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2012 Year In Review: Non-Fiction

Top Ten

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1. THE WAGES OF SPIN by Dr. Carl Trueman
I predicted back in April that this book would probably be “the best piece of non-fiction I read in 2012.” Turns out I was right. This essay collection is short, sharp, challenging, and frequently hilarious: a prime example of why Trueman is one of my favorite writers. Full review
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2. TEN WAYS TO DESTROY THE IMAGINATION OF YOUR CHILD by Anthony Esolen
The title is potentially misleading: this is not a book exclusively for parents. Anybody can (and should) read this book, because anybody can (and will) benefit from it. It’s a witty, gritty, and delightfully subversive assault on the Bastions of Modern Educational Theory and Practice, and Esolen’s satiric flair is worthy of Uncle Screwtape himself. Full review
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3. WORDSMITHY by Douglas Wilson
My favorite writing book. Whether you want to write full time, or merely have a passing interest in it – this slim little volume should be on your shelf. It’s just that good. Full review
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4. BLACK HAWK DOWN by Mark Bowden
One of the ugliest, most beautiful books I’ve ever read. Ugly for its depiction of modern warfare; beautiful for its depiction of the men who endured it. A must-read if there ever was one. Full review
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5. JUST DO SOMETHING by Kevin DeYoung
Want to know what the subtitle is? How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, Etc. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know. Full review
Continue reading 2012 Year In Review: Non-Fiction
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How Terrifying A Prospect

“It astounds me, given the overwhelming use of psalms as central to gathered worship in the first four centuries, the absolute importance given to psalmody for the first two centuries of the post-Reformation Reformed churches, and the fact that the Book of Psalms is the only hymn book which can claim to be universal in its acceptance by the whole of Christendom and utterly inspired in all of its statements – it astounds me, I say, that so few psalms are sung in our worship services today. Moreover, often nothing seems to earn the scorn and derision of others more than the suggestion that more psalms should be sung in worship. Indeed, the last few years have seen a number of writers strike out against exclusive psalmody. Given that life is too short to engage in pointless polemics, I am left wondering which parallel universe these guys come from, where the most pressing and dangerous worship issue is clearly that people sing too much of the Bible in their services. How terrifying a prospect that would be! Imagine: people actually singing songs that express the full range of human emotion in their worship using words of which God has explicitly said ‘These are mine!'”

~ Carl Trueman, The Wages of Spin (p. 167)

Book Review: The Wages of Spin

Ever notice the increasing tendency in Evangelical circles to view disagreement as a troublesome, intrinsically oppressive thing? Fence-sitting is much more popular; that, and ignorance (or dismissal) of Christianity’s deep historical roots.

And of course, as Carl Trueman wryly observes, the point of having a debate is not to have “a conversation, and then to agree to differ as we all sit around in a mutually affirming, self-congratulatory love-fest.” The point is to establish which position is right (as the Apostle Paul repeatedly points out in Acts).

With The Wages of Spin, Carl Trueman delivers twelve critical essays on historic and contemporary evangelicalism. They’re short, they’re sharp, and they’ll challenge you to think about – and to have an opinion on – things that matter.

Oh, and your vocabulary will probably be tested, too.

It’s only April, so I can’t really start nominating for Best of the Year award; that said, I have the sneaking suspicion that The Wages of Spin will prove to be the best piece of non-fiction I read in 2012. Yes, it’s that good.

Anyone who has read Trueman will know that he’s about as far removed from “easy reading” as the east is from the west. I mean that as a compliment. This guy will truly stretch your brain, and in all the right ways. Just lend him your time and attention. Both will be well spent.

Continue reading Book Review: The Wages of Spin

Not A Liberating Experience

“As historical ignorance and anti-traditionalism have increased with the rise of Western consumerism, society has not witnessed any great liberation; rather, there has been the creation of a desperate and deep-seated craving for precisely the kind of identity which history and tradition are capable of supplying. Thus, for example, we have the rise of new, militant nationalisms and the invention of pseudo-historical New Age spiritualities. The removal and destruction of traditions and histories which actually have some roots in the real past has frequently not liberated humanity but rather left aching voids which have been filled with synthetic traditions and histories which are indeed truly the invention of those who promote them; and arguably these have proved far more manipulative than many which have gone before. Multinational consumerism reduces all of life to a bland and rootless present, and as humanity finds itself free-floating and rootless, it desperately strives to create (rather than rediscover) for itself a history and a network of tradition which will give it value and identity. The death of history and the death of tradition has not proved to be a liberating experience; it has merely created a hole into which any old fairy-story can now be fitted.”

~ Carl Trueman, The Wages of Spin (pp. 33-34)

On the Bookshelf V

The Wages of Spin by Carl Trueman
Critical writings on historical and contemporary evangelicalism. It took me all of five pages to decide that Carl Trueman is one of my favorite writers. No joke. I’m simultaneously loving this guy and feeling very small next to his brilliance. I mean, seriously – if I could write non-fiction like Trueman and write fiction like Cormac McCarthy, I’d be set.
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
The second installment of Enderverse, and a winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards. It’s quite a bit different from the first book, Ender’s Game, but it’s every bit as interesting and provocative. Card has a gift for ambitious, detailed world building (or out-of-this-world building, if you will), and his characters and scenarios are always fascinating. It’s not difficult to see why he’s regarded as a classic Sci-Fi author.
Modern Times by Paul Johnson
I was a bit daunted by the length of this one at first (it’s 800 pages), but the fact that it’s authored by Paul Johnson helped me overcome my hesitation. That, and the fact that I really had no choice in the matter – it’s required reading for school. At any rate, I’m glad I started it: it’s brilliantly written and consistently challenging. Dashed interesting, too.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
A classic and oft lauded post-apocalyptic vampire tale. The 2007 film is one of my favorite Sci-Fi flicks, but I avoided the book until now because I’d heard questionable things about it. A very good friend recently recommended it, however, so I decided to give it a go. I picked up a copy at Barnes & Nobles the other day, and as soon as I finish up some of my other reads, I plan to start it. Can’t wait.
The Fort by Bernard Cornwell
A novel of the Revolutionary War. Cornwell is a prolific author, highly respected and generally regarded as one of the best  historical-fiction writers working today. I haven’t read anything else by him yet, but I figured this would be a good place to start. He also wrote a novel about the Battle of Agincourt which I’d love to check out. “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”
Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell
“In combat, men measure up. Or don’t. There are no second chances.” The story of 10th Mountain Division’s stand in the violent, rugged mountains of Afghanistan. I’m almost done with it and have been very impressed thus far. There’s a lot of profanity (you have been warned), but it’s a remarkable look at leadership, brotherhood-in-arms, and the messiness of modern warfare.

What’s on your bookshelf right now?