I love to collect guide books from places that I visit. I like them to have a nice mix of pictures and writing, and I like to feel I've maybe had a guided tour, even when I haven't. But I don't often read guide books to places I haven't visited, unless a good friend is sharing their joy in a trip.
I love to read fiction about fascinating characters, but I've never been so enthralled with biography. Real characters live such messy lives compared to those of fiction, their stories blurred by paths not taken, and their patterns and symbols jarring when too much is known. That said, I've read a few really great biographies, and one of them is first in today's list of book reviews...
Except, it's also a history book, and a guide book, and more. So... if you've ever regretted the fact that you'll probably never see Krakow, or if you're planning a visit, or if you want to know the longer history of the world Pope John Paul II grew up in - the historical and social dynamics that led to the miseries of Poland perhaps - or if you'd like to know more about a sainted Pope and his teaching, City of Saints – a pilgrimage to John Paul II’s Krakow – by George Weigel is surely the book for you. Enjoy an amazingly smooth read, a deeply fascinating trip into history and geography, a genuinely interesting exposition of streets and buildings, and a wonderful quiet step into the life and works of a truly holy man. And drink some truly elegant 4-star coffee.
Where Love Begins by Donna Fletcher Crow takes readers into the past of Methodism, another great Christian faith. The novel is fictional, though many of the characters and situations are real. And the theme of the rich and influential denying faith to the poor, administering weakness where God promises strength, might seem not so different. Where Love Begins is an enjoyable, thought-provoking historical romance, bound up in faith. Enjoy with some more elegant 4-star coffee.
Tracy Krauss' Neighbors is set in present-day America, in a neighborhood filled with everyday characters whose hurts and joys inspire a fine collection of stories. I've only read the short Volume 1, but already I like the people and want to know more. Enjoy these tales with some lively easy-drinking 2-star coffee.
Then there's Bellanok the Reluctant Savior by Ralene Burke, a novel that juxtaposes a pleasingly mythical version of Eden (replete with fairies, unicorns and more) with a darkly everyday earthen reality. Evil is invading Eden, and a human savior has been chosen. Not that the wounded Pastor Brian should care, as his faith in heaven's Savior begins to slip. The novel is only the first part of a much larger story, but it's an intriguingly different tale, easily read, and well-suited to an easy-drinking 2-star coffee.