Non-Fiction Review: Daryl Aaron’s “The 40 Most Influential Christians Who Shaped What We Believe Today”

Anyone hungry for a hefty, satisfying book – something that takes a while to muse over and digest? This is one for you.

I was not familiar with this author before picking up this book, but I am definitely interested in getting to know more of his works. Professor Aaron’s style is clear and direct, and his teaching background flavors his written words. He speaks to his audience in a very relatable manner, not talking down to them, which is something I greatly enjoy when I find it.

I would almost say the introduction is my favorite part of the text, where the professor lays out who he is, what he stands for and believes, and his purpose in writing this book. He speaks in an unfiltered, personal manner, acknowledging that the reader may not agree with his chosen 40, yet, he has reasons for including them; and if we will allow him to guide us through the stops he has set up for us, he will explain. To that end, he also lays out the format of each chapter, the historical context, the person and contributions they made, and the lasting effects they had. In a book such as this, it’s nice to have a map handed to us so we can enjoy the exhibits better.

That is not to say I didn’t enjoy the rest of the work, quite the contrary. Each chapter, each character pulled me in and taught me something new. As Professor Aaron states, you may not agree with all of their theologies, but their overall contributions have indeed shaped us today. Each chapter is stand-alone, focusing on one person or group. There are ties between them, as the real-life people built on the work of those before them, but I see this book at its most effective used as a day-by-day study guide to deeper understanding. This format is something that shows up in the author’s other works, so he is well-practiced in making this style work without making the book seem choppy or disjoined.

The content of each chapter is comprehensive, well-researched, and told based on the source materials of each individual as much as possible. The story the author is trying to create is one of common threads, and a building cohesiveness that has brought us to where we are today, not one of personal opinions or agendas. As a historical book, it hits the mark dead on.

This read was hefty, but absolutely worth the plunge. I recommend it fully!

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley

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Non-Fiction Review: Kayla Grey’s “Cash Flow Your College”

Kayla Grey, the talented mind behind the family life blog Renown and Crowned, has just come out with her first book! I have known this author personally for many years, and am excited to see her insights and practical advice in published form.

The first thing the reader notices about Cash Flow Your College is the personal tone and style. The author talks directly to her readers in a conversational way, sharing her story and the steps she followed to get to where she is today. This isn’t a “quick fix” book, but a series of guidelines and tasks the readers can follow and tailor to their own personal journey. It reminds me greatly of another author I have reviewed, Rivka Caroline, whom I also absolutely recommend. This style of writing creates success for its readers, as the authors acknowledge that each person’s journey is different, yet even so, there are similar foundational steps all can take to reach their ultimate goals.

One of the things I enjoyed most were all of the links for extra information and research. Mrs. Grey does not only give her readers advice on what steps they need to take, but also supplies the tools so they can follow through. Many high school counselors or college-prep booklets will only provide the broad, well-known research avenues for their students, but this author goes above and beyond, supplying insights for every step outlined in her chapters.

The chapters are also very well laid out. While this book is only 46 pages long, each section contained enough meat and practical application, that I see myself, and others who would use this to advise college-bound students, breaking it down into a week-long study guide. Each step takes time to complete, and Mrs. Grey asks pointed questions and suggests defined goals that guide the reader to actual results. I especially enjoyed the detail in each chapter, like sitting down with the class requirements for your major and making out a year-by-year plan. Those little steps are so easy to forget as we whiz past in the flurry of prepping everything else, but are so helpful in the long run.

This book is a must for anyone considering furthering their education!

I received a review copy of this book from the author

Non-Fiction Review: Augustine Thompson, O.P.’s “Francis of Assisi: The Life”

Professor Thompson, I admire your work.

Truly, it would be a treat to sit in a class by this author, and learn from him in person, the way I learned from his book. His style is clear and bold, and teaches without confusing or making presuppositions about the reader. And the way the reader learns about Francis is through a deftly woven story, not just facts slathered across pages and slapped between two covers.

This book is an amazing character study, both in choice of subject and in execution. Even those not primarily interested in the Church, or Francis of Assisi, would benefit from the example of word craft Professor Thompson gives us here, yet I find it highly unlikely that someone could read this book and walk away untouched by the story itself. With the extensive amount of research and material used and cited throughout, all of this is just a solid foundation for the fantastic story within the pages.

The author sets forth his objective in the beginning: to provide a biographical account of Francis of Assisi, unmarred by the lofty tales spun in the religious fervor of his day, or by the clinical examinations of the 21st century historians. With the documents written by Francis and his followers placed in historical context as his guide, the author makes his own judgments and interpretations. He does not seek create his own “mythology”, and even gently refutes that of others, while creating a year by year reconstruction of Francis’s life.

As a result Francis becomes very real. The lofty saint becomes relatable, yet still honored and venerated. The reader grows to respect the Man from Assisi in a new way, understanding why he was so influential, why he deserved the praise of his peers and followers. He becomes someone of integrity and great character, who struggled with very human problems, yet overcame. No longer myths and stained glass, but a real person, who influenced others through his walk and talk.

Instead of legend, you get a legacy, and that is more enduring.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley