As 2016 comes soon to a close here are reviews of 4 audio books that I listened to during the last three months of 2016. If you are interested here is last year’s Audiobooks SlimJim went through in 2015.
Jay Sekulow. Unholy Alliance: The Agenda Iran, Russia, and Jihadists Share for Conquering the World. Brentwood, Tennessee: Howard Books, September 20th 2016. 320 pp.
4 out of 5
This book is written by Jay Sekulow who is probably best known to most people as the Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. This is the second work by Sekulow that I enjoyed. In this present title the author tackles the issue radical Islam and also the strange relationship between Iran, Russian and Sunni radical Islamic groups. For the audio book Jay Sekulow read the book himself and the upbeat manner and pace of how he speaks on his radio show is also how Sekulow read the book which is a plus since I’ve always thought his voice makes whatever he was talking about as serious, urgent and interesting.
The book is comprised of eleven chapters in which the bulk of the book focuses on the history of Iran and explanation to Western readers about Islam. I found the discussion about the Sunni and Shite divide to be have been pretty spot on. I think the West often think of radical Islam as affiliated with extremists of the Sunni variety (think Al Qaeda and ISIS) but there’s a whole Shiite form that most in the West don’t think of in the form of Iranian backed Shiite terrorists groups (think Hezbollah, Shiites militia in Iraq backed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, etc). I did learn some new things reading this book concerning the history of Iran though and I was surprised to learn of how long it was that Iran was once Westernized. Of course we know the Iranian revolution with their own Shiite brand of Radical Islam changed all from 1979 onwards. Towards the end of the book the author cited various evidences of the strange relationship between Iran and other unlikely jihadists and terrorists groups. Sekulow talked about instances in which Iran helped Al Qaeda and Iran’s support for Hamas even though Hamas is predominately Sunni. The most interesting wild card is the Russian alliance with Iran in backing Assad’s regime in Syria.
Overall this is an interesting work. I give it a four out of 5.
Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. Killing Lincoln. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, September 27, 2011. 338 pp.
4 out of 5
This audiobook exceeded my expectation. After being rather disappointed with the two authors’ book titled Killing Jesus, I found Killing Lincoln to have been much better. It’s a lesson that there is a corollary to the maxim of how you can’t judge a book by its cover: sometimes you also can’t judge a book as a result of a flop of another book by the same author.
This work focuses on the last few days of events in Lincoln’s life and his presidency before he was assassinated. The book looks at not only Lincoln’s leadership with the ending of the Civil War but also the conspiracy of those who want to see the president get kidnapped and eventually became even more sinister: to have Lincoln assassinated. There was so many information in this work that I was previously unaware of and I wished some of the fascinating historical details would have been taught in American history whether in college, high school or middle school. The writers were able to narrate what happened in a riveting and dramatic fashion which made listening to this audio book very enjoyable.
This work also reminded me that sometimes the truth can be stranger than fiction. I had to look it up to verify that the book was accurate when it told us that Abraham Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth was engaged to a lady name Lucy Lambert Hale. It turned out that Lucy had many admirers and among them was Robert Todd Lincoln, eldest son of President Lincoln. The authors also speculated whether Booth might have been jealous of Robert that further inflamed Booth’s motivation to kill the president. In yet still another interesting twists in history the same Robert Lincoln was on a train platform in which he was almost pushed by the crowd unto to his death when a well-known actor named Edwin Booth seized the President’s son’s coat. Edwin Booth was John Wilkes Booth’s brother, how crazy to think one brother ended up saving the Robert Lincoln’s life while another brother took President’s Lincoln’s life!
Overall a good audiobook. I must add additional words in light of my brief look at other people’s review on Amazon and on Goodreads. There are some reviews that criticizes the author Bill O’Reilly for his politics and therefore this work got a negative review. This rather is immature and commits an ad hominem fallacy. Sure, you might not like his politics but that doesn’t mean the book is awful (which it was not). Those who are Left or Right would probably enjoy this book immensely if they have the book to speak for itself. Also, I did appreciate Bill O’Reilly reading this book himself for the audio book. Some crazy review said he sounds arrogant but I didn’t particularly think so.
Scalia’s Court: A Legacy of Landmark Opinions and Dissents
Kevin A. Ring. Scalia’s Court: A Legacy of Landmark Opinions and Dissents. Washington DC: Regency Publishing, April 4th, 2016. 592 pp.
4 out of 5
A fascinating work! This is a large anthology of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s legal opinion that he penned in landmark Supreme Court cases. It brought back memories of reading Supreme Court decisions back in my undergraduate days in UCLA. The subject of this work is fascinating but in light of my busy schedule with work and other readings I knew I wasn’t going to read this 592 page book anytime soon. However discovering that this book was available in audiobook format was just too good to resist. I am glad I listened to this as an audio book.
Other than the introduction, chapter one and the epilogue the bulk of the book feature Scalia’s legal writings arranged by topic grouped into chapters. Each topical chapters also feature some brief explanation and summaries from the author Kevin Ring before the court case opinions of Justice Scalia were presented. In terms of recent justices on the bench of the Supreme Court I always felt Scalia was often the most interesting and well written. Of course I’m bias as someone who is largely a political conservative. But I think the author is right in the book in making the point that there’s some great legal reasoning Scalia presents that even those who normally disagree with him can be persuaded to adopt or at minimum a force to reckon with. I do think objectively speaking Scalia is one of the more witty and colorful writer in the Supreme Court in recent memory. While at times Scalia was in the minority opinion in some court cases yet because of his writing ability and his sharp mind what he has to say is memorable and thought provoking. While I enjoyed all the topics that was featured in the book I thought the chapters on religious freedom was my favorite. Who can forget Scalia’s critique of the problem with the three prongs of the Lemon test with the following summary that the Lemon Test was a “ghoul in a late-night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried.” I also enjoyed the chapter on freedom of speech and the first chapter by the author Kevin Ring describing the judicial philosophy of Justice Scalia. I thought the first chapter was very important in clarifying to general readers concerning Scalia’s approach and explaining that Scalia’s “Originalism” was not an extreme caricature letterism of the Constitution.
Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life
Eric Metaxas. Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life. New York, NY: Dutton, October 28th, 2014. 333 pp.
3 out of 5 (but with discernment)
I enjoyed the author’s previous work on Bonhoeffer and thought I should listen to Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life in audiobook format. I had mix feelings with the content of this work. My biggest concern was with the author’s theology while at times I thought Mextaxas was surprisingly right on.
This work consists of two part. Part one is on the question of miracles while part two featured miracle stories that Metaxas has collected and vetted as likely to be true. He tells the readers multiple times that the stories comes from people that he personally trust and display the virtue of integrity. I think it is important to base the testimonies of miracles upon those whose lives demonstrate integrity and I commend the author for being conscious and deliberate in his selection of testimonies of the miraculous. But we must also be just as zealous with our theological presuppositions being biblical in our practice of discernment and vetting tales of the miraculous. Here I felt Metaxas was rather mixed bag. I didn’t feel Metaxas was as theologically discerning. He includes stories of Benny Hinn healing ministries and also Roman Catholic miracles. Their theology should be a red flag. Hinn’s prosperity gospel and Romanism’s error with justification by faith alone is problematic and is not from God. What amazes me is that Metaxas even acknowledges the problem with Hinn’s ministry though he doesn’t explicitly mention some of the deliberate false healings by Benny Hinn. Then there’s the chapter on people going to heaven that itself has other biblical problems. These problems are serious enough for me to have reservation with recommending this work. But that doesn’t mean there were parts of the book that I did enjoyed. I thought part one of the book was probably the better portion of the book. I really enjoyed his chapter on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and also the miracle of life and creation. The stories of people’s lives changed as the result of the Gospel was also very moving. The stories of healing also reminded me that God is capable of healing and He does heal even today. But there’s enough concern for me in other areas of the book that makes me hesitate to recommend it to others.