Book Review: The Whistler

51nekcjdpul-_sy344_bo1204203200_“The Whistler” by John Grisham

2017 Reading Challenge — Book 16: A book on the current New York Times bestsellers list

This is a perfect example of a book making the bestseller list based on an author’s past history, rather than being there on its own merits. I haven’t read all 31 of his novels, but this easily ranks as my least favorite of the dozen or so I have read.

The Whistler began with a lot of promise. A female lead character working for a little-known investigative entity called the Board of Judicial Conduct (which processes complaints filed against judges) was a premise that seemed to be a refreshing new approach to the genre of legal thrillers where Grisham has thrived best.

Unfortunately, this story lacked both the “thrill” that has been present in his best legal work, and the level of character development which has made his best non-thrillers equally riveting. While this may merit a trip to the library (where I reserved the copy I read) for hard-core Grisham fans, most everyone else will want to pass on this forgettable book.

Top Books of 2012

At the close of another year, I wanted to look back at the best books I read in 2012. While it might have been helpful to post this list before Christmas (for those looking for gift ideas for the readers in your life), I’m glad I didn’t, since two of the books on this list I’ve just read in the last week!

It’s difficult for me to assign a rank to these books since I enjoyed them in different ways, so here are this year’s top ten in alphabetical order:

According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible, by Graeme Goldsworthy — This is the only one of my seminary books to make the list this year, but that’s one more than I expected. While I enjoyed (to varying degrees) all of my assigned reading, this book on biblical theology stands out as one that I’ll be sure to read again, and one which will appeal to a lot of readers. I wrote a brief review here.

Calico Joe, by John Grisham — This was an MLB All-Star Game-inspired fun read. It is Grisham’s shortest novel (to date), but one of the most purely enjoyable books I’ve read in quite a while. My review is here.

The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters, by Albert Mohler — I often read and benefit from books on leadership, but rarely do I actually enjoy reading them. This is easily the best leadership book I’ve read, and one I’ll be turning to again frequently. A more thorough review is forthcoming.

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, by Paul David Tripp — I know I said I have difficulty ranking books, but if I were a pastor it would be a no-brainer to list this as my #1. As a lay-leader in the church, I have still found much that benefits me, particularly his warnings against the perils of seminary education. Vocational ministry is a dangerous calling, indeed! (I actually still have two chapters to go to finish this one, but I’ll officially review it when I finish.)

Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics, by Henry Hazlitt — I usually don’t list re-reads as annual favorites, but this was a more recent (and revised) edition from what I’d read previously, so it counts! There are better books on economics, but if there were one book on the subject I wish everyone would pick up, it would be this one. The subtitle says it all. My review is here.

Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment, by James R. Gaines — This dual biography on two of the most fascinating figures in European history is a must-read for musicians, and a strong recommendation for anyone else. Riveting from cover to cover. My review is here.

Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books, by Tony Reinke — I loved this book about books from fellow bibliophile Tony Reinke, and you will, too. My review is here.

Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World, by N.D. Wilson — This was definitely the most unique book I read this year. Seeing the world through Nate Wilson’s eyes was a joy… it’s a book you “experience” rather than simply “read”. My review is here.

Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative, by Ken Robinson — I bought this book based on my appreciation Sir Ken Robsinson’s now-viral lecture on creativity. While the book wasn’t quite as good as I’d hoped, this was probably more due to unrealistic expectations than any actual shortcomings in the book. And the parts that were good were really good! Lots here for teachers and parents to learn. Not sure if/when I’ll review this one.

Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, by John Piper — It’s a helpful intellectual pursuit to occasionally think about thinking, and this book by one of my favorite thinkers is an excellent guide for that process. My review is here.

Here are a few that just missed my top ten:

Well, there’s my list. What were some of your favorite reads this year?

Book Review: Calico Joe

“Calico Joe” by John Grisham

When I saw that John Grisham had written a baseball story, I knew it would be good! I wasn’t disappointed with this fun little read.

The mixing of fictional and historical characters and events takes some getting used to (if you’re familiar with baseball history), but all that was required for this baseball fan to get into the story was just a little bit of “cognitive estrangement”. I forgot what I knew and let Grisham’s portrayal of the summer of 1973 become my temporary reality.

Non baseball fans will surely enjoy the story just as much, as it isn’t really about baseball at all. It’s more of a human interest story about fathers, sons, boyhood dreams, and the sometimes harsh reality of life that interferes with those dreams.

Though this book seems bound (like so many other Grisham novels) to be adapted into a movie — one I’ll be happy to see — much of the value of the book is in knowing what is going on inside Paul Tracey’s head: something that might not transition well to the big screen. It’s also difficult to imagine a movie version lasting much longer than the time it took to breeze through this novel, which is certainly the shortest Grisham story I’ve read. I completed it in a single sitting.

If you want a fun, easy, summertime  read, you can’t go wrong with Calico Joe!