The Case For Books (see what I did there?)

Many people at Gracepoint Berkeley church are rushing up to me saying variations of, “I’m *so* motivated and excited to read more books! But I haven’t read a non-required book in ____ years. I don’t know where to start!” After finding out a little more about people’s reading histories, I often recommend that people start with Lee Strobel’s The Case for _____ books, especially because many people associate Christian books, especially books on apologetics, with words like difficult, dry, boring, complicated, and are demotivated before even starting.

case for christStrobel, a former atheist, traces his journey to faith through his 1999 book, The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. What I love about his books is that they are very accessible to the everyday person. While it is an apologetics book, it also reads very much like a story — it is investigative journalism, after all — and Strobel uses his background in journalism to weave in details, and even develop tension as he chronicles his own grappling with the evidence he encounters. It is both a compelling and edifying read!

For each chapter, Strobel investigates a different tough question regarding Jesus, through an interview with Christian apologists and theologians, including J.P. Moreland, Greg Boyd, and William Lane Craig. It is a great book for Christians who want to learn the evidence for why you believe what you believe, or how to present the evidence clearly and concisely. I’ve also found it is a great book for people who are not Christians, but seekers who are open to, or in the process of investigating the claims of Christianity.

Additionally, for each of The Case for… books, there is a “Student Edition” (middle and high school range) and a “For Kids” edition (for about 9-12 year olds). Bibliopolis patrons of all ages attest to how great they are.

The kindle version of The Case for Christ is currently $1.99! People often ask me my opinion on e-books. And while e-readers have done a fabulous job of simulating the sense of progress and even the act of flipping a page, I still think reading and holding a physical book, flipping and (sometimes ripping) actual pages is the best reading experience. But I’m no e-reader hater. I even like audiobooks (gasp!). I was kind of snobby about it all for a long time, but I’ve come to appreciate the pros and cons of all sorts of reading. In the end, reading an e-book is better than not reading any book. (You have to re-read that last sentence out loud…I’m on a roll today!)

Have you read any of “The Case for” books? Which is your favorite? (Mine is The Case for Faith.) What’s your take on e-books? Are you a proponent? Opponent?

Back to the Future Day: Three Time-Travel Books


Video conferences, check. Video glasses, check. Hoverboards? Still waiting!

In honor of Back to the Future Day, the day Marty McFly travels to in Back to the Future 2 — yep, I saw it in the theaters in 1989! — I will give you a super short list of three very different time-travel books. I happen to love the time-travel motif, and often choose it as the superpower I would choose in those lovely ice-breakers. But I’ll tell ya, there is a lot of mediocre time-travel fiction out there. I consider the three in today’s list worthy of your time (nyuk nyuk) for different reasons.


What the 1889 edition looked like.

[1] A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (1889). We’ll start exactly 100 years earlier, in the other 80’s, the 1880’s. Most people have only read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. And maybe The Prince and the Pauper. All good books, all good books. If you’re looking for a “classic” to read, and you’re a fan of Twain, you can expect social satire in this novel about a man from 19th-century Connecticut who, after a blow to the head, wakes up to find himself in King Arthur’s Camelot. Twain’s darkly comical commentary on the vestiges of Middle Age mores in his day make for a book that makes you chuckle as well as go “hm…” It’s funny to think of this book as a kind of “science fiction” or time travel, since in our 2015 minds, the 19th century “present” is so far back in the past. Apparently, there were several time-travel books published right around this book. So you see that there were fads in fiction even back then!


The first edition cover. Very 60’s.

[2] A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (1963). I’m including this in the list, only because I’m interested in your opinions on this book. I confess that I’ve never made it all the way through the book, though I’ve started several times ever since I was a young girl. I can name-drop Tesseract, Meg and Charles, and I know what the wrinkle in time refers to, but I can’t have a discussion about this book with my friend Christina. I also know that this book is a common class read aloud in schools, and that it is considered a “classic.” I also know that L’Engle is Christian, but that her books are considered somewhat controversial. This book has moved up my TBR pile, and today being BttF Day, I will move it up a few more slots, since a lot of kids have read or are considering reading this book.


Not your typical sci-fi novel.

[3]  Kindred by Octavia E. Butler (1979). This is a lesser-known book, but one I liked quite a lot back in 2001, when I had to read it because it was one of the lit circle/book club options for the 12th-grade English class I was teaching. Octavia Butler wrote science fiction, and her story as an African-American woman writer coming up during the Civil Rights Era is fascinating in its own right. Kindred is cool because it is difficult to classify in one genre. Is it realistic time-traveling science fiction? Historical fiction slave narrative? A mystery? Dana is a lawyer living in 1976, and she starts traveling back to a plantation in antebellum Maryland. You find yourself pulled into her story, just as she is discovering her own connections to this past. This book is not sparing in its depiction of slavery’s dehumanizing cruelty, and for that reason, this book is definitely upper high school to adult. This might be a good book for someone who isn’t that familiar with slave narratives, but isn’t up for reading denser, though very compelling memoir accounts like Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave.

How about you? What are your favorite books featuring time travel? Do you want to chime in about A Wrinkle in Time

Youth Book Review: Between Shades of Gray

We will have occasional book reviews written by Bibliopolis patrons themselves. Today’s review is written by Elise, who is an 8th grader in our Gracepoint church’s Element Youth Group.


This is the original cover art. See the updated cover at the end of the post.

So far this year, I was able to read 30+ books to enter the Summer Reading Camp (DANSE-PO NBA). Out of these thirty books, the one I enjoyed the most is a book called Between Shades of Gray, written by author Ruta Sepetys. After reading through this book, it became one of my favorites, and today I will tell you why.

First of all, this book was written from the perspective of a young teenage girl who’s struggling through the times of Stalin’s regime. The book starts in 1941 in Lithuania, and follows the characters to the Siberian work camps. I personally enjoy books written for that time, because such a historical time filled with such horrific memories creates tear-jerking and heart-warming stories. Anyways, because of the time period in which the story was set, it was made emotional, and I was, at some times in the book, moved to tears. (Which, I must admit, doesn’t happen to me often).

In addition, the main character, Lina, was an artist, which shaped her character in the story. In that way, I related to her well, and the ways that she pushed through the struggling times in the story through art was so understandable to me. I also really thought her as an inspiring character, because of her bravery, and her strength to survive. Personally, if I were in her shoes, I wouldn’t have wanted to even live anymore after just the first of what she went through. Instead, she found ways that she should live, thought things through, and cared so much for the people around her besides herself. Her family meant everything to her, and she did anything to keep them going, whether that meant working harder to get extra food and time to care for them, and even stealing.

Another character I really appreciated in the story is a boy named Andrius. Of course, you would expect Lina and Andrius to have some sort of romantic relationship, but I think it was more subtle than a typical teen boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. It’s more like a good friendship she needed during that difficult time. It must have been so much more strengthening to have someone by your side. Andrius was perfect for that position in Lina’s life. He really lifted her up and made her days less dark. He understood her, and was there for her, even when it seemed like no one was.

The events that filled every page made the whole book exciting. I just couldn’t put it down! The only thing that made the book a little less readable for younger people is for its few questionable parts. I was advised by an older friend to skip a chapter. Though questionable, I understand that some of those kinds of horrible events actually happened during those times, and more often much worse. Because of these certain parts, I would recommend this book to the age group of around 13 years old and older. And if you like tear-jerkers, this book is for you!

The ending of this book… [Emily has redacted portions of this review to avoid spoilers.]  In it is a short letter explaining [redacted to avoid spoilers]…bittersweet. And that is why I love this book.


betweenshadeseyecoverEmily here: To the left is the cover art for the paperback edition. Can we agree that the hardcover art is far superior? It is subtle and symbolic, with the sapling growing out of the snow, and the barbed wire lining the corners. This one with the eye is a bit…too close!

This is one of my favorite historical fiction novels, and about one of my favorite periods in history — the World War II era. I loved this book especially because there are so many books written about the Holocaust, but this one is about the horrors of the Balkan genocide under Stalin’s rule. Like Elise said, I would recommend this book for 8th grade and up. The chapter she was referring to contains some soldier brutality and alludes to abuse of the women (it is not graphic, though horrible).

This was Ruta Sepetys’ debut novel, and her story was influenced by a visit she took to Lithuania to visit her relatives.

Here is a video where Sepetys talks about her book and the story behind the story.

Ruta Sepetys discusses her novel, Between Shades of Gray from Penguin Young Readers Group on Vimeo.