Monday, May 27, 2013


Intentional Walk: An Inside Look at the Faith that Drives the St. Louis Cardinals is a 2013 book by Rob Rains. Here, Rains collects the Christian testimonies of Cardinals players, prospects, and staff.

These mini-biographies and vignettes from a relatively large number of players paint the picture of a surprisingly and impressively deep and extensive camaraderie and Christian fellowship. Many of these players don’t speak publicly about their faith, and in that respect, the accounts in this book are a rare insight into the spirit and mentality of the team.

The vast majority of the testimony in this book concerns Christian faith as it relates to overcoming adversity – toiling in the minors, dealing with injuries, getting traded, and so forth (although Skip Schumaker’s chapter is a notable exception). As such, the book can feel pretty repetitive, and it may be better consumed in small doses.  

The back cover states this book takes “an in-depth look at the role the Christian faith plays” in these people’s lives, but this isn’t always the case. It certainly is in some places – the Matheny and Wainwright sections are particular highlights in this regard – but not in others. The Rip Rowan chapter never explicitly mentions Christianity at all. And in the David Freese chapter, Rains refers to Freese’s 2009 DWI only as an “off-field incident.” To anyone who was following the Cardinals at the time and remembers Freese’s “incidents,” this feels like a dishonest cover-up, one that distracts and detracts from Freese’s testimony.

More impressive than the testimonies themselves is the fact that so many Cardinals are committed Christians that make up such a solid support group. In all, then, Intentional Walk is a worthwhile read that may appeal to Christian Cardinals fans, Christian baseball fans in general, and Christian residents of the St. Louis area.


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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, May 20, 2013


A Voyage to Arcturus is a 1920 fantasy novel by David Lindsay. Here, the adventuresome Maskull travels to another planet, where he undertakes a journey of psychological and spiritual exploration.

A Voyage to Arcturus doesn’t have a plot in the manner a typical novel does; it proceeds much more along the lines of something like Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Maskull travels methodically from one character to the next, giving each a chance to present and discuss his or her worldview. This focus on ideas is how the book is intended to be read, and if done otherwise, Maskull becomes a horrific serial killer of people rather than of philosophies.

Yet this is still a novel, and the philosophical focus (which boils down to a peculiar sort of mystic Calvinist Gnosticism) becomes overbearing. Pillars of storytelling (such as character development) are generally neglected, and pacing is excluded in favor of the many lengthy conversations, which are profound only to the characters. The reader may well feel that there’s little real substance to the work.

If A Voyage to Arcturus is worth reading, it’s because of Lindsay’s wonderfully imaginative descriptions (most people familiar with this book already know the influence it had on C. S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy). Linday’s depiction of all things sensory is masterful, and includes such feats as the compelling presentation of new colors. It’s extremely impressive, if not sufficient to carry the book along.

So then, while it is not particularly interesting either as a story or a work of philosophy, A Voyage to Arcturus not without substantial merit. But it’s certainly not for everyone.


Monday, May 13, 2013

7 MEN by Eric Metaxas

7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness is a 2013 book by Eric Metaxas. Here, Metaxas presents mini-biographies of George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles Colson.

Metaxas states in his introduction that he wants to answer the questions of what a man is and what makes a man great. The titular secret is that these men lived by faith, that they were surrendered to a higher purpose. Beyond the introduction, though, Metaxas never really bothers to tie things together, and as such, 7 Men is too underdeveloped in this area to serve as a thematic study.

Metaxas’s biographies are, by necessity, oversimplified snapshots (each is about twenty-five pages). As such, Metaxas gets to pick and choose what he includes, and he does a fair amount of handholding to make the points he wants to make to the reader, who may well feel written down to at times.

Metaxas’s accounts are heavy with editorial – and not without inconsistency. Jackie Robinson, for example, is lauded for turning the other cheek and blessing those who cursed (John Paul II is also praised here for his peacemongering ways); his chapter immediately follows the one on Bonhoeffer, who Metaxas praises for many things, one of which, specifically, is his attempts to murder Hitler (in fairness, this aspect of Bonhoeffer is an issue that many people either struggle with or punt entirely). Regardless of one’s position on Bonhoeffer’s actions, though, given Metaxas’s theme, it’s a jarring incongruity unaddressed.

Historical buffs will be dismayed to note that Metaxas primarily uses secondary sources and, in several cases, Wikipedia (the Washington-was-a-deist crowd will really have a field day). In the end, 7 Men may have the most merit as an introduction to these men, and in that respect, it is worthwhile, but from whatever angle you come at it, 7 Men virtually demands further reading from other sources.

In short, while these seven lives are extremely impressive, Metaxas’s accounts are somewhat less so.


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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, May 6, 2013

TOM THE DANCING BUG by Ruben Bolling

Tom the Dancing Bug is a 1992 collection of Ruben Bolling’s eponymous weekly cartoons. TDB is a very funny, very clever comic: it’s satire that’s insightful and cutting without being whiny or below the belt. It’s the only cartoon strip I read anymore. Long-time readers will find these early cartoons an interesting contrast with Bolling’s current work.

It’s clear that Bolling is still finding his way here to some extent, as a good number of the cartoons go for corny punchlines in the manner of standard cartoon strips, and they aren’t all played with a straight face (which is when TDB is at its very best). That is, they don’t always feel like Tom the Dancing Bug comics.

A number of TDB’s best features aren’t here yet in this early collection, including Lucky Ducky, God-Man, and Super Fun-Pak Comix; there are also a lot more of Max and Doug and some other features we don’t see too much anymore, like Harvey Richards, Lawyer for Children (which accounts for many of this collection’s best items). Bolling also does some serial storytelling, which he’s since abandoned. Bolling has come a fair way with his art, too, in the years since these cartoons were published.

If you aren’t reading Tom the Dancing Bug, you ought to be. And while this collection isn’t Bolling at his finest, there are quite a few gems here.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

GODFREY WAS HUNGRY by Sean Danker-Smith

Godfrey Was Hungry is a 2013 children’s book by Sean Danker-Smith. Here, the titular shark sets out to fulfill its titular craving.

Godfrey Was Hungry follows a pretty standard children’s book formula, but Danker-Smith imbues it with a distinctive cleverness in both the writing and the art (the page with the squid being a prime example) that both children and many parents should enjoy. The art is done in a loose magic marker style, and Danker-Smith does a fine job of providing his undersea illustrations with depth.

In all, Godfrey Was Hungry is an impressive first try at a children’s book; my three-year-old loves it.