Friday, October 04, 2013

Book review - Two Roads to Sumter.

Back to the American Civil War with Bruce and William Catton's Two Roads to Sumter. This 280 page book was published in 1963. It's the first work I have read involving Bruce Catton where he did not work alone.

Beginning with birth, Two Roads details and compares the lives of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. The political and personal lives of the two men are examined in the light of their coming destinies as presidents of contending nations during the Civil War. Along the way the stumbling of the United States towards conflict is also documented.

By the time of Lincoln's election and the secession of the gulf states, both men were primed for their moment on the national stage. The Cattons refer to both as the best their sections had to offer at that time. Interestingly, during the final lead-up to the conflict, Stephen Douglas is the only actor on the national stage referred to as a statesman. I found this particularly interesting since Lincoln is normally idolized in history books. What the Cattons take exception to is the lack of effort by either Davis or Lincoln to head off secession after the election but prior to the inauguration. Both seemed content to ride the tide of events. Only Douglas attempted to turn it. In this specific instance Davis comes off as weak and Lincoln as cold-blooded.

By the time the decision to fire on Fort Sumter is made and the book ended I felt I had a little better grasp of both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. That knowledge sheds a brighter light on their actions during the war. Whether the reader is a long time Civil War buff or is looking for information on Lincoln or Davis, I would recommend Two Roads to Sumter.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Book review - The Wide World of Aaron Burr.

Published in 1975, Helen Orlob's The Wide World of Aaron Burr is a simple overview of Burr's life. In just 116 pages Orlob follows Burr from birth to death. Of course, with such limited space, the work never enters in depth into any area of Burr's life.

After having read several books about Aaron Burr or concerning areas of his life, I must say I wish I read this book first. It's a quick read and gives the basic facts of the life of Aaron Burr. If you are looking for an introduction to Burr, or an outline to fill in with other reading, then The Wide World of Aaron Burr is a book you need to take a day or two and read.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Book review - Tales of Old-Time Texas.

J. Frank Dobie's 310 page book, Tales of Old-Time Texas was published in 1955. The book is a collection of stories on various topics occurring in Texas up through the late 1880's.

The book starts off with several tales that are likely true but soon moves into tall tales and wild yarns. My favorite account was the telling of the Wild Woman of the Navidad - likely based on true accounts.

Usually Mr. Dobie introduces a new topic by explaining the type of story to be told and giving a little background of how he collected the account he relates. If he has the story in original writing he reproduces it in the body of his work.

Tales of Old-Time Texas is a quick and enjoyable read but not necessarily an informative one at all times. A few of the accounts probably took place, at least in some form. Most are likely just whoppers created by Texans in an attempt to top other similar stories. If the you keep that in mind while reading Dobie's work, you will find it entertaining and humorous.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Book review - Polk and the Presidency.

President James K. Polk is perhaps best known for putting the philosophy of Manifest Destiny into action by adding Texas, California, New Mexico, and Oregon to the United States. That's about all I knew of President Polk before I read Charles A. McCoy's Polk and the Presidency.

This 225 page work was published in 1961. It is not the typical biography of an American president. In fact, Mr. McCoy does not include any personal information about James Polk the man and only a smattering of background information about James Polk the politician prior to his election to the presidency of the United States.

What the book does do is give an in-depth analysis of the one-term administration of James K. Polk. McCoy covers Polk's effectiveness in foreign affairs, advancing his domestic agenda, dealing with congress, and attempting to shape public opinion among other areas of action. Also included is how Polk impacted how we view the office of President of the United Sates today. Following in President Jackson's footsteps, Polk continued to enlarge the scope of the presidency and make it a popular office rather than the republican office the founders envisioned it to be.

After reading Polk and the Presidency I felt as if I gained a much better understanding of just who Polk was as president and how he impacted the political lineage of the nation. If you're looking for who James K. Polk was and why he did what he did, this book is not for you. If you are wanting to better understand what impact he had on the nation, besides adding to it geographically, you should not pass up the chance to read Mr. McCoy's work.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Book review - October 1964.

My Dad, Spiff Jr, and I are replaying the 1964 National League season through the magic of Strat-O-Matic. That meant when I saw David Halberstam's October 1964 I immediately wanted to read it.

The name of the book is not an accurate reflection of the contents, there is so much more included than just October. Mr. Halberstam uses most of the book to set the stage for the October showdown between the New York Yankees and the St Louis Cardinals. That means he goes back to the Spring of 1964 and traces each team's journey to the World Series as they traveled through the season. Also included are player backgrounds to help explain the make-up of each team.

Once the foundation is laid, Halberstam uses the last quarter of his book to cover the climatic encounter pitting the aging Yankees against the young and upstart Cardinals. All seven games of the Series are walked through along with updates on how the teams were handling the results. After the World Series ends there is a short section on what happened to the key figures after October of 1964.

Written thirty years after the fact, October 1964 is largely drawn from personal interviews the author had with some of the participants in the drama and from accounts written at the time or shortly thereafter. The result is predictably interesting. Halberstam does an excellent job of crafting the tale and drawing the reader into the story. It almost feels as if the 1964 season and World Series is unfolding as he writes.

Whether you are a baseball fan in general or a fan of one of the two teams involved you owe it to yourself to read this book. I had high expectations when I picked it up and none of them were disappointed.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Book review - Ante-Bellum.

Ante-Bellum is a 256 page 1960 reprint of three short books published by southern authors just prior to the civil war. Editor Harvey Wish opens the book with a short introduction and then lets the books speak for themselves.

First off is George Fitzhugh's Sociology for the South. Fitzhugh is a Virginian and is writing to defend slavery. He attempts to tie all the ills of crime and poverty to a free society. What prevents these ills he claims, is slavery. As proof of this he waxes eloquent about the absence of such ills in the American South as compared to the Northern states.

Fitzhugh also gets the second word with his follow-up book, Cannibals All! This time around he attempts to demonstrate that slavery is the natural state of mankind and is the purest, most effective form of socialism ever devised. Of course he approves of slavery and by default of socialism. Fitzhugh's distrust of the free market system becomes evident as the book proceeds. Again Fitzhugh is remarkably lacking in any statistical support for his positions.

Fitzhugh was regarded at the time he wrote as an intellectual light-weight. Time has not improved his work. Lacking any facts or figures to support his theories, Fitzhugh embarks on an anecdotal journey heavily sprinkled with his own philosophical musings. I found his use of socialism to justify slavery to be particularly interesting from both the slavery and socialism viewpoints. Trying to view Fitzhugh's works from the vantage point of a middle class non-slave owning Southerner prior to the war I found his arguments unconvincing.

The third book reprinted in Ante-Bellum was one I had heard of but never read, Hinton Helper's The Impending Crisis of the South. Helper hailed from North Carolina and, while opposed to slavery, was no friend of the black race. His ultimate solution was to free the slaves and resettle them all in Liberia.

Unlike George Fitzhugh, Helper uses facts and figures to present his case: that the South is lagging far behind the North with the cause being slavery. Tables of figures and recitations of census tallies are sprinkled throughout Helper's work. He ably shows how far behind the South is in all areas and attempts to correlate the deficit with slavery. For the most part he succeeds. Unfortunately for Helper and the South, his target audience was non-slaveholders. The illiteracy rate among that group in southern states was high and the state governments colluded to keep his book from widespread circulation.

As a Civil War buff I find the origins of the war to be of great interest. That made Ante-Bellum a particularly interesting read. If you're interested in the war, the politics leading to the war, or the discussion over the abolition of slavery in the United States this book should be on your must read list.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Book review - Crazy '08.

I picked up Cait Murphy's Crazy '08 at Half-Price Books a few days ago on a whim. I like baseball and I like history. A book about the 1908 baseball season is right up my alley. Of course I didn't expect the book to live up to it's dust cover hype.

I was wrong. For 299 pages Ms. Murphy brings the spring, summer, and fall of 1908 to life. Just like it was happening right now. The book is about the baseball season (referred to as the greatest in baseball history) but the time period naturally shows through as well.

Starting during the winter following the 1907 season, Crazy '08 follows the off-season maneuvering of teams trying to get that final piece to the puzzle or just a few players better than the previous year. The Cubs look to prolong their World Series dynasty, the Giants look to dethrone the Cubs, several other teams might sneak in under the radar. In the American League there is much more parity and much more flux as teams swap players and scout young talent while trying to scheme their way to the top. Proposals are voted on or ignored at the owner's meetings.

Spring Training lasts for a little over two months. Seems like a long time now but it was little enough for players who didn't work out all winter as they do now. The drama increases with rookies and worn-out veterans trying to make the rosters. More well-established players such as Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner stage their own holdouts. Fans rejoice when Wagner gets a raise and mutter when Cobb does.

Opening Day and the season is off. Through the twists and turns of the campaign Ms. Murphy brings the players, fans, executives, and ball parks to life. While most of the emphasis is on the National League the American League does get a little ink as well.

With the season coming down to the wire, the American League sees the White Sox, Tigers, and Naps (later the Indians) in contention. The race is decided in the last days. In the National League the Cubs, Giants, and Pirates are in the mix up until the last day of the season. The race there is a bit more exciting due to the controversy surrounding the Cubs-Giants rivalry.

Ms. Murphy ends her book with a quick overview of the 1908 World Series - perhaps the only part of the season which does not rate well when compared to other years. Some of the fall-out of the season is explained and a series of short biography's of the major names rounds out the book.

Crazy '08 lives up to it's dust cover hype. I found it to be impossible to put down and one of the best baseball books I have read in some time. Published in 2007, the book serves as a fitting 100th anniversary observance of what it makes a compelling case was the greatest season in Major League Baseball history.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book review - The Diary of a Public Man.

The Diary of a Public Man is a 128 page collection of a series of pieces originally published The North American Review in 1879. The copy I read was published in 1946. The diary covers a time period from December 28, 1860 to March 15, 1861. The identity of the writer is unknown and several of the names referred to in the diary were replaced by blanks in the original publication. Over the years there has been some speculation as to the authenticity of the diary but it appears to be a real account.

I found the diary to be an interesting read. The writer was evidently well connected in Washington and knew many prominent public figures. Stephen Douglas, William Seward, Abraham Lincoln, and many other well-known men appear in private conversation with the diarist.

In addition to recounting various conversations and observations the diarist also discusses his thoughts about the disintegration of the Union and the prospects for war. Throughout the crises he holds out hope that war might be prevented by cooler heads on both sides. Towards the end of the installments however he begins to suspect the storm is unavoidable.

Following the diary, the book includes a series of letters from Edwin Stanton to former President Buchanan. These letters were also published in The North American Review and were obtained by that paper from the papers of President Buchanan following his death. The first letter is dated March 14, 1861 and the last is from July 26, 1861. In these letters Stanton keeps his former boss apprised of ongoing events in Washington as the war begins. It is interesting to read his take on early events within the safety of private correspondence.

The short length of The Diary of a Public Man was the only drawback I found with the book. I must confess I was disappointed when I got to the last page. The inside look at a Washingtonian's thoughts at the outbreak of the American Civil War is a must read for any Civil War buff. Someone not familiar with the war might be confused by the events and characters referenced but anyone who understands the events of late 1860 and early 1861 will find the work fascinating.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Book review - The Beloved Spy.

Harry Stanton Tillotson's 189 page book, The Beloved Spy was published in 1948. The account follows an unlikely character in the well-known story of General Benedict Arnold's betrayal of the American Revolution.

Major John Andre' was well liked by all who knew him, including his American captors. Unfortunately he was captured while out of uniform and using a false name. That led to a death by hanging as a spy.

That much most scholars of the War for Independence probably know. Tillotson delves deeper as he takes a look at Andre's early life, his abortive courtship, and entrance into the military. After a quick move up in the British military machine, Andre' found himself in the middle of a conspiracy with General Arnold that would eventually cost him his life.

The book closes with Andre's remains being disinterred in 1821 and sent back to England to be buried in Westminster Abby.

I found The Beloved Spy to be an interesting and informative read. I have to admit I did not know John Andre' or his meaning to England. Thanks to Mr. Tillotson I think I now have a better grasp of both who he was and what he meant to his country. Anyone interested in the War for Independence would be well advised to read Mr. Tillotson's work.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book review - Civil War on Western Waters.

I was given Fletcher Pratt's Civil War on Western Waters as a gift some time ago and have just gotten around to reading it. The book was published in 1956 and runs 221 pages with an appendix adding an additional 19 pages of information, mostly fleet rosters and vessel descriptions.

True to the title, Mr. Pratt concentrates his account on naval actions in the west. The eastern theater, blockade, and high seas are mentioned only so much as they effect the west. The deep water navy sails from the pages of the book shortly after the fall of New Orleans. Land forces are only in the book when they are working with or opposing naval units.

Starting with the building of the Union and Confederate navies, the book traces maneuvers, engagements, and personalities from the declaration of war to the battle of Nashville on December 14, 1864. That was the last major engagement involving naval units.

I must say I found Mr. Pratt's work to be interesting. Naval accounts are not usually my area of interest, probably because of my lack of knowledge of the nautical arts. For the most part Pratt does not get involved in the minutia. When he does he explains clearly to the uninformed reader what he is talking about.

The book moves easily along and presents information in a well-written and understandable format. Mr. Pratt also takes time to explain not just the how but the why. Why things done the way they were and what the impact of those actions was on the war in the west and the war as a whole.

If you are looking for a quick and informative read detailing the naval involvement in the Western Theater of the American Civil War or if you are a naval buff who enjoys reading about ships and the men who sail them then Civil War on Western Waters is a book you don't want to pass up.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Book review - The Murder of Admiral Darlan.

Peter Tompkins' 272 page The Murder of Admiral Darlan was published in 1965. It covers the time leading up to the Allied landings in North Africa and the immediate aftermath during World War II. The focus of the book is the French role and their internal power struggles.

Leading up to the landings Admiral Jean Darlan was appointed chief of all French military forces by the Vichy government. Despite several conspiracies to prevent it, fighting broke out when the Americans and British landed. Darlan equivocated and tried to play both ends against the middle but eventually swung over to the Allies.

The result was a power struggle between the Free French and the left over Vichy officials. Darlan was assassinated during the showdown. Who exactly was behind the assassination was not clear at first. In typical French fashion it never became totally clear and the punishments for those involved were not consistent.

Tompkins seems to know the players in the drama well. That is probably because he was stationed in North Africa during the landings. Unfortunately I found the book hard to follow. It seemed like there was a lot of backtracking at times. It was not clear if that was a literary device or due to the complicated plots and counter-plots as the French quarreled among themselves.

If the reader is a true student of World War II, or of France, The Murder of Admiral Darlan will probably be of interest. For the rest of us it might be better passed over for other material.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Book review - Ashes of Empire.

When I picked up Marguerite Vance's Ashes of Empire from my grandfather's library I was interested to read it. The book covers the ill-fated attempt to set up Maximilian as emperor of Mexico. Since I have read little about this event I took to the book with enthusiasm.

Published in 1959 and running 159 pages the book begins with the courtship of Maximilian and Carlota. From there it traces the path of the political forces leading to Maximilian's appointment as emperor. The book ends with the Maximilian's execution and Carlota going insane from grief.

While not badly written, I found the book to be a disappointment. Instead of the historical account I expected it is a brief overview. The reasons for Maximilian's coronation are reasonably well explained. Nothing of his reign in Mexico or his downfall is. Events are not explained and principle parties are not developed. The result is a rather hazy account where I was left with more questions than answers.

If you are looking for a quick overview of Mexico's encounter with European royalty and don't want to bother with specifics then Ashes of Empire is for you. If you want to delve into the how and why of events then I suggest skipping ahead to a more in depth account.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Book review - Profiles in Courage.

I have to admit up front I am not a fan of John F. Kennedy so it was with some misgivings I began to read his book Profiles in Courage. The book presents a series of accounts concerning senators in the United States Senate who stood against the odds for what they believed. I could not help but wonder if President Kennedy's personal political views would come into play in selecting the subjects of the book.

The book starts off with a forward by Robert F. Kennedy and an explanation from the author concerning the purpose of the book and discussing the pressures facing senators to compromise their beliefs. Then it proceeds to the profiles. Each section of the book starts with a short explanation of the issues or situation being faced by the nation. Each chapter profiles a senator who took a stand for what he considered to be the right course despite pressure to do the opposite. Some sections contain just one chapter while others have two or three.

The subjects of the chapters range from John Quincy Adams to Robert A. Taft. In between some famous Americans such as Sam Houston and Daniel Webster make appearances. Other forgotten men such as Edmund Ross and George Norris appear as well. Some I was aware of, others were new to me. Some were correct in their views, others clearly incorrect. Some were rewarded for their stands, others condemned and forgotten.

President Kennedy was an excellent writer. I found his accounts of events to be interesting and accurate so far as I could tell. He clearly favored those more in accordance with his own personal political views but that is understandable. He also seems to celebrate courage for courage sake, in spite of warning the reader not to do so. If you keep these in mind you will find Profiles in Courage to be an interesting and informative read.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Book review - With Walker in Nicaragua.

James Carson Jamison was one of William Walker's filibusters in Latin America. In 1909 he published a 181 page account of his adventures entitled With Walker in Nicaragua.

Jamison starts off with an overview of how Walker got his start in Nicaragua and the course of events prior to his arrival. He then explains how he enlisted in Walker's force and recounts the battles he was engaged in. An account from a comrade of Walker's final capture and execution finishes out the book.

With little available on Walker's expeditions, I found With Walker to be fascinating. Jamison writes well while splitting the difference between a history and a personal account. He doesn't always explain the over-arching view but does an admirable job recounts the events of William Walker's rise and fall in Central America. He also gives a short account of his reasons for joining Walker.

I found the account interesting and easy to read. Jamison leaves out some dates and other particulars but he is writing 50 years after the fact so the omissions are understandable. What is amazing to me is that he is able to remember as much as he does. For anyone interested in the filibustering period of American history or just wanting to read about an often over-looked historical event, I highly recommend With Walker in Nicaragua.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book review - A Blaze of Glory.

I have to admit up front, I am a fan of Jeff Shaara's work. From his novels to bookend his father's Killer Angels through the other historical novels from the American Revolution to World War 2. Seems like each is a fine work. My one complaint about Shaara's Civil War work is that he wrote only about the eastern theater of the war.

With A Blaze of Glory Shaara renders that complaint moot. In 435 gripping pages he tells the tale of the battle of Shiloh - the first major blood-letting in the west. A quick overview to set the table and the story is off and running. Generals Sherman and Johnston wrestle with issues of command and the morality of the war. An infantryman in Sherman's command and a cavalryman under Colonel Nathan Forrest confront the more common dilemma of staying alive. All join the nation in having the innocence ripped away by the bloody fighting around a small country church.

Shaara does an excellent job in bringing his characters to life. The story flows well for the most part and the sequence of events is clear and understandable. While not a history book, the novel conveys the story of Shiloh in a way that both holds the reader's attention and sparks an interest in learning more. Perhaps the best part is a note on the flyleaf stating A Blaze of Glory is the first of a new trilogy of books on the war in the west. That is good news indeed.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Book review - Those Who Love.

Irving Stone's 1965 book Those Who Love was recommended to me by Mrs. Spiff. I finally got around to reading it and must admit I found it interesting. Billing itself as a biographical novel of Abigail and John Adams, the book tends to focus on Abigail.

Beginning on the day John and Abigail first met, the reader is drawn into their personal story. Outside events come into play only as they effect, or are taken notice of by, the Adamses. Of course, Abigail was one of the best educated and informed women of her time so she was well aware of outside events and their portents. She also frequently helped John work through the issues of the day in his mind and compose his writings and speeches. John famously called her his ballast and the reader of this book can see why.

While there are no footnotes I found the book to be historically accurate. I did find myself wishing for footnotes at least twice while reading particularly interesting conversations Abigail was involved in. A bibliography in the back explains where certain material was gleaned and is an unusual find in a novel.

All in all I enjoyed Those Who Love. It did drag a time or two but generally moved on with ease and interest. Abigail Adams profits greatly at Mr. Stone's hands. If you are familiar with John Adams or are interested in influential women in history this book should be on your to read list.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book review - Killing Lincoln.

Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard's 294 page book Killing Lincoln has not always received the warmest reception from critics. After reading the book I am inclined to think some of the criticisms leveled have more to do with O'Reilly's political commentary than the content of the book. While the book is easy reading, I could only find a couple of historical facts to take issue with.

Starting six weeks before the assassination, the book moves through the planning of the killing to the aftermath. Along the way various conspirators move in and out of the plan. Some of them come in with full awareness of what is going on, others have only the faintest of ideas. After the killing the main conspirators scatter. A huge dragnet sweeps the eastern seaboard hauling in hundreds of suspects, some of whom were actually implicated in the crime. John Wilkes Booth and four others will pay with their lives. Others will never even be fingered until long after their natural deaths.

This isn't a history book written for scholars or those interested in heavily footnoted works. There is a short bibliography and an index at the back of the book but they only provide the barest documentation. What the book does do is bring the killing of Abraham Lincoln to life. It doesn't take but a page or two before the reader becomes deeply engrossed in the tale. As historical figures leap from the page and the conspiracy unfolds, it becomes harder and harder to put down the book.

The assassination of John F. Kennedy receives much more interest than that of Lincoln. This is due in large part to the JFK assassination being so vivid in the national conscience. I have often thought if the death of Lincoln was presented in a way that made it equally vivid it would be just as compelling. Whether or not you have read much history, once you open Killing Lincoln, you will find the account as fascinating as any involving a grassy knoll.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book review - The Ten Most Misunderstood Words in the Bible.

I have previously read and enjoyed several other books by Dr. Robert N. Wilkin. When I received The Ten Most Misunderstood Words in the Bible I was very interested in reading all 177 pages. I expected the book to be thought-provoking. I was not disappointed.

Divided into an introduction, conclusion, and a chapter for each word, the book makes for a smooth read. Dr. Wilkin's ten words are: Faith, Everlasting, Saved, Lost, Heaven, Hell, Repentance, Grace, Gospel, and Judgment. An appendix contains short discussions of eleven more misunderstood words with additional appendices discussing how to study Scripture and blessings and curses. Following the appendices is a study guide to aid in using the chapters for either group or individual study. The seven page Scripture index at the back helps insure the study is both Biblical and in depth.

Dr. Wilkin's challenge to the reader is not to radically redefine any of the words on his list or come to a understanding of any secret definitions. What he suggests is reading these words as they occur in Scripture and understanding them to mean what they mean in everyday English. Wilkin guides the reader through a word study of each word to show how we have fallen into the trap of using these words differently in understanding God's word than we do in understanding the speech of those around us.

While the definitions of these words are not earth-shattering, the realization of how they have been co-opted by theological systems can be. That's what caused me pause as I read through the book. Most of the chapters were either reminders of what I already knew or moments of "Why didn't I think of that?" A couple of words will bear further study on my part.

Overall I found The Ten Most Misunderstood Words in the Bible to be an interesting and thought-provoking read. It is well-grounded in Scripture and easily lends itself to further study at either a group of individual level. This book is a must read for anyone who is serious about reading and understanding the Bible. You may not always agree with Dr. Wilkin but we all need to understand what words mean to understand the Bible.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Book review - Civil War Curiosities.

One of the things I enjoy about Christmas is the infusion of fresh material into my book collection. Most of the time my family does well with their selections. Webb Garrison's Civil War Curiosities is an example of such a selection.

Published in 1994, this 266 page volume is not an in depth study of the American Civil War. It's not even a close look at any one aspect of the war. What it is though is a highly entertaining collection of information, quotes, and stories that bring the war to life and might even surprise you.

Garrison structures the book in five parts. Each part contains several chapters. As an example, part one is entitled Memorable Players in the Nation's Greatest Drama. It contains three chapters: Lincoln and Davis started out less than one hundred miles apart, Famous - or soon to be, and Never say die. Each chapter contains numerous paragraphs detailing glimpses behind the scenes of the war. An index at the back of the book allows the reader to look up any person, battle, or topic mentioned.

Garrison presents his material in an engaging and informative way. He also refuses to bow to the god of political correctness. For that reason I recommend giving Civil War Curiosities a read. No matter if you are a Civil War buff, someone new to the topic, or just looking for a good read, you will not be disappointed.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Book review - Setting the Stage for Eternity.

Ever wonder why the Bible gives believers instructions on how to live? Been tempted to give up on the Christian life? Too much effort to follow Biblical principles? Harlan D. Betz tackles these and other questions in his 310 page book, Setting the Stage for Eternity.

Betz's premise is that the Bible answers all three of the above questions the same way: What we do in this temporal world has eternal implications for believers. Not implications that effect one's eternal destiny, that's covered by Jesus' work at the cross. What our actions now effect is our rewards in The Kingdom.

Betz carefully lays out the types of rewards Scripture mentions and explains the link to different areas of the Christian life in this world. He uses Scriptural references to explain how he arrives at his conclusions and clearly illustrates his points with simple examples. Betz's writing style is easy to understand and follow as well as being solidly grounded on the Bible. Each chapter has a study guide at the end so the book can easily be used in a small group setting. A short bibliography follows each study guide. Appendices make deeper study accessible by anyone who seriously desires it.

All in all I found Setting the Stage for Eternity to be interesting, solid, and challenging. I highly recommend this book for anyone struggling to understand why it's important to run the race of life well or who wants a better understanding of eternal rewards.