Short reviews or comments on books I have finished this week.
Born to Believe
God, Science And Origin Of Ordinary And Extraordinary Beliefs
by Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman
Dr. Newberg conducts brain research and this book focuses on how our brains form and sustain beliefs and what happens in the brain during a spiritual experience.
This was an interesting book. It actually took me a couple of weeks to read it, because there was a lot of food for thought in this book. It is well written, though; it's not too hard to read and comprehend even for someone like me who does not have a background in medicine or science.
What I take away from this book is a certain humility. We all need to have some kind of a belief system to process the information we receive through our senses. What we believe influences the way we perceive the world: we tend to interpret our perceptions in ways that reinforce our beliefs. Thus, people cannot be "totally unbiased". All the time, our brains filter what we pick up from our surroundings and how we remember it. But we can learn to recognize our biases and become more flexible thinkers, which is my goal, too.
Thanks to UnkleE for recommending Newberg's books.
The Story of a Reunion
by Adrian Plass
Another Adrian Plass re-read. If you are looking for light reading, comedy and/or parody, this is not it. This novel is not lacking in gentle humour, but the overall tone is serious.
The reunion collects together a number of people who knew each other in a church youth group twenty years ago. The narrator, David, has just lost his wife. Others have problems, too: divorce, loneliness, fear, hurt, rejection. Ghosts of the past, skeletons in the closet.
What I love about Plass's writing is that though he makes the pain very vivid, it's not all angst and ghosts and skeletons. God is present, God's love meets the weak and vulnerable who are honest about their weakness. Plass does not offer easy packaged solutions, either. Real life is messy. As irritants become pearls inside an oyster, God can transfigure the things that could have become ugly - but it's not likely to an quick, pain-free process. The glory is that God is with us in the mess. As the narrator says:
I truly think one of the most wonderful things God offers us is his permission to follow Jesus without becoming somebody else.
Neither Here Nor There
by Bill Bryson
I've written a long review here, so I won't repeat myself.