Book Review: Berlitz Brazilian Portuguese Phrase Book & Dictionary

Berlitz Brazilian Portuguese Phrase Book & Dictionary, by Berlitz

Berlitz has acquired a good reputation for their efforts to instruct others in foreign languages, and this book certainly demonstrates why that is the case.  This book doesn’t approach Brazilian Portuguese (whose differences with mainland Portuguese I must admit I do not know very well) with a great deal of frills involved, but there is sound advice that cautions readers not to take Brazil’s love of the sun and beach as being signs of moral laxity and a great deal of assistance in seeking to help the reader with Portuguese pronunciation, which is by far the most difficult part of the Portuguese language that I have personally encountered in my own studies of the language.  All of this makes the book a handy and small phrasebook and dictionary to have as a resource when traveling to Brazil, especially if one has modest goals in terms of one’s communication and simply wants to be able to express oneself and understand menus and engage in basic conversations with others.  And as this is a worthwhile achievement in a worthwhile goal, this is an easy book to recommend to the casual reader who will be traveling to Brazil.

In terms of its contents, this book is between 200 and 250 pages long and is organized topically.  The book begins with notes on pronunciation as well as consonants and vowels and how to use this book.  After that there are various words and expressions provided with pronunciation for survival, including arrival and departure, money, getting around, places to stay, and basic communications.  After that there are expressions for eating out, meals & cooking, drinks, and what is on the menu.  A couple of sections with expressions for friendly conversation and romance cover the next section about people.  After that there are some expressions for leisure time that are organized by sightseeing, shopping, sports and leisure, and going out to enjoy the nightlife.  Another section includes special requirements for business travel, traveling with children, and asking for assistance as a disabled traveler.  After that there are various expressions for dealing with emergencies, including talking to the police, dealing with health concerns like finding a doctor and getting medicine and going to the hospital, and dealing with the basics of grammar, numbers, time, days, months, seasons, holidays, and measurements.  Finally, the book ends with both an English-Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese Brazilian-English dictionaries which include the words spoken about in alphabetical order.

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Book Review: Rick Steves’ Portuguese Phrasebook & Dictionary

Rich Steves’ Portuguese Phrasebook & Dictionary, by Rick Steves

It is rather telling that Rick Steves, a notably monolingual person whose appeal to readers is due to his passionate interest in European tourism, ended up writing (or at least giving his name to) a phrasebook and dictionary on Portuguese.  This book is aimed at those who are traveling to Portugal, and certainly contains some usage that is different from the Brazilian Portuguese that I am more familiar with.  It can be intriguing to see what sort of an audience a book is being aimed at, and I am not really the sort of person this book is aimed at.  With its comments about “every beach in Portugal being a topless beach” and a variety of bad pickup lines, this book is really aimed at the sort of tourist who wants to eat lots of seafood, pick up women of easy virtue, and have a travel experience to brag about to one’s friends.  That said, the book also has a lot of expressions for more sedate or more widely friendly travelers as well and anyone looking at this book will find at least a few useful expressions worth keeping in mind in one’s travels.

This book is a bit more than 250 pages long and is organized topically.  The book begins with Portuguese basics, counting numbers, money, and time.  After that the author discusses traveling by planes, trains, buses and subways, taxis, or driving for oneself, as well as finding places to sleep.  After that the author discusses eating at restaurants, special dietary concerns, as well as knowing the ingredients of various dishes organized by type, as well as words for drinking and picnicking.  The author gives a brief menu decoder between English and Portuguese and vice versa before providing discussions about sightseeing, shopping, sports, and entertainment, as well as connecting with others via the telephone, internet, or mail.  The author discusses words for seeking help, using services, and dealing with health concerns.  There are special sections on chatting (including profanity and flirtation), creating one’s own conversations using question words, and dictionaries.  The author provides some tips for hurdling the language barrier with tongue twisters and the Portuguese national anthem as well as words that people stumble over.  Finally, the author discusses telephones, gives a tear-out cheat sheet, and discusses how to reserve a hotel room, after which there are illustrations and maps.

It is interesting that Rick Steves is so focused on European travel that this book is aimed at those traveling to Portugal rather than Brazil.  I’m not sure what it is about Europe in particular that draws the author the most, but for those who want a guide to some Portuguese expressions but who are not going to expect lengthy or particularly deep conversations in the language, this book is worthwhile.  Given the author’s discussion of how people often talk Spanish to the Portuguese (something that likely offends them, I would think), this book is meant to give monolingual American and British tourists a leg up on their less culturally aware competitors.  Whether or not one appreciates the essentially competitive aspects of this book when it comes to somewhat aggressive flirtation or the expectations of the author that this book will be used by very competitive people in seeking to differentiate themselves from other tourists, one does not have to agree with the approach of an author in order to appropriate worthwhile aspects he has brought to one’s attention.  Whether or not you want to use this book as the author appears to aim it at, if you want to learn some easy and handy Portuguese words and expressions there is much to commend itself here.

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Book Review: Portuguese Irregular Verbs

Portuguese Irregular Verbs (Portuguese Irregular Verbs #1), by Alexander McCall Smith

Spoiler alert:  This book isn’t actually about Portuguese irregular verbs.  One of the odd things that happens when one simply puts on hold all the books in one’s library system that are about the Portuguese language without reading too closely into the summary material of said books is that one gets books that are both very personally relevant and not relevant at all to the subject matter one is looking for.  This book, by the author of “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series, centers on a set of eccentric people involved in the competitive field of academic linguistics.  For all of my own personal interest in languages this is not a world that I have ever been a part of, but at the same time if you have met one quirky and eccentric intellectual, you have a good idea of what that sort of person is frequently like and this book does a good job at portraying someone not entirely unlike myself whose endearing awkwardness and competitive struggle against others of his kind leads occasionally to moments of reflection and insight and into struggles about the desires for love and honor that are shared by even the most eccentric and most intellectual.

This book, which is only a bit more than 100 pages, begins a saga relating to a Professor Dr. Von Igelfeld of linguistics, an eccentric German academic who made his career by writing an exhaustive book on Portuguese Irregular Verbs that is widely recognized as the last word on the subject, and which the author believes should provide him with a great many honors that somehow manage to escape him, much to his frustration.  Over the course of this book the author learns to play tennis, but with rules before the invention of the tiebreaker.  He induces a college friend and later professional rival to enter into a duel that ends up in an injured nose.  He goes to Ireland and struggles with the people there.  Some disastrous travels to Italy and India demonstrate the wide gulf between the protagonist’s deep interest in his language and his equally deep struggle to relate to other people through the languages that he studies so passionately.  He even has an infatuation with a dentist who ends up engaged to one of his rivals, which shows him at his most painfully longing.

At the end of this short novel I felt a great deal of empathy for Professor Dr. Von Igelfeld, whose awkwardness and whose struggle to be respected and loved are ones I can deeply personally identify with.  There may be many readers who are inclined to laugh at the protagonist of this novel.  But although the author does have gentle sport with the pretensions of the protagonist and certainly puts him in more than a few awkward and uncomfortable positions that provide him with melancholy insight about himself and teh course of his life, it is also clear that the author has a great deal of sympathy for the author and expects the reader to be at least a little bit indulgently sympathetic for the character.  I am unsure how many people the author expects to be empathetic, given that he deliberately set the protagonist in an obscure field and to help on his eccentricities to a hilarious degree.  Even so, one of the hazards that a bookish and eccentric person has when reading a lot of books is that people end up writing a great many books that are all too easy to identify with, and it is not always clear whether this is intentionally done or simply very bad luck.

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Days Of The Week

I remember when I was fourteen years old going to a lock-in in Dothan, Alabama with my mother and stepfather.  While playing a lot of sports and dancing, I also remember the sermon that was given during Sabbath services, although I have forgotten the name of the person who gave the message.  The topic of the messages was on the names of the days of the week.  Having never thought about the subject before, I was struck by the connection that the speaker made between the heathen days of the week and the biblical passages like Psalm 16:4, which reads:  “Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god; Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer, Nor take up their names on my lips,” which speak negatively about the mentioning of the names of other gods, and after that in my own personal journal after that I marked the days of the week as day one, day two, day three, day four, day five, day six, and Sabbath, respectively.

Why do I bring this up, seeing as this is an obscure sort of personal habit that would be of interest to few people?  It so happens that in Portuguese history there was a minister like the one I heard that managed to convince the entire nation of Portugal that it was wrong to have days of the week that were connected to heathen deities and as a result the Portuguese language itself refers to its days as domingo segunda-feira, terça-feira, quarta-feira, quinta-feira, sexta-feira, and sábado.  With the exception of the first day of the week, which could easily just be called primera-feira because the Sabbath is the Lord’s Day [1], this is a very sensible way to name days, and it preserves the knowledge that the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, something that is occasionally forgotten by makers of calendars which view the first day of the work week as the first day of the week.

This particular story is a demonstration of the fact that one can be right for the wrong reasons.  It is thought–though documentation is difficult to come by, that this change is due to the religious preaching of a sixth century bishop of Braga named Martinho de Dume, who wanted the days of the week to be named after the supposed “holy week” before Easter, itself with a name that springs from Middle Eastern heathen religious thought.  And, quite notably, the bishop was apparently successful in encouraging the Portuguese faithful to rename their days of the week so as to be numerical in nature rather than pointing to heathen purposes.  It should also be noted that this avoidance of heathen names does not hold true in the Portuguese naming of the months, which like those in English have extensive references to heathen Roman deities like Janus (January), Mars (March), Maia, a Roman earth goddess (May), and Juno, wife of Jupiter (June).  That is to say nothing about the folly of naming months after Julius and Augustus Caesar, who were worshiped as gods by the heathen state worship of the Roman Empire.  At least the 9th-12th months have ordinal names, even if they end up being for 7th-10th instead of the order of the months they currently have in our calendar, but it’s at least a good start.

[1] See, for example:

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Book Review: Orphans Of The Living

Orphans Of The Living, by Jennifer Toth

This particular book gave me the awkward and unpleasant experience of both deep agreement and deep disagreement with the author about a subject of considerable personal relevance.  It is widely acknowledged that the United States has struggled without a great deal of success in dealing with the orphans of the living in various state programs.  This book looks at the lives of a handful of people who endured the foster care system of various states and explores how it is that none of them have managed to form lasting and loving bonds with others and that their lives, already traumatic to begin with, only became more traumatic as a result of the experiences that they had through the intervention of the state into their dysfunctional and broken families.  It is not clear how it is that one can provide temporary aid to brace families going through trouble without creating lasting patterns of dependency and without giving the government authority that it simply will not be able to use in a manner that ends up helping the people it wishes to help.  The author, with her hostility towards biblical Christianity, is not well equipped to point the reader towards solutions, but merely wallows in the failures of the state to properly protect and care for children.

Coming in at about 300 pages long, this book is a narrative look at several cases of children who grew up in foster care as a way of shining a light into the darkness of foster care and its failures.  We begin with Damien and Sebastian in Oxford, North Carolina, both part of failed families who had a sort of relationship with each other in a group home and both of whom struggled to relate to their families and keep those families together in the face of the desire for placements.  After that the author looks at Jaime, and her struggles to raise herself out of poverty and the failures of her promiscuous and addicted mother, involving some rather conservative religious institutions and her own struggles with rape and alcoholism.  The author then looks at the Jerry Springeresque life of Angel, who marries her elderly foster father and has several children as a teenager who, like her, are caught up into the system from the beginning, while seeking to have fun and explore her identity.  Finally, the book ends with a look at Bryan, a young man from Chicago who struggles with narcotics and crime but finds people willing to give him chance and encouragement despite his struggles.

In reading a book like this it is worthwhile to wonder what it is that the author expects to be done about the problems that she writes about.  On the one hand, it is obvious that she expects society as a whole to be willing to pony up a lot more money to take care of abandoned and neglected and abused children.  She recognizes the perverse incentives that people have to disguise the truth in order to get children placed and the ways that social work is often low paying and not filled with a great deal of prestige and that children who are not taken care of by their parents and do not have a strong basis of family and community support are likewise not going to do particularly well.  This book shows that the state actively seeks to make life more difficult for people once they are caught in the grips of the foster care system, whether it is children facing abuse in group homes or whether it is the way that children of failed parents love those who are simply unable to take care of them because of their own addictions and brokenness, or whether it is the way that the state has a great deal of power but no sense in how to use it for the benefit of children in breaking cycles of dependency and failure.

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Book Review: Beyond The Foster Care System

Beyond The Foster Care System:  The Future For Teens, by Betsy Krebs and Paul Pitcoff

I must admit that I found this book deeply interesting.  That does not mean that I approved of everything it said, but rather I found it to be interesting in the way that the writers sought to encourage the self-agency of the teens in various group homes and the way that this made the adults themselves feel a bit awkward when the kids took them seriously and began to speak out about the problems of their existence as wards of the state.  It should be noted that this book does not make the foster care systems that the authors have to deal with in New York and Pennsylvania look good, even though the authors appear not to have deliberately made those systems look bad.  Indeed, the authors note that a key element to the problem is the high level of bureaucracy that is faced by state systems of foster care, and it seems unlikely that any public system in the contemporary age could be anything but bureaucratic, and so the only way for deep reforms to be made would be to require fairly drastic reductions in the power and staffing levels of public agencies, which is likely to be viewed very fiercely by those people involved with such agencies.

This book is about 200 pages long and is divided into eight chapters.  After acknowledgements and an introduction the book begins with a look at the first impressions that the authors had of the foster care system through their getting to know Teresa (1).  After that, getting to know Carlos allowed the authors to look at the lack of education for foster care teens (2).  Meanwhile, the spirited Jenny encouraged the authors and the teens they worked with to look at the rights of teens in the foster care system (3).  The struggles of a pregnant teen named Xaranda helped the authors work with the need for discussing policy advocacy with teens (4).  The struggles of a young man named Leonard who aged out of the foster care system at 21, as is the tendency, led them to ponder the need to prepare young people for independent living (5).  These five case studies and others encouraged the authors to develop self-advocacy seminars to improve the lot of other teens in the system (6), after which the authors discuss the need for informational interviewed to bridge between foster care and the greater community (7).  Finally, the authors discuss the predictable resistance they faced in encouraging self-advocacy among the foster care bureaucracy (8), after which the book ends with a conclusion, notes, and index.

If one wanted children who were truly prepared for success as adults, would it not be better to support and encourage families than to make children wards of the state and raise them on the dependency and the rights-oriented (but not responsibility-oriented) ethos of the contemporary entitlement state?  The authors’ efforts at teaching shy and inarticulate teens to learn how to read and interpret laws and defend their interests to adults and appeal to the interests of their skeptical audiences are impressive, but on at least one level they are self-defeating in that if such efforts were successful they would ultimately deprive the authors of massive bureaucracies to get grants from and would allow children to be raised to be responsible and articulate in loving families without the involvement of the state in their upbringing.  It does appear that the authors are a bit nearsighted in thinking that training teens in the foster care system to have skills in independent living as well as an understanding of their rights and a willingness to demand them will allow a corrupt and bloated bureaucracy that thrives on denying people (including parents) from their God-given rights to survive without massive changes.  Nevertheless, if people had to see the implications of their deeds before taking steps from their convictions, people would likely do and write a lot less.

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Book Review: Growing Up In The Care Of Strangers

Growing Up In The Care Of Strangers:  The Experiences, Insights, And Recommendations Of Eleven Former Foster Kids, by Waln K. Brown & John R. Seita

Leo Tolstoy once said in the beginning to Anna Karenina that all happy families are alike and all unhappy families are unhappy in its own way.  But anyone who has spent a lot of time dealing with unhappy families or been a part of them or has spent any time dealing with the foster care system realizes that this is not true.  A great many unhappy families are unhappy in the same monotonous and unfortunate ways, and this book is testament to that.  Reading a book like this can make someone quite upset, and not necessarily the way that the book is intended to.  Why do our incompetent state governments feel that they have the authority to remove children from their admittedly troubled birth families without being able to do a better job themselves.  If it costs $50k per year per foster kid, what is it that we as a society are getting for it?  Are we helping the children or the families they are taken out of or put into for that?  Not often enough.  Does the state know what it is doing when it comes to taking care of children?  Not very often.  Why then do we give them the authority to act as they do?

This book is a bit more than 150 pages long and consists of eleven accounts of foster care from those who have survived it and found some level of success as adults.  The book begins with a preface, acknowledgements, prologue, and dedication, after which the first author gives his confessions as a former juvenile delinquent.  After that there is a look at how someone found their way after foster care and got a doctorate in education.  Another person, a doctor of ministry, provides an account of a boy named Peter.  A woman ten gives her discussion of how she went from a victim of child abuse to a childcare professional with her master’s in Social Work, which seems to be a common journey in my observation.  Another woman with an MSW talks about the degree of caring that separates her from her peers.  After that someone with a BSW then talks about the need to grow past family violence, neglect, and abandonment, a responsibility that is faced by the young person.  And so it goes throughout the book as the stories of these adults and their experiences in child care are remarkably similar.

This book is intended to seek reforms in the foster care system that would better serve those unfortunate children who find themselves in it.  Yet I do not see how society is going to be willing to reward failure by putting more money into the system in order to provide higher staffing or allow for resources devoted to teach independent living to wards of the state.  Those who are not faithful with little will not be trusted with much more.  What remains to be done then?  Is there going to be a greater effort spent on a societal level to help encourage and provide resources to families, deal with the root causes that lead people to self-medicate, increase the education of people and work on building robust and self-disciplined communities?  That seems to be a utopian vision as well.  In the meantime, children will continue to suffer and find themselves torn between birth families that have neglected and abused them and state systems that cannot take care of them either but demand the power to wreck with families.  And books like this will continue to be written about the same sorts of unhappy families over and over again.

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On Beams And Specks, Or, The Fundamental Flaw Of Visionary Politics

While I was eating lunch today one of my coworkers asked me what I thought about the impeachment trial that is going on right now.  I replied, after thinking a bit, that there had never been a genuine impeachment trial for high crimes and misdemeanors for a president of the United States or that I could remember very often for any office.  To be sure, the average Illinois governor ends up in jail on some kind of federal racketeering charge, but while there have been three impeachment trials for presidents in the history of the United States, not one of them has been anything more than a partisan show trial.  My coworker noted as well that it was striking (and a bit disappointing) that the arguments on both sides have switched between the last time this sort of thing happened, with former president Clinton, and today.  Those who argued a bit more than 20 years ago that the behavior of the president did not reach the level of high crimes and misdemeanors are not going whole hog in making a case for impeachment that is so weak that it could be used to impeach any president of the United States that ever entered the office.  I know of no presidents of the United States, save perhaps William Henry Harrison, who did not somehow exceed their constitutional mandate in some fashion, and he did himself in with an overly long inaugural address.

Truth be told, I had already been thinking about the failure of politics, which is a subject that I ponder often.  It is very common to see people arguing for some sort of visionary solutions to our political problems that will solve what we have to deal with.  Indeed, since at least the Enlightenment it has been common for a particular breed of people to argue for revolutionary change as a solution to longstanding social problems.  The track record of such radical changes is less than stellar.  The French Revolution led to a horrible slaughter, rule by a corrupt oligarchy, a lengthy rule by a militaristic dictator, then a return to absolutist politics and a long period of instability that has continued to the present with a hostility between a Catholic and traditional conservative culture and a secular and anti-Christian leftist culture.  Most other revolutions since the 1700’s have led to the massive expropriation of land, the massive death and exile of political losers, and the deepening of divides between those who win and those who lose but brood over their losses and seek revenge at a later time.  Any socialist revolution in the twentieth century involved a lot of deaths, a lot of exiles, and a lot of people imprisoned for various thought crimes against the corrupt authoritarian state.  Those who claim that things will be different if we elect them are not being honest or self-aware.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made a statement about judging that is often quoted but seldom properly applied to ourselves in Matthew 7:2-5:  “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  What is it that makes social critics and those who promote idealistic politics such terrible hypocrites?  It is that they lack self-awareness to the beams that are in their own eyes even as they continually try to take the specks out of the eyes of other people.  To be sure, there are plenty of specks in eyes and it is very easy to pass judgment on them, but far too often those who are the most strident about taking the specks out of the eyes of others have the worst sorts of beams in their own eyes.  This lack of self-awareness carries with it a lack of humility about the results of achieving one’s ambitions, for if they knew they had beams in their own eyes and that they would create a hell on earth by trying to bring about their utopian visions, they would not be so strident, so hypocritical, and such a menace to humanity.

It would appear that the best way to deal with the visionary politics of this age and of every age is to focus on removing the specks from our own eyes.  By so doing we will put ourselves in the place where our example can serve as an inspiration to others without our needing to gain coercive power to enforce our standards on others, to make the rivers run red with the blood of our victims and to fill the prisons with those whose only offense is to speak sense that we could not handle because of our precious illusions.  To the extent that we focused our attention on taking the specks out of our own eyes, we would be not only well-equipped to see what help others needed in performing this task for themselves, but we would also be greatly humble in recognizing the difficulty of removing the specks from any eyes, and thus more understanding and gracious with others.  Given the fierce tenor of our political discourse and the lack of willingness that people have in judging themselves so that they would not be judged by others, that would be a great improvement that we are unlikely to see in our times.

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Book Review: Listen Well, Lead Better

Listen Well, Lead Better, by Steve & Becky Harling

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Bethany House Books.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

How much self-awareness is enough to write a book like this?  As a reader I look at this book with at least two different perspectives.  On the one hand, as someone whose communications are frequently awkward, I have to deal with the fact that I do not always listen to others as well as I should and find myself around a lot of people who do not listen to me very well at all.  And no doubt that is a common experience.  Additionally, though, writing a book like this is setting oneself up for difficulty, because the author appears to believe that his experiences (which include being put to pasture because of a feud he had with the head of a board at a congregation) and his self-education with John Maxwell make him an expert on listening and therefore feeling himself confident to share his insights with the rest of us.  And setting oneself up as an expert in graciously listening to others as a way of gaining influence and increasing buy-in for one’s own plans and goals gives others rather telling and fierce comebacks if one fails to live up to the standard one has written about so knowledgeably here.

This book is a bit less than 200 pages long and is divided into ten chapters.  The book begins with a discussion of listening as a missing ingredient to better influence that many people overlook (1).  After that there is a call by the authors for the reader to be more self-aware and less self-obsessed (2).  This leads to a discussion about the need to know one’s people if one is a church leader, likely the intended audience of this book (3).  After that the authors discuss how to give the gifts of trust and empowerment to those one leads (4) and to discern the hidden values that often divide people with broadly similar expressed values (5).  After that the authors discuss the need to invite others to help shape one’s vision (6).  What follow after this are some chapters that deal with areas of communication where people struggle, such as engaging constructively in conflict (7) and looking for the truth in often painful criticism (8).  After that the authors discuss the importance of listening to collect stories (9) and finally to create a sacred space to reflect and listen to God (10), after which the book ends with acknowledgments and notes.

That said, it is most important with a book like this to read it and examine it and apply what needful advice it can provide.  And this book definitely provides some needful advice on how people can be less self-absorbed and better able to take the time to get to know other and their concerns and to recognize the validity and importance of other perspective aside from one’s own.  It is lamentable that in our day and age there are so many good books that encourage us to be better leaders by serving and listening and being humble and gracious but it appears that we do such a poor job at practicing that which we believe to be of importance.  If this book encourages people to listen better and deal with conflict better and see the truth in criticism it will have done good work.  As it is, all too many of us fight rather poorly and are rather thin-skinned when it comes to criticism and can use all the encouragement we can get to become better in such areas.  One imagines this is likely true of the book’s authors as well.

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Book Review: The Art Of Friendship

The Art Of Friendship:  Creating And Keeping Relationships That Matter, by Kim Wier

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Bethany House.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

When it comes to books like this, I wonder if sometimes that authors don’t always know what audience they are aiming a book at.  This book is aimed at a target audience of suburban yuppie women who have found themselves burned by attempts to keep up their social life on social media and who are willing to read a biblically based guide to godly friendship that answers the needs of someone who may be a bit isolated socially but is not a particularly awkward or unfriendly or unsociable person by nature.  There are a lot of nice touches that this book has that make it an enjoyable read even if I happen to be outside of this book’s target market (since I doubt that this book expects a lot of men to want to read the author’s thoughts on friendship, even if most of it is generally applicable to both men and women).  The author manages in general to capture that tricky balance between being personal and talking about her own stories and not being so self-absorbed that she would turn off her audience, and that ‘s a delicate trick on a subject like this one.

This book of a bit less than 200 pages and it contains sixteen chapters.  The author begins by talking about the myth of the BFF (1) and then moves to the challenge of knowing up from down (2).  The author discusses the difference between friends and fads (3) as well as the need for having and being the sort of friend who helps fill the tank of others (4).  Discussions of chasing clout (5) and social media (6) follow, along with a discussion of the way we want friends to accept us for who we are (7) and a look at what women want from their friends (8).  The author discusses lifelong friendship (9), the need to serve with a smile (10), and gets into some discussions on the definition of love (11, 12).  A humorous look at Kate Hudson movies leads to how to lose a friend in ten days (13) as well as how to know when it is time to grow up (14).  There is some advice on the care and feeding of friends (15) as well as treating friendships like a flourishing garden (16) before the book closes with acknowledgments, notes, and information about the author.

For this reader at least, the best parts of the book were the anecdotes.  Some of these anecdotes were biblical, such as the author’s thoughts about the famous friendships between Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi or Jonathan and David, where the author makes some sensible comments about how Jonathan preferred being David’s friend to being king, when a less gracious person would have been deeply envious of the fact that David had been promised the kingship even though Jonathan was the heir to the throne of Saul.  Other anecdotes, though, are more personal, and among the funniest as well as the most poignant was the fact that the author had a friendly dog who had more friends in her neighborhood than she did.  I can definitely feel the relevance of the author’s thoughts about wanting to get to know those who are physically close to you but not being particularly good at it, and that is certainly true for me and likely a lot of other people as well.  The author also manages to blend in some wise advice about friendship from some disparate sources, some of them to be expected for Christian authors (like C.S. Lewis), but also some surprising sources as well.

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