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War – Book Review

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My son was newly home from Afghanistan when he recommended this book. He hadn’t even read it himself, but it was given to him by a fellow soldier who is also a friend. The book is War by Sebastian Junger. The author, a journalist by profession, follows a single platoon in the Korengal valley east of Kabul for fifteen months. The result is not just a description of war, but an account that includes insights into what draws young men into war, why they fight, and why they are ready even to give their lives.

Junger does excellent work interweaving descriptions of daily life—boredom, fatigue, squalor—with vivid accounts of firefights and reflections on the fundamental issues that war raises. Explaining the importance of unit cohesion, for example, Junger writes, “The cause doesn’t have to be righteous and battle doesn’t have to be winnable; but over and over again throughout history, men have chose to die in battle with their friends rather than flee on their own and survive.” He draws on work in psychology, biology, and military history to help explain what makes war possible, perhaps even necessary.

I am ill qualified, of course, to say how accurate is his portrayal of a modern platoon at war since I have never been in combat myself. My son, however, was in combat and after he reads the book, I invite him to comment on it here as well. Meanwhile, I highly recommend War to any reader who wants to understand war from a soldier’s perspective.

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Common Sense Economics

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Common Sense Economics bookRead and comment on my blog.

This book is so good that I don’t know if I can adequately convey how good it is. Most people, including me, think of economics—the dismal science—as arcane, abstruse, dry, and dull. This book proves us wrong. It will make economics come alive for you. You will find not only that you understand the news from Washington and Wall Street but that you can shape reasonable critiques of the news you hear based on sound economic principles.

The authors do an excellent job of distilling their subject into four parts. The first deals with basic principles, some that you’ve probably heard before and some that you may have never thought of. The second deals with major sources of economic progress. (Surprise! Stimulus spending is not one of them.) The third deals with the role of government in economic progress. It should be required reading for all voters before the next election. The last part deals with key elements of personal finance, and it alone would be worth the cost of the book.

Get this book and read it. Then put it into practice. I plan to give a copy to each of my children.

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The Discipline of Grace

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The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges is one of the best books I have ever read on how to live life as a believer. One of the persistent difficulties in the church is the idea that God’s approval must somehow be earned, that when a believer sins, God becomes angry and punishes him but that when he does what is right, then God is pleased and blesses him. Yet this misconception is directly contrary to the good news of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Somehow in going from salvation to sanctification, the extraordinary message of the gospel becomes forgotten, and believers turn to performance and good works in an effort to win favor with God (or, less charitably, to put God in their debt). So Bridges writes a prescription that serves as a refrain throughout the rest of the book: “Preach the gospel to yourself every day.”

In order to make sure his readers understand what he means, he then provides an excellent summary of the gospel, and the most salient feature of that gospel is God’s grace, his undeserved love and favor toward people. It is this grace that enables believers to pursue a life of holiness. By insisting on and holding together both grace and discipline, Bridges avoids two errors. The first focuses too much on grace and denies that believers have a role in their own perfecting. The second goes the other way and treats as grudging duty what should be joyful privilege.

The final chapters detail five disciplines necessary for pursuing holiness. These are not the religious disciplines one might expect: prayer, fasting, meditation, service, and so on. No, they are spiritual disciplines that deal much more with attitude than with action.

Throughout the book, the author draws liberally on Puritan theologians, often paraphrasing their prose for today’s audience. Nevertheless, the book is not for the casual or fainthearted reader. It requires but also amply repays patiently intent reading. Bridges is never glib; his writing cannot be skimmed. He deals with concepts that are inherently complex, even seemingly paradoxical, so his prose is likewise careful and precise. My only complaint is that at times his tone becomes somewhat scolding; at times he seems to assume that his readers are reluctant to follow him and in need of reminders of their duty. But this is a niggling objection to an otherwise excellent book.

This book is for any believer serious about becoming more like Jesus in his or her daily life. It is not a book of stuffy rules but of vivid principles. Those who read it with understanding will be changed by it as they put its principles into practice. Highly recommended.

I reviewed this book as part of the NavPress blogger review program, which provides free books in exchange for reviews. I did not receive any other payment for this review.

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