Book Blog









Since the Recommended Reading page was being sadly neglected, I decided to try a book blog instead. Maybe I'll actually keep it updated better, adding short reviews of books I read or have read. I will also include some quotes I may find interesting or entertaining.

If possible, I may prevail upon other members of my family, and maybe some friends, to write some blog entrees as well. That would give more variety. "Guest appearances" will be noted, otherwise all entrees are my own - for better or for worse. :-)

Ecclesiastes 12:12 And further, by these, my son, be
admonished: of making many books there is no end;
and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

One Vision Only - Biography of Isobel Kuhn
By Carolyn L. Canfield

Rated: Highly recommended. An edifying and enjoyable read.

Here is a sweet biography of the beloved missionary/author Isobel Kuhn. Mrs. Kuhn, with her husband, was a missionary to the Lisu tribe in western China prior to and during the days of the Communist take over. She wrote a number of books which were well loved and read by many Christians over the years. This biography gives an account of her life from the perspective of others, as well as a large middle portion that is quoted from an unpublished manuscript by Isobel (it may have been published as a short book later). With quotes from letters and observations from friends, this book gives a different look at a life that was largely lived under the motto "God First".

For anyone who has enjoyed Isobel Kuhn's writings, this book is a must. For anyone who has not, it will be a good introduction to her and there are plenty of her helpful, edifying and sometimes humorous observations, as usual.

Too many Christian biographies glorify the subject far beyond measure. To the credit of the author, this book does not do that too much, perhaps largely because Isobel herself was so open and frank about her own faults and the author of this book knew her personally and consulted with her in writing the book. There is some bit of exalting in places, but it is not too thick to digest. Mrs. Kuhn's own keen sense of humor and honesty helped her see the ridiculousness of human nature and to admit to it's faults, both in herself and others. An honest author could not write an accurate account of her life and force a halo and wings where they would not fit! Mrs. Canfield obviously strove to be honest in her writing.

This book has a bittersweet ending as it closes with the account of Isobel going to be with the Lord. For those who have read her other books it is "the end of the story" which we can never get from her own writings. Anyone who has known and loved her through her books will probably feel like they lost a good friend when they read of her Home-going, despite the fact that she has been gone so long already (humanly speaking). But, as always, it is good to see a servant of our Lord "faithful unto death."

One real plus in this book is that, as far as I remember, all the scripture quotes are from the KJV. This is not true of Isobel's own books, so it makes this one a bit more enjoyable in that regard.

I also appreciated the author dealing with some of Isobel's early faults as a young Christian. One in particular was her tendency to use accusations and work on people's emotions to try to force them to do what she perceived to be God's will. She was rightly ashamed of this later when she had matured beyond this. There are many Bible believing Christians today who could do well to learn this lesson too.

A good verse for this book: Philippians 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Used CA.

Bookmark -

The reserve of modern assertions is sometimes pushed to extremes, in which the fear of being contradicted leads the writer to strip himself of almost all sense and meaning.
- Winston Churchill

The Wide, Wide World
by Elizabeth Whetherell (Susan Warner)

Susan Warner was the sister of Anna Warner who wrote "Jesus Loves Me". Susan wrote the song, "Jesus Bids Us Shine". They were spinster sisters, saved in the 1830s, who lived on Constitution Island near Westpoint. They were in the habit of conducting Bible studies for young cadets who were interested in the things of God.

Rated: Useful, but some reader discretion required. Best for older children and adults. (Note: Parental guidance is recommended for younger children. One option would be to use this as a read aloud book so that helpful discussion would help the kids over the more difficult thoughts.)

This is a fiction story about a little girl who goes through a long series of sore trials. In the the typical tradition of the mid 1800s, there is a lot of sorrow in the story, and for that cause I don't recommend it for anyone who presently is suffering from depression or anxiety.

The story dwells largely on the experiences of "Ellen" whose mother is dying, probably of tuberculosis. Ellen is sent to live with her aunt while her mother and father travel to Europe in search of health, never to return. Ellen spends a good portion of the rest of the book learning very hard lessons in contentment, trusting God, faith, and in getting victory over sin.

The Gospel in this book is somewhat garbled by an ideology that was popular at that time, namely that if you didn't know if you were a Christian, then start living like one and eventually you will find that you are. This sounded well in theory to some degree as there was an emphasis on belief, but it can tend too much towards works salvation. Let the reader beware! It seems to work out O.K. for Ellen in the story, but there are altogether too many people today who believe they are saved because they do this or that, rather than because they trust in Christ alone for salvation. This book could be misleading to such people.

There is also a fair amount of legalism in the book, though it is mixed with a good deal more compassion than is sometimes seen today. I do give the author high marks for her more biblical stance on alcohol (that it is a preference not to drink, but not a sin to take it in moderation). This biblical position was and is rather rare among conservative Christians.

As far as I can recall, this is the only book at the time which I read in its entirety online. I do not recommend this. It was a real strain on my eyes. You can find the book here: The Wide, Wide World. But, I recommend finding or making your own eBook version and loading it onto your e-reader.

As I read this story I began to wonder if the author was going to leave any of the good characters alive. I suppose that people had to deal with death a good deal during the 1800s what with the various diseases then common, and the lack of antibiotics to combat them. The book also takes a very unexpected turn at the end, which seems somewhat out of place, but is not really objectionable. One tends to feel, though that it should have been the subject of a second book, rather than the end of this one. The story does end on a happier note, and though there are plenty of clouds for poor Ellen, there are sunny times as well. This book could be a real encouragement to someone struggling with sin, though it is fiction.

Also, note that it gives perhaps a more realistic view of New England life in the mid 1800s than some of the more highly idealistic and "pretty" stories do.

Altogether, I would recommend this book more than many other girls' "classics". It was very popular in its day, but has fallen out of common knowledge. This is for obvious reasons. Unlike Louisa May Alcott's books and L.M. Montgomery's books (Anne of Green Gables, etc.), this book contains large doses of Christian teaching which would not be popular today. The emphasis is also on holy living and striving against the natural tendencies of the flesh, which would not be popular with many Christians.

A verse for this book: Romans 7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

[March 25, 2008]

Bookmark -

When I get a little money I buy books;
and if any is left I buy food and clothes.
-- Disiderius Erasmus

Far From Rome, Near to God
Testimonies of Fifty Converted Roman Catholic Priests

Edited by Richard Bennette and Martin Buckingham

Rated: Useful - for distribution to people in Catholicism or ignorant of the bondage and futility of the Roman church. Encouraging for believers.

"Guest Appearance"
Comments by Peter Stephens

...I have read part way through it, reading a little every night. It is encouraging to read the testimonies of salvation and it is interesting to meditate on the common threads of them. The men who were saved consistently started their pilgrimage by fearing God (or at least hell and purgatory) and doing the best they could to earn their salvation. Because of their R[oman] C[atholic] background they each decided that the “priest” was the ultimate example of holiness and good works (or at least their parents thought so). They each became trapped in the bondage of the RC system for many years but were never satisfied for they saw the hypocrisy of Catholicism. They all knew that their good works were not enough to save them from their sins. But by the grace of God they learned the fallacies of their ways. I am reminded of Matthew 7:7-8: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” And every one of the priests left the “church” of Rome.

Nobody is tricked into salvation. Nobody is surprised into being saved. Nobody has earned their salvation. Those who have been born again have sought the Lord and believed his Word and the finished and perfect sacrifice of our Jesus on the cross of Calvary. What a precious gift our Lord has given us!

Added July 2, 2006

This book can be purchased here.

Used CA.

Bookmark -

A man who uses a great many words to express his meaning is like a bad marksman who, instead of aiming a single stone at an object, takes up a handful and throws at it in hopes he may hit.
--- Samuel Johnson

For One Moment
By Christmas Carol Kauffman

Rated: Hard to put down
Highly recommended

This book is based upon the true life story of Herbe Englehardt, a German who grew up in the Weimer Republic and cast his lot with the Nazis when they came to power. Through the confusion of his father's divorce (when it was still a great shame), rejection by his stepmother, unhappiness, the deep sorrow of death and separation from those he loved, he arrived at the beginning of the Nazi era with a great need for something to hold on to. A patriotic zeal for Hitler and Nazism answered this deep longing. Hitler virtually became his god. When the Nazis fell Herbe's life was shattered.

This story clearly shows the tender leading by God of a soul from darkness to the glorious light of Jesus Christ. This eventually brings joy, triumph over old hurts, and healing to other hearts as well.

One of the amazing aspects of this story is how the Lord protected Herbe through his life till he was able to hear, understand, and accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It argues a good case for predestination and free will at the same time.

Another thing that encouraged me in this story was one of the couples who witnessed to Herbe. They were Christians, Lutherans, who survived the dangerous Nazi regime while still quietly sharing their faith, belief of the Bible, and love for God. This book is an encouragement in a time when so much uncertainty about the future faces many believers. God is able to keep His children. We must trust His wisdom to determine how to best use us in these perilous times. Many Christians died at the hands of the Nazis and others. Many did not. This book gives a small glimpse of how life was for the Christian survivors.

The verse for this book might be: Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Purchase the book here.

Added June 11, 2006

Used CA.

Comments on the author:

Mrs. Kauffman was a Mennonite writer. She chronicled several true life stories of people who eventually became Mennonites and also wrote some fiction along those lines. However, for the most part I have not found her strongly promoting Mennonite doctrines per se, which makes her books much more useful to the church in general.

She is a good writer and we have had more than one person tell us, "I couldn't put the book down," regarding some of her books we've loaned or given away.

Note: Though the stories are gripping, there are no overly gruesome scenes that I recall. She had a good sense of what was appropriate.

Bookmark -

Paradise Lost is a book that, once put down, is very hard to pick up again.
--- Samuel Johnson

Hidden Rainbow
By Christmas Carol Kauffman

Rated: "Couldn't put it down."
Highly recommended.

Here is the true story of John and Anna Olesh, a Yugoslavian couple who unexpectedly became the owners of a New Testament. At that time the Bible was a forbidden book in those parts because the Roman Catholics had almost complete power religiously and through pulling strings politically.

Despite their fear, and the terror their family and neighbors felt on their behalf, they were curious and eventually began to study and seek the truth; this despite severe threats and even persecution by the local priest.

This story is an amazing eye-opener for those who are not aware of what life was like on a day to day basis under Roman Catholic domination. It gives a clear picture of the vice-like grip that the Roman traditions, clergy and superstition had on people at that time in Europe. [If I remember correctly, World War I occurs during Oleshs' lives, just to give you a time frame.]

This book also encourages us to recognize what a treasure the word of God is and how very blessed we are to have our own copies without fear of punishment in the (relatively) free world most of us live in today. It is also an encouragement for Biblical missionary work (as opposed to "traditional" missionary work as it's mostly practiced now).

The verse for this book might be: Jeremiah 15:16 Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.

Added June 11, 2006


background and graphics by Mary E. Stephens