Saturday, April 23, 2011

Goodreads Review - Sidewalks in the Kingdom

Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith (The Christian Practice of Everyday Life Series)Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith by Eric O. Jacobsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book because it merged two major aspects of my life: christianity and urban planning. It really makes you think about how our cities shape our lives and how our faith should influence not only how we live but where we choose to live. It can be pretty convicting at times, noting how Americans have basically created false gods out of the notions of individualism and freedom as opposed to living among one another and loving each other as Christ loved us.

A little warning, the author is extremely anti-suburban and pretty preachy about it. His tone is sometimes distracting from the points that he's trying to make. So if you're not used to this point of view, it can be pretty shocking. You might want to start with Suburban Nation first. I definitely didn't agree with all of his arguments, but it does make you think. And, as somebody currently living in a city, it makes me think about how I should be seizing opportunities and really becoming part of the community.

On a side note, I love when books you read cite other books/authors you have recently read. On the same page, this book referenced Ray Oldenburg and Robert Putnam, and that just made me happy.

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Goodreads Review - The Choice

The ChoiceThe Choice by Nicholas Sparks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's what you would expect from a Nicholas Sparks book. The writing is cheesy and at times terrible and embarrassing. But it's a quick read with an addicting storyline that somehow ends up making you cry in the end. I would say it's a good beach book.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Top of the Rock

A few weeks ago my mom came to NYC with two of her friends for a girls' weekend. They stayed in the middle of it all, right in the heart of Times Square. I enjoyed spending time with my mom and doing some of the touristy things that we honestly don't do enough of. The first night they were here we saw Mama Mia, which was really cute. And later that weekend Chris and I went to Top of the Rock with them. I can't believe we've been in NYC this long and never gone to Top of the Rock. I'd really recommend it to anybody, tourist or resident, it's an amazing view. Evidence below.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Strangers on a Train

I'm currently reading Sidewalks in the Kingdom, which discusses how faith plays a role in determining the kinds of places in which we live (mainly cities vs suburbs). The chapter I read this morning deals with markers of a city, one being that cities allow for random encounters with strangers. I thought a good bit about this, as I'm encounter hundreds if not thousands of strangers every day...what should this mean and how should I become more aware of my fellow neighbors.

The book examines several aspects of "strangers" in cities, but one is that there is an opportunity for collaboration between people from different backgrounds, with different ways of thinking and ideas and etc. Tonight on the subway I got to witness such an encounter.

As I was waiting for the F train at Jay Street Metrotech, two men were playing classical music - one on a cello and one on a violin. It was beautiful, and a small crowd had gathered round. When the train came, people dispersed and one guy, let's call him Bob, tore off the duet's contact info. Once on the train, another guy, Mark, said he really enjoyed the music and asked Bob if he could take down the information. He whipped out his iPhone and that started a conversation about how they both have the same problem with this app and that app. Pretty soon they were talking about graphic design and exchanging business cards. All because the F train is so slow :)

There's really no point to this, except that I love:
1) when what i'm reading aligns with real life; and
2) random moments with strangers on a train.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Goodreads Review - Three Men in a Boat

Three Men in a BoatThree Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book as the inaugural book for our recently formed book club. It was a suggestion by Chris's sister, Rebekah, who is in my opinion the greatest reader of all time.

The book, written as a travel guide, relates the story of three friends on a boating trip down the Thames River. It's cleverly written, with witty comments on life, many of which still apply today (the book was first published in 1889). My favorite account was that of the hassles of packing a suitcase, and the "cursedness of the toothbrush."

The book was an enjoyable read, but I think the best part about it is the legacy it has left behind. As it is a travel book, many people have recreated the journey and apparently some of the taverns and pubs mentioned in the book are still open today. That's quite remarkable given that it's been over 120 years.

An excerpt from the toothbrush packing debacle:
"My toothbrush is a thing that haunts me when I'm traveling, and makes my life a misery. I dream that I haven't packed it, and wake up in a cold perspiration, and get out of bed and hunt for it. And, in the morning, I pack it before I have used it, and have to unpack it again to get it, and it is always the last thing I turn out of th ebag; and then I repack and forget it, and have to rush upstairs for it at the last moment and carry it to the railway station, wrapped up in my pocket handkerchief."

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Goodreads Review - The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, JR

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King Jr.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In school we listened to and read some of Martin Luther King's speeches and in recent years I had read a sermon or two of his, but that was the breadth of my experience with his work. Having now read the autobiography, I think it should be required reading in high schools.

As many reviewers have mentioned, it is a little strange to call it an autobiography. However, there is so much first hand accounts that I don't really have a problem with it. I don't think that the editor, Clayborne Carson steered the book in a way unbefitting to King.

The book gives you a thorough account of King's actions and involvement in the civil rights movement, as well as insight into his personal struggles. Two things really struck me about King's character throughout the book: his willingness to sacrifice and his strong faith in God. He (and his wife) were willing to sacrifice not only their time, efforts and resources but also their security in order to fight for civil rights. It doesn't seem that many Americans these days are willing to sacrifice much of anything for anything. The second aspect that struck me, his faith in God, is well-known. However, it was remarkable to read how he was constantly questioning himself, checking his motives and his intentions and realigning himself with God's will. His faith and his actions resulting from that faith are stunningly humbling.

Another thing that I think is worth mentioning is the social power of the church. This account demonstrates how the church at one time really was a social engine in the community. Nearly all of King's civil rights movements were organized through and in the church or affiliates of the church. It's unclear to me if this would still be the case today. I think that generally, America's churches need to reconsider their missions, both in advocacy and community service.

The book ends with King's last speech "I've Been to the Mountaintop" and his last sermon "The Drum Major Instinct." You can't help but get chills reading these, as it seems that King has come to the realization that his days are numbered and has made peace with this and with God.

There are too many outstanding quotes to mention...just go read it!

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