My Top 5 Books in 2016

At the beginning of 2016, I set a goal of reading 50 books this year.  It was an ambitious goal but I thought I could do it.  It turns out that life happened, 2017 is upon us, and I only ended up reading 36 books this year.  Not as much as I would have liked, but probably more than I would have read if I hadn't been aiming at 50.  Out of the 36 books I read in 2016, I picked my 5 favorites and have included a brief review of each.  These are not necessarily the best of books that were published in 2016, but are my top picks (in no particular order) among the books that I read in 2016.   Read one of them and maybe you'll find a new favorite! 

The Way Thais Lead: Face as Social Capital

This was an excellent, well-written book with lots of insight about the different types of "face" that Thai people (especially leaders) strive for... and fear losing.  The author draws out the implication for relationships between leaders and followers, and drives towards a conclusion that presents an alternative indigenous way of leadership in Thai culture that flies in the face of less noble (but more common) alternatives.  The author got his Ph.D from Fuller Seminary, but this book is very obviously for a general audience, so he stops short of offering any biblical or theological reflection on the topic of face and Thai leadership.  All the same, this was a very engaging book with lots of colorful quotes from Thai leaders.  It gives a good framework for understanding what is happening all around you in everyday social interactions.  It is a must-read if you live in Thailand.

  Buy from Silkworm Books (within Thailand)

Book Notes ~ November 2016

I made it through two very different history books this past month from two very different periods of time and parts of the world.  Looking towards the end of the year, I've realized that I won't hit my goal of 50 books in 2016 but I might get to 40.  Stay tuned!

The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters

So many books have been written on the American Civil War and I have read nearly none of them, so this looked like a good place to start.  This book is a collection of various essays about the Civil War by respected Civil War historian James McPherson.  Each chapter contains one stand-alone essay so you don’t need to read them in order if you don’t want.   Each chapter was thoroughly engaging, discussing topics like Lincoln as commander-in-chief, the role of slaves in their own emancipation, the importance of naval warfare, the role and perspective of Europe on the American Civil War, and theories about just war as related to this particular war.  McPherson has a pleasant readable style, with plenty of detail and flavor, without getting bogged down in the details.   

 

 

Latin and a Queen Esther Moment in Korean Church History (Nov. 16, 1900)

I have been studying Latin with my kids for the past several months and it has been a lot of fun.  However, some people might wonder how useful it is.  With that doubt in mind, I wanted to share an incredible story that a Korean friend recently brought to my attention.  For who knows if your study of Latin might come in handy for such a time as this...

 

"To sum it up..., several high court officials made a plot to kill ALL missionaries and Christians in Korea (their plan was to go in effect on Dec. 1st, 1900). Missionary Horace G. Underwood got a hold of their scheme before it became official and sent a telegram in LATIN (so that no Korean would understand the content) to fellow missionary Avison to alert him of the seriousness of the situation.

Avison then relayed the information to missionary Allen--who was/had been King GoJong's personal physician at the court. Allen immediately sought after the King's attendance; which resulted in King GoJong making a decree throughout the land ordering all plots against Christians to stop.

Literally, thousands of lives were saved with the help of a Latin message sent that day."

 

A Better Way to Spot Fake News Articles

In light of numerous articles recently about how to discern fake news from real news, I have a suggestion that will take some time and commitment but in the long run will be more useful than trying to remember a list of fake news websites to watch out for.  

Read books by reputable authors who are associated with reputable universities, and are published by reputable publishing houses.  

 

For instance, if you want to know what the founders of America really intended with the electoral college, church-state separation, etc., then read a history book about the founding of the United States. How do you find a good book that isn't written by an ill-informed wacko with a severely biased agenda?

 

1) Is it written by a scholar who is recognized by his or her peers?  
How do you check that?  A quick look at the Wikipedia page for an author will tell you where they went to school, what school they currently teach at, other books that they have written, and (on many wiki pages), criticism or controversy surrounding their work.  

 

2) If you are interested in a particular book on a topic, google "[name of book] book review" to see if their are any reviews out there by people who teach / write in the same general topic area. 

 

3) Who published the book?   A publisher like Yale, Oxford, Princeton, Cambridge, etc. university presses are more likely to put out a book with high standards for accuracy.  Self-published books are not necessarily low quality, but with a reputable, established academic publisher, you have a much better likelihood of reading something substantial and well-researched.

 

4) Read the Amazon review of the books. Read the top 5 star review, a 3 star review, and a 1 star review. Also, a 4 star review will also tell you the pluses of the book, as well as reveal a few weak points.

 

Over the long run, reading well-researched, well-written books on various topics will give you a much better knowledge base from which to assess current news so you will be able to spot fakes and provide an informed opinion on the accuracy or inaccuracy of claims being made because you understand the broader context of the issue(s) in the article.

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