I'm a little late with this update because there was just too much other fun stuff to post about. :) I didn't get as much reading done as I thought I would this month because the flight to Italy had tons of movies and TV shows to watch.
Erasing Hell: What God Said about Eternity, and the Things We've Made Up by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle
This book (and two others by Chan) was offered for free on the Kindle, and the title intrigued me, so I decided to try it out. It is a response to the book Love Wins by Rob Bell, which caused quite a stir in the Christian community because of its support of the universalist view of salvation. I haven't read Bell's book, but I intend to. I thought this book made some good points; however, I did not like the premise. Chan (who did all of the writing) pretends that he is approaching the topic of hell (its existence and nature) from a completely unbiased perspective, simply looking at what is said about it in the Bible. However, it is impossible to read any text (including the Bible) free of bias. Your beliefs, life experience, and previous reading of the text will always influence your view. This is why 100 different people can read the same passage of Scripture and come up with different interpretations. Chan also admits that Sprinkle did almost all of the research for the book, but they agreed to write it in Chan's "voice." This seems suspicious to me. If you're not going to do the research, I don't believe you should write the book.
The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch
This coming-of-age story about a precocious 13-year-old boy who becomes famous after a series of marine biology discoveries was quite heartwarming, if a little bit strange. The main character was very likable, and I particularly enjoyed reading about his friendship with his elderly neighbor. A sweet, pretty quick read.
Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love by Dava Sobel
This was another Kindle Daily Deal, and my reading of it coincided nicely with our trip to Italy. We went to a museum devoted to Galileo, and it was so cool to see some of the stuff I had read about. The book gives an overview of Galileo's life but focuses especially on his relationship with his eldest daughter (Suor Maria Celeste, a nun), who he kept up very regular correspondence with throughout his life. The devotion of Maria Celeste to her father was touching. It was sad to read about the punishment Galileo endured from the church for his writings, when he actually was a faithful believer. Unlike many in his day (and ours), he did not believe science and faith were in opposition, and his view of the role of the Bible as a spiritual guide rather than scientific document was ahead of its time. I really enjoyed finding out more about a person that I had only been introduced to briefly in high school history classes.
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp
I had heard a lot of good things about this book, and I've seen quotes from it everywhere. So when it was offered for $2.99 on the Kindle, I decided to get it. The author was challenged by a friend to make a list of 1,000 blessings, and this book is her meditation on that process. The blessings she records are not the "big" things (family, health, etc.) but the seemingly ordinary things (e.g., "morning shadows across old floors," "jam piled high on the toast," "mail in the mailbox"). She comes to the conclusion that the only way to live fully in the moment is to recognize each moment for what it is---a blessing, She also finds that thankfulness helps her overcome her doubts and gives her greater ability to accept the difficult things in life. This was a very inspirational book. Ann's writing style is incredibly lyrical, and I found that I didn't want to put the book down. I highly recommend it.