Brief Reviews, Volume 9

The Editor’s Desk – Mark Kurlansky, Christian Practical Wisdom, MORE

I wrote brief reviews of the following books that were released in the last couple of weeks:

by C. Christopher Smith, editor of The Englewood Review of Books
[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”160″ identifier=”0393239616″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”105″][easyazon_link identifier=”0393239616″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Paper:
Paging Through History[/easyazon_link]

Mark Kurlansky
* * * * * (out of 5 stars)
Essential reading for bibliophiles and those who work in the written word
Kurlansky once again proves himself to be one of our finest popular historians. PAPER is a delightful, global history of paper as a technology. Paper, Kurlansky observes follows from the social practice of written language. Kurlansky deftly weaves social and technological history from ancient times to the modern era, righting a number of crucial misconceptions about how technology works.

PAPER will be of interest to history buffs and to those who are interested in the history of technology, but especially to bibliophiles and those who work in the written word. Kurlansky gives us pause to consider the writers who went before us, and the technologies and costs associated with the recording of their words.


[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”160″ identifier=”0802868738″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”107″][easyazon_link identifier=”0802868738″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Christian Practical Wisdom:
What It Is, Why It Matters[/easyazon_link]

Dorothy Bass, et al.
* * * * * (out of 5 stars)
Important reading for pastors and theologians
This important book explores the significance of “practical wisdom” — that which Aristotle referred to as phronesis — in the Christian tradition. “Christians blessed with practical wisdom…” the authors write, “are attuned to the concrete and the actual, but they also cherish and yearn for what they know more generally and more abstractly. They can see what is going on, and they respond with good judgment as need in particular situations.” (9-10). The authors present a corrective to theological education that is largely incapable of articulating a way of knowing rooted in practical wisdom, and they succeed in framing a conversation about practical wisdom and the vital role that it plays in our formation and transformation as Christians. They explore how practical wisdom has been erased not only from theology, but from Western culture at large, and offer the hope that in our churches we already cultivate this sort of wisdom, and should be more attentive to this process and learn to articulate from it an epistemology and a theology grounded in practical wisdom.

This is important reading for pastors and theologians, but especially for those afflicted with a growing discomfort for the abstract sorts of theology that they have inherited.


[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”160″ identifier=”1501111108″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”106″][easyazon_link identifier=”1501111108″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Grit:
The Power of Passion and Perseverance[/easyazon_link]

Angela Duckworth
* * * * * (out of 5 stars)
A game-changing book for both parents and teachers!
GRIT is a game-changing book for both parents and teachers. Picking up where her noted TED talk left off, Angela Duckworth explores how we can cultivate the virtue of grit (which combines passion and perseverance) in our children, and makes a poignant case for why we should do so.

Divided into three parts, the book takes an in depth look at grit and why it is essential to success (Part I, a significantly beef-ed up version of Duckworth’s TED talk), looks at the virtues that converge to foster grit — interest, practice, purpose, hope — (Part II) and concludes with an exploration of how teachers, parents and other can nurture grit “from the outside in” (Part III).

This book, rooted in Duckworth’s substantial psychological research, provides not only an explanation for why natural talent alone is not a sufficient measure of success, but also a deeply insightful vision for how we can work with our children, in our homes and classrooms, to produce grit, which will in turn increase their capacity for success in life.

This book is highly recommended, and I know that I will be reading it again soon, and that its ideas will linger in my mind daily as a parent and teacher.


[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”160″ identifier=”1610917553″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”125″][easyazon_link identifier=”1610917553″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Can a City Be Sustainable? (State of the World)[/easyazon_link]

Worldwatch Institute
* * * * (out of 5 stars)

[easyazon_link identifier=”B01F57R8N4″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Get the Kindle edition of this book[/easyazon_link]
for only $3.99!!!
A powerful and compelling vision of urban sustainability
CAN A CITY BE SUSTAINABLE?, a compendium of the current trends in urban sustainability, is a broad-reaching and useful guide for anyone involved in the work of urban planning and development. It is not an introductory work, and does expect a degree of familiarity with the language and ideology of urban planning/development. Beginning with the concession that our imagination for sustainable cities is still maturing, the opening chapter narrates a possible scenario of what a sustainable city might look like in fifty years or more.

The book is divided into three parts: 1) “The City as Human Construct” (which explores the ways we imagine and articulate urban places and urban sustainability); 2) “The Urban Climate Challenge” and 3) “Politics, Equity and Livability”. These sections cover a broad swath of the socioeconomic, governmental and ecological issues that will lead our cities in the direction of sustainability.

The book’s final two chapters, which explore inclusion, cohesion and social justice were perhaps the ones that most captured my imagination, as these issues are often omitted in explorations of what urban sustainability might look like.

Our world is undoubtedly on the road to urbanization, and the health and well-being of all of us, we need cities that are moving thoughtfully toward sustainability. This book is a wonderful work that will stir our imaginations, and highlight the challenges that lurk just beyond the horizon on this journey.


[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”160″ identifier=”143368912X” locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”103″][easyazon_link identifier=”143368912X” locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Unashamed[/easyazon_link]

* * * * * (out of 5 stars)
Feeling hopeless? Read this book!
In UNASHAMED, his first book, rapper Lecrae offers his testimony, the story of God’s transformation in his own life. A deftly written memoir that narrates his story in a matter-of-fact tone, Lecrae doesn’t hype up parts of his story, nor does he undersell himself. As an example, consider the opening chapter, in which he tells the somewhat awkward story of the 2015 Grammy Awards. He is there to be honored, but is largely ignored by the other artists and event attendants. He tells this story as an example of a central theme of his life: “I didn’t fit in.” As the son of a single mother, he experiences many of challenges of the urban world – drugs, sex, violence – and yet he is driven to succeed and ultimately does not allow these things to own him.

UNASHAMED is a powerful story of God’s transformation, and at the same time offers firsthand insight into the realities faced by young, black men in the twenty-first century. Ultimately, Lecrae’s story is one of hope, will resonate with many readers who struggle for a taste of hope in their daily lives.


C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at:

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Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior

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