Tag Archives: Michael Chabon

2 sentence book reviews, part 2

it’s a crazy week for me — a few days in colorado for an event at group publishing, and a few days in the san bernardino mountains with my family and another family. so, i think it’s time to post a week of 2 sentence book reviews!

i’ve got 44 lines for 22 books. the first sentence of each review is a summary, and the second sentence is my opinion. hope you appreciate the brevity!

part 1: five general fiction books
part 2: three general non-fiction and two young adult fiction books
part 3: four illustrated books or graphic novels and one humor book
part 4: four christian living books and three theology and ministry books


Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson
5 stars
An exhaustive, no-holds-barred biography of the man behind Apple and Pixar. Interesting to a point (and brilliantly written), my primary take-away was that Jobs’ world-changing ends weren’t worth the abusive and narcissistic means.

Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son, by Michael Chabon
3 stars
As the subtitle implies: a collection of essays on being a man, father, and husband. Chabon’s writing is distractingly luminous, as always, but the essays are uneven in insight and usefulness (meaning, some of them are wonderful).

In My Mind’s Eye, by Justin Marciano
2 stars
A collection of autobiographical stories from the author’s wild teenage years. Mediocre writing and poor editing (along with a title and cover that simply make no sense), but it still contains some stories that are fun to read.

Young Adult Fiction

Pandemonium, by Lauren Oliver
4.5 stars
This 2nd book of a dystopian future where love is considered a disease to be medically and permanently “cured,” the teenage protagonist learns life in “the wilds” outside the controlled cities, and joins the resistance. Fantastic and creative storytelling, though, in the end, a bit too exclusively a set-up for the final book (as 2nd books in trilogies often seem to be).

The Age of Miracles: A Novel, by Karen Thompson Walker
5 stars
As the earth’s rotation slows, adding complexities and politics to daily living, a female 6th grade narrator provides a street level perspective. A fantastically unique context for a coming-almost-of-age story.

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 2

during my blogging hiatus i still read books! here are the second set of 10 mini-reviews, in no particular order…

Nurtureshock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
a stunning summary of new research about children and teenagers. some of it is truly counter-intuitive and surprising stuff (that still makes total sense as the authors unpack it). a must read for parents and youth workers.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
had heard praise for this book for years, and am glad i finally got around to reading it. a wild crime novel set in a “could have been” current day reality that doesn’t exist, with lots of insights into stuckness, addiction, self-loathing, relationships, power, and tribes.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
massively creative and worthwhile teen fiction, about teenage suicide (on the surface). but really about the horrible way teens can treat each other, and how it feels to be the recipient of that. worthwhile reading for teens and adults who care about them.

Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin
the fascinating true story of henry ford’s attempt to create a culturally-influencing utopia in the amazon rainforest, with all kinds of implications for what a friend called “poisonwood business” (really, any exporting of culture, or cultural superiority). a bit long and repetitive at times, though — it would have been a better book at 100 less pages.

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose
i found this book thanks to a.j. jacobs’ (the author of the year of living biblically and the know-it-all) recommendation. for those of us who grew up in conservative evangelicalism (and still associate with it), it’s a empathic, human look at our freaky little subculture.

The Sacredness of Questioning Everything by David Dark
not an easy read, but worth it. dark leads us through a pithy ride of pop culture and high-brow literary references, along with some great biblical framing, on a journey of beautiful, spiritual skepticism.

I Can See Clearly Now by Brendan Halpin
after my 5th halpin book, i think i can say he’s one of my top 10 american fiction writers. this only-slightly-veiled, fictionalized story of the 20-somethings who came together to write the “schoolhouse rock” saturday morning educational bits in the 70s is all i love about halpin: great story, fantastic character building, great pop culture grounding.

Dear Catastrophe Waitress by Brendan Halpin
i love halpin’s writing and the way he builds characters. this unlikely romance spends most its real estate developing two separate stories, which, in an ending that is just slightly too expected (by the time you get to it), weave into each other. still, great writing and worth reading.

Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age by Ariel Schrag
nice collection of short comics about my favorite group of people: middle schoolers. most of them show the painful side of early adolescence.

Learning My Name by Pete Gall
an excellent, shockingly honest exploration of identity (particularly, identity as a follower of jesus). seriously, no one writes with the level of vulnerability and honesty that pete gall writes with.