Book Reviews

Five great books on topics like devotions, faith and grief, and Christian living.
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When the pastor of David Crowder's church unexpectedly died, death was no longer an off-in-the-future thought for the worship leader and songwriter. It became up close and very personal. The tragedy forced David to think long and hard about grief, pain, faith, Christian community and, yes, even bluegrass music. The result: Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven But Nobody Wants to Die: Or the Eschatology of Bluegrass (Relevant). Stressing that life is to be lived to its fullest, David wants his readers to contemplate and live out this hope-filled truth: "Death does not win."


When the Barlow sisters began singing backup in their dad's band, they believed God wanted them on stage sharing their music and their stories. But during the years before BarlowGirl took off, they worked hard to develop their skills—and they struggled. Now you can read all about those early years in the trio's book, Barlow-Girl: More Than Music (Word). From Becca's troubling eating disorder to a devastating injury faced by Alyssa, the girls share candidly about faith being formed through painful, difficult and life-changing experiences.


John Newton commanded a slave ship in the mid-1700's. Eventually, he converted to Christianity, gave up the slave trade and wrote the now famous hymn of brokenness and repentance, Amazing Grace. His incredible story comes to life in The Longing Season by Christine Schaub (Bethany)—a fictional account based upon the limited information we know about Newton. In this novel, Newton is seen as more than just a heartless slave trader. He's also an irresponsible and spoiled rich kid who thrives on reckless adventure. As he travels the high seas, fights in a war, lands in prison and vanishes in Africa, this guy-gone-bad is constantly prayed for by his childhood friend Mary Catlett. The Longing Season is a story of both human love and of God's ability to save and redeem those who appear to be the most lost. The Longing Season is the second book in the Music of the Heart Series.


In his book, Lifestories: Finding God's "Voice of Truth" Through Everyday Life (Provident), songwriter-youth pastor Mark Hall tells stories from his own life—including his struggles with learning disabilities. The frontman of Casting Crowns also tells stories about the people who've challenged and inspired his life and music—like Erin, the girl whose death from cancer led Mark to write "Praise You in the Storm." These are painful, hopeful and inspiring stories—all meant to help us listen for "God's voice of truth" in our own everyday lives. Each chapter ends with questions for personal reflection and study.


"Oh, if this should be the last day that I have/Before I breathe the air of heaven/Let me live it with abandon … " These moving and powerful lyrics by Steven Curtis Chapman (from "All Things New") are explored in Between the Lines and Spaces: Christian Artists Share the Stories Behind Their Songs by Barton Green (Standard). Songs from 19 different Christian artists are broken down line-by-line to explain the circumstances, joys, and struggles that inspired the music. Each chapter ends with a devotional exercise on the message behind the lyrics. Artists covered in the book include Big Daddy Weave, Matthew West, Mark Schultz and Cindy Morgan.

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