Into the Book

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Recent Reviews

  1. 6-450

    When I first read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek nearly five years ago, I was struck by how Annie Dillard wrote about the natural world with such a powerful voice, seeing creeks as if they held the secret to life. Her trademark has always been a wonder at the natural world that catches you up in “seeing with a sense of urgency, as if when you blink the entire elaborate picture will have vanished” (Read my review of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek). Teaching a Stone to Talk is a book that doesn’t change her core focuses, yet feels incredibly different from Pilgrim. Read on for more:

    While Pilgrim was filled with an almost yin-yang sense of nature in all its wonder and terror, Teaching a Stone to Talk is more concerned with humanity: with feeling, with loving, with growing old. Nature is here, but it’s nearly a backdrop to Dillard’s thoughts on humanity. What possesses us to load ships up with supplies and seek out the North Pole? Why are we so different from weasels, who burrow in the ground, living wild and not hoarding anything they don’t need to stay alive? Nature is the foil here, the counterpoint to our fickle humanity.

    Teaching a Stone to Talk is a collection of fourteen essays that are held together on this broad theme. Though I’m not usually choosey about editions, in this case the version you pick may actually make a difference. Having read the newer, re-ordered version of this book, I have to say the first edition seems to make a lot more sense. Three essays have been shifted around and the opening of the book is odd, starting as it does with the climactic “Total Eclipse.”

    This essay, telling of Dillard’s pilgrimage to the mountains of Washington in order to observe a total eclipse, is harsh and gripping. Rather than reflecting on humanity, Dillard is caught up in the horror of the sky going dark, a literal shadow engulfing the eclipse-watchers, and how quickly everything returns to normal. The problem is, this essay is much better served in the middle, after we’ve heard about humanity’s utter ridiculousness in ‘An Expedition to the Pole’ and ‘In the Jungle.’ It makes for a good transition to the reflections of ‘Lenses,’ ‘Sojourner’ and ‘Aces and Eights.’ But aside from this nitpick, the book is excellent.

    As I wrote above, this book feels so different from Pilgrim. Pilgrim is a largely solitary affair: Annie Dillard and her beloved Tinker Creek, general pondering on the beauty and horror to be found in nature. Teaching a Stone to Talk is different, more humanistic and willing to laugh at humanity’s ridiculousness. At the same time, the book is deeply contemplative, spending a great deal of time on Annie Dillard’s daughter (in ‘Aces and Eights,’ the conclusion of the book and the longest essay by far), Annie’s own childhood, and the passing of time leading to death.

    Teaching a Stone to Talk is a somber shade pulled over Dillard’s philosophy, and it’s interesting to chart the evolution from Pilgrim to this book. Humanity is under a microscope, and as it turns out, we are very small. We watch the sun engulfed in shadow, and thirty minutes later, we laugh and return to our daily affairs. We watch our children grow old and we die, never struck by the pounding insistence of death until it comes for us. As Dillard herself writes, on the last page of the book: “I thought I was younger, and would have more time.”

    Andrew

  2. constellation-of-vital-phenomena-anthony-marra-intothebook-into-the-book-andrew-joyce

    Anthony Marra’s first novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, is so full of twists that it’s a difficult story to pin down. How many other novelists have written a novel that is about wartime Chechnya, jumps through twenty years of time, and features seven or eight main characters? Not too many that I have seen. Marra’s strange blend of omniscient storytelling and chronological looseness plays with a beautiful writing style and makes A Constellation of Vital Phenomena one of the best books I have read this year. Continue reading »

  3. at-the-back-north-wind-george-macdonald-intothebook-andrew-joyce

    I picked up At the Back of the North Wind at Half Price Books for 3 reasons: 1) It’s George MacDonald 2) Andrew Peterson’s house is named after this book (North Wind Manor), and 3) the book is simply gorgeous in the Everyman’s Classics edition. Those are reasons of varying solidity, but here are my reasons for why you also should pick up this book. Read on for more: Continue reading »

  4. It’s time for another update on the ItB New Year’s Reading Challenge. Modeled after Tim Challies’ challenge, the idea is to read a certain number of books over the entire year. We had several options to choose from: The “Normal” Reader, the “Fast” Reader, and the “Insane” Reader. Here’s an update on how the “Fast” tier has been working out for me: Continue reading »

  5. the-four-loves-cs-lewis-andrew-joyce-into-the-book-intothebook

    C.S. Lewis never ceases to amaze. Not only did the man write a well-known fantasy series, a superb (and under-appreciated) sci-fi trilogy, and multiple theological fiction books (Till We Have Faces, The Great Divorce), he also wrote some fantastic, straight-up theology. The Four Loves is everything you would expect from a Lewis book: it’s personal and warm, direct and unassuming even as it tackles huge topics and arguments, and even entertaining as Lewis walks us through human and divine love in his own trademark style. There’s a lot to, erm, love about this book. Continue reading »

  6. It’s really hard to pick up a story that’s been dead for months and try to breathe life into it. I read over the twenty or so pages that are on paper so far, and that helped me a little bit to remember where I’m going with “All Right.” I also had my trusty outline, which has continued to be really helpful (All Right is the first story I’ve ever made a master outline for). But as I sat down this week to write, looking at the blank page was overwhelming. The story still felt dead. Continue reading »

  7. radical-by-david-platt

    David Platt was a megachurch pastor when he became convicted of whether he truly followed Jesus. After all, Jesus was a wandering preacher who never even had somewhere to lay his head. David’s confidence in American Christianity finally shattered when he visited a Church in Asia. Believers there risked their reputation, their income, and their very lives because of their faith in God. Platt risked nothing. As he looked at his life, he realized that not only did he have weak faith, but that aspects of American Christianity worked against anyone who sought to have radical faith. That is why Platt wrote this book: to point out the fallacies of American Christianity and to call people back to Christ and to a radical faith.

    Continue reading »

  8. thirsting-for-god-by-matthew-gallatin

    When he was nine-years-old, Matthew Gallatin experienced God. He grew up in a Christian family, so he always knew of God. However, it was on that day that he truly experienced God. The rest of his life would be spent figuring out how to respond to it.

    Continue reading »

ABOUT ItB REVIEWS

Into the Book was born out of a crazy idea of a blog that'd provide book reviews for teens. There aren't very many book review websites out there exposing awesome, high-quality Christian literature, and there are even fewer that target teenagers. Since 2009, we've been providing high-quality book reviews to the world through our blog. Into the Book has grown around reviews since then, but it remains our oldest project.

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