A Passion for God: the Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer by Lyle Dorsett

I picked up this book on Tozer thinking that it would be great to have a good biography on such a influential Christian figure of the 20th century. However, what I got was really just a survey on a man whose inner life was hard to probe into. I met Lyle Dorsett at Wheaton and even went to the church where he preached for a while, and while a look into Tozer’s life is laudable, this book just scratched the surface of the inner man.

The issue is plain that Tozer was not outgoing. He dedicated almost all his personal time to seeking out God and knowing Jesus better. The rest of his time was devoted to preaching and teaching others about the Lord he knew so well. This must be the trouble with trying to write about him – he was singularly focussed for the 45 years after his conversion. The book tries to illustrate how this caused issues with his wife and children. But instead of leading to a fuller picture of the man, it seems like the author is just trying to come up with something to say besides “he prayed – a LOT.” Everyone of his friends and family relate that it was hard to be close to him, but his personal sacrifice was worth it when compared against his ministry as a prophetic voice. God had given Tozer a mission to warn the church against worldliness and to call her back to knowledge of Him. There is no doubt that he faithfully fulfilled his calling until his dying day.

The parts of the biography that I enjoyed the most were the outlining of the development of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the denomination Tozer was affiliated with. The stories about A. B. Simpson and the fourfold doctrine of Christ (Christ as Savior, Christ as Sanctifier, Christ as Healer, and Christ as Coming King) were enlightening. Also to see how denominational lines were being drawn in the midwest in the early 1900’s gave the book the depth it couldn’t find in its main subject.

My guess is that while the subject is one worthy of all emulation, there are probably other books that handle his life better. But why read those when Tozer himself left such a formidable body of work? Pick up The Pursuit of God or The Knowledge of the Holy and let A. W. Tozer tell you in his own words where a Christian’s life should lead. It will be worth it.

4 stars out of 10.

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Reamde by Neal Stephenson

So, the first book I’ve read (listened) to this year was Reamde, Stephenson’s latest novel. I’ve actually owned this book in hard copy form since it was released a couple of years ago, but let’s face it, a 1000+ page tome can be intimidating. It is Neal Stephenson; if he put out a 700 page book, people would think he’s gotten into short stories. But, no way around it, his books are time investments. Specifically 38 hours and 34 minutes as read by Malcolm Hillgartner. I would like to say this book was like listening to a season of “24” – except obviously even longer.

The novel is a straightforward action plot with kidnappings, Russian gangsters, terrorists, and online role playing games. The story starts with a lot of development of the online game T’Rain and the business of goldfarming (developing in-game characters or attributes to sell for real world money). For as much time as was spent elucidating the reader on how this works, it does not come into the outworking of the plot as critically as one would think. This is the main problem of the book on a whole. As is typical, Stephenson spends a lot of time in description, but there are many fleshed out topics and characters that are just dropped when the plot passes them by. The pace is quick and the tension stays so high that you will wonder if you need to start anti-anxiety medication; but still, when big characters just disappear, you notice.

I was convinced to get going on this book after finishing his previous work Anathem – which was probably the best book I read in 2014. While Reamde may not be his best, his “ok” is much better than many authors’ “good.” The plot has no major surprises save for some fascinating developments. But even when you know what’s going to happen, you’re compelled to keep turning pages. It carries you to some exotic locales that you may want to visit after reading like British Columbia or Xiamen. It’s completely enjoyable, and if you’re a fan of action, intrigue, spies, or hackers, you will love this book. The time put in is like a good long movie…or a good long season of “24.”

7.5 stars out of 10.