30 August 2015

Rabbit Sandwich

It's pretty bad when your sandwich eats your lunch. And, it appears it doesn't carrot all. (Thanks, Terry Jones, for the "carrot" quip.) 
Go ahead and groan.

Run well, y'all,
Kampala, Uganda

24 August 2015

Book Review: Seven Women — Women Who Changed the World

I read Seven Men by Metaxas about 2 1/2 years ago (April 2013) and thought at the time that he should write a similar book about women. That book, Seven Women, is coming out on 8 September 2015.

Like its prequel, Seven Women is a series of short biographies of people who have made an important, sometimes culture-shifting contribution to their own time and culture and to the subsequent history of the world. The biographies in Seven Women are about women whose lives and accomplishments can inspire others to attempt great things -- Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Saint Maria of Paris, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks, and Mother Teresa. These women were all women of deep faith in God and who depended on God for inspiration, strength, and guidance as they set out to do what He had called them to do.

Metaxas chose women whose greatness derive[d] precisely from their being women, not in spite of it… and not because they or their accomplishments are measured against who men are and what men have done. Metaxas does not attempt to promote either an egalitarian or a complementarian viewpoint on the role of men and women. Some of these women were wives and mothers -- some were unsuccessful at or unfulfilled in those roles (not always their fault, either) -- but Metaxas focuses more on what they did outside of those roles.

Some of the biographies are stronger than others. For me, the stories of Hannah More, Saint Maria of Paris, and Rosa Parks were the most interesting. Prior to reading Seven women, I knew nothing about those three -- except for knowing that Rosa Parks' determination not to move from her seat on the Birmingham bus so that white folk could sit on that row was the spark that lit the fire of the Civil Rights Movement in the US. The biographies in this book should be inspiring to men and women, to girls and boys.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher as a part of their BookLook Bloggers programme. I received no other compensation except for continued participation in the book review programme and have been free to write the reveiw that I think the book deserves.

14 August 2015

What's in My Reading Queue, Friday, 14 August

This is my August reading list:

The Germans in Normandy, Richard Hargreaves — Since WWII, books written in former Allied countries about D-Day and the liberation of France have been written primarily from the winners' perspectives. This book changes that. It's a well-written, thoroughly researched book about the invasion of France by the enemy (Allied forces) from the perspective of German troops. There are some great negative leadership passages. Had Hitler and his top leadership not been so sure that they knew how to conduct the war, the outcome might have been very different. As it was, German troops fought doggedly and bravely against overwhelming odds. My review is here.

The Complete 101 Collection, John Maxwell — Eight books fro the 101 series. Classic Maxwell, lists and numerous quotes, but it's a great introduction to important leadership concepts and a great resource for an experienced leader who is mentoring a young leader. My review is here.

Leading Like Jesus: 40 Leadership Lessons From the Upside-Down Kingdom, Floud McClung — One-a-day format based on a Bible passage. These are brief and to the point.

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, Heidi W. Darrow — Fiction. Bellwether Prize Winner. Coming of age story of a girl whose mother is white (Danish) and father a black G.I.. After her mother' death, she is raised by her grandmother (father's mother) and has to learn how to live, for the first time, in a mostly black community where she gets a lot of attention. I just started this book, but it's good so far.

Plan to Read — these could change depending on my mood or what I might buy. In fact, a book just came available for review and I've changed what I was going to put in the list:

7 Women, Eric Metaxas — I've been looking forward to this book for some time. A follow up to the excellent 7 Men, Metaxas gives short biographical sketches of some of the most important women in history — Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie ten Boom, Mother Teresa, and Rosa Parks. They are described as women whose lives [were] shaped by the truth of the gospel.

The Reason for God, Timothy Keller — Keller presents an apologetic to help those who adhere to the Christian faith respond to passionate, learned, and persuasive [people and books] that promote science and secularism over religion and faith. This book was recommended to me by Phil Faig, a Virginia pastor who I highly respect.

The Last Battle: When U.S. and german Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe, Stephen Harding — Another book that I've looked forward to reading for several months. After Hitler is dead and the Third Reich is dying, a U.S. Captain and a German Wehrmacht officer and their men join together to rescue 14 French prisoners held in an SS-guarded castle in the Austrian Alps. Fascinating concept.

What are you reading?

Run well,
Kampala, Uganda

Book Review: John Maxwell's "The Complete 101 Collection"

The Complete 101 Collection contains 8 books from John Maxwell's 101 Series — Attitude 101, Self-Improvement 101, Leadership 101, Relationships 101, Success 101, Teamwork 101, Equipping 101, and Mentoring 101. A ninth book, Ethics 101, is not included in this collection. This is a great starter set for a young leader and for an experienced leader who wants content for conversations in a mentoring relationship.

Each of these books is intended as an introduction to its topic. Don't expect to learn everything you need to know as a leader, despite the subtitle, What Every Leader Needs to Know. However, do expect to get a good introduction to the things that a good leader needs to know and do. There are numerous references to other books by Maxwell, each of which goes into greater depth on a given topic. In typical Maxwell fashion, these books have plenty of quotes from historical figures as well as some of the best current writers on leadership. And it will be no surprise to Maxwell readers that there are lists galore. There is some overlap between the subject matters of the books, so there are sections that are repeated in different ones of these books. For example, a significant minority portion of Mentoring 101 is included in Equipping 101. That's not bad because equipping leaders and mentoring leaders have similar characteristics.

I think one of the best uses of these books (or this collection) would be for an experienced leader to mentor a young leader. And, in fact, 5 of these books (Mentoring 101, Relationships 101, Equipping 101, Attitude 101, and Leadership 101) are available as a part of Maxwell's Lunch & Learn series which includes a discussion guide.

Some of the themes that run throughout all of these books are:

  • Trust
  • Loyalty
  • Choosing people based on leadership potential, not followship
  • Passing on responsibility.

While every one of these books is helpful, I thought the best sections were:

  • Leadership 101, Chapter 9, How Can I Extend My Influence
  • Teamwork 101, Chapter 2, What is the Impact of Good Teamwork, especially the section Great Teams Create Community.
  • Equipping 101, Chapter 5, What Does It Take to Equip a Leader, especially the section Check on Them Systematically when Maxwell talks about working with "a person whose progress is repeatedly poor."

DISCLAIMER: In addition to a copy of this collection that I purchased, I also received a complimentary copy from the publisher as a part of its bloggers' review programme, BookLook Bloggers. I am free to write the review that I think the book deserves. My only compensation, other than a free copy, is continued participation in the programme.

01 August 2015

Book Review: The Germans in Normandy

5–Stars, Highly Recommended

The story of the struggle for Normandy is an appalling one; the battle was, in Erwin Rommel's words, 'one terrible blood-letting'. (from the Introduction)

Both the Allied and German forces put most, if not all of their hopes for ending World War II on the battles over occupied France. Hargreaves does a masterful job of writing the history of D-Day to the final liberation of France from the German perspective. He talks about the logical hopelessness of the German defense, yet portrays the sheer will-power of the German military that, at times, threatened to thwart to Allied invasion. Germany missed its opportunity in so many ways — megalomaniacal leadership of Hitler and Goebbels who refused to face the reality of the Allied superiority and the complete exhaustion of their own troops, uncoordinated strategies, woefully insufficient front line and reserve forces, inadequate hardware (or, as Hargreaves terms it, "material"). Though Hargreaves doesn't explicitly make the connection, the attempted coup by top military leadership in the midst of the defense of France had to have been, at the very least, a distraction.

Hargreaves succeeds in portraying the tenacity of the German military as time after time they were defeated but continued to fight on in spite of overwhelming odds. It's terrifying to think what might have happened if the German military had been anywhere close to being as prepared as were the Allies. Whether Hargreaves intended it or not, one result of reading this book is a fresh realization of how horrible war is -- 240,000 or more people killed in a 2 1/2 month period and many of the bodies so damaged that they could not be identified!!

I do have some criticisms of the book. First was the overuse of the phrase "material supremacy". Often, this was quoted from German sources, but there could (perhaps) have been some variety in how the German phrase was translated and Hargreaves, himself, could have used a different phrase when he wasn't quoting. I found maps difficult to decipher — the quality of the graphics in the Kindle version was really good, but they lacked legends that would have made them more understandable to someone who, like me, has neither a military background or more than a cursory knowledge of French geography. There were some minor quirky (to me) errors -- for example, "The 6 June cost the Panzer Lehr thirty vehicles." Phrases that introduced quotes often ended with a period rather than a comma. Several times, a phrase like "It was gone midnight…" was used. Or, a phrase like, "Thus at the age of thirty died Michael Wittmann…" Or, "Paris not only lacked the men to defend it to the last man…" -- how many more than 1 does it take to defend to the last man? Hargreaves is, apparently, British and perhaps some of these are simply differences in how Amis and Tommies (the terms the Germans used in Hargreaves book) express themselves. None of them take away from the book.

I think Hargreaves sums up the essence of The Germans in Normandy with this section at location 5628 (Kindle):
For the Landser, there was the bitter taste of defeat, and yet the German soldier refused to accept he had been beaten. Events had conspired against him, but the Landser held his head high. Like Untersturmf├╝hrer Riegamer, he struggled to accept his sacrifices had been in vain. This could not be the end. 'German soldiers have once again acquitted themselves superhumanly in battle,' Hitlerjugend commander Kurt Meyer wrote bitterly in his diary. 'They do not deserve the terrible defeat. The defeat cannot be blamed on the frontline soldiers as this bitter cup was served to them by a gambler at the map table.'