|The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those without Conscience
by Kent A Kiehl, narrated by Kevin Pariseau
The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert
|The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
by Elizabeth Kolbert
Narrated by Anne Twomey
The Question that Never Goes Away, by Philip Yancy
The Question that Never Goes Away, by Philip Yancy
Genre: Christian Living
Reason for Reading: A galley copy of this book was provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I wanted to read this book because I’m interested in theodicy, and I’ve been pretty impressed with the bits of Yancy’s writing that I’ve seen.
Synopsis: After over a decade of traveling the world giving lectures on Where is God When it Hurts, Philip Yancy has decided to revisit this subject in his most recent book The Question That Never Goes Away. I have not read his earlier book, so I can’t compare the messages of each, but I assume the newer book has a similar message to the older, with recent examples and insights that he has gathered since writing the first book.
He starts by describing two different types of disaster: the devastating 2011 tsunami in Japan and the horrifying 4-year seige of Sarajevo in 1992. The first example is a natural disaster, but the second is man-made. Such disasters beg the question “Why?” Why would a God who loves us allow such destruction?
Yancy points out that atheists have a field day with such calamity – using it as evidence that God doesn’t exist. For, clearly, a loving God wouldn’t allow such things to happen; therefore it is erroneous to believe in God. But Yancy counters: if, indeed, this is an impersonal universe of random indifference, why are the atheists so shocked and upset about someone else’s tragedy? Clearly, their morals are shaped by the philosophical framework of Christianity.
My thoughts: I don’t really think this is an adequate counter to the claim that God doesn’t exist. First of all, Christianity is not the only religion which is founded on the power of love. Second, there is no evidence that God created our revulsion to other peoples’ tragedy. Such revulsion can be explained by evolution of social behavior. Humans might simply have an instinct to protect our neighbors because we are better able to survive in a group than alone. On the other hand, I don’t think asking the age-old question “Why?” proves God doesn’t exist, either. To think so is a bit naive.
Yancy continues by explaining that there’s nothing wrong with asking the question “Why?” In fact, it is a question asked over and over again in the Bible. God expects such questions, and he understands our grief and frustration at getting no answer. BUT, He still doesn’t provide an answer. Not in the Bible. And not in the world.
Ours is not to reason why. Ours is but to do and die.
Yancy suggests that we shift our focus from cause to response. When disaster strikes, we should appreciate the outpouring of humanitarian aide that comes from individuals, communities, and countries. Yes – some of this humanitarian aide can be poorly planned, but notice what lies at the heart: love. We, as human beings, want to reach out and help those who are suffering. So where is God when it hurts? He is in those friends, neighbors, and complete strangers who reach out to help the suffering. God hates our suffering as much as we do – but he loves us so much that he sent his own son to suffer among us. Because we can relate to a suffering God.
Finally, Yancy criticizes the claim that God sends suffering in order to build character. He points out that Jesus healed the afflicted. He never once said to them “But think of how character-building this experience is!” Yancy points out that God has promised to redeem our suffering. This does not mean that God sends suffering, but that when tragedy occurs, He inspires and directs good to result from the evil. Thus, we do gain character from suffering.
My thoughts: Well, I know for a fact that good often comes out of bad situations in my life. I don’t know if that is only because I like to be optimistic and think of how I’ve learned from an experience, or become stronger, or had a good experience that otherwise never would have happened. I could just as easily dwell on the tragedy and what good that might have happened if tragedy hadn’t occurred. If I did so, I would certainly live a more miserable life. But would I be any more right or wrong? Regardless, it makes me happy to think that God redeems my suffering. I’d rather not be miserable, thanks.
My thoughts: This is a very difficult book to read because Yancy dwells on quite a few tragic events in detail. However, the book has a strong message and is written with a very humble and personal air. Yancy impresses me with his intelligent observations and powerful examples. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the question of why God allows suffering. I am eager to read more of Yancy’s work.
Resume Magic, by Susan Britton Whitcomb
Resume Magic, by Susan Britton Whitcomb
Genre: Self-Improvement – Job Hunt
Reason for Reading: Trying to buff up my resume so that I feel more presentable.
Synopsis: This book contains a lot of information about content and format of resumes. It starts by encouraging the reader to find his or her own personal brand, so that it can shine through on the resume. Then, Whitcomb discusses the differences between a chronological resume and a functional resume and provides suggestions about when each type of resume would be helpful. She helps the reader create an outline of the resume, later fleshing it out with helpful tips about content. She emphasizes the importance of listing accomplishments. Finally, she dwells on proof-reading. She provides a guide of the basic grammar and punctuation mistakes people make while writing resumes. The final few chapters outline her thought on job search through social media and on cover letters. These sections, of course, aren’t as thorough as the chapters about resumes, but I think she’s trying to whet our appetites for her other books..which I hear are just as thorough.
My thoughts: First. DON’T get the ebook! Get a hard-copy, because the figures and tables are really tiny in ebook format. Second, this book did not really have a lot of information that was relevant to writing a CV, for those of us who have a PhD. Although Whitcomb provided examples of resumes for a large variety of job types, she focused primarily on business, sales, and marketing. Sometimes I wondered if her tips applied to me or not. However, the book DID provide enough information for me to make my resume more presentable. Third, the title. Ouch. I almost didn’t buy this book because the title was too pretentious. Fourth, Whitcomb was a bit heavy-handed with her self-marketing: Resume Magic often read like an advertisement for Whitcomb’s webpage and other books.
And now I see that my thoughts are rather top-heavy in criticism. I hadn’t intended my review to be negative. Resume Magic is loaded with information and tips, and I’m much happier with my CV now than I was before reading this book. Resumes and job hunting have changed dramatically in the last few years, and books like these are very helpful for catching up on what employers are expecting. Because, let’s face it, first impressions are a LOT about presentation. And don’t we all want to make a good first impression?
I haven’t read any other resume books, and I don’t have the time to do so right now, so I can’t very easily compare this to other books on the market. I have been reading Joyce Lain Kennedy’s Job Interviews for Dummies and Job Search Letters for Dummies, though, so I can make a guess at what her Resumes for Dummies is like. My guess is that Whitcomb’s book is more heavy in specific tips, and Kennedy’s books tend to be more general. They both provide a lot of good examples, and they both explain what makes those examples stand out. But Whitcomb’s style is more self-aggrandizing and opinionated. Kennedy recommends books by authors other than herself (including Whitcomb!), which makes her advice seem more sincere and approachable. So I guess if you’re trying to choose between the two – pick Whitcomb if you want a book heavy in information, and Kennedy if you want more general advice from someone who’s willing to reference opinions other than her own (even when they do not exactly coincide with her own).
Tips that most helped me in my resume redesign:
- I am applying to several different types of jobs, mostly branching out from my degree in science. Each job type requires a different set of basic skills, so I prepared a few basic resume types, each arranged in a way that accentuated the traits requested by each job type.
- In order to determine the what skills to emphasize in each resume type, I searched the internet for job listings and company mission statements to determine what is required for a good candidate in each job type.
- Each time I apply for a job, I change my “qualifications” section, so that it directly reflects the skills requested by the job listing as well as the mission statement of the employer.
- I emphasized numbers-based accomplishments for each job that I listed.
- I did not include affiliations or bio, since this information made my resume way too long. So I’ve decided to include a link to my blog bio (which I am currently re-writing). Thus, my potential employers can get a sense of my “personal brand.”
- I put my strongest attributes / qualifications in the visual center of the first page (just below the name and contact information), drawing further attention by setting this section off with lines.
- I included a keyword section for electronically submitted resumes.
- I created two versions of the resume – one for printing off, and one for submitting on the internet. The one for submitting on the internet must have very common fonts, and minimal fancy formatting (avoid tables, for instance).
- Although I certainly hope that whatever job I find will be long-term, I am going to start a file of all accomplishments, evaluations, letters / memos of approval, etc. This information might come in handy in the future. I’d never thought of collecting it before!
The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson
Written by Steven Johnson, Narrated by Alan Sklar
Reason for Reading: Science, Religion, and History group read
Genre: Non-fiction – Medicine and History
The Ghost Map follows Dr. John Snow on his quest to discover the cause of a terrible cholera outbreak in Victorian England. Johnson makes investigative epidemiology so interesting that I could almost see it dramatized (and fictionalized) into a TV show – people DO love their investigative TV! 🙂 But that’s beside the point, I guess. At the time of this outbreak in 1854, the popular theory for the spread of cholera was miasma – deathly air that carried disease. After a LOT of investigative footwork, Snow drew a map of the cholera outbreak, demonstrating that the pattern followed streets that led to a particular well (the Broad Street pump) rather than following a circular pattern you’d expect with the spread of bad air. This map, and the investigation leading up to its creation, revolutionized epidemiology. In fact, many consider Snow the “first epidemiologist.”
I really enjoyed this book. The writing was engaging (it had a few boring parts in the end when Johnson was describing the map in great detail – I think that may be a problem with listening to the audio book rather than actually reading it, though). The subject was fascinating. Sklar did a good job of narrating the book, and except for the very end with the description of the map, I was quite pleased with the book’s audio version. If you have any interest in epidemiology, or the history of medicine, I highly recommend this book.
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, by Thomas E. Woods
Written by Thomas E. Woods, Narrated by Barrett Whitener
Reason for Reading: I have an interest in Church history and history of religion.
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization is an apologetics treatise about how the Catholic Church contributed to the development of science, philosophy, art, and culture. For someone who has not read a lot of books on the subject – who wishes to be disabused of the belief that the Catholic Church shunned science and tried to halt the progression of culture – this book is an excellent introduction. It covers a wide variety of topics in a superficial survey of how the Church changed and promoted civilization. On the other hand, if you’re like myself and are well-read on the subject, this book lacks depth. Although there was a wide variety of information discussed, there was very little that it discussed in greater detail than I already knew. Therefore, I would highly recommend this text to someone who’d like an introduction to the topic – it’s well-written, well-researched, and interesting. But if you’re looking for depth and detail, this may be worth just a quick read.
This audiobook was well-narrated by Barrett Whitener. No complaints there! 🙂
Song of the Vikings, by Nancy Marie Brown
Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths
Written by Nancy Marie Brown
Reason for Reading: This book was provided by the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.
This engaging biography describes the life of Snorri Sturluson, a powerful 12th-century Icelandic chieftain and the author of the poetic Edda – one of the oldest surviving documents of Norse mythology. As a novice of Viking history, I found this book fascinating and informative – though I suspect that there is much speculation and Brown isn’t always clear when she is speculating and when she has hard evidence for her claims. As such, I think this biography would be enjoyed by people who are interested in learning a bit about the Vikings, but not experts on the subject.
Brown started each chapter out with a legend out of Snorri’s Edda. Often, she told how this legend differs from other known versions and/or how it has affected modern culture. The rest of the book describes Snorri’s life – his youth in the household of “the uncrowned King of Iceland,” his marriage, his rise to political power, and his downfall. She seemed to get most of her hard evidence from a few primary documents and an outwardly biased biography written by Snorri’s nephew, so often she had to fill in the gaps by saying “it’s possible it happened more like this, since his nephew’s story doesn’t really jive with Snorri’s personality.” Of course, that makes me wonder if she had just as much positive bias towards Snorri as his nephew had negative bias. 🙂 Overall, though, I’d say this biography was a success. When there is so little information available, and when the book is intended for a popular crowd rather than an academic one, such speculation is necessary – it makes the book more fun.
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, by Manning Marable
Written by Manning Marable, Narrated by G. Valmont Thomas
Reason for Reading: This was one of the books I’d listed as potential reading for my Social Justice Theme Read in February. I chose it because it won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2012 and was a finalist in the National Book Award.
In Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, Manning Marable set out to honestly portray a man and to humanize an icon. Marable intended on filling in holes left by truth-bending and necessary lack-of-future-knowledge in The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Since I am not an expert on the subject, I have to say that Marable’s book seemed very thorough and well-researched. It was also an engrossing narrative. I feel it well-deserves its Pulitzer Prize. My only complaint was towards the beginning of the novel, Marable inserted some innuendo about Malcolm X’s sexuality – which was unnecessary, and rather rude since he didn’t have any hard evidence to support his claims. That innuendo was referenced obliquely a few times in the first quarter of the book. Luckily, those references stopped for the last three quarters of the book, or I would have been left with a very bad taste in my mouth.
The only reason I bring up that complaint is because I was looking for hints to why there’s a controversy about this book. I was wondering if there was anything I, personally, could pick up. I’m not very familiar with what the controversy is about – and I haven’t seen any controversial reference to the innuendo that bothered me. Mostly, the controversy seems to be about Marable’s lack of respect for the impact Malcolm X had on the Black Liberation Movement. If you’re interested, here’s an interesting article on the topic. There’s also a book entitled A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X, if you really want to delve into the issue. However, I am satisfied that Marable did a lot of really good research, and wrote an interesting and informative book. The issue of exactly what long-term impact Malcolm X had on the Civil Rights Movement and the country as a whole is an opinion, in my opinion.
G. Valmont Thomas did an excellent job of narrating this book. Quite enjoyable. 🙂
Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder
Written by Tracy Kidder, Narrated by Paul Michael
Reason for Reading: This was meant to be read for my Social Justice Theme in February, but things didn’t work out quite as I’d planned. I finished the book in January, and haven’t had the time to review it until now. 🙂 Better late than never!
The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, by John Coates
Written by John Coates, Narrated by Paul Michael Garcia
Reason for Reading: This book was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize.
In this Wellcome Trust shortlisted book, Coates describes his research into the feedback loop between testosterone and success in the financial market. When a person has high levels of testosterone, they are prone to risk taking – which generally promotes the market; however, success raises their testosterone levels, which increases their risks and creates bubbles (like the dot-com bubble) which are unnatural and eventually pop. Loss of money leads to decreased testosterone levels and release of stress hormones – which, if sustained for long periods of time can lead to a depressed, risk-averse market. This is when the government should step in and perk up the market themselves. (You can probably guess Coates’ politics from that statement, but the book is generally apolitical.)
I found Coates’ research quite fascinating, and his writing was engaging to someone who’s interested in the topic. I, unfortunately, am not generally interested in finance and so my attention wavered a bit during the finance-heavy bits. But the book was written in an approachable way such that I (who know nothing of the matter) could understand the financial/market bits and that someone who knows very little medicine could understand the science bits. In fact, it was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize because because it makes medicine approachable to the general population. For anyone interested in how hormones/neuroscience/psychology can affect the market, this would be an excellent book to pick up. An easy and interesting read.