Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book #5: Killing Jesus by Bill O'Reilly

This is a fantastic book. I enjoyed both Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy, but I found this one to be even more interesting to me. O'Reilly acknowledges in the foreward that he is a practicing Catholic and that it's "almost trite" to call Jesus the most influential man who ever lived. Duggard and O'Reilly call their book "fact based" and detail their research in both the afterward and the extensive footnotes. They reference the Bible, specifically the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, with the understanding that they are eye witness accounts and, thus, as reliable as any other text from the time. Plenty of other research is incorporated as well.

Duggard and O'Reilly tell the story of Jesus's life in an intriguing narrative. They have no problem noting when a particular detail or story is not readily supported by research. Of particular interest to me is their reference to prophecy from Old Testament scripture.

I also loved learning more about Ancient Rome. As someone who both taught Julius Caesar and watched the entire HBO series Rome, I'm basically an expert on Ancient Rome (read: sarcasm), but I did learn many things that connect my prior knowledge to my Biblical knowledge. The murder of Caesar is one starting point of the murder of Jesus -- two historical incidents that I never previously connected. Did you know that Octavian changed his name to Caesar Augustus after he defeated Marc Antony? THE Caesar Augustus from Luke 2:1!  No kidding! Reading this book made me smarter.

Most importantly to me, the book characterizes the humanity of Jesus. My faith tells me that he was a human being who walked the earth and struggled like we struggle (although he handled it better). This book presents the story of Jesus in a relatable way, but then details his gruesome torture and death in a way I've never read about it before. It's haunting.

Spoiler: O'Reilly does not speculate about whether or not Jesus was raised from the dead. That's not the purpose of the book. In the postscript, however, he contemplates the mysterious way in which a man with no resources (save charity) became the most influential man to ever live.

Killing Jesus is well worth the read.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Book 4: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Short and sweet.

Good book. I think I read it too fast because I was confused. I think there was more at the end that I missed or something. I loved the story and the voice of the old man character, but the way the girl's story was told in diary form kind of annoyed me.

Book #3: My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock

I picked up this book because a couple of friends recommended it on facebook when it was $1.99 for the Kindle edition. It's the memoir of a blogger who is laid off from her job and decides to spend a year learning from Eleanor Roosevelt. I think it all started with an Eleanor quote: "Do one thing every day that scares you."

Turns out the author was afraid of lots of things - heights, sharks, public speaking, etc. The usual fear suspects. So she takes on some crazy adventures like skydiving, swimming with sharks, and doing stand up comedy. These parts of the story are funny and engaging.

But perhaps my favorite parts of the book are the times when she addresses the "every day" part of her plan. Simple tasks, like sending food back at a restaurant, helped her recognize (if not fully conquer) fears she never even realized before. She writes a lot about not letting fear hold you back.

As someone who really, really, seriously despises failure in any way, I identified with this part of the book. Historically speaking, if I don't think I'm going to be good at something I just choose not to do it. About three years ago when I changed jobs and stepped way out of my comfort zone, I realized I've been missing lots of fun stuff by being afraid of failure.

I started cooking. I'm pretty good at it now, but more than once we've suffered through a mediocre dinner or decided to toss dinner and head to Taco Bell instead. More often than before I choose sing and dance when the time is right and not worry about whether or not I look like a crazy person. I even decided to start quilting. I finished my first one this weekend and while it ain't great, it's mine and I'm proud!

While reading the book (and since) I've asked myself hundreds of times, "Am I not doing [whatever] because I'm afraid of doing it?" which is an eye opening question because sometimes the answer is yes. While I'm not timid (hello? have you met me?), I am not naturally a risk-taker. The book encouraged me to take more risks in life.

Hancock's year with Eleanor is a testimony about living bravely. It was easy and entertaining, etc., but it was more, too. And it's permanently placed in my head this scripture from I Timothy 1:7 "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind."