Category Archives: Books & Reviews

Award winner coming through…

It not me but F.S. Michaels, author of the book Monoculture which I have mentioned around here before.  Here are the details.

NCTE George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language

Canadian author F.S. Michaels has won America’s prestigious 2011 George Orwell Award for the non-fiction debut MONOCULTURE: HOW ONE STORY IS CHANGING EVERYTHING (Red Clover Press, May 2011). Published by Red Clover, a new Canadian independent press, MONOCULTURE has been described as “a provocative investigation of the dominant story of our time.”

The annual George Orwell Award, established in 1975 and given by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), recognizes authors who have made an outstanding contribution to the critical analysis of public discourse. Past recipients include author Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food), Amy Goodman (co-founder, executive producer, and host of the award-winning national daily news program Democracy Now!), Pulitzer Prize-winner Charlie Savage, television host Jon Stewart and the “Daily Show” cast, economist Juliet B. Schor, linguist Noam Chomsky, and cultural critic Neil Postman.

Congratulations!  It is on my soon to be published list of my best reads of 2011.  If you haven’t read it yet, you really need to.  The book changed how I look at much of the world around me.

A DIY Book Journal

Last year it took Mark forever to get started on his written assignments.  He would just freeze and get all stressed and I would have to calm him down and get him focused on what to do.  I thought we had made some progress but he wanted a book the other day and tried to access his line of credit at the Bank of Dad.  I agreed but made him promise to write me a book report on what he learned.  After a couple of days of Mark stressing all out about it, I wrote out a quick outline and things went much smoother and he gave me a pretty good book report without the stress and suffering that often comes with it.  I typed up what I had put together, added a bit of formatting, stole some ideas from some other book journals and printed out 50 copies for him to keep in a binder.  I also saved it to a PDF and uploaded it here in case any of you want to see what I did or make your own book journal for your kids.  I think I am going to put together a weekend trip journal and a Adventure Around Town Journal as well.

30 of the harshest things one author has said to another

Of course the harshest remarks are probably left anonymously on

Ernest Hemingway on William Faulkner: “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”

Mark Twain on Jane Austen: “I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”


I am not sure where I first started following Kester Brewin’s writings.  Probably I found some of his stuff on Vaux’s old site and I assume that I heard of his book from either Jonny Baker or Steve Collins’ blog but I ordered The Complex Christ when it came out in England, paid a fortune to have it shipped across the pond and then paid of 18% of Canada’s national debt in import fees.  To this day, it is the most expensive book that I have ever purchased.  It was worth every cent and I paid for it and lead to a fundamental rethinking of my theology and my understanding of the urban context (it was about that time that several of you started to hate what I posted here).

Others for the Kindle by Kester BrewinThe other day on Twitter I was waiting for my Kindle to finally arrive when I asked what book I should order.  Kester came up with and instead of ordering it, I went online to see if Other was available in Canada yet.  It isn’t here in paper form yet but it is available on Kindle and it quickly earned the honour of being the first book I ordered for my Kindle (and hooray, no import fees).

The book hit home for me this week as the debate exploded over political rhetoric in the United States after the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords outside of a Safeway.  Whether or not you agree that themes of violence in political rhetoric contributed to the murders or not, I think all of us agree there is something wrong with how we see people we don’t agree with in this world.  Whether that divide is Christian-atheist, moderate-fundamentalist, liberal-conservative, Israeli-Palestinian, black-white, or whether or not we like Kenny G, we tend to dismiss and deride the opinions of those who we disagree with.  I don’t know if has gotten worse but I suspect it has.  Years ago I used to be a regular viewer of Capital Gang which had the Democrats and Republicans around a table disagreeing.  Not only was the dialogue cordial but they actually seemed to enjoy being around each other.  Now the Republicans are at Fox News and the Democrats are on MSNBC.  Not only are they no longer sitting around the table but they are at competing networks.  There isn’t even an attempt to engage or dialog with each other.

For a wide variety of reasons this has changed how we see and interact with each other and Other tries to address that by looking at the Great Commandment, to love the other.  While that seems obvious, Brewin addresses the situations where Christianity and the church have largely failed to see God’s creation in other people.  As he puts it, what kind of selves do we need to be in order to live in harmony with others?

For me, it’s the biggest question that I wrestle with every day at work and the hardest discussion that we have with staff.  In a context of violence, drugs, and anger, how we deal with the other is a definition of how we see them but also ourselves.  Once the U.S./Canadian edition hits the shelves, I plan to purchase a bunch for our staff because it’s something that we all need to wrestle with everyday… or at least it’s something that I need to do to remind myself to reset myself and look for God in other people every day.

In a time in my life when I am working hard at getting rid of over 1000 books from my library, I am glad I added this one to my Kindle and look forward to always having a paper version on my shelf.

The "Homicide Lexicon" and its rules

Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David SimonI am reading Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon and really enjoying it.  Throughout the book, Simon frequently refers to a set of 10 informal rules that apply in the majority of homicide cases, as detectives soon learn. They are as follows:

  1. Everyone lies. Murderers lie because they have to; witnesses and other participants lie because they think they have to; everyone else lies for the sheer joy of it, and to uphold a general principle that under no circumstances do you provide accurate information to a cop.

  2. The victim is killed once, but a crime scene can be murdered a thousand times.

  3. The initial 10 or 12 hours after a murder are the most critical to the success of an investigation.

  4. An innocent man left alone in an interrogation room will remain fully awake, rubbing his eyes, staring at the cubicle walls and scratching himself in the dark, forbidden places. A guilty man left alone in an interrogation room goes to sleep.

  5. It’s good to be good; it’s better to be lucky.

  6. When a suspect is immediately identified in an assault case, the victim is sure to live. When no suspect has been identified, the victim will surely die.

  7. First, they’re red. Then they’re green. Then they’re black. (Referring to the money that must be spent to investigate a case, and the colors in which open and solved murders are listed on the board)

  8. In any case where there is no apparent suspect, the crime lab will produce no valuable evidence. In those cases where a suspect has already confessed and been identified by at least two eyewitnesses, the lab will give you print hits, fiber evidence, blood typings and a ballistic match.

  9. To a jury, any doubt is reasonable; the better the case, the worse the jury; a good man is hard to find, but 12 of them, gathered together in one place, is a miracle. (Referring to jury trials)

  10. There is no such a thing as a perfect murder.