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Posts Tagged ‘book review’

From time to time I’ll post short thoughts on books that I’ve read but don’t want to review for some reason.  Hope you find it helpful.

Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach, by Robin Routledge.  IVP sent me a copy of this book, which came out in 2008.  It’s a decent overview of OT Theology, offering thoughts on the variety of themes that pop up throughout the OT (as the subtitle indicates).  If you are looking for one OT Theology to study, this would not be my first choice (perhaps Waltke, or Stephen Dempster’s, which I haven’t read but heard is good).  Routledge gives a solid overview of differing views, perhaps to the detriment of coming down hard one a particular position.  Students will appreciate the footnotes; he gives page numbers for every major OT Theology written to go with each section he is discussing.  All in all, it’s okay, but not my first choice.  Had a thought after I posted this.  Routledge doesn’t show any of the exegesis that goes into his views, which factors into my assessment.  I like to see the exegetical work behind the conclusions, which is one reason why I like Waltke’s book so much.  It’s also interesting given that Routledge has not produced any major commentaries on OT books, unlike Waltke, Brueggemann and others.  At least those authors could say, “check out my commentary for more.”

The Surprising Work of God: Harold Ockenga, Billy Graham and the Rebirth of Evangelicalism, by Garth Rosell.  I read this for my church history class and really liked it.  Dr Rosell is writing as someone who witnessed a lot of the events he writes about and people he knew, as his father was a well known evangelist during the revivals in the 50’s.  I was inspired by the faith of the people involved in the early days of modern evangelicalism,  Rosell offers more on Ockenga than Graham, which I was thankful for, since Ockenga is less well known these days than Billy Graham.

The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians, by D A Carson.  I know, I know, 2 Carson mentions in one day.  I actually read this book last year, but forgot it for my Top 5 of 2009.  It definitely would have made that list had I remembered (and I’d probably not cheat and have Block’s Ezekiel commentary).  I actually think this is the kind of book where Carson is at his best; he offers solid and insightful exegesis alongside convicting thoughts on how we can apply the text to our lives and the church.  There is no doubt that the cross was central to Paul and his ministry; Carson helps us follow that pattern with this book.  Anyone in ministry should read this book.

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Some of the most frequently asked questions I receive about this site are regarding book reviews.  How did we get started?  Why do we do it?  Do publishers really send you stuff for free?  Stuff like that.

I’ve been mulling over a post such as this for a while, but didn’t feel like anyone would actually be interested in reading a post about book reviews.  But, a recent ruling by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does impact this blog a little bit and is receiving some discussion throughout the internet.  I’ll comment more on it later, but basically the issue is one of compensation.  The FTC has declared that if a blog writer receives compensation (either payment or the book for free), they must declare so in their review.  Brian and I do fall under the category of compensated individuals, so in the interest of integrity, I feel it’s important to comment here.  Brian may add some of his own thoughts, either in the comments below or in his own post.

Let’s proceed, Q & A style:

Q. How did you get started writing reviews?

A. For me it was purely by chance.  You can read about it here at my old blog.  In a nutshell, I randomly happened upon a free copy of the Reader’s Hebrew Bible to review, and a guy named Chris at Zondervan agreed to send along Bruce Waltke’s An Old Testament Theology as well.

Q. How do you get publishers to send you books?

A. I ask.  It’s really as simple as that.  I write them, tell them who I am and why I want to review a particular book.  Sometimes they send it, sometimes they don’t.  That’s about it.  A couple publishers now send me books without me asking.

Q. Do you review all books you receive?

A. Not necessarily.  Any book that I request, I will review.  That’s part of the deal.  If a publisher decides to send a book along without my initiation, I feel no obligation to review the book.  I sometimes do, but the bottom line is that there’s only so much time in the day.

Q. Do you really read all the books you review?

A. Yes.  That’s actually why it takes so long sometimes.  I don’t want to review a book if I haven’t actually spent the time to work through it.  I feel like it’s a matter of integrity to read what I review.  The last thing I want is to mislead anyone with a review because of superficial reading on my part.

Q. Does the fact you receive a book from a publisher influence you to give a positive review?

A. The cynical reader might think we’re only being nice to publishers because they send us books.  The answer is actually quite simple: we generally give positive reviews because we pick the books we want to review.  It’s not like reviewing books is our job.  It is something we do on the side.  Naturally, since we only have so much time, we lean towards reading books we think we’ll like.  Also, and perhaps even more importantly, we tend to focus on books we think will be helpful to the church.  That means we aren’t going to request a book we think will be awful.  There have been books I’ve requested and was a bit disappointed in, but none I thought were awful.  My reviews reflect that.  But the bottom line is this: we request, read and review books we think we’re going to like and will be helpful to the church. We may pick a book that falls in the “stay away” category and thus give a negative review, but we won’t intentionally request such a book from a publisher.

Q. Will you change anything regarding after reading the new FTC Guidelines?

A. It’d help if I finished reading the 81-page document first (pdf here)!  I think there are 2 things going on here that are related to reviewing books here on BBG.  First, if a reviewer receives compensation they must acknowledge that in their review.  This is something we already do.  At the beginning of every review, we say something along the lines of this: Thanks to (person’s name) of (publisher) for a review copy of this book. Then sometimes we follow that up with an apology for taking so long (ahem, Brian).  As far as I can tell, this is what the FTC wants.  If we find out otherwise, we will make the adjustments accordingly.  We do not receive any money for these reviews.  The free book itself is considered, rightly so in my opinion, compensation.  We’re happy to acknowledge this.

Second, according to this interview with a member of the FTC, providing a link to Amazon under the Amazon Affiliates program may be problematic.  I’m not sure if we’d have to do anything more than what we’d already be doing.  Truth be told, I’m not sure we actually use our Amazon Affiliates link very often.  I don’t even know how to do it, and it’s not like Brian is my blog-maid who follows behind me to tidy up.  Anyway, I don’t think it’ll be an issue because we’re acknowledging that we have received a book for free.

Q. Why do you review books?

A. We touch on this a bit on our Book Review page.  A major goal of BBG is to help Christians and churches learn the Bible and learn how to apply it better.  Sometimes that takes the form of a post on a particular passage, sometimes we provide a link to something we found helpful on the internet, and sometimes we review books.  Some of these book reviews are geared towards laypeople, while there are a few of more academic books that would be more likely useful to pastors and students.  Either way, we hope that by reviewing books, we are assisting our readers in making fruitful choices in their book purchasing/reading.  There are a lot of books out there, and the number is growing fast.  It can be helpful to have someone help point the way to a useful resource.  Hopefully we accomplish this.

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