Archives For Book Reviews

Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World
Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World by Joel Salatin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Folks, This Ain’t Normal is an excellent exposition on what is wrong with our nation’s farming and food infrastructure system. If you participate in big agriculture (the industrial agriculture complex), you’ll probably hate this book.

But if you’re an individual who is focusing on feeding your family. Raising your children to be healthy. Providing SAFE food for them, then reading this book is not only essential, but is a call to action in the political realm.

The first step in the process is becoming educated. Being enlightened to the fact that there is a problem, a major problem, with the way the food system in America works. Just knowing that there is a problem opens one’s eyes to see what comes next. The problem is that “the system” in America is set up for the profit and benefit of big agriculture. NOT for the benefit of the consumer (which is the mistaken understanding that most people have). And that creates a false sense of safety and therefore compliance in the sheeple of America who just buy what’s available in the supermarket, assuming it is safe and of high quality.

The second step in the process is to learn more about WHY there are problems, the nature of those problems, and how we got there in the first place. Learning about the evens of the past century or so which resulted in the U.S. Government creating oversight of America’s food production. And the way those regulations severely hurt the American farmer while padding the profits of big agricultural business. The way the federal government has actually set legal precedent that says you, an individual, do not actually have the right and freedom to choose what you eat. And how regulations limit both the quality of food available to you and prejudicially infringe on the ability of small farms and farmers to enter the market.

The third step in the process is to see that there is an emerging movement to create change. Once educated, we the people still have in our power the ability to reclaim this government for the good of the people (as opposed to the good of big business). And this book is definitely a call to action to that goal.

Joel Salatin writes with an excellent easy-to-read style. There is plenty of fact and tons of humorous real-world examples to illustrate exactly what is going on in our food system. This book is genuinely a fun read.

As you can tell, I’m fired up about the content of the book. I don’t see how anyone could read this (unless they are part of Big Ag) and NOT be fired up in the same way. We all want good food. Safe food. Healthy food. And after reading Folks, This Ain’t Normal, your eyes will be forever opened to the fact that our very own government is set up against this very goal, while claiming they are doing us a service. And the lack of personal responsibility that pervades our culture HAS TO CHANGE. Maybe a little education will do the trick.

Read this book!

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In a Sunburned CountryIn a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a Sunburned Country is Bill Bryson’s entertaining memoir on his travel through Australia.

If you, like me, have always had a strange fascination about that country down under, there’s an excellent chance you’ll enjoy this book. If you also like dry-witted humor and a strong dose of irony, then this book should probably be the next book you read.

The author, Bill Bryson, is an American-born journalist who lived half of his life in England essentially writing color pieces about things from an American perspective for the London Times. He has a very interesting style of writing and a combination of British humor and American sensibility that makes for a highly ironic perspective that comes through in all of his writing. If you’ve read any of his books, you’ll already know what I mean.
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Doctrine: What Christians Should BelieveDoctrine: What Christians Should Believe by Mark Driscoll
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sadly, most Christians rarely, if ever, put a second’s thought into the doctrines of Christianity. Many may even find the title (Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe) to be offensive or controversial. Many, if not most, self-professing Christians may not even know what “doctrines” are or where they stand on the important doctrines that make up the Christian faith. All the more reason that every Christian should read this book (or listen to the audio version). No, not all Christians believe the same thing.
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The Ultimate Guide To Building And Marketing Your Business With Google (Adwords, YouTube, Google+, Google Analytics, Google Apps, Google Places)The Ultimate Guide To Building And Marketing Your Business With Google by Gabriela Taylor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Last August I was provided a complimentary copy of Gabriela Taylor’s book Google: The Ultimate Guide to Building and Marketing Your Business With Google . It’s been a busy several months but I’ve worked my way through the book and would like to put it to review.

The Set Up

The first thing you should know is that I went into this review with the mindset of finding out how best to utilize Google to help my wife’s direct sales business. I’ve heard at various meetings that other girls with Thirty-One have been using Google ads with success in driving their business and recruiting and desperately wanted to discover the key to this for her business. The title of this book seemed to be directly in line with my goals. The subtitle: A Step By Step Guide To Unlocking The Power Of Google Tools And Maximizing Your Online Potential cinched the deal. This has to be a must-read book for someone in my position.

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Raising a Modern Day Knight: A Father's Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic ManhoodRaising a Modern Day Knight: A Father’s Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood by Robert Lewis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a good book, overall. I think the topic is timely and this is a reasonably proper Biblical basis to the book. The key factor here is the focus on pomp and ceremony.

The real take-home meat of this book is in the first few chapters – defining “authentic manhood” in a way that we can both aspire to as fathers and aspire to raise our sons to that same standard. In a way, I think it’s a bit short on helpful suggestions. But then again, maybe it’s more of a “call to arms” than a “battle plan” so to speak. Not a lot wrong with that. i’ve been going through the video series with some local guys as well and that helps flesh it out quite a bit.

The positives are good Biblical referencing for the sections that discuss manhood definitions and the importance of active, intentional fatherhood to provide your son(s) with the right direction to their lives.

The negatives, however, are pretty significant. There is a lot of emphasis on ceremony, which may (or may not) be useful in each son’s particular case. There is literal emphasis on the importance of the ceremony to be “expensive,” which to me is somewhat offensive. There is also emphasis on the family crest which promotes pride for the family, which may or may not be useful in years to come. Though it could certainly benefit the father-son relationship by giving a common creative activity. There is not much Biblical basis for these activities, however, so again, be aware of this fact.

Overall, I think that if you take this book as a call to arms, toward setting a higher standard for our sons in both their character and relationship with the Lord, I think this book is a reasonable start. If you are truly looking for something deeper, I think you may need to look elsewhere, but Raising a Modern-Day Knight is a short, easy read so it may be worth looking into regardless.

Read with discernment and try to keep your focus on creating a heart for Christ in your sons, being an active and intentional father, and modeling in your own life the positive characteristics you want for your son.

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Financial Peace RevisitedFinancial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an absolutely fabulous book for anyone who wants to transform their financial situation from a nightmare into an absolute dream! My wife and I are currently going through Financial Peace University and this book is almost exactly the same information. It is indispensible.

Financial Peace Revisited is essentially the book form of Financial Peace University and is actually a part of that curriculum as you are asked to read certain chapters in association with a given week’s topic.

The book has chapters and subsections. Chapters cover really everything you need to know about money, starting with the basics, then expanding into topics that will help you understand the spiritual aspects of money (yes there are some) the emotional aspects of handling money, lifestyles (and lifestyle management). And of course they cover budgets and the famous Debt Snowball.

Basically everything is geared toward educating you not only to understand money but also to understand why you are tempted to do the things that end up causing people to end up in money trouble. More likely than not, if you’re reading this book you have experienced some financial trouble, or are pretty deeply in trouble. It’s not enough to blindly follow somebody’s advice on how to get out of it. If you do that, you’ll simply end up in the same trouble again in the future. On the other hand, if you learn the pitfall(s) that lead to your trouble in the first place you are really learning how to avoid falling into the same trap(s) in the future.

This book isn’t just for people who know nothing about money. Later chapters discuss building strong emergency funds (and why you should), retirement funds (and educates you on the most common solid options there), insurance coverage, and even charitable giving. There are chapters on teaching your children about money and also on how to handle money issues with family and friends (which can be touchy and very dangerous if you don’t think about it logically.

Overall, this is an absolutely fantastic book. I can’t say enough about it. Almost everyone out there could likely learn some things in this book that can substantially change their financial future, or at least has the potential to do so. Those lease likely to benefit are people who are deeply involved with wealth management already (perhaps professionally). And we all know people who constantly tell people the right thing to do, yet fail to follow their own advice.

You can of course buy Financial Peace Revisited
at Amazon (I get a small referral fee if you use this link).

Also, check out all of the resources available to you on Dave Ramsey’s website and his My Total Money Makeover Site.

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Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global CrisisCurrency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis by James Rickards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an absolutely fascinating book on a topic I suspect few people educated in America have any foreknowledge.

Recently, I’ve found myself interested in fiscal responsibility both on a personal scale and national scale. To that end, I’ve read other books such as Endgame by John Maudlin as well as Michael Lewis’ excellent books The Big Short and Boomerang. These books discuss the macroeconomic effects of our money system, national debt and trade. Very interesting stuff, especially if you have something of a traditional American education. Absolutely none of this stuff was covered in my economics classes during school.

The fact is that we are currently in a very interesting time. On the short term we have significantly increasing political turmoil in the USA and abroad. The national debt is astronomical and no real solution is on the horizon. The US elections are in 3 weeks. On the intermediate term, we are still in the throes of a significant depression for the past 4 years from a jobs standpoint and worldwide economic growth (though the stock market has mostly recovered). On a somewhat longer-term, we may be at a “market top” on a 30-40 year scale. Uncertain times, indeed. We’ve experienced significant economic manipulation by most of the major governments of the world in an effort to halt the downward slide of the current depression. Whether or not that has been successful is probably a very personal discussion for you.

That’s a lot of preface for a book review, but if you have put any thought whatsoever into any of the stuff in the preceding paragraph, you really should consider checking out this book. It not only has an extremely well-considered accounting of our current situation, which turns out to be Currency War 3, but also gives a fascinating account of Currency Wars 1 and 2 (which occurred around WW1 and WW2, respectively).

There is excellent discussion of various United States monetary policies over the last 200 years. Discussion of various economic theory that you may hear spoken of on CNBC or maybe even some of the political debates and the commentary that follows. The educational value of knowing where The Fed came from and how it arose, as well as the changes to Federal Reserve policy and structure over the years is excellent and invaluable.

One of the great things about Currency Wars is that I felt James Rickards was very fair and non-political in his assessment. He applied the same degree of historical perspective with the current policymakers and situation as he did with the previous major shifts in monetary policy. There doesn’t seem to be any political agenda other than educating individuals who have interest on the topic. In the end of the book, the author discusses some possible future scenarios depending on how things go from here based on economic theory.

While he doesn’t seem to have a political bias, there is clearly a bias in his opinion on how monetary policy should be handled. This is interesting to me as a layman as well. We simply don’t get to see much point-counterpoint discussion from the major policymakers at The Fed like Ben Bernanke and the other mega-bankers.

Overall, I just can’t say enough positive things about this book. Totally awesome.

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Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of JesusBeautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus by John Eldredge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautiful Outlaw was a wonderful book and one I highly recommend.

As a Christian, I find that I often lose sight of who Jesus really is. So much of what we see in our world today both secular and religious serves to put more distance between Christians and the One who gave His life for us. This book is John Eldredge’s attempt to bring us back to a personal, intimate (close) relationship with Christ himself. And he does a great job by reminding us of who Jesus really was and is. It just makes it easier to love someone you know, doesn’t it?

The book is really genius in that it is set up to dispel the misconceptions that we let creep into our knowledge of Jesus. Even in many (MANY!) churches, the religious attitude just creates distance because they portray Jesus as this untouchable. Perfection personified. Jesus WAS perfect, but His whole purpose of coming here was (and is!) to get close to us. To draw us to Him. While here, He was fully human and as such he had a personality! He was playful, cunning, fierce, humble and of course loving. He got mad at pious religious attitudes. In fact, that was the stuff that made Him maddest.

Beautiful Outlaw is a great exhibition of His personality through study of his words and actions in the scriptures.

This is a fairly short book, and it’s broken int o17 short-ish chapters. Each chapter is focused on one aspect of Christ’s character and how that affects us in our relationship with Him. How it draws us closer to him. Solidifies our relationship.

So much of society’s “understanding” of Christ and Christianity is just so wrong. It’s easy to see how the world looks at Christendom, just watch the news. Search for just about anything in Google and you’ll find references. And let’s face it, there is a fiercely negative attitude towards Christianity in society. Much, if not all, of that is really the fault of Christians. So many of “us” are so attached to the “religious structure” that we are effectively pharisees. More concerned about the appearance, but rotten to the core. How offensive is that to non-Christians? How offensive should that be to YOU? If more people just lost the “religion” and got down to the “relationship” with Christ, it would be so hard to have a hateful attitude towards Christ and all of us who are filled with His Spirit.

In the final chapters, Eldredge discuses the personal relationship we have with Christ and gives some useful guidelines to see where that relationship truly exists. It essentially comes down to the statement “You will know them by their fruit.” There are good examples of how to use this which should help us not only improve our discernment about others around us, but also look into our own motivation. Are we doing it because we feel like we need to out of some religious structure, or are we doing it because of our true heart for Christ?

I’ll be honest. There are a lot of Christians who may be offended by this book if they read it. Those are probably the people who are more tied to religion and ritual than an actual relationship with Christ. On the other hand, there are probably people who are not Christians who may read this book and be blown away by how wrong their understanding of Christ was. And how desirable He really is if you just let the rest go and start that relationship. That probably (sadly) goes for Christians, too.

Finally, I didn’t actually read this book… I listened to the audio book through Audible. It is unabridged and is narrated by John Eldredge himself. Eldredge does a GREAT job narrating (he’s been narrating his own audiobooks for years) and in the past, I’ve actually preferred the audio versions to the paperbook versions slightly. Just because his intonations make every joke and playful comment perfectly clear. I “get” a lot of that in reading the books, too, but maybe that’s true for me because I have listened to the audiobook version of other books in the past.

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Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is HardSwitch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an excellent book for anyone looking to shape some change into your organization or even your own life. A lot of people have difficulty with change and this book is an excellent resource for both learning about why we are resistant to change and how to make it easier and more successful.

Chip & Dan Heath look at the problem of “Change” and use an excellent analogy of an elephant and its rider to describe the emotional and logical components that fuel our actions and can effect direction change in our life. Sometimes change is hard because we can’t see the logical benefit of the change. Often times, however, we are battling the emotional elephant that is resistant to change for deeper reasons that we may not even be aware. When you understand that analogy, you can start looking at problems and the need to change in another way and find solutions to tackling the problem that engage “the rider” or “the elephant” or, preferably, both to make the change happen and make it stick.

Throughout the book, the authors use colorful real-life stories to illustrate problems and how they have been overcome. They break down techniques directed at directing “the rider” and motivating “the elephant” in ways that I thought were thought-provoking, interesting, and very applicable to life and business. Change isn’t just about getting other people to do what needs to be done, often it is about getting yourself to do it, too.

Finally, they talk about changing the environment to make the change either easier to happen, or more likely to stick. This is more broad-based thinking, but still is illustrative of how we often need to “look outside the box” at the problems behind the problem that keep our best efforts from succeeding.

I’m giving this book 4/5 stars because it’s really a great read. The 5th star is taken simply because a lot of these ideas aren’t new and if you’ve done a significant amount of reading in this genre, you’ve probably read much of this before. But, I give the authors full credit for putting those ideas together with a super-functional analogy that makes it memorable, and using modern references that most Americans will recognize and identify.

If you are looking for an interesting book with to try to enter the “personal enrichment” genre, or are a developing leader in any area of business who wants to do some reading along these lines, this is an excellent place to start. Also, if you’ve read pretty much any of the works out there on Emotional Intelligence (Daniel Goleman and Travis Bradberry are the guys to start with for that if you haven’t… and you should) then this is a good place for practical application of their stuff.

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Screwed!: How China, Russia, the EU, and Other Foreign Countries Screw the United States, How Our Own Leaders Help Them Do It . . . and What We Can Do About ItScrewed!: How China, Russia, the EU, and Other Foreign Countries Screw the United States, How Our Own Leaders Help Them Do It . . . and What We Can Do About It by Dick Morris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was packed with useful information. It covers topics that include Treaties and how they trump U.S. law and potential our nation’s sovereignty, the World Bank and IMF and how they may affect our financial future, our relationship with Pakistan and Afghanistan, Financial aid given by the world bank and by the U.S. and how corrupted it is. Finally he discusses the lobbying trade that so strongly affects our country in ways you probably haven’t realized. It’s pretty damning of our political system and professional politicians, yet receives so little attention.

All of that has the potential to be good, useful reading. The problem is the way it is presented. Although the writing style keeps the book flowing well, it also comes across as very… biased. Maybe “snarky” is the better term for it. The information in this book is the kind of stuff that every American should learn about. It is important. But, much like anything Ann Coulter writes, the way this is written essentially precludes anyone reading this who is not a regular Fox News watcher. Which is sad and disappointing. I’m straight-up libertarian, so I can handle it. But anyone less than a 7 out of 10 on the “conservative” scale is probably going to read this book and refute the data they present just based on the presentation alone (again, just like Coulter). What’s the point in that?

I give this book 4 stars because the information is critical and extremely timely. If you can get through the propaganda, you’ll probably see that too. If you can’t, you’ll probably think the whole thing is just political propaganda and ignore the risks outlined in the book. For me, 3.5 stars is probably closer to reality for this one.

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