Tag Archives: A Tale of Two Youth Workers

mini book reviews, part 1

Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure, by Michael Chabon
3.5 stars

for the most part, i like to read novels by pulitzer prize winning author michael chabon because i’m blown away, at least once on each page, by his craft. it’s like, when you go to an art gallery: you get lost in the beauty of some pieces; and other pieces astound you with their technique. chabon’s books are the latter of those two. the stories are nice – this one a short and whimsical tale of two adventurer/con men with heart, living in the 10th century – but i’ve read better stories. i enjoyed reading this book because i enjoy seeing the work of anyone at the very top of his or her game. now, i still have to get around to reading the book that won the pulitzer for chabon…

Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty, by Patrick Lencioni
5+ stars

the whole business-book-as-fable has been widely employed these days, but no one pulls it off like lencioni. even though my context is usually different than the central characters in his books, i always find great application to my life and leadership. that said: this book, about fearless consulting, felt more directly tied to my current work than many. i massively resonated with the ideas in the book, and found they both affirmed the approach i’m using in my coaching program, and encouraged me to press into it more fully. really, the “approach” lencioni espouses in this book is just good life-coaching, for anyone. you don’t have to be a consultant or coach to benefit from this one, possibly lencioni’s best book yet.

A Tale of Two Youth Workers: A Youth Ministry Fable, by Eric Venable
5 stars

speaking of fables… venable (full disclosure: eric’s a close friend) pulled it off. frankly, knowing him, i was surprised how well he pulled it off! a quick and easy read – as these fables should be – that unpacks the role of doubt in the faith formation of teenagers, and how youth workers can create a context for that kind of critical exploration. if you’re a youth worker (or a parent of a teen), there’s no excuse for not reading this book — it’s so short and engaging. i had read the book before, but re-read it since i’d assigned it to my youth ministry coaching group; and it was a great reminder to me of how real teenagers process their questions about faith (as opposed to the two-dimmensional teenagers of our youth ministry goals).

Stitches: A Memoir, by David Small
4 stars

this little illustrated memoir caught my eye at a bookstore recently and became an impulse buy. it fits that “tragicomic” vibe, telling the author’s recollection of a childhood ignored by strict and distant parents. it’s not a full nightmare of physical abuse that we’ve read elsewhere — but that’s part of it’s power: this story feels so much more (sadly) common. and the simple but expressive illustrations (all black and white, btw), convey a subtle emotive power that compelled me to read the book in one sitting.

blitzkrieg book reviews, part 1

during my blogging hiatus i still read books! here are the first 10 (of 20) mini-reviews, in no particular order…

The Wild Things by Dave Eggers
dark and almost suffocating, eggers novelization of the screenplay based on the classic sendek book (where the wild things are) is brilliant, but not a pick-me-up! i was, however, made continually happy by my limited-edition furry cover edition (never have i so enjoyed petting my book whilst reading it).

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
eggers has been in my top-10 authors, mostly for his not-quite-nonfiction books (like a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, and what is the what); so i was intrigued to read this hurricane katrina nonfiction (without any fictionalizing). it doesn’t have the wit that eggers brings into even dark stories elsewhere. but the story itself is so remarkable, i had to remind myself it wasn’t fictionalized). this is a “how does this happen in this country?” story. i felt like i was exercising stewardship by reading it.

Fool by Christopher Moore
chris moore’s books are always funny, and work for me as stories most of the time (this time included). what a way to tell the king lear story (from the perspective of a twisted court jester, that is)!

This Book Does Not Exist: Adventures in the Paradoxical by G. Michael Picard and M. Hayden Picard
i wanted to like this book. but, man alive, is it ever poorly executed. the writing is boring and repetitive. and the layout has to be, literally, the worst i have ever seen in a book; it’s almost completely unreadable. i gave up after about 8 re-starts (making it about 1/2 way through). new title suggestion: this book shouldn’t exist, but, unfortunately, does.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman
i read a good amount of YA fiction to keep current on what teens are reading, and gain insight into their world. and even of the YA books that are well written, many aren’t books i would give to my own 15 year-old daughter. but this is one of those great exceptions: a brilliantly creative story idea, told with craft and great characters, and it brings up all sorts of things to ponder. this is what YA fiction should be like. set in the near future, america has resolved the right to live/choice wars by creating a new “compromise” where life is protected from conception, but that teenagers can be “unwound” — the dismantling of all their parts, every cell of which is kept alive and used for something else. the story follows three “unwinds” as they wrestle with the implications of their impending process.

Motley Rock Stories by Jack Valentine
this self-published autobiography tells the rock-and-roll story of the first drummer to play upside down (long before tommy lee), and played – and lived with – mick mars, who went on to motley crue fame. the writing isn’t perfect, by any stretch (which is often the case with self-published books), and the author seems to still have some issues he hasn’t fully worked out; but it’s a fun insider look at the world of an on-the-brink-of-success rocker from the 70s. and he happens to attend the same church i do, and his kids have all gone through our youth group!

Notes from the Teenage Underground by Simmone Howell
well written and creative, this is one of those YA books i’d wrestle with giving to its target audience (let’s say, 14 – 16 year olds). there’s great realism and a peek into teenage relationships (particularly, girls’ relationships, focusing on an urban-hip girl named gem and her identity seeking). but there’s also a good dose of sex, drugs and alcohol. yup, those aspects can be part of the realism, i understand. but they seemed, at times, more about making the book “sexy” than actually adding to the storyline. still, a very well written book.

Deadly Viper Character Assassins: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership by Jud Wilhite, Mike Foster
this little book had so much cool potential, but has understandably caused quite a stir among asian american christians (and others). it gave me flashbacks to the skits that teach episode, even though the content of the books is completely different. and while the writing is accessible, and the suggestions are all good and well, there’s not much new insight or depth. i felt like i was reading something i’d read (and heard) many times before, but in hipster packaging that’s causing massive problems for the authors and publisher.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
while i’d read and loved gladwell’s earlier books, i was reluctant to read this because of all the hype surrounding it. but the hype was accurate, and this book will shape my thinking even more than “the tipping point” or “blink”. we all hold to some myths about success that are so common, we’re convinced they’re fact. gladwell patiently (via reporting on research and great storytelling) turns over rock after rock, exposing the counter-intuitive truth about how and why people succeed (or don’t).

A Tale of Two Youth Workers: A Youth Ministry Fable by Eric Venable
wow! what an excellent little book, written as a fable, about faith development in teenagers. not only should every youth worker (and parent of a teen) read this book, it really has implications for anyone interested in faith development. a quick read, and very well written.