churches are doing more social good than emergents give them credit for and many emerging churches do a good job of keeping the faith (I am less optimistic about emergent churches—which is a more liberal subset of emerging—for the leaders of this movement, such as Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and Brian McLaren, have displayed a willingness to dismiss some of the church’s foundational doctrines, such as original sin and penal substitution).

CPYU: Tell us a good story (or more) about a response you have gotten to Don’t Stop Believing. Anything surprise you or stick out about the way people have responded?

MW: A few months ago I was a respondent on an emergent church panel at an evangelical college. My job was to ask the three emergent panelists any question I wished so long as I was prepared to answer it myself. Midway through the morning, I said that I affirmed all the social good that had been discussed that morning, but my question was whether a person also had to believe in Jesus in order to be saved, or was being a good person who did good things and asked good question sufficient. The panelists (from England, Ireland, and the host college) took five minutes each but did not answer my question. They merely restated the preface to my question, where I made the point that beliefs cannot be divorced from practice.

I didn’t respond to their non-answers then, but later in the day an older gentleman from the floor asked if I was happy with their response. I said that I wasn’t, for they hadn’t answered my question but had merely restated it back to me. They took another run, and this time 2 out of the 3 affirmed that beliefs are unnecessary to follow Jesus. One said that even to ask my question is to needlessly divide faith from practice. Another, the professor at this Christian college, espoused an inclusivism where “Christians, Jews, and Muslims all pray to the same God.” He said that beliefs are not essential, for “God does not make himself available only to Christians.”

When I explained from John 3 and Romans 10 why believing that we are sinners and Jesus saves us from our sin is essential for salvation, one panelist declared that I held a “Baptist, conversionist” view which treated people as heads rather than whole persons. I’m sure that they thought I was too modern and fundamentalist for asking my question, but the experience reinforced for me the need for a book like Don’t Stop Believing.

One funny story. I was on another panel recently where the emergent moderator kept agreeing with everything I said. Every time I would bring up the need to believe, she would say something like “I feel your passion, your heart beats with the love of Christ,” etc. I wanted to scream “Stop hugging me! It’s hard to have a conversation if you won’t acknowledge our differences.”

Finally, one of the other panelists had enough, and he declared that he didn’t know whether doctrine would make it through the worm hole into the future but he was sure that Jesus would. I responded that if doctrine did not make it, then neither would Jesus. He replied that the church has always permitted diversity of opinion. I agreed, but said that the church also declared that some thought was out of bounds, and one should pause before following a heretical strain. Many in the audience applauded and the emergent moderator announced “Oooo, he used the ‘H’ word.” Apparently the only heresy in some circles is to declare that there is such a thing as heresy!

CPYU: What’s next? Working on another book?

MW: I think many people today, both conservative and more liberal Christians, are confused about faith, its relation to doubt, and what it means to believe. I’ve got a catchy title, which I don’t want to give away but I promise that, like my first two books, it can be sung to a 1980s rock song (everyone needs a shtick, mine just happens to be dumber than most!). I am just beginning the research and haven’t pursued a publisher yet, so it probably won’t be out for a couple of years. In the meantime, anyone who is interested can follow my occasional musings at michaelwittmer.net.

Other Bookshelf Author Interviews:
Tim Clydesdale, The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens After High School
David Lovelace, Scattershot
William Mattison, Introducing Moral Theology
J. Mark Bertrand, Rethinking Worldview: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in This World
Amy Black, Beyond Left and Right: Helping Christians Make Sense of American Politics
Matthew Bonzo, Wendell Berry and the Cultivation of Life
David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant
Kary Oberbrunner, The Fine Line: Re-envisioning the Gap Between Christ and Culture
David Naugle, Reordered Love, Reordered Lives
Mary Poplin, Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work and Service
Mindy Meier, Sex and Dating
David Dark, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything
Benson Hines, Reaching the Campus Tribes (part 1 & part 2)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why Living Like Jesus is Not Enough

Reviewed by Derek Melleby

There is a popular, growing concern among some segments of the church that for too long Christians have focused on “believing the right things” instead of “living the right way.” Some claim that Jesus was much more concerned with how one lived than with what one believed. In his book, Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus is Not Enough (Zondervan, 2008), seminary professor Michael Wittmer warns that this popular notion may be taking things too far. He writes, “I appreciate the renewed turn to practice, but wonder why we must turn from doctrine to get there. If modern, conservative churches replaced concern for right living with right doctrine, shouldn’t postmoderns be wary of falling off the other edge replacing concern for right doctrine with right living?”

Wittmer writes with humor and passion, tackling the toughest questions the church is currently wrestling with to show how both right doctrine and right living is necessary. Sample questions include: Must you believe something to be saved? Are people generally good or basically bad? Which is worse: homosexuals or the bigots who persecute them? Is the cross divine child abuse? Is Hell for real and forever? Is the Bible God’s true Word?

Wittmer offers a balanced, thoughtful and biblical approach to these questions and many more. This book is essential reading for anyone who cares about the church and current theological debates. It is especially important for those who are both critical and receptive of the theology of what has become known as the “emerging church.”

Coming soon: a CPYU Bookshelf exclusive interview with professor Michael Wittmer!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Denis Haack: Reader Interview

Current position/title: Co-director, Ransom Fellowship; Editor, Critique; Grandfather to seven above average kids.

Have you always been a reader? If not, how did you become one?

We didn’t have much to read around our house, as I remember, except for the Bible. We were fundamentalists, and didn’t think much of most literature—after all, why read a good book when you could read God’s book? I discovered the library at school in 7th grade (like Napoleon Dynamite, sports were not an option for me) and fell in love with books that could transport me in my imagination to worlds unseen. I read in school every chance I got, saving homework to do at home. My parents, who frowned on unassigned reading, thought I was very studious.

What are your reading habits and practices?

Read all I can, though now I do it with the understanding that good writing, good stories, and good books are good gifts of God. Each year I try to take a look at everything I’ve read recently and make an attempt to balance out the topics and genres so I don’t get too narrow. I also work hard to read works whose authors come from a variety of differing—even conflicting—perspectives (religious, ethnic, political, world view, etc.). When I get too busy to have time to read, I believe I am too busy and so I change my commitments.

Name 3 books that have been very influential in your life and one sentence that explains why.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Perhaps the finest novel written by a Christian in the 20th century, it revealed the power of the written word by helping to unravel the lies of Soviet totalitarianism.

The God Who is There by Francis Schaeffer. This was the wedge that pried open the closed box of fundamentalism by letting me see that the fact that Christ was Lord had implications for all of life.

Knowing God by J. I. Packer. I fell in love with theology as something that could be authentic and alive, and with the God that has shown himself in Scripture.

If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be and what questions would you ask him or her?

Cormac McCarthy: Would you please tell me the story of your spiritual pilgrimage?

According to a recent study by the National Endowment of the Arts, very few young people are reading. Do you have any ideas on how to get young people to read?

Nothing profound. All I’d suggest is read good stories aloud to them—as often as possible, in every setting possible. We like inviting people over for a meal and then moving to the living to listen to a story. Or when my wife and I speak at a college retreat, Margie offers to read stories at bedtime. Sadly, we’ve found too few grew up in homes where this was standard practice.

Past Reader Interviews

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

NEW Leader's Guide for The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness

While the book The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness can be used for individual study, we have found that students grasp the content of the book much more thoroughly when read under the guidance of a mentor, small group leader or teacher. Youth groups have used The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness as a way to prepare students for college. The Leader’s Guide is designed to assist leaders in their preparation for leading discussions around the themes in the book. Our hope is to see a generation of young people take both their faith and studies seriously. May this new study guide help toward that end!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Happiness Defined

Reviewed by Derek Melleby

David Naugle, in his new book, Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness (Eerdmans, 2008), points readers toward a recent study of Americans. The research showed that while the U.S. highly values “happiness,” it came in number 23 on a list of the world’s happiest countries. Naugle writes, “Though there is significant disagreement on what happiness is and how to get it, there is substantial agreement in recognizing it as the bull’s eye on the target at which we aim our lives.” But here’s the problem as Naugle explains: “Scientific, economic and cultural forces have produced a paradigm shift in the way most people understand happiness. It has morphed in the minds of many Americans into a promise of sustained pleasure and painlessness.”

Reordered Love, Reordered Lives invites readers to consider what we should aim for to obtain a truly “happy life.” Naugle suggests that we need “not a hedonistic but an ‘edenistic’ happiness that roots the fullness of human life in God and his creation.” This type of happiness only comes when we learn to love the right things. “The happy life consists of learning how to love both God supremely and the world in the right way at the very same time.”

Using illustrations from history, pop culture and Scripture, Naugle makes a strong case for how followers of Christ can (re)learn how to live a “happy” (properly defined), good life. The book is deep, but accessible, and would be good reading for parents and youth workers as they help young people better understand what true happiness really is. And, truth be told, the message of the book is one we all need to be continually reminded of: Our happiness is found in our love for God.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Shop Class as Soulcraft

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Matthew Crawford
http://www.colbertnation.com/
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMark Sanford

Matthew Crawford's new book Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work appeared on my Summer Reading List. I'm about half way through it and it's certainly worth reading. Crawford is asking fundamental questions about work. With a PhD in political philosophy, and after working in universities and "think-tanks," Crawford opened a motorcycle repair shop. He discovered that not only did motorcycle repair seem more meaningful, but he also found it much more intellectual. Meaning, repairing motocycles required him to think more. He writes, "Given the intrinsic richness of manual work - cognitively, socially, and in its broader psychic appeal - the question becomes why it has suffered such a devaluation as a component of education."

Good question. Why have we devalued "working with our hands?" Perhaps the best sermon I have ever heard preached was by Tim Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian Church) on a Christian understanding of work: Made for Stewardship (right-click to download). I find many of the strongest points in Crawford's book to be in-line with the historic, Christian understanding of work. We are created in the image of a creator, of a worker, of a God who both works and rests. We have been placed on earth to tend, work, cultivate the creation. Work is not a necessary evil, but it is part of God's good creation, the task given to humans before the fall. To be human, is to work. Of course, after the fall, there are now thorns and thistles related to our work, but we are still called to work. Work is not something we do for money or for leisure, but it is how we image God in the world. Crawford's book gets pretty close to this kind of understanding of work, and I recommend it highly.

It turns out that Stephen Colbert and I have similar reading lists. He's probably a follower of Bookshelf. Enjoy the video!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

College Culture

Reviewed by Derek Melleby

Roger Rosenblatt’s novel Beet (Harper Perennial, 2008) was written before the current economic recession, but its comic plot is even more realistic today. The story takes place at fictitious Beet, a small, liberal arts college in New England. Beet College suddenly loses its endowment, and the board of trustees is called upon to make major changes or they run the risk of having to shut down the school entirely. Their solution is to start a faculty committee to develop a creative curriculum that will increase enrollment by giving Beet a marketing advantage. English professor Peace Porterfield is asked to take charge of the committee and work with an impossible cast of professors from diverse departments.

Beet
is a sarcastic, sometimes cynical, comedy about higher education in the 21st century. Rosenblatt is clearly trying to make a statement about the direction of some American colleges. By using outlandish characters and subplots, he exposes some of the wrong turns colleges have taken in order to be more appealing to students. Themes such as political correctness, grade inflation, tolerance and many other issues on campus today are explored, giving the reader a unique, often funny, look into the ridiculousness that is found at some colleges today.

Rosenblatt’s purpose for writing, however, is not just to point out what has gone wrong in higher education. Through the characters and plot twists, he also is reminding readers of what is good, right, true and beautiful. At the end of the day, this novel is a plea for institutions of higher learning to return to the central purpose of educating young minds toward moral formation. Beet would be a good choice for someone looking for a summer/beach read that will also get you thinking about education and adolescent development. Similar to Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons, Beet offers a unique window into current college culture.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Porn University

Reviewed by Chris Wagner

Pornography has become so mainstream in today’s society, that many people no longer label it as a problem. Perhaps the idea that viewing pornography is an acceptable form of behavior is nowhere more prevalent than on college campuses. But does this truly reflect the status quo?

Michael Leahy set out to answer that question in his book Porn University: What College Students Are Really Saying About Sex On Campus (Northfield Publishing, 2009). While in college, Leahy found himself immersed in pornography and sexual behavior. Not until much later, after many broken relationships and hard lessons learned, did he come to grips with the powerful negative impact it played in his life. He now speaks to college students across the country in an effort to educate them about the truths of pornography and the emptiness that comes with so-called “sexual freedom.”

Leahy invites students to visit My Sex Survey to answer a few questions about their own sexual beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. Thousands of students have done so, and Porn University is a result of these many responses. The book breaks down those responses and discusses ways in which the statistics manifest themselves in the lives of students and adults alike. Insights are provided about the differences in sexual attitudes between men and women. Leahy explains the patterns of sexual addiction as well as the consequences of consuming pornography and partaking in harmful sexual behaviors. He concludes that only Christ can ultimately fulfill our relational needs, and offers hope to those who are in the midst of struggle.

Porn University will open the eyes of anyone who reads it to the prevailing attitudes about sexuality on college campuses. As such, campus ministers will benefit greatly from the read as they learn how to better care for students.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Reading FREE Book Winner

The winner of the FREE book for participating in the Summer Reading List giveaway is...

Jenn

Jenn, to claim your prize, please send me an email.

Thanks for all who participated. My stack of books "to read" is now much higher!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Positive Parenting

Reviewed by Walt Mueller

For the most part, I don’t like Christian parenting books. I came to that conclusion several years ago after reading a stack of the most popular titles in our local Christian bookstore. The books either left me: 1) feeling beat up because of the writer’s high expectations, or 2) wondering how enacting the five, seven or 10 guaranteed steps could actually guarantee success. I’m looking for a book that’s realistic, humble, biblically based, full of grace and that takes into account that all of our kids are different.

Consequently, my list of recommended Christian parenting books is rather short. Recently, I added a new book to that list. Scott Larson’s When Teens Stray: Parenting for the Long Haul (Vine Books, 2002), grows out of the experiences of Larson and his wife as they have taken scores of kids from juvenile jails into their homes. While Larson’s experience qualifies him to write to parents whose kids have gotten into trouble, this is a book that will benefit all parents of teens. Larson begins by painting a broad stroke by laying out common myths parents hold about their kids, along with common myths parents hold about parenting. What follows is a treasure of realistic, hope-filled and practical biblically based advice that helps parents to maintain proper perspective and sanity.

While I will continue to recommend this book to all parents, others who work with kids will benefit as well. With a growing number of grandparents raising their grandchildren, When Teens Stray offers them encouragement and godly wisdom during what is a most difficult job. And, youth workers and teachers will find great insights into the dynamics that drive troubled youth.

This review also appeared in Engage: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Walt's Summer Reading List

Derek asked me to pass on a list of the three books I intend to read this coming summer. I've got a nice pile of summer reading that's growing to the point of insanity, and I'm still trying to put wraps on a book that was on last year's list! Still, Derek got me thinking and I've narrowed my list to the following three.

First, I always try to read something that will expand my theological horizons, and that's related to issues of faith and culture. G.K. Beale's Becoming What We Worship is my pick for this summer. This biblical theology of idolatry traces the replacement of the Creator with created things through the Scriptures. My desire for this book is that it might be used to expose more of my own heart, along with the collective heart of our culture. I'm sure this won't be an easy journey as Beale has a reputation for depth and rigor. . . . a reputation I remember well from my days at Gordon-Conwell seminary and his days there as a prof. The hammock won't be the place to read this one!

Second, I try to read something on culture that will prepare me for things I'll be speaking on in the fall. I've decided to pursue the whole trend towards narcissism from a Biblical perspective in preparation for some seminars that I'm putting together to address the topic at this fall's National Youth Workers Conventions. Jean Twenge seems to be floating away from and above the pack as a researcher who's looking more closely at how narcissism is woven in and through the fabric of our culture. So, my list includes her newest, The Narcissism Epidemic.

Third, there's the obligatory baseball book. Yep, I try to read at least one - if not more - every summer. I've loved the game since I was a kid and coached for almost ten years. Now that I'm no longer sitting in dugouts, watching my beloved Phillies and reading about different aspects of the game will have to do. I recently read a review of Bruce Weber's new book, As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travel in the Land of Umpires. Should be fun. . . and this one's for the hammock.

Finally, there's my wildcard. My friend Dick Doster wrote one of the baseball books that I read last year - Safe At Home. Dick's the editor of ByFaith Magazine and has branched out into writing novels. Safe at Home grabbed me at it told the story of baseball, the minor leagues, the civil rights movement, and breaking the color barrier. This summer, he's released a new novel that's not about baseball, but it is about the civil rights movement. I've felt a strong responsiblity to be reading about this period of our history so that I can understand things from my childhood that I was by and large oblivious to. So, I'm ordering his new novel, Crossing the Lines. It's another one that will turn up the volume on my hammock enjoyment.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Summer Reading Lists: Free Book Giveaway

It’s a good time to give away a free book, don’t you think? And, it’s a good time to make a list of books we hope to read this summer. Summer can be a great time to catch up on our reading or pick up a book that, perhaps, we wouldn’t normally read, but have some extra time to do so. Here are four books on my list so far:

The Chosen by Chaim Potok. This is one of those books that I have heard much about, but, sadly, have never read. Many colleges assigned it as a text for first year students. I’m going to figure out why!

Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement by Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh. Both of these writers have been influential on my own thinking and I’m surprised that I haven’t read this one yet. Their call if for Christians to be more intentionally rooted and committed to local communities. If you know me, you know this is close to my heart.

Original Sin: A Cultural History by Alan Jacobs. Jacobs provides a historical overview and analysis of the doctrine of “original sin.” I read the first chapter a few months ago and can’t wait to get back to it.

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford. Now here’s a good story: a college professor and think-tank employee opens up a motorcycle repair shop and realizes that being a repairman forces him to think more! Crawford wonders: where have all the shop classes gone? My good friend Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books is raving about this book. It looks like a winner.

Now it’s your turn:

What book(s) do you hope to read this summer?

(There needs to be at least 10 comments to qualify. Winner will be chosen randomly from list of participants. Only one comment per person.)

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Narcissism Epidemic

Jean Twenge’s book Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before has been mentioned on CPYU Bookshelf before (click here to read a review). Her research has been very helpful for those trying to get a better handle on the current generation who seems to be consume with “self.” Recently, Twenge published a new book (coauthored with Keith Campbell) that looks deeper into this issue. The new book, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, reports the findings of their groundbreaking research.

This past weekend Twenge was featured on Book TV (C-SPAN2). From the show description: “The authors examine the cultural consequences of narcissism, which they say has grown exponentially in recent years. They use real-life anecdotes, like instant stardom through Youtube, to analyze narcissism in the culture at large and the possible means of combating its effects.”

You can watch her engaging, informative presentation here.