The Man Who Made Lists // by Joshua Kendall

Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget’s Thesaurus

//published 2008//

I’ve always been passionate about words, and have had a fondness for Roget’s Thesaurus my entire life.  When I came across this biography mentioned in Slightly Foxed, I felt that I must give it a whirl.  While I enjoyed learning more about Roget’s life, the biography itself was mostly just alright.

Part of the problem was that Roget’s life wasn’t amazingly thrilling.  While he did have some adventures along the line, for the most part he was just an average guy who happened to be way, way into writing lists of things.  Kendall’s writing didn’t particularly lend itself towards making the everyday interesting, so there swaths of the book that were rather humdrum.  Kendall also spends what I considered to be a rather inordinate amount of time on the state of Roget’s mental/emotional health…  all well and good, except for the fact that it’s not as though Kendall was a close friend, so he’s basically just sort of making things up based on his own personal interpretation of Roget’s journals and letters:

Though Roget’s obsessions did help him cope with his stressful early life, they came at a cost.  Categorizing rather than experiencing the world has its limits.  Like his mother, Peter was incapable of looking inward.  Immersed in his own analytical observations, he was not particularly attuned to what others were feeling.

Just… if someone was to take an analysis of my personality based only on my journals, they would probably say that I am pretty unemotional as well, as much of my journaling is also lists and/or brief accounts of what is going on.  I don’t have a lot of spare time to sit down and pour out all of my feelings onto paper.  (And maybe, in fairness, I am unemotional?  I don’t have a lot of inner turmoil to sift through!)  Basically, in places Kendall came through as very judgy about Roget’s “lack of emotion,” which I felt was rather unfair over a century after he was alive.  Just because Roget didn’t dash all over the place proclaiming his feelings doesn’t mean that he didn’t have any.

On the other hand, Roget did once write a paper entitled “Description of Moving the Knight over Every Square of a Chess-Board Without Going Twice Over Any One,” so many Kendall was onto something after all…

Kendall was also incredibly dismissive of Roget’s religion/beliefs, basically just shoving them under the title of “Stupid Stuff People Used to Believe Because They Didn’t Know Any Better.”  Any and all of Roget’s claims that he pursued scientific research because of his interest in God and understanding the mechanics of God’s creation were quite belittled, Kendall even going so far as to suggest that if Roget were alive today he wouldn’t be bothered with such nonsense.

When recounting the death of Roget’s wife, Mary, Kendall says:

Roget also looked forward to “a heavenly reunion” with Mary – one of the major comforts that Christianity offered to the grief-stricken at the dawn of the Victorian era.  Spending eternity with departed loved ones was a common fantasy.

Excuse me??  That’s really an astounding amount of officious condescension to stuff into two sentences!  (1) Christians still exist, Kendall.  (2)  They still believe in eternal life.  (3)  Christianity isn’t the only religion that has beliefs about eternal life.  (4)  To call someone’s deeply-held personal beliefs a fantasy is just amazingly offensive.  …And that was basically Kendall’s attitude towards religion throughout.

Still, despite my annoyance at Kendall that surfaced from time to time (and since we’re apparently okay with deriving someone’s entire personality from their writing, I imagine Kendall to be rather a pompous ass), overall I enjoyed learning more about Roget.  I was particularly interested that the Thesaurus was actually one of his final contributions to the world.  He wrote many other scientific papers (mostly, unsurprisingly, involving sorting things into categories), and also expanded the basic slide rule into the tool that was widely used until the advent of the pocket calculator in the 1970’s.

Despite Kendall’s insistence that Roget was an emotionless and basically boring person, that wasn’t the impression that I got from Roget’s writing, inventions, and thoughts.  Instead, he seems to have been a man who held his cards close to his chest and enjoyed observing and understanding the world around him.  As someone passionate about words, lists, and general orderliness myself, I felt a strong connection to the man who wanted to make precise language accessible to the masses.

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March Minireviews – Part 1

I have had just zero inspiration for blogging lately.  These anti-blogging moods come on me from time to time, and no longer really fuss me, as I know the urge will return at some point.  In the meantime, I’ve still been reading aplenty, so I thought I would at least share a few notes on some of my recent reads…

Tulipomania by Mike Dash

//published 1999//

I love reading nonfiction on random topics, and doesn’t get much more random than the tulip boom (and bust) of the 1630’s.  Dash does an excellent job painting a picture of the times, and I was honestly intrigued by what was going to happen next.  I couldn’t get over how crazy the entire boom was, with people buying, selling, and trading bulbs – bulbs!  You can’t even tell if they are really what the seller says they are!  Can you imagine paying more than a year’s worth of wages for one??

This book definitely needed pictures – I had to keep stopping to look up different styles/types/varieties of tulips (most of which no longer exist).  Charts and graphs would have been awesome as well, and could have definitely bumped this book a half star.  Dash also had a tendency to sometimes go off onto rambling trails to Nowhereville, but on the whole usually brought it back around to something at least moderately relevant.  On the whole, a 4/5 for this one, and recommended.  It also made me want to plant some tulips.  I feel like I have really underappreciated them up to this point.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

//published 2011//

This was one of those books that I wanted to like more than I did.  While it was creative and not a bad story, it just didn’t have magic.  And despite all the adventuring in the middle bits, in the end it felt like everyone just ended up back where they started, instead of their being some kind of growth.  In the end, 3.5/5 for an alright but rather bland fairy tale.  However, I will say that I originally added to this to the TBR after reading a review over at Tales of the Marvelous, so be sure to check that out for a perspective that found this book more engaging than I did!

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

//published 2016//

This book totally had me glued to the pages when I was reading it, despite the fact that I found Zoe to be rather annoying, and Simon even more so.  (Maybe I found Zoe annoying because she was with Simon?  He just seemed like such a tool!  And her ex-husband was a sweetheart.  I was confused by the creation of a very nice character who is still in love with his ex-wife… but who cheated on her??  The pieces of Matt’s character didn’t always fit together for me.)  I enjoyed having a first-person narration and also a third-person narration instead of all first person, which I think can frequently start sounding very same-y.  I’m sticking with 4/5 for this one because I couldn’t 100% get behind the conclusion – it was like Mackintosh took the twists to one more level, and I couldn’t quite follow her there, so I felt like the conclusion was just barely in the plausible realm, although other people seem to disagree with me, so it’s possible that I just have a different perspective of human character haha Anyway, this one was definitely worth a read and I’m looking forward to reading some more of Mackintosh’s writing soon!

NB: I would 100% be behind another story with Kelly and Nick!

I feel like this book was reviewed by just about everyone when it was first published!  For some other great reviews, check out Stephanie’s Book Reviews, Reading, Writing and Riesling, Cleopatra Loves Books, Chrissi Reads, Bibliobeth, and Fictionophile!

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

//published 1877//

This is a definite childhood classic for me.  I was very much into horses as a girl, and still own multiple copies of Black Beauty, each with its own style of illustrations and binding.  My favorite for reading is still the small Scholastic Book Club paperback.  It’s illustrated with line drawings, but doesn’t say who drew them!  I’ve had this particular copy since I was about ten, and have read it many times.  However, it had been several years since I had pulled it out.  I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, although as a more pessimistic adult, I find the ending not as confidently positive as I did as a youngster – after multiple times a sudden change in the life of Beauty’s owners leading to his being reluctantly sold, I was necessarily confident that the same wouldn’t happen again in his retirement.  What a grump I’ve turned out to be!

Of course, the story is quite polemic in nature – Sewell’s entire goal was to expose many of the everyday cruelties endured by horses and other animals (and people) with no one to speak for them.  But everything is presented in such a gentle and loving way that it’s hard to take offense.  It’s just many little stories that collectively remind readers that the power to make the world a better place is within everyone’s grasp, if they are willing to step forward and do their small part.

Despite the fact that much of the tale is a bit out of date as far as societal issues go (I don’t really remember the last time I saw someone forcing a horse to draw a heavy load uphill while using the bearing rein), the overall lessons of kindness, generosity, and always looking out for those who are weaker than you are timeless.

This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

//published 2016//

It’s really hard when I don’t feel like writing serious reviews, but then read a book that I really like a lot, and this one definitely falls into that category.  It’s been quite a while since I’ve read about a group of friends that I liked as well as I did Sloane and her group.  Despite the fact that there wasn’t this big urgent plot, this was the book I kept wanting to come back to, just so I could see what snarky adventures everyone was going to have next.  I realized when I was finished that one of the big reasons that I enjoyed this book so much is that it is way more about friendship and the importance of having a core group of good friends that you can really trust than it is about romance and falling in love.  The love story was really a small side issue to the main thrust of the story.

This wasn’t a perfect read for me.  It felt like it took way too long for Sloane to “get” that she part of the group, and what that meant she needed to do.  I really liked Sloane’s dad and her relationship with him, but I definitely needed more of Sloane’s mom – she only appears a few times, so she just kind of comes across as this weird grumpy person in the background.  I personally thought a lot of the things she was grumpy about were justifiable, but she never really gets an opportunity to explain her point of view of their family issues, so in the end the entire relationship between Sloane’s parent is still really ambiguous, which detracted from the overall story for me.

But I legit could read like five more books about this gang of friends.  I so enjoyed their banter and loyalty.  I also loved reading a story where one of the main characters is popular and beautiful and nice, as I am really tired of the trope where the girls who are into girly things are empty-headed back stabbers.  Emma Mills has definitely been added to my list of authors whose backlogs I need to find.  In the meantime, if you enjoy funny, engaging YA, I recommend This Adventure Ends.

This book first came to my attention thanks to Stephanie’s Book Reviews, so be sure to check out her thoughts as well!

George Washington’s Secret Six // by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

//published 2013//

Regular readers of this blog will know that I quite enjoy nonfiction that focuses on something random and/or obscure.  While it’s always good to read a history book that is sweeping in its coverage in order to get a big picture idea of what is happening, it’s also quite fun to focus a magnifying glass on something specific and really delve in.  This is what Kilmeade and Yaeger have done in this book by focusing on the spy ring George Washington established in New York during the American Revolution.

I quite enjoyed this book, which was easy to read and completely engaging.  The pacing was excellent, and I found myself reading it as anxiously as I would a modern thriller.  Despite the fact that I know that Benedict Arnold did not succeed in his ploy – I was still somehow on the edge of my seat!

The British occupied New York City and environs during the overwhelming majority of the Revolution.  A key port and a critical location in the middle of the colonies, Washington needed to know what was going on inside of the city and in the area surrounding it.  The authors do a great job of explaining what was going on, why Washington needed the spies, and how the spy ring was established – including initial failures.

I really loved the way the book started – the preface of the book is actually about a man named Morton Pennypacker, a historian in the 1920’s, who desired to learn the names of Washington’s six New York spies.  Because yes, at that time only the names of four of the individuals had been established.  Talk about some serious secret activities!  The name of spy #5 was discovered virtually by accident when Pennypacker received some letters dated just after the Revolution – and recognized the handwriting!  Even today the identity of spy #6, a woman, is unknown.

All in all, while this wasn’t a book of great depth, it did a great job introducing the Culper Spy Ring and putting into context.  4/5 and recommended.

February Minireviews – Part 2

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just don’t have a lot of things to say about.  Sometimes it’s because it was a super meh book (most of these are 3/5 reads), or sometimes it’s because it was just so happy that that’s about all I can say about it!  However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something.  So I’ve started a monthly post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

I seem to have a lot of these this month (plus, it’s just been a month of bad weather so lots of extra reading time!) – Part 1 can be found here.

The Basket of Flowers by Christoph von Schmidt

//originally published 1823//

I believe that I have mentioned Lamplighter Publishers in the past.  They are a Christian publishing house that finds old, out-of-print books with strong moral/Christian messages and reprints them in absolutely beautiful hardcover editions.  While I think their efforts are praiseworthy, they also frequently choose books that are a bit too simplistic for me to genuinely enjoy, and The Basket of Flowers falls into that category.

The story focuses on Mary, a young woman of strong moral fiber, who lives with her father, James, a gardener.  James is a widower, and does his best to raise Mary up into an upstanding and worthy individual.  When a jealous neighbor blames Mary for stealing a valuable ring, Mary and her father are banished from the region.

There was a lot to like about this story, which had its moments of excitement and interest, but every time anything would happen, James would go off on a long and prosy sermonette, and while I generally agreed with what he was saying, I couldn’t help but think that he made for a rather dull conversationalist.  And really, that’s the way the whole book was.  I agreed with virtually every life-lesson presented, but the author seemed so busy presenting life-lessons that there wasn’t a great deal of time left for the actual story.  I can see this being used as a read-aloud for younger children, but I’m not sure it has enough kick to engage older readers.  Still 3/5 and I did enjoy the melodramatic ups and downs of Mary’s life.

Amazing Gracie by Sherryl Woods

//published 1998//

Just a random chick lit kind of book I picked up somewhere along the line.  This was a pleasantly relaxing but ultimately forgettable story, and not one I particularly anticipate rereading, so it is off to the giveaway box!

Lost States by Michael J. Trinklein

//published 2010//

I love nonfiction books about random topics, and I also love maps.  Lost States incorporates both things!  Basically, Trinklein looks at a BUNCH of territories that almost became states, or wished they could become states, or would  be really cool if they could become states, etc.  He covers everything from random ways to divide the Northwest Territory, to the possibility of some of our current states splitting (California, Maine, and Texas have all considered it in recent years), to current US territories, to western states that didn’t quite make the cut.

While the book is really enjoyable – and also full of color pictures and maps, making it fun to read – it’s also very brief.  Each potential state only gets one (oversize) page, and one page of pictures/maps, so you don’t get a lot of details about anything.  There is also plenty of Trinklein’s snarky humor to go around, but luckily I enjoyed that part, too.

All in all, Lost States wasn’t necessarily the most educational nonfiction read I’ve come across recently, but it was quick and engaging, and gave me a lot of random trivia to pull out during those awkward conversational silences that come up from time to time.  4/5.

Wedding Date Rescue by Sonya Weiss

//published 2017//

This was one of those random Kindle books that I got for free or possibly 99¢.  It was a perfectly happy little romance that involved both a fake relationship trope and friends-to-more trope (two faves).  However, the last 15% of the book felt weirdly rushed.  There was a lot of time setting everything up and exploring the reasons that the pair were hesitant to make their relationship real, and then all of a sudden all their problems were solved in like five minutes and everything was sunshine and rainbows.  It felt abrupt, and I wasn’t convinced that they had legitimately worked through their problems.  Still, a 3.5/5 for a book that basically relaxing fluff.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

//published 2017//

I actually totally loved this book.  It had a very likable protagonist, a crazy madcap character who reminded me of Jackaby, and some super fun world-building.  While the story was an easy 4/5, it ended on a complete and total cliffhanger without really resolving any of the main plotlines.  The next book isn’t due out until sometime this year, so that always aggravates me.  Still, I will definitely be continuing this series as it appears.  It was so nice to read a children’s book that I felt like I could actually hand to children!

Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life // by Jenna Woginrich

//published 2008//

This book was interesting because it was part memoir and part how-to.  Basically, Woginrich talks about how she wanted to start living a more sustainable life, but there wasn’t any way that she could quit her job and start living off the land somewhere – mainly because she didn’t have any land to live off of.  Instead, she started trying to make small changes in her regular life.  This book talks about her efforts and her mistakes, and encourages her readers to start trying to become more self-sufficient even if they aren’t comfortable butchering their own hogs and building a log cabin by hand.

It was also interesting because I actually read Woginrich’s second book, Barnhearta while back.  In this book, she’s still living a small town in Idaho, and ends her story by driving across the country to a new job in Vermont.  Barnheart focuses on the Vermont home.

While this book does cover some of the more “regular” topics in homestead-y books, like chickens and gardening, she also touches on things like sewing, knitting, antiquing, teaching your dog to carry a pack, and learning how to play an acoustic instrument.  She raises bees and angora rabbits (as well as the traditional chickens and tomatoes) and has a strong sense of humor, even while recounting some pretty serious mistakes.

Each chapter is focused on a different aspect of a more self-sufficient life.  Woginrich talks about how she got started in that area, some of what she’s learned, and concludes with some practical how-tos for the area.  She also has an extensive list of resources in the back, with actual descriptions of things so you don’t have to just mindlessly visit a bunch of websites, hoping to find what you want.  This book isn’t an end-all reference guide, but it’s a great place to start for some inspiration and ideas.

I really liked that Woginrich is (at the time of writing this book, anyway) both single and a renter.  These are two obstacles that many people use to put off learning about self-sufficiency, but Woginrich doesn’t let those things stop her.  A flexible landlord definitely helps if you want to raise chickens and bees, or plant a large garden, but things like container gardening, learning how to sew, and canning, can be done anywhere.

Frequently, I get annoyed when people assume that because I’m prolife and fiscally conservative, I must also hate nature and love eating meat raised on factory farms.  It’s 100% possible to be socially and fiscally conservative, and to also believe in shopping locally, eating food that has been raised humanely, reconnecting with our heritage, and supporting parks.  While I don’t have any idea where Woginrich stands on political issues, her book reminded me that learning to be more self-sufficient is important, challenging, and interesting – and that taking baby steps are better than taking no steps at all.  4/5 and recommended.

The Mapmakers // by John Noble Wilford

//published 1981//revised 2000//

I love maps.  Let’s just get that out of the way to start.  I mean I genuinely love them.  I’m a very visual learner, so I think maps have always been a way for me to make sense of things.  Back in high school, my best friend and I would often spend an evening planing an intricate and involved roadtrip that we had zero intentions of taking.  We would get out the road atlas and various state maps (this was before Google Maps was really a thing because I’m old) and spread them out all over the table.  We would use those charts in the front of the atlas that give you distances between cities to help figure out how long it would take us to drive from place to place.  We would make notes of interesting places along the way where we would like to stop.  We would discuss the merits of various cars within our families and determine how much gas would cost for each one to accomplish the miles we had outlined.

And now that I’m an adult, I still love maps and I still love planning trips I’m probably not taking.  And even though we have a GPS and all that, you had better believe that I bright along paper maps every time we go on a trip!  I also collect maps in a haphazard kind of way.  I finally purchased a map of Great Britain a couple of years ago to help me with all the reading I do that is set in that country.  (I mean, someone says they are going to have to go from Bath to Brighton… I have no idea if that’s five miles or fifty or five hundred.)  We have a 4’x6′ map of the country hanging in our bedroom, and the husband and I honestly look at it all the time, discussing possibilities.  Recently, in an antique store, I found myself purchasing a 1950’s road atlas – printed before the interstates.  It’s a fascinating look at how people used to drive this country in the old Route 66 days.

All that to say, I was excited to pick up The Mapmakers.  The history of maps and the people who created them?  Sounds fantastic!  And while this book did somewhat deliver, it was still a bit of a mixed bag.

Basically, Wilford starts at the beginning of time and works forward from there.  It’s a lot of distance to cover, and this book was incredibly dense.  It’s 473 pages of incredibly tiny print, and it felt like I was reading this book forever.  Every time I looked at my little stack of books, this one was on top because it was always this book’s turn to read!  Personally, I think this book would have benefited from less time spent at the beginning of humanity and more time spent on modern innovations, as the earlier section of the book was definitely where it dragged the most.

The first few chapters cover the foundations of mapmaking and maps as a concept, back in the Greek and Roman days when men of Science abounded.  This is interesting, especially to realize just how long ago humanity was interested in things like measuring the earth.  However, Wilford then spends an inordinate amount of time in the Middle Ages (26 pages, which felt even longer) basically explaining how nothing happened in the world of cartography because Christians were in charge of everything, and Christians hate science, so Christians just made up stuff, and Christians ignored all the scientific progress made in earlier generations, and Christians believed the world was flat, and Christians couldn’t handle anything that wasn’t written down in Scriptures, so Christians made sure that no one else was allowed to study science either.  And if that paragraph sounds a little miffy, it’s because the whole chapter was quite offensive.  It just felt like (a) this chapter was excessive in length for the minimal amount of information gained (considering the chapter on mapping the entire moon is actually eight pages shorter than this one), and (b) Wilford went out of his way to find individuals on the fringes, presented their theories in detail, and then would wrap up with a sentence like, “While few medieval thinkers subscribed to this concept…”  If only a few subscribed to this concept, why did you just spend three pages describing it??  Oh, that’s right, it’s so you could spend those three pages mentioning Christians, Scripture, and complete lack of science all combined.  Whatever.

I think the reason it really annoyed me was because one of the things he literally mocked the medieval mapmakers for was how if there was an area on a map where they didn’t know what was there, they would just make something up so there wouldn’t be a blank space.  But then over the next few chapters as he discussed world exploration and the gradual filling in of the world map, he would talk about how things like a giant southern continent were drawn into maps as facts, as well as islands and all sorts of things that weren’t actually there; people would just make up what they believed was true and put it in.  So… if you’re religious and you do it, you get put in a chapter titled “myth and dogma” because you’re too stupid to use real science to figure things out.  But if you’re a scientist and you do it, it’s a “logical error,” even if it persists for decades.  Hmm.

ANYWAY sorry that turned a lot rantier than I was intending.  Once I struggled through the first hundred pages or so, the book turned a corner and got much more interesting (basically, when Wilford started focusing on maps instead of making snide remarks about religion).  The problem is that there was just sooo much to cover!  Wilford considers mapmaking to be a pretty broad concept.  I was really intrigued by things like setting up time zones, for instance – when did that happen?  How much of it was political?  I mean, this is a huge, international thing and it was really interesting to see how it all came together.

There were multiple events that felt like they could be an entire book all by themselves.  For instance, talking about early efforts to map the Amazonian jungle – people had to go out ahead and set up stations because they were triangulating distances by broadcasting signals from the stations to be picked up by aircraft flying overhead.  I mean – what an adventure!  Some of these guys had to pack in all of their supplies by mule and then just hang out there.  I would love to know more about that!

Or the survey parties that worked on mapping the country in the 1930’s and 40’s.  Originally they were sent out on brief, specific tasks as funding allowed.  When FDR decided we should spend pretend money instead of only spending real money, they sent out a semi-permanent caravan that traveled from place to place, mapping as they went.  This meant that the whole expedition now included wives and children, all living in trailers, spending three to six months on average somewhere before packing up and moving to the next project.  How intriguing is that?!

This book was originally published in 1981.  This edition was revised in 2000, because so much mapping technology changed in those twenty years.  The later chapters on GPS, satellites, extraterrestrial mapping, etc. were extremely interesting.  This book could really use yet another revision, as we’ve had another almost twenty years go by, and mapping technology has gone through yet another incredible series of updates.  At the time of Wilford’s initial revision, for instance, cell phones were just beginning to emerge – since then, basically everyone now carries around their own personal GPS unit, tracking their every move, allowing more and more maps to be created concerning human activity.

All in all, a 4/5 for The Mapmakers.  It definitely felt like Wilford could have skimmed over sections where he did nothing but complain about how the Christians prevented progress, and spent a little more time in places where progress was being made.  (E.g., the Jesuit priests, who created detailed and fairly accurate maps of South America in the 1700’s are blown off in one sentence…)  This book would also really benefit from some color pictures – the black and white images come through as rather blurry and not particularly useful.  This is a book about maps, it having some pictures of maps would really help explain a lot of Wilford’s jargon.

Still, if you like maps and history books about random things, this was an interesting, if rather slow, read.  Recommended.

Wrestling Prayer // by Eric and Leslie Ludy

//published 2009//

Sometimes you read a book that you don’t really want to read, because you know reading it is good for you.  Wrestling Prayer was that kind of experience for me.  I honestly was scared to read this book, because I knew that it was going to challenge me on a level I wasn’t really sure I wanted to be challenged on.

This book is a brutally honest look at what Christianity should look like, and why so many of us are willing to settle for a lesser version.  (Hint: getting the real deal means making some real sacrifices.)  While a lot of so-called Christian leaders out there pander to our selfish whims by reassuring us that we all need “me time”, the Ludys stand firm on a pattern of Scripture that shows that God isn’t particularly interested in part-time followers.

Wrestling Prayer is about way more than prayer – it’s about getting serious about following Jesus, about recognizing what that really means, and living a life that reflects it. This book is about confronting the fleshly weaknesses in your life and ousting them. It’s about claiming the promises of God for yourself in the way that they were meant to be claimed.

I really liked how accessible this book was. It’s not written in a dry, academic kind of way. Instead, it’s completely full of practical, useful information – which can make it all the more difficult to swallow!  The Ludys never come across as holier-than-thou – they never write from the mountaintop.  They don’t claim to have all the answers, and they are very clear about the differences between the “prosperity gospel” (“Of course God wants you to have the convertible you’ve always wanted – give us all your money and He will make it happen!”) and genuine, Christ-centered prayer that brings real results.

I don’t really see this as a book that would appeal to non-Christians.  It’s pretty clearly written for those who have already taken the first step.  But even if you are not a follower of Christ, reading this book about how it should look may be intriguing for you.

Honestly, I’m not ready to jump on board with the Ludys yet, but it’s not because I think they’re wrong.  It’s because I think they’re right, and I’m just not quite ready to make the sacrifices in my personal life that I know need to be made – kind of the same way that I know I would be able to loose weight if I’d stop eating a bowl of ice cream every day, but I’m just not quite to the point where I’m ready to take that kind of plunge!

4.5 for some brilliant writing – and the half-star off is actually just because Eric Ludy kept saying, “with boyish (and girlish) faith” like a zillion times and it was driving me crazy.  Just say “child-like” already!

All in all, Wrestling Prayer gave me so much to think about – more, really, than I want to think about.  It’s a dangerous book.  Highly recommended.