Book Review


A drifter who appears at the time of your greatest need and offers you some perspective that changes you life.  This drifter is the main character in Andy Andrew’s most recent book – released today – called The Noticer.

The drifter we know as Jones “notices” things about people often deep dark secrets that know one else should know.  Throughout the book I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between Jones and Jesus.  Both meeting a person in their darkest hour and providing hope and avenues for change, but never condemning or judging the person.

I struggled for awhile to figure out if this was a true story or not because Andy places himself in the middle of the story.  I’ve concluded that it is truly a work of fiction – unless we all somehow missed the second coming of Jesus – due to the miraculous appearances and disappearances of Jones.  Though Andrews’ website indicates that:

Based on a remarkable true story, The Noticer beautifully blends fiction, allegory, and inspiration. It provides simple, yet powerful distinctions about love, relationships, value and integrity and will inspire readers to take that first step towards a major life change.

This is an easy and quick read and offers some deep insights into how we should lead our lives and ultimately how our perspective on life alters its outcome.  Through Jones’ encounters with other people Andrews offers strong words of wisdom relating to work, marriage, and life in general.  Much like Jones’ disarming style you won’t really feel the jewels of wisdom being shoved down your throat or the apparent faith perspective that underlies the story.

I would recommend this book for a person who is at a moment of crisis or confusion.  Many of the ideas I mentioned above make it a better gift than a 5 step self-help guide, while providing a real tangible idea for change.

As part of this book Andrews is launching the Noticer Project, where he is encouraging us to “notice” or remember 5 people who have had an impact on our lives.  Throughout the book, people try to learn more about Jones’ story or wish they could thank him after a mysterious disappearance – but only a few really get that chance.

His blog highlights this about the Noticer Project:

This is a grassroots initiative that I hope will have a positive impact—however small—on our country in this uncertain time. I know that when I sat down to think about the five people who have made the biggest impact on my journey, it brought to mind so many gifts that I have been given along the way and reminded me how lucky I am.

You can find out more at thenoticerproject.com

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I reviewed this book as part of Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Bloggers program.

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The title of the book conjured up images of Native Americans and baseball at first thought – not leadership. But that is what Seth Godin wants you to come away with in his most recent book Tribes: We need You to Lead Us.

It makes sense once you think about it a successful leader has a group of followers or a tribe behind him/her. Godin defines a tribe as a “group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. ” The main point of this book is that leaders, true leaders, can come from anywhere and don’t have to have formal power in an organization.  Central to that idea is that leaders lead, not manage their tribe.

Written in 2008, the book incorporates social networking ideas and even talks about then-presidential candidate Obama and his tribe.  It is pretty chopping and he illustrates his points with anecdotal stories – some making more sense and relevance than others.  There are not really any chapters or an outline to follow, but lots of good one-liner inspirations.  Clearly not a typical self-help or checklist book many of his points are relevant.

Leading from where you are

Taking risks and being willing to fail

Not accepting status quo and asking questions

Go first step out in faith and have no fear

This is a fairly quick read with less than 150 pages.  Because of that I would recommend it to others interested in persaonl growth and leadership.

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A friend commented that Not For Sale was available for free as an audiobook so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to “read” this compelling book I had heard about before.  So I downloaded it and put off my normal podcast material for the 8 hours it took to listen.  I am glad I did.

Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade–and How We Can Fight It shares some powerful stories about getting children, women, and even men who get caught up in forced labor – as laborers, prostitutes, child soldiers, and other gruesome situations.    The book tells stories from around the world (including the United States) of both the slaves and the abolitionists who are working to free slaves and prevent future slavery.

Sadly, most people think slavery ended in the 1800’s but some researchers suggest that there are actually more slaves today than at any point during the African slave trade.  As you can tell this is a cause that I care deeply about so I was a little biased by the book.  I think it is a short and relatively easy read and could change the way you look at the world and those “foreigners” at your local restaurant.

I appreciated that the book wasn’t just tales of sorrow and misery but that each chapter also shared the hope and beauty of freedom.   There are a lot of organizations working to end human trafficking and this book shares some of their stories.  It is a “Christian” book but it doesn’t shove Christianity down your throat – just stories.

The biggest thing that I didn’t like about the book was how the stories were interwoven.  You would be reading about one person then pause for a little bit about another and then back and forth.  This was a little confusing in the audio format, but probably made more sense in the written text.

I encourage you to read the book and take action.  The book has an excellent and helpful companion website for the Not For Sale Campaign.  The site offers relevant news, actions to take, and other was to get involved including following their blog.

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Want a snippet of American history each day? This is your book.  Organized as a daily reader The American Patriot’s Almanac: Daily Readings on America can be read in short (2 minute) intervals throughout the year.   Bennett and Cribb offer a wide variety of historical anecdotes from throughout the USA’s history including some more obscure dates and events that I’d not heard of.

I’m a on again off again history buff so I was eager to read this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger program.  Part of me was a little disappointed that the book sometimes almost preaches civic religion to the reader.  Nelson is a Christian publishing house and Bennett is a well known Christian author so the book’s tone at times makes it seem that American is tied up exclusively to Christianity and vice-versa.

It is no surprise given the book’s title that this paints an awe inspiring picture of what we have accomplished since the colonies were first settled.

The book is formatted by month and day, unlike some 365 day readers which just say Day 1, Day 2, etc.  At the beginning of each month is a longer essay about some component of American History.  The daily reading is a “this day in history” synopsis about a single event on that day.  Followed by a bulleted list of 4-5 other significant events that occurred on that day in history.

I would recommend this book as a way to get a small piece of history each day for you and your family.  It could also serve a good starting point for conversation about the impact of the particular event and whether it is good or bad.

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It took me awhile to get through All About Jesus, more because of my schedule than because the book is bad. Actually it is a good synthesis of the known story of Jesus.  It’s subtitle says “The Single Story from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Taking all four of the Gospel books and compiling it into one seamless story-line isn’t an easy task. The compiler, Roger Quy, did an excellent job of sticking to the texts. He used the New International Readers Version which I had never heard of as his primary text.  The NIrV has this to say about itself:

The NIrV was designed to make the Bible clear and understandable to early readers and can be read by a typical fourth grader. For this reason, it is also of value to the millions for whom English is a second language. It intends to be distinguished by five fundamental characteristics—readability, understandability, compatibility with the NIV, reliability, and trustworthiness. It serves as a natural stepping-stone to the NIV when the time is right.

This book doesn’t read like a novel. I kept wanting it to be like a John Grisham or Tom Clancy novel with smooth transitions and story-line. But I realized that the only way that would be possible is by adding to the story which would take away from the compiler’s primary goal of capturing the authentic story of Christ’s life. I’m not sure if a different version would have improved this area or not. The Message paraphrase could potentially make for an easier to follow story but as a paraphrase would lose some of the “inerrancy” of the story. I’m by no means a Biblical scholar so I assume their time line is accurate.

A few times the story repeated itself – in keeping with the original text they sacrificed smoothness to keep sections together. For example on page 200 and 201 it says this:

Herod and his soldiers laughed at him and made fun of him. They dressed him in a beautiful robe. Then they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends. Before this time they had been enemies…. Then Pilate took Jesus and had him whipped. The soldiers twisted thorns together to make a crown.  They put it on Jesus’ head. Then they put a purple robe on him.  They went up to him again and again. They kept saying, “We honor you, king of the Jews!” And they hit him in the face.

And again on page 205:

The governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the palace, which was called the Praetorium.  All the rest of the soldiers gathered around him. They took of his clothes and put a purple robe on him. Then they twisted thorns together to make a crown. They placed it on his head. They put a stick in his right hand. Then they fell on their knees in front of him and made fun of him. “We honor you, king of the Jews!” They said. They spit on him. They hit him on the head with a stick again and again. They fell on their knees and pretended to honor him.

This is actually the only book of this type that I’ve read so I appreciate their effort. At the end of the introduction is this statement of purpose:

This book is meant for those who would like to find out more about Jesus. It is ideal for someone who is new to the Bible. Readers who already know the Bible may find that it helps them learn more about the life and message of Jesus.

I’m not completely sure if he accomplished this goal or not.  Obviously there were new things that jumped out at me this time, but that is the same with every Biblical story and even great novels.  I think if I was wanting to introduce someone to Jesus I would probably recommend reading the Book of Mark in The Message paraphrase before recommending this book.

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Img from USAID

What does the phrase “Not on our watch” mean? We hear it off and on, from a variety of people in a variety of contexts. Well Don Cheadle and John Prendergast want you to know that while they are alive and kicking they will not allow genocide or mass atrocities against humanity to go unnoticed. In their book titled, Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond, they have created an activists guidebook.

Sharing from their personal experience they relay the hard story behind the current genocide in Darfur. They share easy steps that can be taken to end the horrible tragedy there.  One letter can shift the balance in government which could change the entire landscape of how the world interacts with Sudanese officials. The two authors draw on their experiences with advocacy, but throughout the book share short stories about how regular individuals, like you and me, have taken action.  Simple ideas that create massive change – that is the theme of the book.

Outside of the short stories, it can get a little dry, but when you realize that you can create change it can be a powerful motivator.  Out of their efforts came an organization called the Enough Project, which basically wants to end and prevent future genocides.

I’ve had enough of the indiscriminate slaughter of men, women, and children.  Have you?

The book ends with this great quote from Cheadle, it is a powerful reminder we are not alone in our work.

Times like this, it’s easy to feel powerless, easy to feel alone. But when I take off those blinders and look around I see that I am actually surrounded by many people “intending the light,” as Joseph Campbell says, hoping against hope to make a difference in their time. I grow inside as we grow in size, not an army of one but one of many taking up the gauntlet thrown at our feet. Millions of lives hang in the balance, their futures determined in part by wheter or not we act. Ultimately, I pray that we not stand down from our post. Not us. Not now. Not on our watch.

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The Unseen may be one of the weirdest books I’ve ever recommended. I don’t usually read “thrillers” but you have to read it all the way through before judging some of the crazy/creepy things that occur in the beginning. Not to worry, this book is a fast read and I had trouble putting it down.

I finished in less than a week and was glad to have invested the time. A great chance to escape reality and venture into “the unseen” world of the unseen. It makes you wonder though about those times when you feel like someone is watching but there is no one there…

Not for the faint of heart or conspiracy theorist though!

This is the first novel I’ve read by T.L. Hines and I am impressed.  It is fast moving and not too predictable.

Humpty Dumpty had a great falls“!

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I received this book as part of Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Bloggers program.

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