31 December 2014

Best and Worst Books I Read in 2014

Someone asked me on Facebook if I was going to post my favourite books of 2014. I looked back at my list (95 books and 26,442 pages). Here are the best and worst, sorted by category (my categories).

The Best Reads would be rated 5-stars by me on Amazon, which means the book has to **REALLY** have an impact on me. I tried to decide on the 1-3 absolute best and couldn't narrow it down because each is unique and meaningful for different reasons.

The Worst Reads would all be rated 2-stars or less, which means I REALLY did not like them.

If you're interested in seeing my comments on each book, you can view or download this document from my Dropbox account — The Best and Worst Books I Read in 2014

  • Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand (Biography) 
  • A. Lincoln: A Biography, Ronald C White (Biography)
  • Once Blind: The Life of John Newton, Kay Strom Marshall (Biography) 
  • Commentary on Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (only Colossians chapter), John Calvin (Bible) 
  • Expositor's Bible: Colossians and Philemon, Alexander Maclaren (Bible) 
  • The 3D Gospel: Ministry in Guilt, Shame, and Fear Cultures, Jayson Georges (Cross-Cultural Ministry) 
  • Daily Reflections on the Names of God, Ava Pennington (Devotional) 
  • A Hobbit Devotional: Bilbo Baggins and the Bible, Ed Strauss (Devotional) 
  • Revisiting the Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman and Bobby Harrington (Evangelism) 
  • Faith of My Fathers (Chronicles of the Kings #4), Lynn Austin (Fiction) 
  • The Book Thief, Markus Zusak (Fiction) 
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (Fiction) 
  • The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us, James W. Pennebaker (Language/Psychology) 
  • The Painful Side of Leadership, Jeff Iorg (Leadership) 
  • The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make, Hans Finzel (Leadership) 
  • The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy and Kathy Keller (Marriage) 
  • David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, Malcolm Gladwell (Sociology) 
  • The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Remembers, Andrew Rice (Uganda History) 
  • The Monuments Men, Robert M. Edsel (US/Military History)
  • Saint Francis of Assisi: A Life Inspired, Wyatt North (Biography)
  • The Legend of Juan Miguel: The Tale of an Unlikely Hero, Anna K. Sargent (Fiction)
  • Pursuit, Jason Garrett (Fiction)
  • Tiaras & Texans, Laina Turner (Fiction)
  • Your Best Nap Now: 7 Steps to Nodding Off at Your Full Potential, Martha Bolton (Humour)
  • How to Solve Soduku (52 Brilliant Ideas), Robin J. Wilson (Non-fiction) 
On the running front, which was the original purpose of this blog ... well, let's just say that was another worst of 2014.  :-(  I'm trying to get back and plan on 2015 being much better.

Run well, y'all,
Bob Allen
Kampala, Uganda

24 December 2014

Book Review: No Greater Valor, by Jerome Corsi

No Greater Valor: The Siege of Bastogne, and the Miracle That Sealed Allied Victory (I read the Kindle edition), by Jerome Corsi, is a (mostly) readable account of the American defense of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. American forces tenaciously held this important crossroads against numerically superior forces and in spite of harsh weather and shortage of both food and ammunition. Because of the weather and the fact that the Bastogne defenders were surrounded by German forces, fresh supplies could not be brought in until the weather broke on 23 December. I'm not competent to declare whether or not this battle is the most courageous ever fought by American troops, but this certainly is a story of courage and determination. The defenders on the ground, the airmen who flew supply drop runs, medics who volunteered to fly into Bastogne in gliders, and Patton and his 3rd Army all demonstrated courage.

I have no military background — missed the Vietnam draft by one graduating class, my draft number was either #162 or #169 (Hey, give me a break — that was 43 years ago). I also don't generally like books about specific battles. Consequently, I struggled a bit with the military organizational vocabulary. Mostly, I just ignored those kinds of details and read for the bigger picture and that was what I found appealing. For me, the book got much better once the preparations to defend Bastogne were done. I did find it appealing to be reading this book on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge and the Siege of Bastogne — that was not by design, it's just when I happened to read the book.

Corsi says that his primary purpose in writing this book was "to reexamine the importance of God in our Judeo-Christian historical tradition in a world certain again to be…'nasty, cruel, brutish, and short' once again in the future." I don't believe he accomplished his purpose. Note — that's not the same thing as saying that I don't believe the premise. I just don't think Corsi presented the kind of compelling evidence that he intended. There are certainly examples of faith in action — Patton's distribution of leaflet encouraging the troops to pray, the attendance of both troops and leaders in Mass and Protestant services during lulls in the action, the statements of belief that God had favoured the American. Did God give the generals and other officers extraordinary wisdom in making decisions that seem to be merely fortuitous? I think so. Were the personnel involved motivated and emboldened by a belief that they were fighting to defeat an evil in the Nazis that was built on a Satanic foundation? I think so.

Someone who believes that God does not intervene in human affairs or, certainly, a non-Christian may well find the references to God's help obnoxious. But, if that focus doesn't bother you, this is a really good story of courage and great strategy.

[DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the publisher as a part of their blogger book review programme, BookLook Bloggers. The expectation by the publisher is that I will write the review that I believe the book deserves. Other than the free copy of the book and continued participation in the reveiw programme, I receive no other compensation from the publisher.]